Introducing a short story in the 1976 anthology Star Trek: The New Voyages, James Doohan recalled that in the show’s early days, people thought “there would be little use made of the Chief Engineer, because, after all, he was down in the ‘engine room.’”
Fortunately, Scotty ended up appearing in 64 of the original 79 episodes, in all six original cast films, and in Star Trek: Generations. Star Trek fans ended up with an abundance of performances from James Doohan to enjoy!
In honor of what would have been Doohan’s 101st birthday, here are five favorites.
Scotty defends throwing the first punch (“The Trouble with Tribbles”)
Although he delivered many broadly comic moments as Scotty, James Doohan had a knack for subtler comedy, too.
Notice the pained but silent sigh just before Kirk dismisses his men. The helpless “eyebrow shrug” as Scotty admits the truth. The contrast between his reluctant repetition of the Klingons’ insults about Kirk and his unabashed outrage when repeating their defamation of the Enterprise.
Doohan seized the chance to show more emotional range in these three minutes than he was often given during three seasons’ worth of scripts!
Scotty spearheads the Enterprise theft (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
Sure, the Enterprise heist is a fantastic moment for the whole ensemble. But Doohan gets the best bits of the bunch.
The whole plan would have come to naught but for Scotty’s opening of the Spacedock doors and his sabotage of the Excelsior.
Doohan hits each of his beats in this sequence perfectly, helping make it one of the highest of Star Trek movie highspots.
Scotty recreates the classic Enterprise bridge (“Relics”)
When James Doohan guest starred on Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1992, he delivered a delightful performance from his first scene to his last. But no moment proved more emotional for long-time fans than Scotty’s holographic reunion with his U.S.S. Enterprise—“no bloody A, B, C, or D!”
Ronald D. Moore’s script calls for Scotty to talk about his Enterprise as a lost and fondly remembered love. Doohan makes viewers believe it.
Scotty grieves his nephew’s death (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
Even in the 1982 theatrical cut of Star Trek II, Scotty’s grief over Midshipman Peter Preston’s death was moving. The 2002 “Director’s Cut” restores footage revealing Peter was Scotty’s nephew, and includes an alternate version of the scene in sickbay in which Doohan has more time to shine.
Scotty’s more shaken than we’ve ever seen him, but James Doohan skillfully blends anger, agony, and resolve to make the moment one of his strongest in the role.
Scotty reveals the transparent aluminum formula (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
Scotty’s attempt to use a mouse to talk to Dr. Nichols’ brand-new Macintosh Plus is justly iconic and just plain hilarious. But there’s much more than a “fish out of water” joke going on.
Doohan is convincing in his command of technical concepts and terminology. He also imbues Scotty with a benignly mischievous spark we don’t often glimpse.
Most of all, in this moment—as he did in all his moments as Montgomery Scott—James Doohan gives us a character fully committed to a mission’s success. In this case, he’s taking a calculated risk with the timeline instead of coaxing every bit of power he can from the Enterprise’s engines, but he’s not giving less than his all so the journey can boldly continue.
And James Doohan never gave us less than his all as Scotty!