Commander Katherine Pulaski, MD
|Affiliation||United Federation of Planets
|Position||Chief Medical Officer|
|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. Muldaur had appeared twice in Star Trek: The Original Series as different characters in the episodes "Return to Tomorrow" and "Is There in Truth No Beauty?", and subsequently worked with series creator Gene Roddenberry on a pilot for the series Planet Earth. She was asked to take the role of Pulaski in The Next Generation by the other producers on the show, who were unaware of her previous work within the franchise. She took the role, but on the requirement that the character's name was changed, resulting in it becoming Katherine.
The character replaced Commander Beverly Crusher, portrayed by Gates McFadden, after McFadden's contract was not renewed for the second season. Pulaski first appeared in the second season opener, "The Child", and appeared throughout that season, making her final appearance in "Shades of Gray".
Muldaur's favourite episode that she appeared in was "Elementary, Dear Data", an episode which involved her character interacting with a hologram of Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes novels. McFadden returned in the third season as Dr. Crusher, replacing Muldaur as Pulaski. The departing actress subsequently joined the cast of L.A. Law.
Reviewers of Pulaski were critical of her behaviour, and compared her to Dr. Leonard McCoy from The Original Series. Episodes such as "Unnatural Selection" which featured Pulaski in a leading role have divided opinions. Her relationships with Lt. Commmander Data have been highlighted, but with the android taking the role of Spock. Other considerations of that partnership led to speculations on 'slavery' due to the android's lack of emotions; while Pulaski has been compared to Friedrich Nietzsche in her opinions about Data.
Concept and development
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?". 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. As with her TOS appearances, she wasn't required to audition for the role of Pulaski. The producers were unaware of her previous involvement in those Roddenberry series, and proposed that she should take the part without that knowledge. 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."
The vacancy on the main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation was caused by the departure of Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher. 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". He said that he disagreed with the decision. Roddenberry decided to write Crusher out rather than killing the character in order to allow for McFadden's return in the future.
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. Christina Pickles was also considered for the part of Pulaski, which Berman described as "a very tough decision". Muldaur said that she always expected it to be cast just for one season, but wasn't aware of who would succeed her as the Chief Medical Officer after she left. The character of Katherine Pulaski was modelled on Doctor Leonard McCoy from The Original Series, including his fear of transporters and dislike of unemotional colleagues (in her case, talking about or to Lieutenant Commander Data often in cynical jest). Muldaur thought that the comparison to the McCoy/Spock relationship may be have been a deliberate move on Roddenberry's part. 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".
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. Gates McFadden returned to continue playing Dr. Crusher on The Next Generation. 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... 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. Of all of the episodes she appeared in, she was most fond of "Elementary, Dear Data".
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. Directly prior to serving on the Enterprise-D, she serves on the USS Repulse under Captain Taggart, who was sorry to lose her.
In, "Elementary, Dear Data" she challenges Lt. Cmdr 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. According to Peter David in Vendetta, Pulaski was reassigned to the Repulse under Captain Taggart following her departure from the Enterprise. 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". In addition, she was also added to the novelisation of the series finale of The Next Generation, "All Good Things..." by author Michael Jan Friedman. She was one of several additions, alongside those such as Wesley Crusher and Guinan.
Reception and commentary
In their 1998 book, Star Trek 101, Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block stated their opinion that the key Pulaski episode was "Unnatural Selection". Science fiction writer Keith DeCandido whilst rewatching The Next Generation for Tor.com, felt that Pulaski was "annoying", and that this feeling was mirrored on screen by Captain Picard. He also felt that in "Unnatural Selection" she displays all of her worst traits, "her stubbornness, her intensity, her constant interrupting of people, her bitching out Data (though at least this time she apologizes to him when he expresses concern over her health), and we get an added bonus: transporter-phobia, because apparently she wasn't enough like Dr. McCoy yet." In Science Fiction Television: A History, author M. Keith Booker stated that "Pulaski never quite meshed with the rest of the crew".
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, as her argument that Data lacks intuition is reminiscent of parts of Nietzsche's 1878 work Human, All Too Human. Her relationship with Data was further considered in the book Enterprise Zones: Critical Positions on Star Trek, where she is described as "challenging Data in terms of his machine nature" in "The Child", and suggesting that his emotionless state is comparative to slavery and referencing Maya Angelou's 1969 work I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Meanwhile, DeCandido considered the same event in "The Child" and instead compared it to the relationship between Spock and McCoy from The Original Series.
Pulaski was also shown as demonstrating the Star Trek opinion on cloning in the episode "Up The Long Ladder" according the book Deep Space and Sacred Time: Star Trek in the American Mythos, as after the theft of both hers and Riker's genetic material by colonists in order to produce new clones to increase their population, the duo destroy the incubation chambers "as if the they were truly demonic abominations". This opinion was repeated elsewhere within the same episode, where Captain Picard refuses on behalf of the entire crew of the Enterprise to hand over any genetic material for cloning.
- Decandido, Keith (August 11, 2011). "Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: "The Child"". Tor.com. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
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- Gross; Altman (1993): p. 171
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- Decandido, Keith (September 5, 2011). "Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: "Unnatural Selection"". Tor.com. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
- Booker (2004): p. 194
- Samarddzija (2011): p. 300
- Samarddzija (2011): p. 299
- Harrison et al. (1996): p. 76
- Wagner & Lundeen (1998): p. 153
- Ayers, Jeff (2006). Voyages of Imagination. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 978-1-416-50349-1.
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- Erdmann, Terry J.; Block, Paula M. (1998). Star Trek 101. London: Pocket. ISBN 978-0-743-49723-7.
- Gross, Edward; Altman, Mark A. (1995). Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages. Boston: Little Brown & Co. ISBN 978-0-316-32957-6.
- Harrison, Taylor; Projansky, Sarah; Ono, Kent A.; Helford, Elyce Rae (1996). Enterprise Zones: Critical Positions on Star Trek. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. ISBN 978-0-8133-2898-0. (subscription required)
- Nemecek, Larry (2003). Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (3rd ed.). New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0-7434-5798-6.
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- Samarddzija, Zoran (2011). Steiff, Joseph, ed. "Moriarty's Final Human Problem in Star Trek: The Next Generation". Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy: The Footprints of a Gigantic Mind (Chicago: Open Court). ISBN 978-0-812-69731-5.
- Wagner, Jon; Lundeen, Jan (1998). Deep Space and Sacred Time: Star Trek in the American Mythos. Westport, CT: Praeger. ISBN 978-0-275-96225-8. (subscription required)