I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder
A stock phrase that is almost always worded as: I'm an X not a Y. With X being their profession, and Y being whoever would be better able to do the job that they are having difficulty with.
The most famous example, and thus the Trope Namer
, is Star Trek
's Dr. McCoy — but the earliest example we have so far is from 1869, making it not only Older Than Star Trek
but Older Than Radio
. (It was in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
.) Note that DeForest Kelley, contrary to popular belief
, never prefaced his statement with "Damn it
, Jim" or some variant thereof; he never swore
on the show, given that it aired in The Sixties
. He did
swear up a storm in most of the movies, however, so parodists naturally combined his potty mouth with his catch phrase, to great effect. (He never actually used his Catch Phrase
in a movie until the reboot
— wherein he did
swear, but he wasn't talking to Kirk, so the complete memetic phrase still has yet to be uttered).
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- This appears early on in Cerebus the Aardvark. A character declares himself to be a doctor, not a General, time-keeper or martyr, all in quick succession.
- King Shark from Secret Six:
- In The Detective and the Diplomat, Ponder Stibbons (not one of nature's runners) is having trouble keeping up with Sherlock Holmes (one of nature's runners). His reply when chided for this:
Ponder Stibbons: Dammit, Holmes, I'm a wizard, not a runner!
- The Ranma Abridged version of Doctor Tōfū can heal your wounds, unless they're costume-related.
Dr. Tōfū: Ranma, I'm a doctor, not a tailor.
- In Stargate Equestria: Incursion, Dr. Frasier gets to say it after tending to a wounded Twilight Sparkle.
- In Turnabout Storm, Phoenix is asked to tell a funny joke. The results are... rather unsatisfactory.
) This is a lot harder than I thought... I'm a lawyer, not a comedian!
- The Tiny Toon Adventures fan series Tiny Toon Adventures: Class of 2009 has this as Furrball's Mad Libs Catchphrase.
- In the first episode, he tells Calamity Coyote that he's a Tiny Toon, not an animator.
- Tailor in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story adaptation "A Wedding To Remember", discussing Woody's impending marriage to Laconia and whether they'll have a happy future together.
Tailor: I'm only a clothes maker, not a fortune teller, Woody.
- In the Star Trek kidfic Insontis II, the Trope Namer drops another one after calming young!Spock following Kirk's accident.
McCoy: Glad that bucket of awkward is over... I'm a doctor, not a crisis counselor.
- In the Transformers fanfic Trials of the Flesh, a group of human characters come across some Ancient Cybertronian writing. When asked to translate, Ratchet has this to say:
Ratchet: Fraggit, Conrad, I'm a doctor, not a linguist.
- There's a future fic of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon where the main characters (now years older) get dragged back into the Realm along with Hank and Shelia's daughter, Presto's adoptive daughter, Eric's son and Diana's nephew. During a battle, Hank asks Presto for some advice and Presto snaps "Damn it, Hank! I'm a pediatrician; not a military commander (paraphrased)!"
- Jacob "X" Arrow in A New World, A New Way sidestory Swarm refuses to have a pokèmon battle with a trainer because he's a construction worker, not a trainer.
- Legacy of ch'Rihan: D'Vex gets mildly annoyed at Morgan when she can't tell him more specifically what the problem with her tractor is.
Morgan: Hey, I'm a farmer, not a mechanic.
- "From Bajor to the Black, Part II": A Vulcan petty officer informs Eleya that she is a transporter operator, not a soldier, after Eleya throws her a gun. Eleya informs the Vulcan that "I rather doubt the Borg are going to care one way or the other!"
- Peace Forged in Fire has D'trel complaining about having to take over some critical negotiations from the actual trained diplomats.
How the Ariennye
did I get into this, anyway? I’m a soldier, not a diplomat! (cue How We Got Here)
- In The Duelist an adopted and renamed Harry Potter complains about the overly scripted nature of the greeting of the other schools before the Triwizard Tournament held at Beauxbatons.
