News your connection to The Boston Globe

James Doohan; as 'Scotty,' beamed up many a Trekker

LOS ANGELES -- James Doohan, chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the first ''Star Trek" TV series and movies who responded to the command ''Beam me up, Scotty," died Wednesday at his home in Redomnd, Wash. He was 85 and had pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease.

Mr. 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 accents.

''The producers asked me which one I preferred," Mr. 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, 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," Mr. Doohan had said, ''and since then everything's been just lovely."

''Star Trek" continued in syndication 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 success of George Lucas's ''Star Wars" in 1977 prompted Paramount, which had produced ''Star Trek" for television, to plan a movie based on the series. The studio brought back the TV cast and hired Robert Wise as director.

''Star Trek: The Motion Picture" was successful enough to spawn five sequels.

Mr. Doohan, a veteran of D-Day in Normandy, spoke frankly in 1998 about his employer 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 wife, Sarah. He wrote in his autobiography, ''Beam Me Up, Scotty," that his father was a drunk who made life miserable for wife and children.

At 19, James escaped 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."

His commanding presence and booming voice brought him work as a character actor in films and television, both in Canada and the United States.

Mr. Doohan had four children during his first marriage to Judy Doohan. 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 Mr. Doohan was 80.

In a 1998 interview, Mr. Doohan was asked if he 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.

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives