As the chief engineer on the fictional Star Trek spaceship USS Enterprise, Montgomery “Scotty” Scott cut an often flustered figure.

He dealt, on a seemingly weekly basis, with the ship’s overloaded reactors and damaged warp drives.

His plaintive, if somewhat unauthentic, Scottish cry – “I dannae ken if she can take any more, Captain!” – rang through the outer edges of the cosmos as Captain James T Kirk urged even more power out of the craft.

For millions of TV viewers worldwide, this low budget science fiction show was the highlight of the week and Scotty one of its best-loved characters.

Cult status

Even though the original series ran for only three years, subsequent repeats and a series of highly-successful spin-offs and feature movies brought Star Trek huge cult status.

James Doohan

Doohan saw action on D-Day

It made the man behind Scotty, actor James Doohan, into one of the entertainment world’s most familiar faces.

James Montgomery Doohan (he shared a name with his most famous character) was not, in fact, a Scot but a Canadian.

Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1920, his early life, like that of his contemporaries, was dominated by World War II.

Wartime exploits

Doohan’s wartime experiences were every bit as hair-raising as his fictional fights with the Klingons.

As a captain in the Royal Canadian Artillery Regiment, he lost a finger on the first morning of the D-Day landings in Normandy.

 To boldly go where no man has gone before 
The Enterprise’s mission

He then saw a tank, which was carrying his substantial winnings from a cross-Channel card school, blown to pieces before his eyes.

Besides this, his aerobatic exploits, which included nearly crashing his aircraft in Holland while taking “a look” at a German U-boat, earned him the title of “the craziest pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force”.

After the war, Doohan spent two years studying acting at New York City’s Neighborhood Playhouse, where he later taught.

Strong character

Returning to Canada in 1953, he worked in 4,000 radio programmes and 400 television shows before moving to Hollywood.

There he enjoyed small parts in TV shows such as Peyton Place, The Virginian and The Twilight Zone.

USS Enterprise

Capricious spacecraft: The USS Enterprise

But it was with Star Trek, which first aired in 1966, that Jimmy Doohan got his first real taste of stardom.

Working alongside fellow Canadian William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley, he benefited from the strong characterisation which offset the show’s small budget.

Avuncular and wise, Scotty appeared a loyal and steadfast officer.

His ability to conjure solutions to the Enterprise’s regular engineering crises often made him the saviour of his beloved ship.

Trekkies’ favourite

The series lasted two years fewer than the Enterprise’s “five-year mission…to boldly go where no man has gone before”.

 Beam me up, Scotty! 
Kirk’s way out in times of need

But the continuing interest created by constant repeats led, in 1979, to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a worldwide box-office hit and the first of seven Star Trek movies.

Though his other work made little impact, Doohan enjoyed a lucrative old age as the star of many Star Trek conventions.

The programme’s fans, or Trekkies as they are known, found him an approachable and affable figure who often entertained the crowds with his singing.

Inspiring engineer

Star Trek’s impact became apparent when he was awarded an honorary doctorate in Engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering, after half the students there said that Scotty had inspired them to take up the subject.

Captain Kirk and his crew

Kirk and his crew face more peril

And in 2000, aged 80, Doohan boldly went into fatherhood for the seventh time when his then 43-year-old wife gave birth to a daughter, Sarah.

Paradoxically, the catchphrase for which Doohan will be best remembered was said to, and not by, him.

Adopted now as a throw-away line in any desperate situation, “Beam me up, Scotty!” has become a part of the linguistic currency.

In the same way, James Doohan’s most famous creation is, and will remain, one of TV’s favourite characters.

SHARE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here