‘Star Trek’s Scotty to return to stars
Actor James Doohan dies at 85; remains to be sent into space
Los Angeles ? James Doohan, who played the engineer on the original cult “Star Trek” TV series and movies and inspired the catch phrase “Beam me up, Scotty,” left behind one final wish – to return to space.
Doohan, 85, told relatives before his death Wednesday that he wanted his ashes blasted into space, where he will join the late “Star Trek” series creator Gene Roddenberry, whose remains were launched six years after his death in 1991.
Doohan died at 5:30 a.m. at his Redmond, Wash., home with his wife of 31 years, Wende, at his side. The cause of death was pneumonia and Alzheimer’s disease, she said.
Houston-based Space Services Inc., which specializes in space memorials, plans to send a few grams of Doohan’s ashes, along with 125 others, aboard a rocket later this year. The remains, which will be sealed in aluminum capsules, will be in orbit until they burn up upon re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Canadian-born Doohan was enjoying a busy career as a character actor when he auditioned for a role as an engineer in a new space adventure on NBC in 1966. A master of dialects from his early years in radio, he tried seven different accents.
“The producers asked me which one I preferred,” Doohan recalled 30 years later. “I believed the Scot voice was the most commanding. So I told them, ‘If this character is going to be an engineer, you’d better make him a Scotsman.”‘
Almost every week, the frazzled Scott was asked to perform an engineering miracle with the warp drive, shields or phasers to save the ship from certain death at the hands of Romulans, Klingons or other assorted aliens.
The series, which starred William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as the enigmatic Mr. Spock aboard the Starship Enterprise, attracted an enthusiastic following of science fiction fans but not enough ratings power. NBC canceled it after three seasons.
Doohan inspired the phrase “Beam me up, Scotty,” although Capt. Kirk never issued that order until the fourth movie.
“A long and storied career is over. I knew Jim when he started out in Canada and I knew him in his last years in America, so we go way back. My condolences go out to his family,” Shatner said.
Going with the flow
When the series ended in 1969, Doohan found himself typecast as the canny engineer with a burr in his voice. In 1973, he complained to his dentist, who advised him: “Jimmy, you’re going to be Scotty long after you’re dead. If I were you, I’d go with the flow.”
“I took his advice,” Doohan said, “and since then everything’s been just lovely.”
“Star Trek” continued in syndicated TV in the United States and abroad, and its following grew larger and more dedicated. In his later years, Doohan attended 40 “Trekkie” gatherings around the country and lectured at colleges.
The huge success of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” in 1977 prompted Paramount Pictures, which had produced “Star Trek” for TV, to plan a movie based on the series. The studio brought back the TV cast and hired director Robert Wise. “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” was successful enough to spawn five sequels.
The powerfully built Doohan, a veteran of D-Day in Normandy, spoke frankly in 1998 about his employer, Paramount, and his TV commander:
“I started out in the series at basic minimum- plus 10 percent for my agent. That was added a little bit in the second year. When we finally got to our third year, Paramount told us we’d get second-year pay! That’s how much they loved us.”
He accused Shatner of hogging the camera, adding: “I like Capt. Kirk, but I sure don’t like Bill. He’s so insecure that all he can think about is himself.”
Shatner was on hand when Doohan received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in August, and it appeared the men had mended fences.
The star was part of a two-day fan tribute to Doohan, who was retiring from public life after being diagnosed with Alzeimer’s.
War and acting
James Montgomery Doohan was born March 3, 1920, in Vancouver, British Columbia, the youngest of four children of William Doohan, a pharmacist, veterinarian and dentist, and his wife, Sarah. As he wrote in his autobiography, “Beam Me Up, Scotty,” his father was a drunk who made life miserable for his wife and children.
At 19, James escaped the turmoil at home by joining the Canadian army, becoming a lieutenant in the artillery. He was among the Canadian forces that landed on Juno Beach on D-Day. “The sea was rough,” he recalled. “We were more afraid of drowning than the Germans.”
The Canadians crossed a minefield laid for tanks; the soldiers weren’t heavy enough to detonate the bombs. At 11:30 that night, he was machine-gunned, taking six hits: one that took off his middle right finger (he usually managed to hide the missing finger on the screen), four in his leg and one in the chest. The chest bullet was stopped by his silver cigarette case.
After the war, Doohan on a whim enrolled in a drama class in Toronto. He showed promise and won a two-year scholarship to New York’s famed Neighborhood Playhouse, where fellow students included Leslie Nielsen, Tony Randall and Richard Boone.
Oddly, his only other TV series besides “Star Trek” was another space adventure, “Space Command,” in 1953.
In a 1998 interview, Doohan was asked if he ever got tired of hearing the line “Beam me up, Scotty.”
“I’m not tired of it at all,” he replied. “Good gracious, it’s been said to me for just about 31 years. It’s been said to me at 70 miles an hour across four lanes on the freeway. I hear it from just about everybody. It’s been fun.”