James Doohan was known to Star Trek fans as Montgomery Scott, or more often Scotty, the lovable chief engineer on Star Trek: The Original Series. One of the most iconic phrases in the Star Trek universe, “Beam me up Scotty,” references the fact that his character was often in charge of using the transporter machine to beam his crewmates back from away missions.
Fans of The Original Series know that the Enterprise never would have made it to warp, or anywhere in fact, without the resourcefulness and ingenuity of Doohan’s Scotty. They also know that Doohan’s frequent one-liners and banter with costar William Shatner were often the highlights of an episode.
Doohan passed away on July 20, 2005.
How Did he Die?
According to a close friend and colleague of Doohan’s, he died from complications of pneumonia and Alzheimers, The Seattle Times reported.
Doohan publicly announced his Alzheimers diagnosis in July of 2004, just over a year before his death, according to BBC News. At that time, he was also suffering from several chronic, progressive illnesses including diabetes, fibrosis, and Parkinson’s.
Doohan was also a smoker, though he quit in the 1980s, long before he began his battles with chronic illnesses. CBS News reported that Doohan’s myriad chronic illnesses were the result of chemical exposures he suffered during his service in World War II with the Canadian military forces.
Before ‘Star Trek’ Doohan was a War Hero
Doohan grew up in a chaotic household with an alcoholic father, according to The Seattle Times. When he was 19, he left home for good and joined the Canadian Army. He ended up shipping overseas during World War II. Doohan was part of the contingent that landed on Juno Beach on the infamous D-Day.
With his fellow troops, Doohan navigated a minefield into battle. He was shot several times during the ensuing firefight. He was shot four times in the leg, once in the hand and once in the chest. The shot to the hand took his middle finger clean off. The bullet to the chest would have killed him if it weren’t for a silver cigarette case in his pocket.
When Doohan came home from the front, he enrolled in some acting classes, not thinking much would come of the decision.
Doohan Ended up Going to Space, But Only After his Death
After portraying a space explorer for decades, Doohan dreamed of going to space himself. It didn’t happen for him while he was alive, but his dedicated family and friends made sure that it did happen after his death.
Doohan’s son, Chris Doohan, recently revealed on social media that his father’s ashes had been smuggled onto the International Space Station. His remains have been there for the past twelve years. His family made a few other attempts to get his ashes to space, but none were as successful as the secret mission that got him all the way to a real-life space station.
Doohan’s legacy lives on in all the Star Trek series. The chief engineer is always a member of the bridge crew and always a central character. Without Doohan’s iconic portrayal of the original chief engineer, the role may have been relegated to the background in the subsequent shows. Geordi LaForge, Miles O’Brien, B’Elanna Torres, Charles Tucker, Paul Stamets and Jett Reno all owe Scotty a debt of gratitude.