Katherine Pulaski

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Katherine Pulaski
Katherine Pulaski, MD
Species Human
Affiliation United Federation of Planets
Position Enterprise-D Chief Medical Officer
Rank Commander
Portrayed by Diana Muldaur

Commander Katherine Pulaski, MD is a fictional character who appeared in the second season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Portrayed by Diana Muldaur, she is the Chief Medical Officer aboard the Starfleet starship USS Enterprise-D. The character replaced Commander Beverly Crusher, portrayed by Gates McFadden, after McFadden's contract was not renewed for the second season. Crusher and McFadden returned in the third season, replacing Muldaur as Pulaski.

Concept and development[edit]

The character of Katherine Pulaski was modelled on Doctor Leonard McCoy from Star Trek: The Original Series, including a fear of transporters and a dislike of unemotional colleagues (in her case, talking about or to Lieutenant Commander Data often in cynical jest).[1]

Muldaur had previously played the parts of two separate characters (also doctors) in separate episodes of the original Star Trek series: Dr. Ann Mulhall in "Return to Tomorrow" and Dr. Miranda Jones in "Is There in Truth No Beauty?".[2]

Despite being a regular character on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Muldaur was always listed during the opening credits as a "Special Guest Star".

Following production of the second season, Muldaur left TNG and joined the cast of L.A. Law. Gates McFadden returned to continue playing Dr. Crusher. It has never been revealed why Pulaski left the Enterprise. Since her departure, Pulaski is seldom mentioned on TNG. She is directly referenced when Dr. Crusher states that she is aware of Pulaski's short-term memory erasing technique in "Who Watches the Watchers". Pulaski is also indirectly referenced in "Ship in a Bottle" as the hostage whom Professor Moriarty had captured in his previous adventure. Later, in the series finale to Star Trek: Voyager, Pulaski's name can be heard being paged over an intercom at a Starfleet medical facility as Kathryn Janeway leaves the room of her ailing friend Tuvok.

In a reference to the fate of Muldaur's character on L.A. Law, The Star Trek Encyclopedia categorically states that "there is no truth to the rumor that an ancestor of Dr. Pulaski was killed falling down the elevator shaft at a prestigious Los Angeles law firm. None at all".[2]


Some of Pulaski's activities were explained in the episode "The Icarus Factor". She was previously romantically involved with Kyle Riker (Mitchell Ryan), after she was part of a rescue team responding to a Tholian attack on a Federation Starbase. She realised that a romantic relationship with him would not work, and instead they remained friends.[3] Directly prior to serving on the Enterprise-D, she serves on the USS Repulse under Captain Taggart, who was sorry to lose her.[4]

In, "Elementary, Dear Data" she challenges Lieutenant Data to solve an original Sherlock Holmes mystery on the holodeck. He accepts her challenge, which results in the creation of Professor Moriarty (Daniel Davis). Pulaski joins Data and Lieutenant Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), but is captured by Moriarty who also takes over the Enterprise computer. In Ship in a Bottle Moriarty demands that they find a way to enable him to leave the holodeck, but the ship is taken back following a ruse by Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) who tricks Moriarty into thinking that his wish was granted, but instead he remains trapped inside a computer simulation.[5] Pulaski's apprehension at using the transporter was evident in "The Schizoid Man", where Dr. Selar (Suzie Plakson) went with the away team instead of Pulaski as it required her to beam over to a transport vessel.[6]

However, the transporter would later save Pulaski's life in "Unnatural Selection" after she was infected with a disease that rapidly aged her which originated from the planet Gagarin IV. She manages to work out a way to remove the infection using the transporters, and is returned to her previous appearance.[7] More than once she demonstrates her medical skills. In "Time Squared", she identifies that the duplicate Captain Picard is actually out of sync in time and will slowly improve until he returns to the point at which he left.[8] Whilst in "Samaritan Snare", she is summoned to Starbase 515 to perform heart surgery on Captain Picard as she is the most experienced surgeon nearby. This is despite Picard's earlier wish for her not to perform the surgery due to his issues with the image it might give to the crew.[9]

When the Enterprise arrives at the lost colony of Mariposa in "Up the Long Ladder", both Pulaski and Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) are kidnapped so that the Mariposans can steal their DNA. After Pulaski and Riker discover this, they head to the cloning facility and destroy all the clones. She resolves the situation by suggesting that the Mariposans and the also newly discovered Bringloidi colonies unite, solving the Mariposans lack of genetic diversity and giving the Bringloidi a place to live after their previous colony was destroyed.[10] Following his defeat at a game of Strategema in "Peak Performance", both Pulaski and Councillor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) attempt to console Data, but it is Captain Picard who convinces the android that he is not malfunctioning.[11]

Her final appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation was in the episode "Shades of Gray". After Commander Riker falls ill to a dangerous virus during an away team mission, she uses a machine to stimulate his memory centre to drive out the virus. After she realises that negative memories are more effective she begins to use these, eventually relying on memories of fear and survival to save Riker's life.[12] In the alternative future timeline seen in the Star Trek: Voyager finale "Endgame, Pulaski was mentioned as working at the Starfleet Medical facility in San Francisco.[12]


Pulaski has appeared in several books of the non-canon novel series that follows on from the adventures of the crew in The Next Generation and elsewhere in the same time period. In Progress, a Starfleet Corps of Engineers book by Terri Osborne, Pulaski is on board the USS Progress when it visits Drema IV, as she wants to check up on the progress of Sarjenka. Pulaski had previously wiped the mind of the young girl in The Next Generation episode "Pen Pals" and wanted to check on her progress.[13][14]

Reception and commentary[edit]

In their 1998 book, Star Trek 101, Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block stated that the key Pulaski episode was "Unnatural Selection".[1]

Zoran Samarddzija's article on the events of "Elementary Dear Data" in the book Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy: The Footprints of a Gigantic Mind suggested that Pulaski may have been inspired by the works of Friedrich Nietzsche,[15] as her argument that Data lacks intuition is reminiscent of parts of Human, All Too Human.[15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Erdmann & Block (1998): p. 65
  2. ^ a b The Star Trek Encyclopedia by Michael Okuda, Denise Okuda and Debbie Mirek, published in 1994 by Paramount Pictures
  3. ^ Assael, David; McCullough, Robert L. (April 24, 1989). "The Icarus Factor". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 14.
  4. ^ Summers, Jason; Povill, Jon; Hurley, Maurice (November 21, 1988). "The Child". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 1.
  5. ^ Lane, Brian Alan (December 5, 1988). "Elementary, Dear Data". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 3.
  6. ^ Tormé, Tracy (January 23, 1989). "The Schizoid Man". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 6.
  7. ^ Mason, John; Gray, Mike (January 30, 1989). "Unnatural Selection". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 7.
  8. ^ Bensmiller, Kurt Michael (April 3, 1989). "Time Squared". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 13.
  9. ^ Landau, Les (May 15, 1989). "Samaritan Snare". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 17.
  10. ^ Snodgrass, Melissa M. (May 22, 1989). "Up the Long Ladder". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 18.
  11. ^ Kemper, David (July 10, 1989). "Peak Performance". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 21.
  12. ^ a b Hurley, Maurice; Manning, Richard; Beimler, Hans (July 17, 1989). "Shades of Gray". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 22.
  13. ^ Ayers (2006): p. 390
  14. ^ Snodgrass, Melinda M.; Shearer, Hannah Louise (May 1, 1989). "Pen Pals". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 15.
  15. ^ a b Samarddzija (2011): p. 300
  16. ^ Samarddzija (2011): p. 299


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