Video: Remembering Scotty

James Doohan, who is universally known to "Star Trek" fans as chief engineer "Scotty," died at his home in his Redmond, Washington on Wednesday at the age of 85.  Doohan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease nearly one year ago.

He first made his American television debut, ironically enough, in a science fiction series called "Tales of Tomorrow" almost 53 years ago.  But it was another sci-fi show that immortalized him: "Star Trek."

Doohan was born and raised in Canada.  He enlisted in the army at 19 and shipped off to WWII as an artillery lieutenant. At the end of his service, he lost his middle finger while landing on Juneau Beach — something he always managed to hide on screen. Out of Charles Durning, and Yogi Berra, who also participated in D-Day, he may have become the most famous.

It's hard to imagine him playing an Indian in a show called "Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans," or as a guest staring on everything from "Bonanza" and "Bewitched" to "Ben Casey" and "The Fugitive."  But his knack for character acting spanned much further than that "Star Trek" galaxy.

More than 30 years ago, he complained to his dentist that he had been typecast in the role of Scotty to which his dentist replied: "Jimmy, you're going to be Scotty long after you're dead.  If I were you, I'd go with the flow."

Doohan apparently took his advice.  He said, "Since then, everything's been just lovely."

One of his co-stars in the TV series and the films, Mr. George Takai, joined MSNBC-TV's Keith Olbermann on Wednesday to discuss the life of Doohan.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Fans run into danger when they think they know the man based on the performance.  But the Scotty character seemed to be loyal, reliable, friendly, and irritable, but only when it was justified.  How close was that to James Doohan, the man?

GEORGE TAKAI: That fits Jimmy perfectly.  He was a guy who was a consummate actor.  But in this case, with Montgomery Scott and James Doohan, it was perfect fit.  He brought his robust personality, his joy in life, his professionalism, and made that part of Montgomery Scott.  Jimmy used to say, Montgomery Scott is 99 percent Jimmy Doohan, and one percent accent.  And that really is true.

OLBERMANN:  All of you, from the series and the films, have had literally hundreds of other roles.  Yet these identifications, Mr. Sulu in your case, Scotty in his, are, as the famous dentist famously said, immortal.  From the outside, that seems like both a gift and a burden.  How did Jimmy Doohan see it?

TAKAI: Jimmy at first thought it was going to be a straitjacket, confining.  And he did complain about it.  But after that conversation with his dentist, he was able to embrace that, and he saw it as a great blessing.  And that really is true.  How many actors are going to be remembered for a character that they created, that's so much them? 

You know, Scotty is going to live long and prosper, because Jimmy Doohan was such a rich personality and such a fine actor.  And also, a great guy.  A wonderful friend.

OLBERMANN:  You mention the fans.  I imagine at the beginning, the interactivity with the fans must have been a little frightening to all of you.  How did he adjust to the endless processions of "Star Trek" events?

TAKAI: Not to Jimmy.  Jimmy loved people.  He loved, you know, getting together with people, and conventions were ideal.  Here was, you know, hundreds of people, sometimes a few thousand, in one great big huge room, who loved him.  And he loved them right back.  And he, you know, not only enjoyed talking to them and sharing with them, but he enjoyed going out with them after the convention, eating and drinking.  And that also defines both Jimmy and Scotty. I mean, he loved eating, and he loved drinking.  And, you know, he was actually of Irish ancestry, Irish Canadian.  But he told me that, I've drunk enough of that Scottish libation in me to qualify me as a good Scotsman.

OLBERMANN: Those fans that we speak of would beat me senseless if I did not take this opportunity to ask you your perspective on the meaning of how Jimmy Doohan played that role. And how it fit in the larger picture to the success of all the performances, of the whole premise of the series.

TAKAI:  He was critical to it, because you know, the starship "Enterprise" ran on the skill and ingenuity and the creative problem-solving capacity of the engineer.  And the big tension, the big drama, was always, Can Scotty do it in time?  He would say, you know, the captain would say, `We've got to do it in 10 minutes.'  And he would say, `I need two days to do that.'
But somehow he would manage to meet that challenge.  And that's very much Jimmy, too, because we'd get rewrites at the last minute, and some of us were daunted by it.  But he was able to get the words, and if not, create a situation that would fit the situation, and make the scene work. He was very much the creator of the character of Montgomery Scott.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, Mr. Takei, is there one memory that has leaped out at you today as you've remembered your colleague and friend?

TAKAI: He was a great drinking buddy.  He, you know, again, the joy and the fun and the embrace of everything.  And one night, he said, you know, Where do you feel like going for dinner?  And I said, I suggested sushi.  And this was back in the `60s before sushi was popular.  He said, Suss-suss-suss-what?  He couldn't even pronounce it. But I told him, It's a Japanese dish, and it involves raw fish.  He said, Let's do it.  Let's go.  Which really captures his adventuresome ness and his willingness to do something different and something exotic.  And he loved sushi. And so I'm kind of proud of the fact that I introduced Jimmy to sushi way back in the mid-`60s before anyone in America knew about it.

OLBERMANN: To boldly go where no Canadian had gone before.

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