Henri Flamel: Fine, but I still believe that we should be more natural. This act will look painfully forced. I'm a duelist, not an actor.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- A newlywed couple moves into their new house. One day the husband comes home from work and his wife says, "Honey, you know, in the upstairs bathroom one of the pipes is leaking, could you fix it?" The husband says, "What do I look like, Mr. Plumber?" A few days go by, and he comes home from work and his wife says, "Honey, the car won't start. I think it needs a new battery. Could you change it for me?" He says: "What do I look like, Mr. Goodwrench?" Another few days go by, and it's raining pretty hard. The wife finds a leak in the roof. She says, "Honey, there's a leak on the roof! Can you please fix it?" He says, "What do I look like, Bob Vila?" The next day the husband comes home, and the roof is fixed. So is the plumbing. So is the car. He asks his wife what happened. "Oh, I had a handyman come in and fix them," she says. "Great! How much is that going to cost me?" he snarls. Wife says: "Nothing. He said he'd do it for free if I either baked him a cake or slept with him." "Uh, well, what kind of cake did you make?" asks the husband. "What do I look like," she says, "Betty Crocker?"
- Star Trek:
- Trope Namer is Dr. McCoy from Star Trek: The Original Series. McCoy twice had this inverted on him when he tried using it (in both cases McCoy was trying to get out of an assignment):
McCoy: I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!
Kirk: You're a healer, there's a patient. That's an order.note
McCoy: I'm a doctor, not an engineer.
Scott: Now, you're an engineer.
- The novelization of "Mirror, Mirror" from The Star Trek Reader averts this with McCoy simply saying, "I'm not an engineer," and Scott quipping "You soon will be." (Though Scott is proud of McCoy's help later.)
- He also once had to specify what kind of doctor he was: "I'm a surgeon, not a psychiatrist."
- Proudly continued by the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) from Star Trek: Voyager who was in fact an actual placeholder.
- The EMH from Star Trek: First Contact almost gives the trope title with "I'm a doctor, not a doorstop." anecdote
- If you shoot him in the game Elite Force, he says "I'm a doctor, not a bullseye."
- Lampshaded by B'Elanna ("I'm a Doctor—" "Not an engineer, right,") and flipped around by Tom. "I'm a pilot, Harry, not a Doctor!"
- The justification variant is frequently abused by Tuvok, who seems to feel compelled to begin any and every sentence or explanation with "I am a Vulcan."
- Bashir used it occasionally on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, one of the most notable (but far from the first or only) series 3 protest, "I'm a doctor, not a botanist" when Dax brought him a sick plant because Keiko O'Brien (the station's resident botanist) was at a conference at the time. He did, of course, use it in the show's anniversary episode "Trials and Tribble-ations" (a "cross-over" episode with Star Trek: The Original Series courtesy of in-universe time-travel and real-life special effects wizardry).
Dr. Bashir: I'm a doctor, not an historian.
- A morally repugnant example in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Broken Link", when Garak tries to convince Worf to stand by and let him commit genocide. Worf responds with "I'm a warrior, not a murderer!"
- Dr. Phlox of Star Trek: Enterprise got into the act when he had to singlehandedly cold-start the warp reactor: "I'm a physician, not an engineer!"
- It was such a trope of McCoy's that it had to be in the 2009 revival. "I'm a doctor, not a physicist!" (Well, his understanding of the physics Spock suggested seemed okay....)
- Another one, again directed at Spock, in Star Trek Into Darkness: "Dammit, man! I'm a doctor, not a torpedo technician!"
- Subverted in the Saturday Night Live episode that William Shatner hosted. In one sketch with the Enterprise now a restaurant, one of the customers starts choking on his food. Shatner, as Kirk, tells "McCoy" (Phil Hartman) to help him. "McCoy" responds, "Dammit, Jim! I'm a doctor, not a— Oh! Oh, sure!"
- However, it was played straight in the earlier "Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise" skit: Dan Aykroyd as "McCoy" deadpans the line "I'm a doctor, not a tailor, dammit!" and gets a huge laugh.
- Inverted for laughs on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In by DeForest Kelley himself: "I'm not a doctor, I'm a convicted murderer!"
- There's another parody example in Bobby Pickett and Peter Ferrara's Star Drek. Mr. Schlock advises Captain Jerk to wait for further plot complications before taking action; when Jerk asks McCoy his opinion McCoy replies "I'm a doctor, not a scriptwriter!"
- An episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had Will, Carlton and William Shatner get high off of a leaking laughing gas tank at the dentist's and start acting like Star Trek characters; after Shatner addresses Will as "Bones", he responds "Dammit Jim, I'm a black boy from Philly, not a doctor!"
- In a Trivial Pursuit commercial featuring DeForrest Kelly, the actor was asked a medical question, only to respond, "How should I know? I'm an actor, not a doctor!"
- The In Living Color! skit where Jim Carrey riffs how the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series are getting too old for the movies. Captain Kirk calls for McCoy to come to the bridge, only to find Bones really lives up to his name this time.
