Everyone knows the immortal line, "Beam me up, Scotty!" Yet how much do you know about the man behind Scotty himself?
James Doohan led an inspiring, fascinating life, from his youth in British Columbia to his time on Star Trek to his death in 2005. We have previously dug deep into the biographies of Nichelle Nichols and George Takei. Now let's get a close look at their Enterprise crewmate from the engine room. What a cast!
He stormed the beach at Normandy on D-Day.
The Vancouver native was a lieutenant in the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. His first taste of combat came on D-Day on Juno Beach. Doohan took out two snipers and took six bullets — four in the leg, one in the chest and one through his middle finger. In a story out of a Spielberg movie, the round to his upper body was stopped by a cigarette case given to him by his brother.
He was a classmate of Leslie Nielsen and Tony Randall in acting school.
After World War II, the aspiring actor earned a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Fellow students in the conservatory included fellow future television stars Randall and Nielsen.
He and William Shatner almost crossed paths as hosts on the Canadian 'Howdy Doody.'
The CBC created its own version of the popular 1950s children's show. Instead of Buffalo Bob, our northern neighbors had Timber Tom. The role of Tom was first offered to Doohan, who wanted too much money. According to The Big Book of Canadian Trivia, the actor who was cast missed some of the early episodes and was replaced by a host named Ranger Bill — Bill Shatner, that is.
He was on an episode of Bonanza featuring another Star Trek co-star.
Doohan dons a cowboy hat to guest in the season three episode "Gift of Water." The 1962 outing also featured Majel Barrett who would become Nurse Chapel on the Enterprise, not to mention Gene Roddenberry's wife.
He tried about eight different accents when auditioning for Star Trek.
No, Scotty was not actually Scottish. Though Doohan did come up with the character's roots. At a 1989 Trekkies convention, Doohan told the tale of his audition, in which he performed "seven or eight different accents" while reading a page of the script. The actor was quite gifted at accents. Roddenberry asked him which accent he preferred. "Well, if he's going to be an engineer, he really should be Scottish, because Scotsmen to my knowledge are very famous engineers," the actor replied.
He was the voice of multiple Star Trek characters.
Doohan would get many opportunities to show off his voice skills in the Star Trek universe. He provided numerous voices to characters on Star Trek: The Animated Series, most notably the tall, orange Lt. Arex. In some episodes, like "Yesteryear," Doohan would voice up to seven characters, everything from aliens to miners to bears.
He came up with the Klingon and Vulcan languages.
In another massively significant contribution to the Trek universe, Doohan vocalized the languages of Klingon and Vulcan for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He came up with the basic sounds and some words. Later, linguist Marc Okrand would build an entire Klingon language around Doohan's growls and guttural intonations.
Image: Star Trek: The Motion Picture / Paramount
His son plays Scotty in a modern Trek fan series.
There are many modern unofficial continuations of the Star Trek universe. One of the better productions is Star Trek Continues, a fan-made series that depicts further voyages of the Enterprise in the style of the Original Series. There is some star power in the cast. Grant Imahara of Mythbusters plays Sulu, while Chris Doohan fills dad's red shirt as Scotty.
Image: Star Trek Continues