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I'm a doctor, not a...

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I'm a doctor, not a... is a famous catch phrase and snowclone used in Star Trek. Originally used by Dr. Leonard McCoy in Star Trek: The Original Series, the phrase lived on in various other incarnations of Star Trek and was used by both Julian Bashir and The Doctor, among others. Dr. McCoy's original delivery of the phrase varied with emotional intensity, from extreme frustration to light-hearted sarcasm. Subsequent uses in later series also mirrored this performance. This iconic phrase has also appeared in other media as both a parody and homage to the show.


Dr. Leonard McCoy which Kirk replies, "You're a healer, there's a patient. That's an order."
In the episode "Court Martial", Doctor McCoy is called as an expert witness in space psychology. Psychology and Psychiatry are completely different, however. which Montgomery Scott immediately replied, "Now, you're an engineer."
During one episode of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, DeForest Kelley spoke the line "I'm not a doctor, I'm a convicted murderer."

Dr. Leonard McCoy (alternate reality)

  • "I don't need a doctor, damn it, I am a doctor!" (Star Trek)
  • "I'm a doctor, Jim, I'm busy!" (Star Trek)
  • "Damn it, man, I'm a doctor, not a physicist!" (Star Trek)

Dr. Julian Bashir

The Doctor

...interrupted by Torres: "...not an engineer. Right, but..." (VOY: "Prototype") which Henry Starling responds: "I'd say you're a little bit of both." (VOY: "Future's End, Part II")
  • "I am a doctor, not a peeping Tom, there's nothing I haven't seen before." (When catching Lt. Torres in the sonic shower.) (VOY: "Drone")
  • "I'm a doctor, not a battery." (VOY: "Gravity")
  • "I'm a doctor, not a dragon-slayer." (VOY: "Bliss")
  • "I'm a doctor, not a zoo-keeper." (VOY: "Life Line")
  • "I'm a doctor, not an engineer." (VOY: "Flesh and Blood")
According to the official Robert Picardo websitewbm, during Picardo's audition, the final scripted line for the reading was, "I believe someone has failed to terminate my program," and he finished his audition with the ad libbed "I'm a doctor, not a nightlight." However, when encountering the example in "Phage", Picardo was apparently unfamiliar with the tradition at first. He later recalled, "When I read that script I just thought it was a joke. Then I was told on the set this is a Bones line. I guess I remember him saying lines like that." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 40)
The example from "Parturition" was invented by Picardo himself. He remembered, "I suggested the 'I'm a doctor, not a voyeur' line, which also made it into [an] episode." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 97)
By the end of the second season of Voyager, Robert Picardo had become aware of the audience's appreciation for these lines and had invented a version that ultimately never made it into an episode. The actor commented, "The audience seems to get a kick out of whenever I invoke the spirit of Dr. McCoy." Laughing, Picardo added, "I hope someday to have a scene with Harry Kim, where I say, 'Damn it, Kim, I'm a doctor not a blank [whatever task the script demands.]' That would really be tweaking them one step further." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 97)

