While prototypes for Kirk, Spock, and Bones existed in the earliest notes for Roddenberry’s original Star Trek pitch, one of the shows other iconic characters almost didn’t exist. This character is Montgomery Scott, better known as “Scotty.”Almost everyone in Western society knows the misquoted phrase “Beam me up, Scotty!” , which is intended to imply that Kirk, Spock, and Bones are in over their head and either need someone to rescue them, or the mission is over and it’s time to go home and role credits.
Scotty was one of the characters introduced in the second pilot for the series. However, as
actor James Doohan who played the character on the TV series and the feature films that followed, noted in his memoir,
“Three or four days after hearing that the pilot had sold, I got a letter from Gene Roddenberry saying, ‘Thanks very much, but we don’t really think we’re going to need an engineer.’ I think they were probably trying to save money. I got the letter about eleven o’clock in the morning, and I called my agent, Paul Wilkins.…He said, ‘You just wait there. We’ll see about this.’ I could tell from the tone of his voice and the pauses he took that he was trying to hold his temper…He went to Gene Roddenberry and Herb Solow, Herb being the executive in charge of production on behalf of Desilu. Paul was not one who was easily ignored. He was six foot two, with silvery dark hair. Then Paul called me and said, ‘You’re back on the show.’ I didn’t have a commitment for ‘every show produced’; they only signed me up for some of the episodes.”
Thanks to some Hollywood finagling Scotty became a supporting role on the series. The whole dismissal was hardly personal on the part of Roddenberry, it was strictly a matter of business. The show was already being filmed on a very limited budget, and Roddenberry even appreciated the actor, assuring him in his letter,
“As you probably know by now, Star Trek will be on the air this coming September. Due to changes in format, budget structure, and character concepts, we cannot pick up a number of options, including yours. But we do hope that “Engineering Officer Scott” will reappear in future stories and hope we will be fortunate enough to find you interested and available at that time. ..Let me thank you for your important contribution in the making of the Star Trek pilot. As mentioned many times before, I value your talent and ability highly and it will always be a particular pleasure for me when we are able to work together.”
It was even Roddenberry’s suggestion to make Scotty a Scotsman. When Canadian born Doohan came in for his audition, he did a number different accents for his audition, and Roddenberry suggested making the character Scottish as in his opinion the best engineers were Scottish. He wasn’t wrong in his assertion. Among some of the most prominent Scottish engineers include James Watt from whose last name we derive the standard measurement for power, James Hall Nasmyth who invented the steam hammer, James Scott Russell who helped develop the wave-line system of ship construction, Henry Bell who helped develop the steam ship, William Murdoch who invented the oscillating steam engine, Thomas Telford who helped design and built much of Scotland’s infrastructure, Alexander Grahame Bell who invented the Telephone, and James Clerk Maxwell who theorized about electromagnetic radiation.
Beyond them, one need only look at the role that real-life engineers from the British isles played in the voyage famous technologically advanced ship, the RMS Titanic. As the Scotsman, the newspaper for Scotland, said in an article published for the centenary of the ship’s sinking, looking at the forgotten role that the engineers played in the sinking of the Titanic ,
“The legend of the Titanic is chiefly remembered through the dramas of the upper decks, with the band that played on, or lovers’ partings at the lifeboats. But when the ship first struck the iceberg, the first action of the officer of the watch, William McMaster Murdoch, was to pull a lever closing the watertight doors in the engine and boiler rooms. The last signals heard from the Titanic by the liner Carpathia, rushing to the scene of the disaster early on 15 April, 1912, included the words “engine room full up to boilers”…The Titanic’s engineers died out of sight, fighting to keep the ship’s lights, pumps, and communications alive until the very end, enabling the crew to help more than 700 passengers into the boats. The magnificently designed ship, manned by the cream of White Star’s engineers below decks, appears by all accounts to have been sunk by the hubris of her officers on the bridge. At least five of the men were Scottish-born.”
Why would Scotty, or for that matter the real life engineers on the Titanic, be so loyal to the task, even at risk to their own lives and safety. Why not run for the nearest life boat or escape pod when all else is crumbling around them? Most people in an emergency situation on a vessel would try to find a way to survive. After all, ships can be rebuilt, lives cannot.
What it all boils down to is, that while Kirk may be the one to go down with the ship as captain, Scotty is going to fight to keep her running long enough to give everyone on board a fighting chance to survive. While certainly a stereotype, Scottish people are typically seen as stingy, trying to do everything without breaking the budget, polite and reserved unless they are with people they are close to, forthright, honest, but more over they are incredibly fiery and bold in the face of adversity .When under pressure, they do not crack, and they keep going. One needs only look at the popularity of the Bravehart myth to see this. Scotty is all of these things, and while he may say that his ship cannot take it he will always execute his duties to the fullest of his ability.
