This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile Dr. Katherine Pulaski from TNG.
Katherine Pulaski serves as chief medical officer on Captain Picard's Enterprise during the writer's strike shortened season 2, while Beverly Crusher was temporarily serving as the head of Starfleet Medical. Pulaski came with plenty of experience, having served as CMO aboard other ships like the USS Repulse before coming aboard Enterprise.
Although Pulaski has the rank of commander, she is not considered a bridge officer or a command officer. Nevertheless, she does make her presence felt in many ways during her short stint on the show. This includes performing emergency cardiac replacement surgery on Picard to keep him alive.
In fact, Pulaski proves to be a groundbreaking expert both in the fields of surgery and research on viral infections. Pulaski also performed successful implantations of ocular implants, but Geordi La Forge refused such implants until well after Pulaski had left the ship.
Pulaski brings back a dose of old world sensibility like a new Dr. McCoy, hating transporters and believing in traditional remedies like chicken soup. Her character parallels to McCoy include a relationship with Data that mirrors the Spock-McCoy tensions of TOS.
Pulaski is a seasoned veteran at poker, which helps her fit right in with the bridge crew on Picard's Enterprise. Pulaski wears a skant variation of the Starfleet uniform because the actress considered the normal TNG one piece suit to be uncomfortable and unflattering to a middle-aged woman's body.
Our notable quote this week comes from Up The Long Ladder:
Lieutenant Worf: I am fine.
Doctor Pulaski: You're not fine, you fainted.
Lieutenant Worf: I did not faint. Klingons do not faint.
Excuse me, I'll rephrase: this Klingon suffered a dramatic drop in
blood pressure; his blood glucose level dropped. There was deficient
blood flow resulting from circulatory failure. In other words, he curled
up his toes and lay unconscious on the floor.
Lieutenant Worf: Doctor, there is no need to insult me.
Actor: Diana Muldaur played Pulaski. Muldaur is best known for her role on TNG and on L.A. Law as well, and she was the first woman to serve as president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. She insisted on being a guest star credit in the show opening, perhaps knowing that she would not permanently stay in this role for the show.