Dr. Phlox

Starfleet EMHs


The Original Series
James T. Kirk
"I'm a soldier, not a diplomat." (TOS: "Errand of Mercy")
"You keep saying that. Are you a doctor, or aren't you?" (TOS: "Amok Time")
"These are people, not robots." (TOS: "The Apple")
Karl Jaeger
"I'm a scientist, not a military man." (TOS: "The Squire of Gothos")
The Next Generation
"This is a military vessel, not a pleasure craft." (regarding his Bird of Prey in TNG: "Unification I")
"I'm just a barber, not a miracle worker!" (TNG: "Data's Day")
Deep Space Nine
"I'm a weapons dealer, not a soldier." (DS9: "The Magnificent Ferengi")
Cardassian Security Officer
"This is a jail, not a hotel." (DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels")
"That's justice, not malevolence." (DS9: "Waltz")
Crewman Kellin
"I'm sorry captain, but I'm an engineer, not a magician." (DS9: "The Siege of AR-558")
Gilora Rejal
"We're scientists, not diplomats." (DS9: "Destiny")
"Why? You're a bartender, not a warrior." (DS9: "Shadows and Symbols")
Miles O'Brien
"I'm an engineer, not a philosopher." (DS9: "It's Only a Paper Moon")
"I'm a security chief, not a combat pilot." (DS9: "Vortex")
"This is work, not recreation." (DS9: "The Ascent")
"I'm a changeling, not a solid." (DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow")
"I'm not a God, I'm a security officer." (DS9: "Treachery, Faith and the Great River")
Benjamin Sisko
"This is not a request, it's an order." (DS9: "In the Pale Moonlight")
"He's not a detective, he's an engineer." (DS9: "Prodigal Daughter", about Miles O'Brien)
Douglas Pabst
"I'm a magazine editor, not a crusader." (DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars")
Julius Eaton
"Calm down dear boy. We're writers, not Vikings." (DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars")
"I am a warrior, not a murderer." (DS9: "Broken Link")
"You're asking me? You're the terrorist, I'm just a bartender." (DS9: "Favor the Bold", to Major Kira)
The Doctor 
"This is a sickbay, not a conference room." (VOY: "Caretaker")
"They're Klingons, not kittens." (VOY: "The Killing Game, Part II")
"This is sickbay, not an arsenal." (VOY: "Bliss")
"She's a counselor, lieutenant, not an engineer." referring to Deanna Troi (VOY: "Life Line")
"This is a sickbay, not a dormitory." (VOY: "Demon")
"This is a Federation starship, not the Barge of the Dead!" (VOY: "Repentance")
"It's not justice, it's revenge." (VOY: "Repentance")
Diagnostic Hologram
"I'm a diagnostic tool, not an engineer." (VOY: "The Swarm")
(said of The Doctor): "It wasn't programmed to be a tenor, it was programmed to be a physician." (VOY: "The Swarm")
Tom Paris 
"I'm a pilot, Harry, not a doctor!" (VOY: "Message in a Bottle")
B'Elanna Torres 
"I'm an engineer, not a costume designer." (VOY: "Virtuoso")
Harry Kim 
"They're scientists, not soldiers." (VOY: "Nightingale")
(Quoting Captain Janeway, refering to her as "the warden") "This is punishment, not shoreleave." (VOY: "Thirty Days")
"We're healers, not killers." (VOY: "Critical Care")
Kathryn Janeway 
"This is a starship, not a nature preserve." (VOY: "Someone to Watch Over Me")
Nechani Magistrate 
"I'm an official of the government, not a spiritual leader." (VOY: "Sacred Ground")
"He doesn't need a physician, he needs a priest." (ENT: "Kir'Shara")


DeForest Kelley
"I'm an actor, not a doctor."
"You're a doctor, not a gambler". (The Big Game)
"I thought you were a doctor, not a hacker." (Proud Helios 260)
Miles O'Brien 
"Dr. Bashir, you're a doctor, not a first-contact specialist." (Valhalla 19)
"You're a doctor, not a Horta." (The Return 268) talking to Bashir.
"I'm a doctor, not a computer." (Avenger 350)
EMH as McCoy 
"I'm a doctor, not an interior designer." (Avenger 351)
"I'm a Doctor, not a target." (Star Trek: Judgment Rites)
"I'm a doctor, not a sideshow." (Avenger 354)
"I'm a doctor, not an engineer!" (Star Trek Online) Series 2 - Episode 4 : Everything Old Is New Again
"I'm a doctor, not an archaeologist." (Wildfire 118)
"I'm a doctor, not a concierge." (A Time to Sow 135)
"I'm a doctor, NOT a Space Marine!" (Star Trek: Voyager: Elite Force)
"I am an Emergency Medical Hologram, not a miracle worker!" (Star Trek Online) During Khitomer Crisis Mission after character creation
EMH Mark II 
"I'm a doctor, not a quantum mechanic!" (Spectre 212)
"Damn it Jim, I'm an engineer, not a conversationalist!" (Star Trek: Bridge Commander)
Jean-Luc Picard
"I'm an explorer, Donald, not a warrior." (The Buried Age 97)
"Well, what did you expect? He's a doctor, not a security officer." (Star Trek: Borg) referring to Dr. Thaddeus Quint

Prior Art

While the character of Dr. McCoy arguably made the phrase "I'm a doctor ..." part of the common lexicon, he was not the first fictional doctor, or even the first character on the big screen, to coin the phrase. In the 1933 American film The Kennel Murder Case, Dr. Doremus, the coroner at the scene of the titular crime, states "I'm a doctor, not a magician," and "I'm a doctor, not a detective," within five minutes of his first appearance. The latter line was also uttered by Dr. Fortescue, played by George Zucco, in the 1949 version of The Secret Garden. It is unclear whether these particular dialog artifacts were progenitors of McCoy's famous phrase.

"I'm a [whatever] not a [whatever]" is also a Yiddish idiom, most commonly "I'm a [whatever,] not a rabbi."

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