Katherine Pulaski

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Katherine Pulaski
Commander Katherine Pulaski, MD
Species Human
Affiliation United Federation of Planets
Posting USS Enterprise-D
(Season 2)
Position Chief Medical Officer
Rank Commander
Portrayed by Diana Muldaur
First appearance "The Child" (TNG)

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 based in part on Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy from Star Trek: The Original Series.

Muldaur had previously played the parts of two separate characters (also doctors) in separate episodes of the The Original Series: Dr. Ann Mulhall in "Return to Tomorrow" and Dr. Miranda Jones in "Is There in Truth No Beauty?".[1] After this she worked with the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, once more in a pilot for Planet Earth after getting to know him and his wife through annual Star Trek Christmas parties.[2] As with her TOS appearances, she wasn't required to audition for the role of Pulaski.[3] The producers were unaware of her previous involvement in those Roddenberry series, and proposed that she should take the part without that knowledge.[4] She was given 15 VHS cassettes containing the first season, which she described as "I thought the whole thing just began very exciting and got better and better and better."[4]

The vacancy on the main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation was caused by the departure of Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher.[5] Executive producer Rick Berman later said that "There were those who believed at the end of the first season that they didn't like the way her character was developing, vis-a-vis Gates' performance, and managed to convince Mr. Roddenberry of that".[6] He said that he did not agree with the decision.[6] Roddenberry decided to write Crusher out rather than killing the character in order to allow for McFadden's return in the future.[7]

When Roddenberry discussed Muldaur's role on the show, she said she would do it but wanted the character's name changed. She wanted it to become Kate, which became Katherine.[2] Christina Pickles was also considered for the part of Pulaski, which Berman described as "a very tough decision".[6] Muldaur said that she always expected it to be just for one season, but wasn't aware of who would appear as the Chief Medical Officer on the show after she left.[2] 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).[8] Muldaur thought that the comparison to the McCoy/Spock relationship may be have been a deliberate move on Roddenberry's part.[4] She made her debut in this new role in the second season episode "The Child"; Whoopi Goldberg also made her first appearance of the series as Guinan in that episode. Despite being a regular character on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Muldaur was listed during the opening credits as a "Special Guest Star".[1]

Following production of the second season, Muldaur left TNG and joined the cast of L.A. Law. She used footage of the episode "Unnatural Selection" to gain the part.[2] Gates McFadden returned to continue playing Dr. Crusher on The Next Generation.[9] Muldaur later described her experience of portraying Pulaski to the official Star Trek website, saying "It was hard work. Either I carried a whole episode occasionally, or I was on and off the set a huge amount of time. Those things never leave you. Also, there was a lot of confusion at Paramount and what The Next Generation was really about and, etc., etc., etc. We had lot of interesting people coming through: interesting writers, an interesting cinematographer in the second year. It was a lovely, lovely group of people to work with, but there was a lot of change and chaos, to some degree, to go through.[3] Of all of the episodes she appeared in, she was most fond of "Elementary, Dear Data".[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.[10] Directly prior to serving on the Enterprise-D, she serves on the USS Repulse under Captain Taggart, who was sorry to lose her.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20]


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".[21][22]

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".[8]

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,[23] as her argument that Data lacks intuition is reminiscent of parts of Human, All Too Human.[23][24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Decandido, Keith (August 11, 2011). "Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Child”". Tor.com. Retrieved July 14, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Catching Up With Diana Muldaur, Part 2". Star Trek.com. January 12, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Catching Up With Diana Muldaur, Part 1". Star Trek.com. January 11, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Warren, Bill (April 1989). "Diana Muldaur, Ship's Doctor". Starlog (141): 30–33. Retrieved September 7, 2014. 
  5. ^ Gross; Altman (1993): p. 171
  6. ^ a b c Nemecek (2003): p. 64
  7. ^ Reeves-Stevens (1998): p. 76
  8. ^ a b Erdmann & Block (1998): p. 65
  9. ^ DeCandido, Keith (October 31, 2011). "Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Second Season Overview". Tor.com. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  10. ^ Assael, David; McCullough, Robert L. (April 24, 1989). "The Icarus Factor". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 14.
  11. ^ Summers, Jason; Povill, Jon; Hurley, Maurice (November 21, 1988). "The Child". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 1.
  12. ^ Lane, Brian Alan (December 5, 1988). "Elementary, Dear Data". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 3.
  13. ^ Tormé, Tracy (January 23, 1989). "The Schizoid Man". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 6.
  14. ^ Mason, John; Gray, Mike (January 30, 1989). "Unnatural Selection". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 7.
  15. ^ Bensmiller, Kurt Michael (April 3, 1989). "Time Squared". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 13.
  16. ^ Landau, Les (May 15, 1989). "Samaritan Snare". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 17.
  17. ^ Snodgrass, Melissa M. (May 22, 1989). "Up the Long Ladder". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 18.
  18. ^ Kemper, David (July 10, 1989). "Peak Performance". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 21.
  19. ^ Hurley, Maurice; Manning, Richard; Beimler, Hans (July 17, 1989). "Shades of Gray". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 22.
  20. ^ Biller, Kenneth; Doherty, Robert; Berman, Rick; Braga, Brannon (May 21, 2001). "Endgame". Star Trek: Voyager. Season 7. Episode 25.
  21. ^ Ayers (2006): p. 390
  22. ^ Snodgrass, Melinda M.; Shearer, Hannah Louise (May 1, 1989). "Pen Pals". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2. Episode 15.
  23. ^ a b Samarddzija (2011): p. 300
  24. ^ Samarddzija (2011): p. 299


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