The Big Bang Theory’s “Nurse” Amy Farrah Fowler, Ph.D.

Nurse Amy Farrah Fowler, Ph.D.

Folks who watched CBS’s The Big Bang Theory on Thursday May 3, 2012 got to see a nice Star Trek reference (which isn’t surprising, of course: The Big Bang Theory is often full of Star Trek references).  In this episode (“The Launch Acceleration”–Story by Chuck Lorre, Steven Molaro & Jim Reynolds; Teleplay by Bill Prady, Steve Holland & Maria Ferrari; Directed by Mark Cendrowski), neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler, Ph.D. (played, of course, by actual neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, Ph.D.) attempts to increase her level of geeky attractiveness by, among other things, donning a Star Trek costume.  She is seen here in the episode’s tag, “‘playing doctor’–Star Trek style:”

Nurse Amy Farrah Fowler, Ph.D.

This scene of Amy Farrah Fowler wearing a Starfleet Lieutenant-grade science division blue uniform with both a black collar and a “Red Cross” medical insignia got me wondering: In The Original Series, when did we see this Red Cross medical insignia, did we ever see it on anyone other than Nurse Christine Chapel, and did we ever see it on a black-collared science division uniform?

But first things first.  The Swiss-style Red Cross is an equilateral cross–with all four arms the same length–not a traditional Christian-style cross where the cross bar is a bit shorter than the upright bar, and a bit higher than centered on the upright bar.  In a Swiss cross, the cross bar is centered on the upright bar, forming a tetraskelion figure.  Really picky vexillologists know that while the four arms are all of equal length, they are actually just a tiny bot longer than they are wide.  Their length is one and one sixth times their width.

At any rate, the first time we see this Swiss-style Red Cross-style insignia (and there were actually two slightly different styles in Star Trek) was on the late, great Majel Barrett’s costume for Christine in the episode “The Naked Time” (Episode 4).

Red Cross Insignia: "The Naked Time"

We see this insignia again on Majel Barrett in the episode “What Are Little Girls made Of?” (Episode 7).

Red Cross Insignia: "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"

(Folks might or might not know that technically, this character’s scripted name in “The Naked Time” was Nurse Christine Ducheaux, although this scripted last name never appears in any dialogue.  It was later, in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” that Majel Barrett played a remarkably similar character–also a nurse–with the same first name but with a different last name: Nurse Christine Chapel.  Is this the same character–or does Majel Barrett actually play two different but yet very similar characters–both with the first name Christine?  But I digress….)

The third time we see this Red Cross insignia is once again on the blue cowl-neck nursing uniform–but it’s not on Majel Barrett.  We see it on the nurse who is assisting Dr. McCoy as he helps to revive Khan in the episode “Space Seed” (Episode 24).

Red Cross Insignia: "Space Seed"

Note: This is the first of just two times that we see the Majel Barrett blue cowl-neck nursing uniform on someone other than Majel Barrett.  In this case, the unnamed nurse (who presumably has the exact same physical measurements as Majel Barrett) is played by Miss Joan Webster.)

We see this uniform and insignia one more time in the First Season: you can see Majel Barrett wearing them in “Operation: Annihilate!” (Episode 29).

Red Cross Insignia: "Operation: Annihilate!"

In all these screen shots of the “Type 1” Red Cross insignia, sharp-eyed viewers will notice that this Red Cross symbol is actually two small pieces of felt, crisscrossed one on top of the other and then both superimposed on top of the regular Star Trek science symbol on the insignia.  (The Red Cross on top of the science symbol is especially noticeable in the first shot from “The Naked Time.”)

Majel Barrett continued to wear this “Red Cross Superimposed on a Science Symbol” insignia through the first half of the Second Season–up to and including “A Private Little War” (Episode 45).  You can see her wear it in five different Second Season episodes.  They are (clockwise from the upper left): “Amok Time” (Episode 34), “The Changeling” (Episode 37), “The Deadly Years” (Episode 40), “Journey to Babel” (Episode 44) and, lastly, in “A Private Little War” (Episode 45).

Nurse Chapel: First Half of Second Season

And although Majel Barrett’s not wearing it, this uniform and the Type 1 insignia both crop up on an additional nurse during the Second Season–the nurse with the hypo who is helping to distribute the sedative to the entire Enterprise bridge crew in the episode “Wolf In the Fold” (Episode 36).  (The nurse is played by Ms. Judith Kay “Judi” Sherven.) 

