James Doohan has died
For the non-geeks out there, James Doohan played “Scotty” in the original Star Trek series. In real life, Doohan was a genuine World War II hero. From CNN.com:
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 his wife Sarah. As he wrote in his autobiography, “Beam Me Up, Scotty,” his father was a drunk who made life miserable for his wife and children.
At 19, James escaped the 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.”
The Canadians crossed a minefield laid for tanks; the soldiers weren’t heavy enough to detonate the bombs. At 11:30 that night, he was machine-gunned, taking six hits: one that took off his middle right finger (he managed to hide the missing finger on screen), four in his leg and one in the chest. The chest bullet was stopped by his silver cigarette case.
A life to be proud of, even before he was 30.
His portrayal of Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott in Star Trek in no small part inspired me to work in the sciences; I suspect it worked a bit of magic on many others as well.
Despite being typecast after Star Trek, Doohan’s attitude stayed positive throughout, providing him with a fine epitaph:
In a 1998 interview, Doohan was asked if he ever 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. It’s been said to me at 70 miles an hour across four lanes on the freeway. I hear it from just about everybody. It’s been fun.”
Another lesson to learn from him, to be able to say, “It’s been fun.”
It is difficult to explain what a huge effect the original Star Trek series has had on my life. I doubt I would have accomplished much of what I have achieved in my career without the dream presented by that show, and much of the good in my life would never have come to pass. Another piece of my childhood has slipped away, as is inevitable for us all.
Tonight, I will raise a glass of my favorite single malt Scotch in tribute to this fine man.