Skeleton in a wheelchair: Dammit Jim, I'm a corpse not a doctor!
- Monk has a few good ones.
- This one from "Mr. Monk and the Critic":
Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: Where the hell is Randy?
Natalie Teeger: Oh, I sent him out to get a newspaper.
Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: (looks at her incredulously) You? You, you sent Randy out? Well, who are you, the new police commissioner?
Natalie Teeger: The morning edition comes out at midnight! They're gonna review Julie's play!
Captain Leland Stottlemeyer: For the love of God, he's a police lieutenant, not a bellhop! Though maybe he is.
- In "Mr. Monk and the TV Star," when Monk and Sharona arrive at a crime scene at a major star's house, Sharona is focused on her teeth, and Monk tells her, "Sharona, this is a murder scene, not a high school dance."
- Stargate SG-1 provided a variation of this trope in "Deadman Switch" where Aris Boch demands that Daniel Jackson treat his wound after capturing them:
I'm an archeologist. Aris Boch:
But you're also a doctor. Daniel Jackson:
... of Archeology
- Stargate Atlantis had Carson Beckett do this in a couple of episodes:
- In "The Eye" he said: "I'm a bloody medical doctor, not a magician."
- In "The Brotherhood" the line is: "For the last time — I'm a doctor not a bloody fighter pilot."
- 3rd Rock from the Sun has Officer Don say in one episode "I'm a cop, not a goat" when meeting Sally on a Hill at night.
- Moseby of The Suite Life on Deck wanted to put Zack on permanent detention for detonating a stink bomb in the chemistry lab. Tutweiler's response:
Tutweiler: I'm an educator, not a warden.
- Joked about in the second of Criminal Minds.
Can you do it? Garcia:
Remember on Star Trek
, when Dr. McCoy always said, "I'm a doctor, not a miracle worker"? Morgan:
So you're saying you can't? Garcia:
No, I'm saying that I'm not a doctor.
- The Smallville episode "Rush" has Clark say, "I'm an alien, not a cartoon!" when Chloe asks him if he can fly.
- The Roundhouse episode "TV On Trial" referenced this by having Star Trek-esque scenes playing during a channel surfing montage. On the third appearance...
Kirk (Alfred): Bones, this man has a broken arm!
McCoy (John): Dangit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not... I'm a doctor.
- In the The Big Bang Theory episode "The Desperation Emanation":
Sheldon: Leonard, I'm a physicist, not a hippie.
- In the Doctor Who serial "The Day of the Daleks", the Doctor himself tells the Brigadier that he is "a scientist, not a politician."
- On Once Upon a Time, Dr. Whale declines to give an opinion on what the creature a man just turned into is:
Dr. Whale: Don't look at me. I'm a doctor, not a vet.
- In The X-Files Season 4 episode "Demons", when Mulder is held as a suspect in the murder of two people and Scully says she'll get him out.
Mulder: You're a doctor, not a lawyer, Scully.
- In "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" of Community, the study group are asked to play characters on a new college commercial. Pierce is outraged when he learns the commercial shoot won't be catered and he won't have a trailer.
Pierce: I'm an actor, not a circus freak!
- On M*A*S*H, Winchester had a few during his time at the 4077th.
- "I'm a doctor, not a woman!"
- "I'm a surgeon, not a social worker."
- "I'm a man of medicine, not a medicine man."
- Dr. Elizabeth Shannon of Terra Nova, when talking to her Cowboy Cop husband: "I'm a doctor, Jim, not a chemist." Considering that some of the people working on that show had also had a hand in Star Trek, that may have been intentional for any Trekkies watching.
- The same line was used in Torchwood: Miracle Day after Captain Jack has been poisoned with arsenic. They get on the phone to a doctor who suggests ethylene diamine tetracyclic acid should fix him.
- The Carol Burnett parody:
Kirk: Bones, I think there's something... wrong with me.
Bones: Damn it, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a— well, I guess I am a doctor. C'mon, let's have a look.
- In the Poirot episode Hercule Poirot's Christmas, when Simeon Lee sees that Poirot is not strong or young enough to protect him:
Poirot: Hercule Poirot is a detective, not a bodyguard, monsieur.
- In The West Wing, President Bartlet's rival Governor Ritchie is reported to repeatedly state being neither a scientist, a doctor, a mind-reader, nor Chinese in respective situations.
- Final Fantasy VI:
- When Celes is asked to impersonate a famous opera singer: "I'm a general, not some opera floozy!"
