Actor James Doohan, 85; Played Scotty on 'Star Trek'

James Doohan returned as Scotty in 1994's
James Doohan returned as Scotty in 1994's "Star Trek: Generations." (Paramount Pictures)
Associated Press
Thursday, July 21, 2005

James Doohan, 85, the burly chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original "Star Trek" TV series and movies who responded to the command "Beam me up, Scotty," died July 20 at his home in Redmond, Wash. He had pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease.

Mr. Doohan, a Canadian, was working 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," Mr. Doohan later said. "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 Capt. James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as 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, Mr. 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 Mr. Doohan, "and since then everything's been just lovely."

"Star Trek" continued in syndication in the United States and abroad, and its following grew larger and more dedicated. In his later years, Mr. Doohan attended 40 Trekkie gatherings across 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 television, 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" (1979) was successful enough to spawn five sequels.

The powerfully built Mr. Doohan spoke frankly in 1998 about his employer and his TV commander. 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. As he wrote in his autobiography, "Beam Me Up, Scotty," his father -- a pharmacist, veterinarian and dentist -- was a drunk who made life miserable for the family.

At 19, Mr. Doohan escaped the turmoil at home by joining the Canadian army. He was among the Canadian forces that landed on Juno Beach on D-Day. He lost a finger during the fighting.

After the war, Mr. 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.

His marriages to Judy Doohan and Anita Yagel ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife, Wende Braunberger Doohan; four children from the first marriage; two children from the second marriage; and three children from the third marriage.

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