Even today, engineers, especially a chief engineer plays an indispensible role on a ship, whether military or exploratory. In an article on MarineInsight.com, which provides information about the maritime industry, they detail at least 23 duties that a chief engineer has to play including, ensuring that the machinery and equipment is in proper working order, frequently inspecting this equipment for the safety of the ship and the crew, marinating an up to date log book of all operation and activity on the ship, maintain and inspecting life saving and fire preventing equipment to make sure it is operational, reducing the risks for fire, rapidly responding to any emergency that should arise, full knowledge of all equipment on the ship, maintain communication with the captain during an emergency, and cooperating with the captain. A chief engineer as an entire team of engineers to command, making him a sort of sub captain of the ship.
Further, in space travel, a number of prominent astronauts past and present including John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Pete Conrad, Jim Lovell had degrees in aerospace engineering. This means that if something goes wrong on their space mission, the astronauts in question can use their own skills and training to work out a solution to save their ship and the mission. When Apollo 11’s landing site was off and they were about to crash into some rocks, Armstrong and Aldrin were able to coordinate with engineers back on Earth to a softer landing spot. When Apollo 12 was struck by lightning during lift-off, the crew was forced to control the ship manually in order to complete their launch. On Apollo 13, thanks to efforts back on the ground, the crew was able to diver and conserve power and oxygen for the crippled ship for the crew to survive in order for them to get home.
After Kirk and McCoy, Scotty has the most responsibilities of any crew member on board the Enterprise. While Kirk may have been the one in charge of the ship, and McCoy tended to the crew’s physical needs, and Spock was the ship’s science officer, it was Scotty. In fact when it came time to develop season three of the series, among the notes for the “other returning characters” Scotty was listed among them. Roddenberry informed the rest of the crew working on the series,
“ Let’s keep Jimmy Doohan, the dour Scott who regards even the Captain’s visit to the engine room as an unwanted intrusion. Jimmy Doohan is capable of handling anything we throw at him and the more protective of his engines and his prerogatives as Chief Engineer, the better the character seems to work.”
While such moments in the series were rife for comedy, Scotty in the original series was far from a strict comic relief character. Nor was he a buffoon. He was a very competent engineer who took his job seriously , yet he seemed to enjoy the work and did it with a smile, a clever line and a twinkle in his eye. However, it was the use of Scotty as primarily a comic relief character that rubbed many fans the wrong way in the 2009 Star Trek film and it’s sequel Star Trek Into Darkness. Among many things, fans would see Scotty teleported into an engine and nearly chopped up as though he had taken a trip to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and a whole host of other embarrassing mishaps.
Contrast this with the original series. Between his easy frustration with the captain’s orders in a time of need, his percent for the drink, or his fatherly pride in the ship, he had some of the funniest lines and moments in the show. It was comedy in the absurdity of the situation, not at the expense of the character. Most notable in Star Trek IV when he and McCoy are tasked with finding someone to manufacture transparent steel.
He is put in front of a 1980s computer, sits in front of it and says “Hello, computer.” He is told to sue a mouse and tries the same thing again, only this time speaking into the mouse. Finally he is told just to use the keyboard. Cracking his knuckles he smiles comments on how quant the technology is and clicks out the formula at a rapid fast rate that would make most expert keyboardists take notice. In contrast to McCoy who despises older and more “barbaric” medical techniques and devices, Scotty actually seems to have an appreciation for older technology.
Scotty’s singular passion was for engineering. While the rest of the crew tended to have other hobbies, even the solemn Mr. Spock would partake in a game of chess or play his Vulcan musical instrument, Kirk had a fondness for card playing and classic literature, and McCoy for Tennessee whisky and old family recipes, Scotty’s downtime was spent reading more about his field. In “Trouble with Tribbles” Kirk found him in the mess hall reading a technical journal and told him to relax, to which Scotty told him, that he was in fact relaxing.
As Bruce Harpham notes in “The Montgomery Scott Guide to Project Managment Skills,”from ProjectManagementHacks.com,
“It’s a pursuit that Captain Kirk doesn’t share himself. Yet this pursuit is responsible for much of Scott’s incredible success as an engineer…Let’s unpack that brief exchange between Kirk and Scott. What does Scott do for leisure? He reads technical articles to stay up to date on the latest technology. When was the last time you read a magazine about your profession? What about your industry? It is easy to tell yourself that you’re too busy. What if you learned one new idea that changed everything? That’s the power of following Scott’s time tested principle for staying at the top of his field.”