- Another Celes line: "I'm a soldier, not some love-starved twit!"
- This line is said using "miracle-worker" in Final Fantasy IX.
- Knights of the Old Republic:
HK-47: Expletive: Damn it, Master, I am an assassination droid, not a dictionary!
- Star Wars: The Old Republic:
Talos Drellik: I'm an archaeologist, not a fighter!
- In Dragon Age: Origins, when you ask Varick why he isn't going to be fighting in The Proving, he responds with "I'm a miner, not a warrior!".
- In Gex: Enter the Gecko: "Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a pincushion!"
- In Mass Effect, when you encounter the Rachni, Shepard will ask Liara what they are (if she's on the squad at the moment). She will just say that she's an archaeologist, not a biologist, and is as clueless as Shepard.
- Starcraft II: click on the Terran Medic enough and she'll go "Dammit, I'm a medic, not a doctor!...Oh." Technically speaking this is correct: Combat Medics don't need doctorates to be a medic but have nurse/orderly training instead.
- In Duke Nukem Forever, a dying Alien Queen blasts Duke so hard, he begins to lose consciousness. An EDF soldier comes to his help, but he turns out to be an engineer, not a doctor, and desperately calls for The Medic, as Duke blacks out. Of course, this being Duke, he gets better real soon.
- Fallout: New Vegas
- An NCR ranger hiding out in a bunker owned by the Brotherhood of Steel states in his journal that he is a scout, not an electrician, and that he can't quite get his radio to work.
- Even more directly, with the Wild Wasteland trait activated, NCR Ambassador Crocker will shout the line "I'm an ambassador, not a doctor!" in response to a question about Jet and the human heart.
- In The Sims Medieval if you make the Physician do the King for a Day quest, they'll say "I'm a doctor, not a monarch!"
- Company of Heroes
- In Dark Parables 8: The Little Mermaid and the Purple Tide clicking on a certain pharmacy hot spot prompts the quip "I'm a detective, not a pharmacist! I need a recipe."
- Playing the Doctor in the Housepets! version of And Then There Were None, Marvin says, "I'm a Doctor, not an Electrician!" Earlier when one of the first guests died, he did a "He's dead, Jim."
- The Order of the Stick:
- Last Res0rt: Likewise, Scout Arael cheerfully reminds you that she's a medic, not a messiah.
- In Schlock Mercenary, Tailor has to perform brain surgery on Tagon, which leads him to say, "I'm a clothier, not a doctor."
- In Wapsi Square, Monica is an Anthropologist, not a Psychiatrist. She even throws in a "Dammit Jin" for good measure.
- The Property of Hate: Madras is a merchant, not a doctor.
- In Wayward Sons, Hara says that she's a doctor, not a miracle worker.
- El Goonish Shive: Diane is a sneaker not a fighter (i.e. more stealthy than capable of fighting).
- GastroPhobia: Phobia angrily states "I'm a warrior, not a scholar!" when called on the fact that she's illiterate.
- Subverted in Sev Space:
Quirk: Buns, why are you on the bridge instead of in sickbay?
Buns: Dammit, Gym, I'm a doctor, not a... on my way, sir.
- On Nerf NOW!!, after betting (and losing) their clothes, Blu Engie has to sew a new outfit for Red Engie.
Blu Engie: Look, I'm an engineer, not a tailor.
Red Engie: You're sleeping on the couch.
- In the RiffTrax of the 2009 Star Trek film, they come down on the usage of this for not being deep and raspy enough, asking to hear "those throat nodes and smoker's hack."
- The Star Trek wiki Memory Alpha has a page compiling every time the franchise used the phrase here.
- Mr. Peabody, an Insufferable Genius Funny Animal in a Rocky and Bullwinkle short, used to constantly remind his pet human, Sherman that he was "A genius, not a miracle worker," (substitute sharpshooter, etc. to taste).
- In The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 episode "Oh Brother", King Koopa's pipes burst, leading to the following conversation:
Koopa: Well, don't just stand there, Kooky. Fix it!
Kooky: I'm a mad genius, not a plumber.
- A particularly brilliant example in Animaniacs when the Warner Siblings are backed into a corner in Hades:
(William Shatner voice
) Wakko... anything in your... Gag Bag that will help us..? Wakko:
Nothing, Yakko. Yakko:
Dot... comments... analysis...? Dot:
Nothing, Yakko. Yakko:
Darn it, Yakko, I'm a doctor, not a magician!