Red Cross Insignia: "Wolf In the Fold"

Starting in the episode “Obsession” (Episode 47), Nurse Chapel wore a slightly different Red Cross insignia–which she then continued to wear until the end of the series.  This “Type 2” insignia is the one that we most generally associate with Nurse Chapel: it is just a simple Swiss Red Cross embroidered onto the regular Starfleet arrowhead insignia–but it is not superimposed on top of the science symbol; it’s just the Red Cross.  Probably the best look we get it this insignia is in “Return to Tomorrow” (Episode 51):

Red Cross Insignia: "Return to Tomorrow"

 She wore this new, “Type 2” Red Cross insignia in her four remaining episodes of the Second Season.  They are (clockwise, from upper left): “Obsession” (Episode 47), “The Immunity Syndrome” (Episode 48), “By Any Other Name” (Episode 50) and “Return to Tomorrow” (Episode 51)

Nurse Chapel: Second Half of Second Season

But the old “Type 1” Red Cross insignia showed up a couple of more times before it was gone altogether.  We saw it on some unnamed nurse (wearing a regular black-collared uniform) in the episode “Obsession” (Episode 47):

Red Cross Insignia: "Obsession"

We saw it on another unnamed nurse (wearing a regular black-collared uniform) in the episode “The Immunity Syndrome” (Episode 48):

Red Cross Insignia: "The Immunity Syndrome"

We saw it on “Nurse M’Benga” played by Ms. Cindy Lou (wearing a regular black-collared uniform) in the episode “Return to Tomorrow” (Episode 51):

Red Cross Insignia: Return to Tomorrow"
Lastly, it’s difficult to see for sure, but it might be present on another unnamed nurse played by Ms. Jeannie Malone (wearing a regular black-collared uniform)–also in the episode “Return to Tomorrow” (Episode 51).  There are no good views of the front of her uniform, so it’s impossible to know if this is a Red Cross insignia or a regular science division insignia.  (I suspect that it was actually just a regular science division insignia.)

 Red Cross Insignia: "Return to Tomorrow"

After that, the “Type 1” Red Cross insignia was gone entirely.

Just for the sake of completeness, Majel Barrett wore the “Type 2” Red Cross insignia in all thirteen of her Third Season appearances:

“Elaan of Troyius” (Episode 57):
“The Paradise Syndrome” (Episode 58):
“The Enterprise Incident” (Episode 59):
“And the Children Shall Lead” (Episode 60):
“Spock’s Brain” (Episode 61):
“The Tholian Web” (Episode 64):
“For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched The Sky” (Episode 65):
“Plato’s Stepchildren” (Episode 67):
“Wink of an Eye” (Episode 68):
“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” (Episode 70):
“The Lights of Zetar” (Episode 73):
“The Way to Eden” (Episode 75):
“Turnabout Intruder” (Episode 79):

Nurse Chapel: Third Season

So, as geeky as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler is on The Big Bang Theory, it looks like her uniform isn’t quite right: the few times we see the Red Cross insignia on a black-collared uniform, the insignia is the Type 1  “Red Cross Superimposed on a Science Symbol” insignia.  The only time we see the Type 2 “Red Cross That’s Not Superimposed on the Science Symbol” insignia, it is found on the blue cowl-neck nurse’s uniform, not the black-collared standard uniform.

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Author Greg Schnitzer

Gregory L. Schnitzer is Co-Executive Producer on the fan-based Internet series Star Trek New Voyages/Phase II (formerly known as Star Trek New Voyages). Greg is a Registered Nurse and is often in charge of Emergency Medical Services at the Star Trek New Voyages/Phase II shoots. He is also the production's Property Master and on-again, off-again Set Decorator. Born and raised in Los Angeles (which he still calls "home"), in real life, Greg is a Registered Nurse, currently working in Health Information Management at a variety of medical facilities in the greater metropolitan Washington, D.C., area. Find Greg's page on the IMDB at:

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Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Patty Wright says:

    Awesome, as usual!

    As neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler, Ph.D is wearing a uniform duplicate of the uniforms from “Phase II”, the 1970’s aborted Paramount series, rather than a TOS uniform, perhaps this is a new variant we would have seen in that series! A black collar and the red cross…who knows?

  • Bert Copeland says:

    Wow, great work Greg. Great research.

  • Rhussel "RJ" Ojibway says:


    Thank you for this in-depth article. It was very interesting and fun to read.


  • Christopher Kerry says:

    Thanks Greg.
    That’s the kind of detailed article I love to read.

  • Xheralt says:

    Well, if you want to be *really* picky, the black tights are non-canonical, too (albeit a reasonable alternative to fleshtone pantyhose — or no stockings at all). But since she *isn’t* Nurse Chapel, it’s OK for her to not be wearing the exact same uniform as Nurse Chapel. Starfleet appears to have some flexibility in their uniform regs for all the variations (turtleneck, black-trim turtleneck, cowl-neck, black-trim cowl, Captain’s green casual, etc.) that co-exist at one time.

  • Xheralt says:

    erm, that should be “turtleneck, crew neck, black-trim crew neck…” etc.

  • Neville Ross says:

    Of course, Dr. Fowler couldn’t stand Retinax V, so she’s wearing glasses.

  • Will Cook says:

    Haven’t you missed the point?
    It’s Amy Farrah Fowler in a Hot outfit!

  • Checki Wei says:

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