When actor James Doohan died on July 20, he took with him one of television’s more memorable character creations: Montgomery Scott, chief engineer of the starship Enterprise.
We miss Jimmy Doohan – several RW editors and writers had met him over the years – because he was a professional, a man who had started in radio, a wounded D-Day veteran and a genuinely nice man. But it’s safe to say he’ll be remembered most for Scotty.
Here are just a few reasons we loved Scotty of “Star Trek,” compiled by the editors with the help of broadcast engineers Rockwell Smith of Journal Broadcast, Clay Freinwald of Entercom and Tom Ray of Buckley:
The character was right there showing the trials of being an engineer, an image that has lasted 30+ years in the public’s eyes – Scotty, the guy who could always be counted on no matter to pull the proverbial rabbit out of his hat and get the job done.
Scotty was quick with a comeback; he called a Romulan a Romulan, went about his work and never asked for a spotlight – as a matter of fact, he shunned it, just like many broadcast engineers we know. He didn’t think twice about getting down and dirty in one of the access tubes in the Enterprise, especially when the chips were down.
“Many years ago I had an automation system with several carousels, and one had a power supply fail,” Rockwell Smith related on the Radio-Tech listserv. “Not having any spares on hand, I had to order a replacement, which then took several days to arrive. On ‘Star Trek’ that night, Scotty saved the mission by ‘paralleling the lithium crystals’ or some such thing to keep the ship running. The idea light went on in my head; and the next morning I jumpered power from a working carousel to the dead one and had all systems running until the parts arrived. Scotty saved the day!”
We also loved Scotty because:
“As a ‘fellow engineer’ of sorts, I could relate to his ‘work’ and his matter-of-fact approach.”
He wasn’t afraid to try something different to get systems back online, even if it proved dangerous.
He was a teacher and mentor to engineers under him who were trying to learn.
Spock took care the science, Bones took care of the people; but Scotty made the machine work when it was needed the most.
When the captain and other high-ranking officers went to the strange planet to deal with the unknowns, who’d they leave in charge of the big machine up there? The chief engineer. Who’d they call for help? Scotty.
Radios no longer rely on crystals; but he kept a spaceship running on them.
He was the person who could keep your atoms together in a magnetic storm or allow you to call home via interstellar frequencies with heavy interference.
He didn’t wear a pocket protector or glasses with white tape.
He constantly was called upon to violate the laws of physics by those who neither understood them nor cared to learn.
How many times did he ‘broadcast’ a person’s atoms across space in the transporter?
No one was critical of his language skills.
“He could fire the phasors when he needed to – something I’d like to hook up at my desk.”
He described a computer from the 20th century as “quaint.”
He had an affinity for Romulan Ale, much like many broadcast engineers we know.
Name another TV program where the engineer had such value.
– Radio World