James Montgomery Doohan (March 3, 1920 – July 20, 2005) was a Canadian character and voice actor best known for his role as Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the television and film series Star Trek. Doohan's characterization of the Scottish Chief Engineer of the Starship Enterprise was one of the most recognizable elements in the Star Trek franchise. He also made several contributions behind the scenes for the Star Trek franchise. Many of the characterizations, mannerisms, and expressions that he established for Scotty and other Star Trek characters have become entrenched in popular culture.
Outside of his performances in Star Trek and other television shows and films, Doohan was also a wounded combat veteran of World War II. Following his success with Star Trek, he supplemented his income and showed continued support for his fans by making numerous public appearances. Doohan often went to great lengths to buoy the large number of fans who have been inspired to make their own accomplishments in engineering and other fields, as a result of Doohan's work and his encouragement. Doohan was considered by some to be one of the most giving and affable stars of the Star Trek franchise.
Despite his injuries, Doohan remained in the military, trained as a pilot and flew an artillery observation plane. He flew Taylorcraft Auster Mark V aircraft for 666 (AOP) Squadron, RCAF, as a Royal Canadian Artillery officer in a flying role in support of #1 Canadian AGRA (Army Groups Royal Artillery). All three Canadian (AOP) RCAF Squadrons were manned by Artillery Officer-pilots and accompanied by enlisted RCA and RCAF personnel serving as observers.
Though he was never actually a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, he was once labeled the "craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Forces." One of the many legendary stories of his flying years tells of Doohan slaloming a plane — variously cited as a Hurricane or a jet trainer — between mountainside telegraph poles to prove it could be done, which earned him a serious reprimand. (The actual feat was performed in a Mark IV Auster on the Salisbury Plain north of RAF Andover, in the late spring of 1945).
Doohan played the lead role in the CBC TV drama production "Flight into Danger", based on Arthur Hailey's novel Runway Zero-Eight, later adapted as Terror in the Sky and spoofed in Airplane!. His credits also included The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Bewitched, Fantasy Island, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1964) and Bonanza. In the Bonanza episode, "Gift of Water" (1962), he co-starred with actress Majel Barrett who would later be cast in the role of Star Trek's Nurse Chapel. He appeared as an assistant to the President of the United States in 2 episodes of Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea.
Doohan always had a gift for using foreign accents. Auditioning for the role of Montgomery Scott, Chief Engineer of the USS Enterprise, before Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek), Doohan did several different accents. Roddenberry asked which he preferred, and Doohan replied "Well, if you want an engineer, he better be a Scotsman because, in my experience, all the world's best engineers have been Scottish". (This is reference to the vast number of engineers from Scotland that resulted from Scottish pre-eminence in marine engineering, stemming from the time of Napier; British ships were legendary in having a stereotypical Scottish engineer on board.)
In later years Doohan would revisit this casting process at Star Trek conventions, demonstrating a variety of possible voices and characters. When Roddenberry produced Star Trek: The Animated Series in the early 1970s, Doohan's ability to perform different voices was utilized by having him perform most "guest star" male roles in the series, including Robert April, conjectured first captain of the Enterprise.
The Scott character, as conceived, would have been a semi-regular, but just as fellow cast members Leonard Nimoy, as the alien science officer Spock, and DeForest Kelley, as the irascible medical officer Dr. McCoy, were elevated in importance to leads alongside William Shatner's Capt. James T. Kirk, it was made clear that, owing to his high technological orientation, LCDR Scott was the third-in-command of the Enterprise, and at times the ship was left in his care. Scott was frequently used in subplots regarding disabled ship components (such as the dilithium crystals which powered the warp drive, the transporter teleportation device, or just fiddling in the Jefferies tubes) and as a foil for Kirk's ambitious tactical approaches, which were said to strain the propulsion and defenses of the starship. In this capacity, Scott proved to be as much of a tinkerer, or improvisational engineer, as a high-tech specialist, often apparently holding the Enterprise together with little more than baling wire and his own spittle. In the end, many fans saw the Enterprise itself as the show's star, leaving Scott in an enviable position as her defender. For example, in "The Trouble With Tribbles", Scott stands idly by and even keeps Chekov from starting any trouble as a Klingon insults Kirk; however, Scott is finally provoked into violence when the Klingon insults the Enterprise itself.
Doohan was often quoted as saying, "Scotty is ninety-nine percent James Doohan and one percent accent."
Using his considerable vocal skills, Doohan devised the Vulcan and Klingon language dialogue heard in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Later, professional linguists, particularly Marc Okrand, expanded Klingon into a fully constructed language with a working grammar.
In addition to playing Scotty, he also did many guest voices on Star Trek including:
In the 1997 documentary Trekkies, Doohan relates an emotional, uplifting story. A female fan had sent him a suicide note. Doohan immediately contacted the fan and arranged to speak with her at his next convention appearance. Doohan continued to see her at several other conventions, but ultimately didn't hear from her for several years. Doohan, visibly moved by relating this tale, then reveals the reason for the eight-year-long silence: He received one final letter from the previously distraught fan, thanking Doohan for his kindness and comforting words, and informing him that because of his encouragement, she had successfully gone back to school and earned a degree in Electrical Engineering.
On July 20, 2005, at 5:30 in the morning, James Montgomery Doohan died at his home in Redmond, Washington with his wife Wende and long-time friend and agent, Steve Stevens, at his side. His agent identified the cause as pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease. In what may be regarded as an ironic coincidence, Doohan died on the anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, arguably the greatest engineering achievement in human history.
Almost two years after his death, approximately one-quarter ounce (7 grams) of Doohan's ashes were sent into space, as he had requested in his will. The ashes, along with those of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper as well as almost 200 others, were launched on the SpaceLoft XL rocket, on April 28, 2007, when the rocket briefly entered outer space in a four-minute suborbital flight before parachuting to earth, as planned, with the ashes still inside. The ashes were subsequently launched on a Falcon 1 rocket, on 3 August 2008, into what was intended to be a low Earth orbit, however the rocket failed two minutes after launch. The rest of his ashes were scattered over Puget Sound in Washington.
On July 31, 2005, the Skip Barber Racing School paid tribute to Doohan by dedicating the traditional race weekend's "Memorial" race as the "Beam Me Up, Scottie! Memorial" during the series' visit to Circuit Mont-Tremblant.
Doohan's passing was the fourth major loss for fans of Original Star Trek, after Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's death in 1991, Mark Lenard's in 1996 and DeForest Kelley's in 1999. Scotty's exploits as the redoubtable Chief Engineer aboard the Enterprise inspired many students to pursue a career in engineering. Because of this the Milwaukee School of Engineering granted Doohan an honorary degree in engineering. He was immortalized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on August 31 2004. Despite his ill health, he was present at the ceremony, which proved to be his final public appearance.
Since in Star Trek lore Scotty was born in the town of Linlithgow, Scotland, the West Lothian Council plans to place a commemorative plaque in the town in memory of Doohan. Other towns having groups claiming to be Scotty's birthplace and wishing memorials are Aberdeen, Elgin, and Edinburgh.