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James Doohan Biography


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Birth Name: James Doohan
Born: 03/03/1920
Birth Place: Vancouver, British Columbia, CA
Death Place: Redmond, Washington, USA
Died: 07/20/2005


Born James Montgomery Doohan on March 3, 1920, in Vancouver, British Columbia to parents Sarah and William Doohan - the latter a veterinarian, pharmacist and dentist - he later relocated with his family to Sarnia, Ontario. There, Doohan enrolled at the Sarnia Collegiate Institute and Technical School, where he excelled in science and mathematics. According to later accounts, his family suffered terrible abuse from his alcoholic father, leading the teenaged Doohan to enroll in the 102nd Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in an effort to escape his unhappy home. With the start of World War II, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Artillery. Adept and intelligent, Doohan quickly rose in rank to captain, ultimately seeing his first action on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. He was badly injured during the bloody D-Day battle, losing a finger in addition to other serious injuries sustained while leading his troops. Doohan later returned to active duty after his wounds healed, flying an artillery observation plane for the Royal Canadian Air Force, where - according to his memoir - he earned the dubious distinction of being the "craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Forces" by his fellow airmen.

Upon completing his military service, Doohan began studying acting after being dismayed by the poor quality of a radio program which he had been listening to one evening. After submitting an audition tape to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, he was soon working on several CBC programs, later winning a scholarship to New York's prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse, where fellow students included such future stars as Leslie Nielsen, Tony Randall and Richard Boone. For the next eight years, Doohan spent time in both New York City and his native Canada, working on innumerable radio and television shows, including appearances on "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1959-1964), "The Outer Limits" (ABC, 1963-65), "Bewitched" (ABC, 1964-1972) and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." (NBC, 1964-68). It was around this time that director James Goldstone from "The Outer Limits" suggested he audition for a new science fiction series being developed by writer-producer Gene Rodenberry. During the tryout, Doohan - a skilled linguistic mimic - offered several interpretations of the character, a chief engineer on an intergalactic ship, each time using a distinct accent. When asked by Rodenberry which one he preferred, Doohan reportedly replied that in his experience, Scotsmen always made the best engineers.

A groundbreaking series, far ahead of its time, "Star Trek" (NBC, 1966-69) chronicled the ongoing adventures of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, led by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner). As initially conceived, Doohan's character, Mr. Scott, was only intended to be a recurring figure. Before long, however, the ingenious engineer became an integral member of the cast, with the character taking on many of the actor's personal traits, such as the first name Montgomery, Doohan's actual middle name. Although the series would last for only three seasons, Scotty's countless last-minute engine room miracles and maestro-like facility with the often twitchy transporter device ensured him an honored spot in the pantheon of beloved science fiction characters. After the series ended in 1969, Doohan, like several of his "Star Trek" co-stars, found it difficult to move beyond his role on the iconic show. Although he continued to act in projects such as "Star Trek: The Animated Series" (NBC, 1973-74) - for which he lent his voice to dozens of characters - and a season on the live-action children's show "Jason of Star Command" (CBS, 1978-1981), it soon became apparent to Doohan that the remainder of his career would be relegated largely to personal appearances at various fan conventions.

Then, nearly a decade after its demise, the crew of the Enterprise was called on once again for the big-budget feature film adaptation "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (1979), due in part to the success of a space fantasy called "Star Wars" (1977). Helmed by Academy Award-winning director Robert Wise, the film reunited the original cast for an all-new adventure that brought them face-to-face with a powerful alien intelligence on a collision course with Earth. In addition to reprising his role as Scotty, Doohan was widely acknowledged as having created the basics for the Vulcan and Klingon languages used in the movie. Criticized by many for its surprisingly torpid pace and relying too much on the admittedly impressive special effects, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" nonetheless performed well enough at the box-office to warrant a sequel. Learning from their mistakes, the studio next produced a swashbuckling space adventure with "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982), in which original series villain Khan (Ricardo Montalban) pursues Kirk with an Ahab-like obsession. For his part, Doohan managed to grab a memorably emotional moment on screen as he cradled the lifeless body of a brave young cadet near the film's explosive climax. The movie became a smash hit in theaters, paving the way for sequel after sequel in the revived franchise.

Although his screen time seemed to shrink with each consecutive installment, Doohan lent his presence to every one of them. "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" (1984) saw the crew attempting to bring their emotionally-challenged Vulcan science officer (Leonard Nimoy) back from the great beyond. Saving the whales became the unlikely mission in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (1986) - a personal favorite of Doohan's, due to its lighthearted tone and the well written banter between the Enterprise crew. For "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" (1989) William Shatner occupied the captain's chair as well as the director's for what would be universally considered the most disappointing film of the series. Considering his well-documented dislike of Shatner, it was an irony certainly not lost on Doohan. The original crew of the Enterprise shared one last onscreen adventure in "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" (1991). A year later, Doohan made a guest appearance in an episode of the spin-off series "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (syndicated, 1987-1994), kicking off what would be a sort of passing of the torch between characters past and present. Two years later, Doohan bid farewell to Scotty in "Star Trek: Generations" (1994) with a small role alongside Walter "Chekov" Koenig in the film's opening flashback sequence.

The mid-1990s found Doohan's career winding down, though he did enjoy recurring roles as Damon Warwick on the soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful" (CBS, 1987- ) for a period of time, and as Pippen on the ham-fisted "Trek" parody, "Home Boys in Outer Space" (UPN, 1996-97). In 1996, Doohan penned his memoirs, Beam Me Up, Scotty, the title referring to the oft-repeated command spoken by Kirk, which had long ago entered the pop-culture lexicon. Although he continued to make appearances at various Star Trek conventions, Doohan scaled back his activities, only briefly appearing in a few low-budget efforts, such the schlocky monster movie "Bug Buster" (1998) alongside fellow star-trekker George Takei. He also appeared as an interview subject in the documentary "Trekkies" (1999), an affectionate look at the "Star Trek" phenomenon and its rabid fan base. In the summer of 2004, Doohan visited his final Star Trek convention in Los Angeles and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame before passing away due to complications from pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease in 2005. In accordance with his wishes, Doohan's ashes were launched into space aboard a suborbital rocket in 2007.