Inside Star Trek issue 3: DeForest Kelley on McCoy’s secret pain and the stress of television production

Inside Star Trek was a semi-official newsletter, published under the guidance of Gene Roddenberry. This connection gave the writers access to the actors, production crew and sets.

I own the complete run:

Issues 1 to 12: Inside Star Trek, edited by Ruth Berman

Issues 13 to 24: renamed Star Trektennial News, edited by Susan Sackett

Issues 25 to 31: again called Inside Star Trek, edited by Virginia Yable

Here are highlights from issue 3, published September 1968.


Issue 3 delivered a good interview with DeForest Kelley, but otherwise it’s light on content, with no other articles.

The cover of Inside Star Trek issue 3, with a sketch of Dr. McCoy

The daughter we never met

Editor Ruth Berman caught Kelley during a break in shooting The Empath. The character had just been tortured, and the two walked to Kelley’s dressing room with “McCoy’s rags fluttering around him.”

A scene from the Star Trek episode The Empath. Kirk and Spock free McCooy from the chains that had held him.
From TrekCore

Berman asked him to describe McCoy and, just coming off that emotional scene, the actor struggled a little. “I know what McCoy is in my mind [but] right now it seems kind of hazy to me…I guess because I just got through doing a scene down there.” He then added:

I picture him as a dedicated physician, who came aboard for some reason that hasn’t been explained quite clearly…perhaps from some deep hurt in his background.

Kelley’s idea that McCoy fled a personal tragedy had been kicking around behind the scenes for a while. This interview took place in the late summer of 1968. A memo from Dorothy Fontana, dated January 1967, pitched Gene Roddenberry on the idea:

Dear Gene:

I came up with the following premise after a conversation with DeForest Kelley on January 4…

Teaser: The U.S.S Enterprise stops over at a Star Base to pick up new medical personnel being transferred to duty aboard. As the group of doctors and nurses beams aboard, McCoy and Kirk greet them in the Transporter Room. One of the women, a lovely dark-haired girl of twenty, takes one look at McCoy and flings herself into his arms. Much to Captain Kirk’s surprise. Then McCoy turns to Kirk, grinning, and introduces Nurse Joanna McCoy…his daughter.

The heart of the story concerns Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and Joanna. We will learn McCoy had been married a long time ago, but it turned sour and ended in divorce despite the birth of the child, Joanna. McCoy soon after the divorce entered the space service.

McCoy’s divorce never made it to screens in the ’60s, but the 2009 JJ Trek used the idea when McCoy explains to Kirk that he enrolled in Starfleet following a bitter breakup.

Fontana’s story outline had Joanna and Kirk developing a relationship — “In the course of the story, Kirk will find himself drawn to Joanna, and she is (naturally) attracted to him” — and McCoy getting overly protective of her, causing tension between the friends. Joanna, as the episode was to be called, was never produced and — somehow — the idea morphed into The Way to Eden, with Chekov’s old girlfriend Irina Galliulin replacing Joanna.

DeForest Kelley also told Berman that his favourite episodes to that point included The City on the Edge of Forever, Metamorphosis, Miri and Tomorrow is Yesterday.

Production stress

Kelley was also open about the taxing nature of television production:

“It’s very tiring. It’s rewarding in many ways, but it’s an exhausting routine. Matter of fact, we’ll all kind of run-down.” He looked ruefully at his cigarette. “Probably smoke too much. I know that Bill is weary, and Leonard, and so am I. The pace kind of catches up with you, but then a week goes by, and you kind of get your second wind. I can’t help but believe this is a more difficult show to do than, let’s say, a western or a Dragnet or something of that nature. We’re vitally concerned, all three of us are, with this show, the scripts — even after we get the script we’re concerned. It may reflect sometimes as an antagonism, but it isn’t antagonism, it’s simply wanting it to be right, and as a result we sometimes have to have a few fights, you know, to get it that way.”

A scene from The City on the Edge of Forever. McCoy is asleep in bed while Edith Keller sits beside on a chair.
From TrekCore

Berman then suggests to Kelley one example of wanting to get it right, from The City on the Edge of Forever:

“McCoy is coming out from under the influence of a drug but he’s still groggy. In the script, he falls asleep saying to a girl ‘Quite all right, I don’t believe in you either.’ But the way it came out was, ‘Quite all right, my dear, I don’t believe in your either.’ Which sort of captured his gentleness and gallantry.”

That’s a subtle but important bit of characterization, and those small production details, told by the people on the set in the ’60s, make this newsletter so important.

Inside Star Trek is an invaluable source of early Star Trek voices. I’ll cover each issue.
Click here to read other articles in this series.

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