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Farewell Scotty, Chief Engineer

by Stanley Douglas Stych, © Engineer.net
September 27, 2006

The man who had the best engineering job in the galaxy is getting his final wish. After a year's delay, Star Trek's James Doohan's ashes will be sent into space this October. There his remains will orbit for years before burning up and falling to Earth. His fans and mourners are planning on spending the day in question showing proper respect. So if one day in October there are people in Star Trek uniforms standing around in somber little groups staring at the sky, it's not the end of the world. It's just Scotty being beamed up to that big star ship in the sky.

Jame's Doohan was Scotty (Montgomery Scott,) the can-do Chief Engineer of the Star Ship Enterprise in the original Star Trek television series. He also reprised his role in subsequent Star Trek movies and had an appearance on the follow-up Star Trek series, The Next Generation. He had a variety of roles in the years leading up to Star Trek, including parts in Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Bewitched, and Fantasy Island. His career almost ended with Star Trek, Doohan was so typecast as the Scots engineer that he had trouble finding work in the early seventies. Then as the Star Trek phenomena took off, he took the ball and ran with it. He was a regular at Star Trek conventions and events, and was always good to his many fans.

Off the stage Canadian born James Doohan was a genuine war hero. Fighting with the Royal Artillery, he was shot seven times on D-Day, and lost most of one finger as a result. This is apparently visible in several shows and movies if one watches for it. Who knew. And in real life this fictional engineer inspired many to enter the profession. In honor of his contributions to the field, the Milwaukee School of Engineering awarded Mr. Doohan an Honorary Doctor of Engineering degree in 1993. (More than half of their engineering students cited "Scotty" as one of the reasons they entered the field!)

Always beloved, Doohan made his last public appearance in 2005 for the unveiling of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His health wasn't the best, but he clearly enoyed the outpouring of respect and admiration from his friends, family, and fans. Neil Armstrong was there, and had this to say in praise of Scotty: "...I have a confession to make. I am an engineer. And if I get that command, I want a Chief Engineering officer like Montgomery Scott. Because I know Scotty will get the job done, and do it right. Even if I often hear him say, 'But Caeptain, I dunna have enough time!' So from one old engineer to another, thanks Scotty."

Anyone who had anything to do with Gene Roddenberry's vision of a future where people have resolved their differences and live on an Earth without greed or war gets the highest marks in my book. By all accounts James was an especially fine human being; who was there for his friends, family, and fans till the end. God Speed on your last mission Scotty.

about the author

Stanley Douglas Stych blogs on topics of science, space, and engineering.

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