Wednesday, July 20, 2005

More on Scotty

Hank Steuver on the cultural impact of Jimmy Doohan's Scotty:

As Doohan and other cast members navigated that murky area between their own lives and the fictional lives that fans so desperately wanted to connect to, an even stranger thing happened: "Star Trek" improved, got deeper, taught philosophy and diversity. Even the movie versions got briefly better -- the screenplay for "The Wrath of Khan" (1982) has an almost Hemingway tautness.

Doohan showed up for "Khan" more visibly aged and heavier than the rest of the cast, but no less game. He broke our hearts three times in that adventure, on a voyage that really took it out of poor Scotty: He weeps when his cadets die in a torpedo attack from Khan; he begs Spock not to sacrifice himself to save the Enterprise from certain cataclysm; and he gets out the bagpipes for "Amazing Grace" at Spock's burial-at-space ceremony. (Ask your boyfriend what he wants at his funeral: "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes, please. Space-torpedo coffin optional.)

In spite of a generation of derision from those who never quite understood it (or its devoted fans), "Star Trek" took on an aura of class, and Doohan reveled in it. The cultural phenomenon would, in a way, bring him his third wife (who'd waited, groupie-like with a friend, to meet him backstage at a play he was doing in San Francisco), a marriage that lasted 30 years, until his death.

Doohan was Scotty; Scotty was Doohan, and an archetypal employee/colleague/friend was given a name: Scotty is the person in your office who swears that a project cannot possibly get done by deadline, then somehow pulls it out at the last minute. His favorite words: can't, won't, need more, impossible, losing power, can't, won't, overloaded, no way.

You have to let the Scottys blow off steam, and you have to remember what they always say in the end: Aye, aye, sir.

For those of you who plan to outlive me, at my funeral I want "Don't Fear the Reaper" and "One Particular Harbour" played. During the former, the assembled mourners will be given cowbells and asked to play along. And in the event that people aren't sad enough, She Who Must Be Obeyed has instructions to play "Don't Stop Me Now."

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