James Doohan played nearly 40 Star Trek characters

Star Trek actor James Doohan, aka "Scotty"
Star Trek actor James Doohan, aka "Scotty" /

James Doohan would have turned 101 years old today. As Star Trek fans celebrate, it’s worth remembering Scotty wasn’t the only part he played in the franchise.

Scotty is simply the only one he played on camera!

“My vocal cords can do just about anything”

Long before Star Trek, James Doohan was a prolific, in-demand radio actor.

He launched his career on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1946, after his military service in World War II.

He would eventually be heard, by his estimate, on some 4,000 radio shows. But as he told Sci-Fi Online in 2003, in all those roles—let alone his turns on stage and television—“I only did a Scottish accent once before Star Trek…”

When Gene Roddenberry heard Doohan demonstrate several accents during his audition for “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, he asked Doohan which accent the actor liked best, as related in Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman’s The Fifty-Year Mission.

Doohan chose his faux Scottish burr, and an iconic character was born.

Doohan later recalled:

"…[T]here was my ability to do different accents and different sounds; my vocal cords can do just about anything I ask them to do. To me, it’s fascinating, and my friend Leslie Nielsen said to me while we were coming up, “You lucky bastard, you’re just a natural!” (Gross and Altman, 98)."

Doohan discusses his accent as Scotty in this interview from 1989:

Voicing Ancient Aliens and Calamitous Computers

The Star Trek creative team frequently relied on the vocal versatility of James Doohan.

According to StarTrek.com, Doohan supplied all these voices:

  • Sargon, the leader of the ancient alien intelligences who inhabit the bodies of Kirk, Spock, and Dr. Ann Mulhall in “Return to Tomorrow.”
  • M-5, the multitronic, murderous computer programmed by Dr. Richard Daystrom in “The Ultimate Computer.”
  • The Melkotian warning buoy in “Spectre of the Gun”*
  • The Oracle of the People, the ancient machine demanding obedience from the Yonadans in “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.”

The Paley Center for Media incorrectly states Doohan voiced Trelane’s father in “The Squire of Gothos.” Bart La Rue—who also voiced the Guardian of Forever. Yarnek the Excalbian, one of the Triskelion Gamesters, and two broadcasters—provided that voice.

But, per IMDB, La Rue was best man at James and Wende Doohan’s 1974 wedding!

(Editors Note: * An edit has been made to properly reflect who Doohan voiced in “Spectre of the Gun”)

Bringing Klingons, Kzin, and Commodore Robert April to Life

In Star Trek: The Animated Series, James Doohan voiced even more characters.

The Fifty-Year Mission quotes Doohan:

"It was kind of fun doing it because I did three characters and in ten of them I did four, and i pushed for that because once you did more than three, they had to double your pay. Strangely enough, I didn’t use any accents. I just changed the tone of my voice (Gross and Altman, 270)."

In The Animated Series, Doohan voiced numerous aliens, computers, and strange new life. By my count, IMDB credits him with 34 different voices over the show’s 22 episodes.

In addition to new characters like Arex (the three-armed, three-legged Edosian navigator) and Larry Niven’s Kzinti, Doohan became the second actor to play several characters from the live-action series, including three Klingons (Kor, Koloth and Korax) and the Guardian of Forever.

He even voiced Robert April, the first captain of the Enterprise, before both James Kirk and Christopher Pike, in “The Counter-Clock Incident.”

Star Trek wouldn’t sound the same without James Doohan

Doohan’s vocal contributions to the franchise still weren’t done. He developed the first lines of Klingon and Vulcan for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, before linguist Marc Okrand substantially expanded on both for subsequent films.

The next time you hear someone protesting, “I’m given’ her all she’s got!” in their best Scotty impersonation, remember: The legacy of James Doohan in Star Trek is much more than a frustrated lament over the “poor bairns” in the engine room.

Without James Doohan, the Star Trek universe simply would not sound the same!

Next. Star Trek actor James Doohan has his ashes at the ISS. dark