Wearing Red Shirt Finally Proves Fatal

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From Redmond, Washington comes the sad news that James "Scotty" Doohan—the man who kept the starship Enterprise flying through countless dilithium shortages and transporter malfunctions and, by being the first Canadian to become a superstar with a fake Highlands accent, prefigured at least 70 percent of Mike Myers' career—has died at the age of 85.

In a 2002 interview with Nick Gillespie, Gilligan Unbound author Paul Cantor described Star Trek's forward-looking vision of an Americanized galaxy as indicative of '60s-era hopes for globalization: "You see all the elements of specifically American self-confidence in Star Trek, too. There, American democracy is 'galacticized.' In one out of two episodes, Capt. Kirk shows up and ruins any regime he encounters, especially if it smacks of aristocracy or theocracy." How essential was Scotty to Trek's egalitarian vision? The character always appealed to my own preference for workaday pluggers over glamorpusses, and in CNN's obit, Doohan has some unkind comments about William Shatner's camera-hogging, but this is not the time to revive old spats.

Fans may differ on which episode was Scotty's high point, but I'd have to go with "Wolf In the Fold," wherein the chief engineer is falsely accused of being a pan-galactic Jack the Ripper. Even here, tellingly, Scotty was overshadowed by the great John Fiedler, who gave the performance of a lifetime as an officious bureaucrat (and who also left us grieving recently). Even in Starfleet, the life of a working class hero offers few rewards. RIP.

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  1. I predict a torrential downpour of geeky comments, nerdy Star Trek trivia, and shameless (memorized) quoting on this thread.

    To non-Trekkies: Hope you brought your umbrellas.

  2. In honor of Scotty, I’ve always told my bosses that a project will take twice as long to complete as it really will, so that I would be regarded as a miracle-making genius. Thanks for the advice, Scotty, and godspeed on your final journey!

  3. smacky,

    go climb a tree.

  4. My faves: Scotty drinking the Andromedan “right unda th’table.” Asking the Klingon “Laddy, don’t you think you should… rephrase that?” Calling Spock a freak.
    Scotty made engineering cool. Also, Doohan could make any piece of knobby unergonomic prop equipment look like it actually had a function: Sticking a tire pressure gauge into bunch of flickering lights to “reverse the polarity”, or wiggling around the Jeffries Tube shoving colored bits of plastic into slots. He made it suspenseful.

  5. Doohan apparently stormed the beaches of Normandy also. As part of D-Day; not on his own for no reason.

  6. Has anyone noticed that Mr. Doohan held on until the (36th) anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk? I wonder if that was coincidence?

    I met James Doohan, and he was kind enough to autograph a photo for me, when he appeared at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, during a speaking tour in the early 1980s. He was an engaging speaker, who seemed somewhat baffled by the Star Trek phenomenon but happy enough to go with the flow. The large hall was packed and there was love in the room. It was a great evening. Even after all these years, he’ll be missed.

  7. Much as I loved Scotty, it’s no surprise that Doohan was overshadowed by John Fiedler, who passed away last month. The only voice of Piglet, clear up through the Heffalump movie, when he was 80. And he was Mr. Peterson, my personal favorite crazy guy from the first Bob Newhart show.

  8. From the article:

    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 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.

    The guy had an interesting and charmed life.

  9. RIP Mr. Doohan.

    Second star to the right, straight on til morning.

  10. I don’t know if any of you have seen Trekkies but there was a bit in there about the way Doohan helped a suicidal fan. It was really touching and it really brought home the point that stars touch millions of lives both on screen and off. There’s alot to be said for someone who understands that.

  11. The chest bullet was stopped by his silver cigarette case.

    Smoking saved a life.

  12. Just remember, Stretch, all of us are stars!

  13. And he just fathered his 9th child just a couple of years ago at the age of 80. Who says “he hasn’t got the power!”

    I saw him one a speaking tour as well and he was a delight. One had to constantly remind themselves it was “Scotty” because of the lack of accent.

    And Smacky…you’re a wanker.

  14. “To non-Trekkies: Hope you brought your umbrellas.”

    Yep, it’s raining geeks in here.

  15. One more thing Scotty taught me: Ye canna change the laws of physics. Good to know. Q: I’m looking in your direction, Mr. “Simply Change The Gravitational Constant Of The Universe”!

    (Rambling side note: When I read the part in the article about Doohan’s cigarette case stopping the bullet, I was reminded immediately of Edmund Blackadder’s duel with the Duke of Wellington, when his cigarillo case stopped a cannonball fired at point-blank range.)

    Lastly: Stretch, I remember that scene you described from Trekkies. I also remember the room I was in at the time suddenly getting a bit dusty.

  16. “Ladies and Gentlemunks,

    Please be awares that the following thread runs amok with only the finest geeks and Star Trekkies. We kindly request that you wear your galoshes, raincapes, and other foul weather apparel when proceeding into this thread, as there shall be a torrential rain of commemorative thoughts and ponderances about Star Trek and its affiliates.

    Kindest regards and utmost reverence,

    smacky.”

    There. Is that better, Jeff?

  17. The real cause of Scotty’s death was repeated exposure to dilithium crystals.

    ——
    btw: I met James Doohan when he was grand marshall of the Wenatchee WA Apple Blossom Festival Parade circa 1967. He was a very cheerful, patient and gracious with all the autograph seeking children. A class act.

