James Doohan, the burly chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original "Star Trek" TV series and motion pictures who responded to the command "Beam me up, Scotty," died early Wednesday. He was 85.
Doohan died at 5:30 a.m. at his Redmond, Washington, home with his wife of 28 years, Wende, at his side, Los Angeles agent and longtime friend Steve Stevens said. The cause of death was pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease, he said.
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.'"
The series, which starred William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as the enigmatic Mr. Spock, attracted an enthusiastic following of science fiction fans, especially among teenagers and children, but not enough ratings power. NBC canceled it after three seasons.
When the series ended in 1969, Doohan found himself typecast as Montgomery Scott, 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," said Doohan, "and since then everything's been just lovely."
"Star Trek" continued in syndicated TV both 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's "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 a topflight 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 Captain Kirk, but I sure don't like Bill. He's so insecure that all he can think about is himself."
James Montgomery Doohan was born March 3, 1920, in Vancouver, British Columbia, 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 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 managed to hide the missing finger on the screen), four in his leg and one in the chest. Fortunately the chest bullet was stopped by his silver cigarette case. For the remainder of the war, he became a pilot observer, and received the dubious distinction of being called the "craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Forces."
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.
His commanding presence and booming voice brought him work as a character actor in films and television, both in Canada and the U.S. Doohan shuttled between New York and Canada where he worked on 4000 radio programs, 400 live and taped variety and dramatic television shows, several films and plays. Though he became known as Canada's busiest actor, he eventually found himself following other fellow actors in the pilgrimage to Hollywood. There, his versatility and talent as a dialectician helped him earn parts in more than 100 motion pictures and television series, including The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Fantasy Island, "Loaded Weapon 1" and "Double Trouble."
In the sixties he became a very busy working actor, particularly on television where he appeared on such shows as Bonanza, Hazel, The Virginian, Blue Light, Daniel Boone, The F.B.I, The Gallant Men, and many others. In 1966 he was invited to join the permanent cast of Star Trek. Doohan specialized in dialects so when called in to read for the role of the Enterprise engineer, Doohan delivered lines in a variety of accents until Roddenberry decided upon the Scottish accent.
When Star Trek was revived in 1974 as the animated series, Doohan provided his voice not only for Scotty, but also for several other characters. After Star Trek he secured a recurring role on Jason of Star Command while doing additional voice work on various animated series.
Doohan has appeared in all of the Star Trek feature films and joined the elite group of original Trek actors who appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation. During the seventies Doohan became a regular fixture at Star Trek conventions, appearing at them all over the world. In the late eighties he suffered a heart attack but fully recovered and went on to maintain a full schedule of activities.
He has received an honorary Degree in Engineering by the Milwaukee School of Engineering where apparently half of the students polled said they were inspired to study engineering by his role in Star Trek.
According to the Director's Edition DVD of Star Trek the Motion Picture, the Klingon language first introduced in that movie and later featured in many later Trek movies and TV episodes, was initially devised by Doohan. His original sounds were later expanded upon and refined by others, ultimately resulting in Shakespeare plays and The Bible being translated into Klingon years later.
In the years since the final episode of Star Trek, Doohan pursued a speaking career, which took him to more than 250 colleges throughout the U.S. and Canada. In addition, he made appearances at numerous Star Trek conventions. He has also written books (along with S.M. Stirling) by the titles of ‘The Rising' and ‘The Privateer'.
Doohan's first marriage to Judy Doohan produced four children. He had two children by his second marriage to Anita Yagel. Both marriages ended in divorce. In 1974 he married Wende Braunberger, and their children were Eric, Thomas and Sarah, who was born in 2000, when Doohan was 80.
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."
Funeral arrangements were incomplete.
Starfleet Historical File of Captain Montgomery Scott (Scotty)
Also known as Scotty, Chief engineer aboard the original Starship Enterprise under the command of Captain James Kirk. Scott's Starfleet serial number was SE-197-54T.
Scotty was born in the year 2222 and his engineering career began in 2242, and he served on a total of eleven ships, including a stint as an engineering advisor on the asteroid freight run from planet Deneva, making the cargo run a couple of times. The original U.S.S. Enterprise was the first starship on which Scott served as chief engineer, and he distinguished himself many times in that position by improvising engineering miracles that more than once saved the ship and its crew. While serving aboard the original Enterprise, Scott once suffered from a near-fatal accelerated aging disease. He was actually killed in 2267 by space probe Nomad, although the errant probe later returned Scott to life.
Scotty was scheduled to retire some three months after the Khitomer peace conference incident in 2293, and had bought a boat in anticipation of having more free time. Later that year, Scott was an honored guest at the launch of the Starship Enterprise-B. Captain James T. Kirk was lost and believed killed on that flight. He finally did retire in 2294 at the age of 72, having served in Starfleet for 52 years. He was in the process of relocating to the retirement community at the Norpin Colony when his transport ship, the Jenolen, crashed into a Dyson Sphere. Scott, the only survivor of the crash, survived for 75 years by suspending himself inside a transporter beam. He was rescued in 2369 by an away team from the Enterprise-D. Following his rescue, Scott embarked for parts unknown aboard a shuttlecraft loaned to him by Enterprise-D Captain Jean Luc Picard.
Scott never married but he became romantically involved with fellow crew member Mira Romaine in 2269. That relationship ended when Romaine transferred to Memory Alpha soon afterward. In later years, Uhura expressed an interest in romance, but they never got together seriously.
The Associated Press and StarTrek.com contributed to this story
Written by 9 News