He knew every single nook, cranny, gear and whistle of the ship like the back of his hand. He could take apart a warp core, find out what was wrong, and reassemble it with less time than it would take for The Federation to issue an order.
This is best seen in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock when Kirk asks Scotty how long it would take to refit the Enterprise for space travel to go and save their friend. Scotty tells him it will take eight weeks but Scotty himself noted, they didn’t have that time so he’d get it for him in two. Kirk called him out, asking if he always multiplied his estimates by a factor of four, to which Scotty told him, “Certainly, sir. How else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?”
He would later give similar advice to Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Geordie had promised an analysis of the
“Oh, you didn’t tell him how long it would *really* take, did ya?… Oh, laddie. You’ve got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker.”
Thus, due to his reputation, and his love he could be very protective of the Enterprise and her honor, almost like a father, or even a boyfriend. In fact the Star Trek Visual Dictionary postulates that second only to Kirk, Scotty probably loves the old girl the most.
This is seen in “Trouble with Tribbles” when at a mess hall when he and Chekov try to relax over a drink. Some Klingons insult the crew calling them “Regulan Blood Worms”. The Klingon takes it even further, insulting Captain Kirk, saying,
“No. I just remembered. There is one Earthman who doesn’t remind me of a Regulan blood worm. That’s Kirk. A Regulan blood worm is soft and shapeless, but Kirk isn’t soft. Kirk may be a swaggering, overbearing, tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood, but he’s not soft.”
Chekov is ready to get into a fight, disgusted at their attitude towards the captain. Scotty holds him back, insisting that they have to be “bigger men” and shrug off the insults. He even says that as wrong as they are, the Klingons are entitled to their opinion on the captain. The Enterprise crew may think highly of Kirk, but that doesn’t mean everyone else in the universe will too. After all, this is someone who rubs the top brass at the Federation the wrong way, so Kirk is bound to make more than his share of enemies.
However, where the Klingons really get under Scotty’s collar is when they insult the Enterprise, saying,
“Of course, I’d say that Captain Kirk deserves his ship. We like the Enterprise. We, we really do. That sagging old rust bucket is designed like a garbage scow. Half the quadrant knows it. That’s why they’re learning to speak Klingonese.”
Scotty, trying his best to remain calm, asks the Klingon to rephrase his statement. He would love to do nothing but relax as the captain ordered. He would like to walk away from this, unscathed, and just enjoy his drink. That is when the Klingon makes his last mistake of the night, saying,
“You’re right, I should. I didn’t mean to say that the Enterprise should be hauling garbage. I meant to say that it should be hauled away as garbage.”
This leads to a massive bar brawl between Scotty , Chekov, the other crew members present and the Klingons. Captain Kirk later chastises them for their actions wanting to know what brought about the violence. At first he thinks it was the insults against him, but Scotty insisted he felt they had to be big enough to shrug off an insult. Kirk is taken aback to learn it was over the Enterprise that Scotty lost his cool and not the ship’s captain. Scotty maintained that it was a matter of pride.
It’s almost like the pride someone feels in their school, their car or their home. They may call it a hunk of junk, or complain about how it works, but if anyone else insults it they will most likely find themselves wearing their teeth around their neck. His pride also causes him to look down on other ships in the Starfleet. In The Search for Spock, as the crew returns from Genesis they see the brand new ship of the line the Excelsior, waiting to go on her maiden voyage in Space Dock. Sulu talks about how this new ship is supposed to have a brand new transwarp drive, and Scotty can only grumble about how if his mother had wheels she would be a wagon. It doesn’t matter how new and shiny a ship may be, or how fast she can move, they will never have the character of the Enterprise in his eyes.
He demonstrates this later when he ends up sabotaging the Excelsior to make sure that it can’t stop them on their rescue mission, saying as he handed the parts to McCoy
“Aye sir. The more they over-think the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain. …Here, Doctor, souvenirs from one surgeon to another. I took it out of her main transwarp computer drive.”
Later in The Final Frontier, he and the rest of the crew have been assigned to the brand new Enterprise A after the original was destroyed over the Genesis planet in Search for Spock. Scotty can’t help but complain about the new ship, saying in his personal log,
“USS Enterprise shakedown cruise report. I think this “new” ship was put together by monkeys. Oh, she’s got a fine engine, but half the doors won’t open, and guess whose job it is to make it right.”