  18. I can’t belive no one has said it, so I will.

    He’s dead, Jim!

  19. Smacky: Much better.

    Scotty died when Nomad killed him. He was never the same after he was revived.

    Doohan was the guest on the best episode of the Ben Stiller Show. He was also the station commander on Jason of Star Command, as well as the engineer “Pippen” on Homeboys from Outer Space.
    I can almost feel the physical pain you all experience reading the last part of that sentence.

  20. One to beam up. Amen.

  21. Speaking of bullets and heart-protecting miracles, as a stand-up comic, Woody Allen used to tell a story like this:

    When I turned 18, my mother gave me a bullet. A bullet. And I put it in my breast pocket. I always kept that bullet in breast pocket.

    One day, two years later, I was walking down the street, when a berserk evangelist heaved a Gideon bible out a hotel room window on the 15th floor. It hit me in the chest.

    That Bible would have pierced my heart … if not for the bullet … in my breast pocket.

  22. Geeky Star Trek trivia time—The Wolf in the Fold episode was written by Robert Bloch, who also wrote the novel Psycho. Essentially, John Fielder played the Norman Bates character—the mild-mannered homicidal maniac.

    My favorite Scotty moment actually came in his guest appearance on Star Trek: the Next Generation. In one scene, he’s counselling the latest Enterprise engineer, Jordi (Levar Burton). When Jordi tells Picard that it will take 24 hours to finish the repairs, Scotty asks Jordi knowingly “How long will it REALLY take?” Evidently, Scotty multiplied all his estimates by a factor of three, so that it would make him look like a genius when he completed the job in less time. It’s a technique I have used on my own, and I’m pleased to say it works.

  23. I’d swear I saw him on an old Gunsmoke once.

  24. Tim C.,
    Scotty’s best moment was when being called before Kirk for fighting on a space station, to Kirk’s chagrin, Scotty didn’t fight when Earth, Starfleet, or his captain is insulted. No, what triggered the Chief Engineer to brawling was having a Klingon call the Enterprise a garbage scow.

    If memory serves me, it was The Trouble With Tribbles episode.

  25. “She canna take much more O’ this Capt’n”

    Fair winds and following seas, you ol’ stiff necked thistle head.

  26. I should point out that the equipment on star trek almost never failed because it was badly made–there was always an alien or an energy field or a battle causing the failure. Not very Randian after all.

    Well, then it’s still Randian, because the USS Enterprise is a symbol of the genius of the Mind of Man (its hull made of sturdy Rearden Metal, no doubt), and despite temporary setbacks, ultimately always triumphed over the looters, second-handers and muscle-mystics of the galaxy.

    And something tells me Ayn Rand would really have liked Mr. Spock…

  27. A few years ago, when I was between girlfriends, I got into some of the Star Trek books-on-tape (I know, I know). Jimmy Doohan was by far the best reader; I especially recommend his reading of Star Trek: Prime Directive, a treat even for non-Trekkies.

  28. Hmmm….
    **********************

    “Fire photon torpedoes!” Kirk ordered. The Romulan ship detonated.

    Kirk turned toward Yeoman Rand, grinning broadly. “What do you think of the way I handled that, hah?”

    “But I don’t think of you, Jim,” Rand replied quietly. She turned and left the bridge, the twin doors of the turbo-lift closing behind her with a soft shhhhhhhhhopfff.

    **************

    It was midnight. Rand’s head was bowed over her desk, the smoke of her cigarette curling in the air. Someone at her door blooped for entrance.

    “Come in.”

    Commander Spock stepped into her cabin. “You’re working extremely late, Yeoman.”

    “I feel like the work I do is the last barrier between the civilized galaxy and barbarism, Mr. Spock. They don’t understand, with their collectivist Federation. The Prime Directive is nothing more than a roadblock to commerce. They want every culture to develop ‘normally,’ without ‘interference’ — when history shows again and again that the ‘normal’ course is nothing but centuries and millennia of mysticism and brutality and ignorance and poverty. We could end that, Mr. Spock! We have a product to sell. The galaxy needs our Scott Metal!”

    Spock cocked his head. “Logical,” he said. He lit a cigarette.

    “But why are you here, Mr. Spock?”

    “Yeoman Rand, there are certain matters of … biology … that we Vulcans are subject to. We do not speak of it … to outsiders. I am entering the cycle of … pon farr. Yeoman Rand, I’ve come to bang the living crap out of you.”

  29. Apart from “Star Trek,” Doohan occupies another fond part of my childhood — the one season during which he was a supporting character on the CBS live-action, Saturday-morning series “Jason of Star Command.” (One of his co-stars was 1970s exploitation star Sid Haig.) That was the show where Doohan finally got to play the captain.

  30. My faves: Scotty drinking the Andromedan “right unda th’table.”

    “It’s… it’s… It’s green.”

  31. I alyways considered the chief engineer to be the last vestige of unionized labor in the future. He was protected ? the only red shirt that didn’t die within the first five minutes of the show. He was the only person to deny the captain on orders. And he constantly renegotiated the deal: if you want shields, you can’t have phasars. If you want life support, you can’t have photon torpedoes. And he seemed to be the only employee who could drink on the job. Yep, the vision of unionized labor in the future.

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