James Doohan

James Doohan served in the Royal Canadian Artillery during World War II before starting his acting career with a radio show appearance on 12 January 1946. While numerous radio and screen roles followed, Doohan was destined to find interstellar fame and fortune 20 years later thanks to the role of Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott in
Star Trek. Today, Doohan has effectively retired from acting and, due to a number of illnesses which included a bout of pneumonia that left him hospitalised last year, has reluctantly cut back on public appearances. Sci-Fi Online caught up with Doohan as the special edition of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was about to be released on DVD...

Sci-Fi Online: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home remains the highest-grossing Star Trek film to date. Are you surprised at all by the film's enduring popularity?

James Doohan: No, not really, because it was one of the best movies we did. I liked it. As a matter of fact it has one of best lines in Star Trek, when Captain Kirk tells the crew, "Everybody remember where we parked!" I really enjoyed the film's comedy, because it was very much like the old Star Trek - the TV series.

SFO: How do you look back on the actual making of the film?

JD: Of the films, I think Star Trek IV was the most fun to do. Filming in San Francisco was wonderful. My daughter took some great pictures of the entire cast walking across the street. You know, I still have my red jacket from that movie and it still fits!

SFO: You could make a fortune on E-Bay with that...

JD: [Laughs] I probably could, but I like to keep things.

SFO: Star Trek IV was the second Trek film to be directed by Spock actor Leonard Nimoy. How did you rate Nimoy as a director?

JD: Leonard is a great director. I think that he proved himself with those movies. He's a great guy and he's one of the best directors around. I think Leonard and Nicholas Meyer [who directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country] were the two best directors Star Trek ever had, and they made the best Star Trek films.

SFO: Going right back to the beginning, how did you originally land the role of Scotty?

JD: I went in and read for Gene Roddenberry. I did about eight different accents for him, and he asked me which one I liked the most. I said, "Well, if you want an engineer, he better be a Scotsman because in my experience, all the world's best engineers have been Scottish."

I gave Scotty an Aberdeen accent, and I learned that when I was sent over to Catterick Camp in England during World War II. While I was there, I met this fellow from Aberdeen - and I couldn't understand a word he said! But I learned that accent from him and that was the one I used for Scotty. Scotty is 99 per cent James Doohan and one per cent accent.

The writers based a lot of the character on me. When they found out I subscribed to technical journals, they starting putting things like that into my character.

SFO: During your three years on Star Trek, did you have any idea you were working on an all-time classic TV show?

JD: I had no idea at all. None of us did. But we did think the scripts were fabulous.

In fact, I think there's only one episode of the entire series that wasn't terrific, and that was the hippy episode [The Way To Eden]. It was just awful!

The only time we got a sense of the show's impact was when we were almost cancelled at the end of the second year, and the fans said we had a great show and campaigned to NBC to hang on for another year, which they did. But that was our last year. We were scheduled for five years, but tough luck!

SFO: When did you first realise that you had been typecast as Scotty?

JD: I did a movie called Man in the Wilderness in Spain with Richard Harris in 1971. When I came back, I would go to producers' offices to read for parts and the secretaries would say, "Oh, hi Scotty!" and everything else. And then the producers would say, "I'm sorry, but we don't have a part for a Scotsman."

I only did a Scottish accent once before Star Trek, and that included 450 live television shows and 4 000 radio shows. But by 1972 I had been typecast and was flat broke! Fortunately, I was able to make a living out of personal appearances.

SFO: Nearly 30 years after you first played Scotty, you reprised the role in a sixth-season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called Relics. Was that a lot of fun to do?

JD: It was marvellous. Everyone treated me like a king. If they had been Japanese, they would have been doing nothing but bowing all the time!

SFO: What would you say is your happiest memory of your entire Star Trek experience?

JD: I guess my happiest memory was my realisation that they were going to start shooting movies. Finally it was going to be possible to make a living out of Star Trek - because I certainly didn't make a living out of it in the early years!

SFO: How's life for Jimmy Doohan today?

I'm doing fine and I love life. I spent some time in hospital a while back, so I haven't seen the fans much recently. But I love the fans, I love seeing them, and hope to see them again soon. I'm very well right now. I'm 83 years old and there's not many people that age!

SFO: Are you happy to be so widely known as Scotty, even to this day?

JD: Oh yes. Scotty is everybody's favourite engineer, and it's wonderful to know I made him so very popular. I love it.

SFO: Finally, Jimmy, what do you think has been the secret of Star Trek's enduring success?

JD: I don't think anybody really knows. There have been quite a few theories, but I'm not sure that anyone has given a definite answer. To me, there's only one response that brings a nod to everyone's head: "It's magic."

SFO: Thank you for your time.

With thanks to Frederique Slezak at Paramount's Press Office

Star Trek IV - Special Edition is available to buy from Paramount Home Entertainment from 02 June 2003 RRP £24.99 (DVD)

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