James Doohan, Engineer Scott of the Starship Enterprise, dies on July 20, 2005.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 7/26/2005
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7398

On July 20, 2005, James Doohan, dies from pneumonia and complications from Alzheimer’s disease at his home in Redmond. Doohan is best known for portraying Engineer Montgomery Scott in the original Star Trek television series and in several movies. He was 85.

To Boldly Go

Doohan was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, on March 20, 1920, but grew up near Ontario. His parents, William and Sarah, emigrated from Ireland during the Anglo-Irish War. William worked as a pharmacist, veterinarian, and dentist, but was an alcoholic and very abusive to his family.

In 1939, James Doohan joined the Canadian army. Five years later, he was one of many soldiers who landed in France on D-Day. He made it to shore, but was machine-gunned by the Germans. Four bullets hit his leg, one severed his middle right finger, and the last hit a silver cigarette case in a pocket over his chest. The cigarette case saved his life.

Returning home from the war, Doohan enrolled in a drama class in Toronto and won a two-year scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. He quickly found work as a character actor in Canada and in the United States. In 1949, he married Janet Young and they had four children. They divorced in 1964.

Great Scott!

In 1966, Doohan auditioned for a role as chief engineer aboard a starship on a new series for NBC. Adept in many dialects, he tried out in seven different accents. The producers liked him and asked which one he preferred. "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.'" And Montgomery Scott was born.

Doohan portrayed Scotty as an engineer who gave his all for the ship he loved. No problem was insurmountable, and if anyone dared call his vessel a garbage scow, well, those were fightin’ words. And although engineering was hard work, there was always time at the end of the day for a wee nip of Saurian Brandy.

The television series lasted only three years, but gathered a cult following. Doohan found himself typecast, but soon realized that fans adored him for the role he played. He attended many Trek conventions and gave lectures at colleges. Many engineering students claimed that they were inspired to pursue their careers by Chief Engineer Scott.

The Final Frontier

Doohan married Anita Yagel in 1967, had two children, and divorced in 1972. Two years later, he married Wende Braunberger. Their marriage lasted until his death. They had three children, the last of whom -- Sarah -- was born when Doohan was 80.

In 1977, following the success of George Lucas’s Star Wars, Paramount studios brought back the original Star Trek cast for the film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. This led to further sequels, with Doohan once more reprising his role. His last onscreen portrayal of Engineer Scott was in the 1994 film, Star Trek: Generations.

In 2004, Doohan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, at which point he announced that he would be withdrawing from public life. A tribute was held in Los Angeles and Doohan waved to fans from a wheelchair as his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was unveiled in front of the Hollywood Entertainment Museum.

A year later he was gone. James Doohan passed away in Redmond -- a hub of computer technology -- on July 20, the anniversary of the day that men first landed on the moon. On April 28, 2007, his cremated remains were launched into suborbital space along with those of Mercury Astronaut Gordon Cooper. Both returned safely to earth, although their ashes were lost for almost three weeks in the payload recovery zone, located in New Mexico.


“Scotty of "Star Trek" Fame Dies at His Redmond Home,” The Seattle Times, July 20, 2005 (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com); “'Star Trek's' Doohan Dies, Immortalized for 'Beam me up, Scotty,'” Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 20, 2005 (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/); Alicia A. Caldwell, "Ashes of Star Trek's Scotty Fly to Space" Ibid., April 28, 2007; "James Doohan," The Internet Movie Database website accessed July 27, 2005 (http://www.imdb.com/); "Rocket's Payload of Body Ashes Found in N.M. Mountains," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 18, 2007.

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