This becomes a matter that Scotty later bonds with Captain Picard over in “Relics”. Feeling old and outmoded, Scotty reconstructs the bridge of the original Enterprise in the Enterprise D’s holodeck and he and Picard speak of the first ship they served on. Picard’s was the Stargazer, a rundown ship that he admits he wonders how it held together. Both the Stargazer and the Enterprise may have seen better days, they may have been replaced by newer, better, and faster ships, but the feeling of that first ship was something else entirely. As Scotty describes,
“Ah, it’s like the first time you fall in love. You never love a woman quite like that again. To the Enterprise and the Stargazer – old girlfriends we’ll never meet again.”
`Throughout the series, it is important both in terms of the technical nature of the series and the mythical structure for the ship to have an engineer. Not only does someone have to keep her running, but much like how Kirk is the hero, Spock the sage, and McCoy the healer, Scotty plays an equally important mythical role.
As Donald E Polumbo notes in “The Monomyth in Star Trek” form the book The Influences of Star Trek on Television and Film, that examined the subtle mythical images in the Star Trek series,
“After accepting the call, the hero receives “supernatural aid” from an old man or crone who provides a talisman, or from a guide, teacher, wizard, ferryman, hermit, or smith who offers aid in a context of danger or temptation…The Enterprise is the talisman in all ten films…With few exceptions, crew members serve, as guides, wise teachers, wizards, ferryman, and smiths….Chief Engineer Scotty is the classic crew’s resident smith-yet he is called a “miracle worker” in Spock and Home, and his legendary expertise often element elevates him to “wizard: status.”
When the crew is in dire need of a rescue, Scotty is the one to pull them out at a moment’s notice. Many times this is a necessary deus ex machina, a literary device in which at the best possible moment, help from above comes to rescue the hero from the jaws of death. This also includes getting the ships engine to work just as enemies are bearing down on them, or being the only crew member to avoid the mind control of Spock’s half-brother and single-handedly running a rescue operation to break Kirk, Spock and Bones out of the brig.
Scotty’s position as the ship’s resident miracle worker was never more evident than in the episode “The Doosmday Machine,” in which the crew encounters the USS Constellation, nearly destroyed by an alien object with the ability to devour planets. Scotty rigs the Constellation’s impulse drive to overload with a 30 second delay so Kirk can ram the crippled ship into the maw of the doomsday machine. Then upon returning to the Enterprise and discovering there is a malfunction with the transporter unit, Scotty diagnoses the problem while still on the platform, hurries to a maintenance tube and gets the transporter to beam Kirk out of the Constellation and back on the Enterprise with no time to spare.However, other times it couldn’t happen at a more inconvenient moment. In Star Trek VI, he managed to get a lock on Kirk and McCoy on the prison planet at just the moment when a co-conspirator is about to reveal the whole plan.
In Star Trek IV, he pulls off what he deems his greatest miracle, not only does he manage to construct a tank for transporting whales to the 24th century in the cargo hold of a derelict Klingon Warbird, he also manages to transport both of the whales and the 300 tons of water surrounding them. Scotty is even able to deal with the ship’s infestation of Tribbles in “Trouble with Tribbles” when he reveals that he send them to the Klingon’s at the end of the episode to Captain Kirk, saying,
“Before they went into warp I transported the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle into their engine room…where they’ll be no tribble at all.”
Apart from being the ship’s engineer, he also as another important task. While the series may revolve around the trio of Kirk, Spock, and Bones, Scotty is actually third in the chain of command on the Enterprise. Should Kirk or Spock be unable to fulfill any of their duties for any reason, command of the ship immediately turns over to Scotty. Kirk even acknowledges this fact to Dr. McCoy in the episode “Journey to Babel” in order to help convince Spock to undergo a risky procedure to save his father’s life and Kirk is too weak to command after surviving an assassination attempt. In these moments, he’s actually shown to be just as competent in commanding the whole ship, as he is at repairing the warp core.
As third in command this also means he has the necessary codes to destroy the Enterprise, should the situation arise. He might love his ship, but he is not about to let her fall into the wrong hands. This is seen in the episode “The Enterprise Incident” when he threatens to blow the ship up, when some Romulans attempt to take over the ship.
“The Enterprise takes no orders, except those of Captain Kirk. And if you make any attempt to board or commandeer the Enterprise, it will be blown to bits along with as many of you as we can take with us!”
Despite his love for the ship, Scotty also valued his family. When his nephew made it into Starfleet, and was assigned to serve under his command in Wrath of Kahn, Scotty was bursting with the same pride that a father would have in a son. When his nephew was later killed in action during a battle against Kahn, Scotty was deeply saddened by the loss.