- The predecessor series Tiny Toon Adventures beat them to it. In the episode "Duck Trek", Furrball-Bones tells Plucky-Kirk "Darn it, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a barber!" It Makes Sense in Context.
- Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, the animated series, has a conversation while defusing a bomb that goes something like this:
A: OK, what color of wire do I cut?
B: Why do ask me, I'm a doctor not a electrician!
A: What's your favorite color?
A: (cuts red)
B: Why did you cut the red one? I said blue.
A: You're a doctor, not an electrician.
- Beavis And Butthead, similar to Saturday Night Live's example:
Bones, I've got an injured crewman here and you've got to do something! You've got
to do something
! Dr. McCoy:
Captain, there is a limit to what one man can do. Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a doc—... Oh, yeah, I'll get right on it. Butt-head:
Hey Beavis. Beavis:
Beavis. Beavis: What
Those guys better look out for the Klingons near Uranus
- The U.S. Acres episode "Swine Trek" from Garfield and Friends parodied this as well. When Orson Pig, playing The Kirk in a dream, asks Wade Duck, playing The McCoy, about a distress call that didn't sound right, Wade went, "How Should I Know?!? I'm a duck, not the Wichita Lineman!!"
- On an episode of Justice League, Lois Lane tells Superman, "Look, I'm a reporter, not a public relations person."
- In the final scene of The Simpsons episode "D'oh-in' in the Wind," Homer ends up in the hospital from a flower lodged in his head, which Dr. Hibbert asserts he cannot remove, because "I'm a doctor, not a gardener."
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 gave Donatello a line that was clearly a Shout-Out to the Trope Namer during the Big Brawl arc: "What can I do? I'm an engineer, not a doctor..."
- In the Danny Phantom episode "Masters of All Time", Danny asks Clockwork if he could save Vlad and Danny's friends from the Ghost Pox. Clockwork's response: "I'm the ghost of time, not the ghost of miracle cures."
- X-Men: Evolution has Storm give us this one: "I'm a weather witch, not a snowplow!" Even funnier when you remember Wolverine's first name is actually Jim.
- The Kim Possible episode "Rappin' Drakken" has a twist on the "morally repugnant" version: Dr. Drakken tries to sell a mind-control shampoo with a name ("Dr. D's Brainwashing Shampoo and Cranium Rinse") and slogan ("Lather, Rinse, Obey") that tells people what it does, because "I'm a supervillain, not a corporate shyster".
- An episode of Codename: Kids Next Door has Tommy transported to a world where dirty boys and a stinky captain are trying to avoid a giant rubber duck (Moby Duck) from giving them squeaky-clean bathes. When Tommy finally convinces them to fight back, their plan involves throwing harpoons at it. When ordered to do so, one of the kids argues, "Darn it, Jim, I'm a doctor not a ducker!"
- An episode of The Garfield Show has a running gag of everyone getting stuck up a tree because of a dog. First it was Garfield and Nermal, then Odie, then Jon, and finally a fireman. Jon questions how come a fireman doesn't know how to climb trees. His response: "I'm a fireman, not a monkey."
- In the Hercules episode "Hercules and the Green Eyed Monster", when Hercules was asked to put some sense into Icarus, he said he was "a demigod, not a miracle worker".
- In Robot Chicken's Star Wars special, the Dr. Ball sketch opens this way.
Darth Vader: Make her tell us the location of the Rebel Base.
Dr. Ball, M.D.: Good god, man, I'm a doctor not a savage! This is a flu shot! Good day, sir!
- DuckTales: In "The Uncrashable Hindentanic", Glomgold challenges Scrooge to a bet where the loser will give the winner one million dollars and Scrooge refuses because he's "a businessman, not a gambler". He changes his mind when Glomgold suggests that the loser will invest one million dollars on the winner's company.
- Budgie The Little Helicopter: In one episode, Dell is complaining about the snow. Smokey says that it's more like icing sugar than snow, to which Dell replies "I don't want to be covered in icing sugar either. I'm a baggage truck, not a Christmas cake."
- The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius reportedly said "I'm a composer, not a psychic!" when his wife wanted to know when he would be back from one of his drinking sprees.
- The newly appointed (as of 2014) chief prosecutor of Crimea, Natalia Poklonskaya, seems nonplussed about her internet fandom gushing over her Moe characteristics. In one interview, she stated that she's "a lawyer, not a Pokémon or something".
- Responding to criticism of his ridiculously-wild first pitch at a New York Mets game, rapper 50 Cent said "I'm a hustler, not a damn ball player."