It’s hard to think about Star Trek without also thinking of Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott, the memorably Scottish engineer of the U.S.S. Enterprise, brought to life by the equally memorable James Doohan. He was born today, March 3, 1920, and passed away July 20 in 2005 at the age of 85. Today would have been his 100th birthday. His iconic portrayal of Chief Engineer of the Starship Enterprise Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in Star Trek: The Original Series, made him household name.
Doohan’s acting career really began in 1950, on a television series called Actor’s Studio. He appeared in an episode called Sanctuary in Paris on that series, which led to being cast in a number of anthology shows with ensemble casts for nearly fifteen years. He did more than 400 shows on television in Canada
Doohand was no stranger to fantasy and science fiction. Prior to his time on Star Trek, Doohan’s acting career included appearances on The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Fugitive, Bewitched, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Bonanza and Fantasy Island.
His first recurring role as a single character was not Star Trek, as it happened. That was an uncredited and little-noticed role as Thomas on the soap opera Peyton Place between 1965 and 1967 – which happened to overlap with the most important casting of his life chief engineer of the Enterprise between 1965 and 1967. It was then that his life changed forever. He would go on to portray the character he created in six Star Trek motion pictures.
“If you want an engineer, in my experience the best engineers are Scotsmen.” Doohan recalled from his audition, during an interview in 1993.
Mr. Doohan influenced a generation of engineers, who saw him as role model. The Milwaukee School of Engineering awarded Mr. Doohan an honorary doctor of engineering degree in 1993 after a survey of students revealed that a large number of respondents said the character Scotty’s ‘engineer’ title piqued their interest in the field. Doohan’s Mr. Scott brought the field of engineering to the forefront of pop culture.
During his last convention tour in 2004, he attended a special James Doohan Farewell Star Trek Convention last summer, using a wheelchair but alert. One of the people who spoke at the ceremony was Neil Armstrong, the first person to actually walk on the soil of another world and a “Star Trek” fan. According to accounts of the event, Mr. Armstrong said he hoped his next command would be a Federation starship, and added “if I get that command, I want a chief engineering officer like Montgomery Scott.”
Prior to becoming an actor, Doohan had fought in the Second World War under the Canadian flag. He joined the Canadian Forces at 19. He was wounded in battle after leading his men through a mine field on Juno beach and personally taking out two German snipers in the process, eventually took four rounds in one of his legs from friendly fire; one in his hand, which ultimately resulted in him losing his middle finger; and one in the chest. The shot to the chest would have ended him right there had it not been for a silver cigarette case given to him by his brother, which deflected the bullet. He would later give up smoking, but at least he could say that being a smoker actually saved his life.
D-Day was the first and last day of actual combat Doohan would see.
After recovering from his injuries, he became a pilot in the Canadian Air Force, but never saw action. Despite not ever flying in combat, he was once called “the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force” when he flew a plane through two telegraph poles after “slaloming” down a mountainside, just to prove it could be done. This act was not looked upon highly by his superiors, but earned him a reputation among the pilots of the Canadian Air Force.
Following his work on Star Trek, Doohan played Commander Canarvin in Jason of Star Command, along with appearances on The Ben Stiller Show and The Bold and the Beautiful.
Doohan would reprise his role of Scotty when he made a guest appearance on the now-classic fourth season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Relics.
He was recognized for his contributions when he was awarded with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on August of 2004.
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