It was perhaps this loss that gave him a much greater understanding of the importance of family. In Star Trek: Generations, Scotty was by Kirk’s side for the maiden voyage of the Enterprise B, to help a new crew unsure in a new era with a brand new vessel that would bear the name Enterprise. Chekov would introduce them to a surprise crew member: the daughter of Sulu. Kirk was astonished, never pegging Sulu for the type to have a family. However, Scotty told him, if something is important, you make time for it.
It would be on that mission that Scotty would witness the apparent death of Captain Kirk. As time would go on he would lose more and more friends to time and age, and in some cases he didn’t even know about it. Sometime after the events of the prologue for Star Trek: Generations, Scotty was on board the transport ship Jenolen, when the ship was caught in a Dyson Sphere. He and only one crew members revived, but they were caught in a transporter buffer.
Only Scotty could be saved when the Enterprise D brought him out of the buffer seventy five years later. Scotty as given a warm reception, but between the more advanced ship, most of his friends long gone, bad whisky, and being treated like museum piece just because he is a living legend, Scotty began to question his relevance. He was the type who wanted to be in the thick of things working on an engine coil. Not just talking about the good old days.
However, when the Enterprise found herself in trouble it was Scotty along with Geordi La Forge, the Chief Engineer of the Enterprise D, who were able to save the ship yet again from the brink of destruction. Gradually, Scotty came to accept that a new generation was serving the Enterprise. His life was a blank slate, and he was not yet ready to retire. There was a still a lot for him to explore, but not before giving some parting advice to the Engineer of the newest Enterprise. As he tells Geordi at the end of “Relics”,
“A fine ship. A credit to her name. But I’ve always found that a ship is only as good as the engineer who takes care of her, and from what I can see the Enterprise is in good hands.”
FILM: Abrams, JJ ( Dir.) Star Trek. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison, and Leonard Nimoy. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (writers). 2009. Paramount Pictures.
FILM: Abrams, JJ ( Dir.) Star Trek Into Darkness. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bruce Greenwood, Alice Eve, and Leonard Nimoy. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (writers). 2013. Paramount Pictures.
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FILM: Carson, David ( Dir.) Star Trek: Generations. Starring: Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFaden, Marina Sirtis, Whoopi Goldberg, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and Malcolm McDowell. Rick Berman, Ronald D. Moore, and Brannon Braga (Writers).1994 Paramount Picture
TV SHOW: Daniels, Marc (Dir.) “The Doomsday Machine” Star Trek.William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Elizabeth Rogers, and William Windom. Norman Spinard (writer.) Original Airdate: October 20, 1967. Desilu Productions/Paramount Television.
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TV SHOW: Lucas, John Meredyth ( Dir.) “The Enterprise Incident” Star Trek. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Majel Barrett, and Joanne Linville. DC Fontana (writer.) Original Airdate: September 27, 1968. Desilu Productions/Paramount Television.
FILM: Nimoy, Leonard (Dir.)Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley , James Doohan, Walter Koenig , Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Merrit Butrick, Robin Curtis, Christopher Lloyd, Dame Judith Anderson, and Mark Lenard. Harve Bennett ( Writer). 1984. Paramount Pictures.
FILM: Nimoy, Leonard (Dir.)Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley , James Doohan, Walter Koenig , Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Catherine Hicks, Robin Curtis, Jane Wyatt, and Mark Lenard. Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicolas Meyer, Harve Bennett and Leonard Nimoy (Writers). 1986. Paramount Pictures.
FILM: Meyer, Nicolas (Dir).Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. William Shatner, Ricardo Montalban, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley , James Doohan, Walter Koenig , Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Kirstie Alley, Paul Winfield, Bibi Besch, and Merrit Butrick. Jack B .Sowards, Nicolas Meyer, Harve Bennett, and Samuel A. Peeples ( Writers) 1982. Paramount Pictures.
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TV Show: Pevney, Joseph (Dir). “The Trouble with Tribbles” Star Trek. Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Walter Koenig, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, William Schallert, William Campbell, Stanley Adams, Whit Bissell, Michael Pataki, Ed Reimers, and Charlie Brill. David Gerrold ( writer.) December 29, 1967. Desilu Productions/Paramount Television.
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FILM: Shatner, William (Dir.) Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley , James Doohan, Walter Koenig , Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Laurence Luckinbill, David Warner, Charles Cooper, Cynthia Couw, and George Murdock. David Loughery, William Shatner, and Harve Bennett ( writers.) 1989. Paramount Pictures.
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1967 Paramount Pictures/CBS Studios/Desilu Productions.