James Doohan – who played the original Star Trek chief engineer Montgomery Scott, recipient of the command, “Beam me up, Scotty” – died Wednesday at his Redmond, Wash., home with his wife of 28 years, Wende, at his side. He was 85.
The actor succumbed to pneumonia and Alzheimer’s disease, which was first diagnosed last year, Doohan’s Los Angeles-based agent and longtime friend, Steve Stevens, tells the Associated Press.
The Canadian-born Doohan was a little-known but busy character actor adept at dialects when NBC hired him for its 1966 TV sci-fi series. When it came to his accent, “The producers asked me which one I preferred,” Doohan recalled 30 years later. “I believed the Scot voice was the most commanding. So I told them, ‘If this character is going to be an engineer, you’d better make him a Scotsman.'”
As such, Doohan gained fame – and a faithful following – alongside Star Trek costars William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, though NBC axed the series after only three seasons.
But fans wouldn’t let go of the show, or of the characters, so after some 40 “Trekkie” conventions around the country and countless college lectures, Doohan found himself back with his TV team for 1979’s big-screen Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which spawned five sequels.
It was quite a journey. James Montgomery Doohan was born March 3, 1920, in Vancouver, B.C., the youngest of four children of William Doohan (whom his son described as a pharmacist, veterinarian, dentist and drunk) and his wife Sarah. At 19, James escaped an unhappy home, joined the Canadian army and, as a lieutenant in artillery, was among the Canadian forces that landed on Juno Beach on D-Day.
After the war Doohan on a whim enrolled in a drama class in Toronto and eventually won a two-year scholarship to New York’s esteemed Neighborhood Playhouse. (Besides Star Trek, his other TV series was another space adventure, 1953’s Space Command.)
Doohan’s first marriage to Judy Doohan produced four children. He had two children by his second marriage to Anita Yagel. Both marriages ended in divorce. In 1974 he married Wende Braunberger, and their children were Eric, Thomas and Sarah, who was born in 2000, when Doohan was 80.
Space Services Inc., a firm that specializes in space memorials, plans to send a few of Doohan’s ashes aboard a rocket later this year, according to Stevens. (The remains, which will be sealed in an aluminum capsule, will eventually burn up when they re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.) Previously, the Houston-based Space Services shot the remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and 1960s LSD guru Timothy Leary into the stratosphere.