Warp Speed

James Doohan died yesterday, aged 85.

People sometimes ask me why I got into networks and engineering and general geekery, and I tell them that my brain seems to be hard-coded to enjoy this kind of tech stuff. But if I had to point at some cultural markers that encouraged me, the original series of “Star Trek”, and specifically the character of “Scotty” thereon, would be very high on my list.

I mean, the guy got to work the engines, and provide warp speed whenever it was needed TO SAVE THE DAY. And he could drink a klingon under the table! He worked hard, he played hard! And he had more-or-less the same accent as my parents! Rock!

Once, when quite young, I read a comment by James Doohan about how they’d made the character from Scotland because of Scotlands long history of producing excellent engineers. It was that which made me do some private research on the topic, only to find that the Scots produced inventions like television, fiber-optics, the combine harvester, the adhesive postage stamp, the vacuum flask, tubular steel construction, the breech-loading rifle and before that, the percussion cap. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, was born in Edinburgh. Scots also invented “Lost Wax” metal casting, the reflecting telescope, tarmacadam, the bicycle, the “Macintosh” raincoat, coal-gas lighting, the blast-oven, the iron plough, vulcanised rubber, RADAR and oil refining. Amongst, like, a bunch of other stuff.

As Billy Connolly would say .. “Not a bad CV”.

I might never have even KNOWN this stuff, if not for the work and craft of James Doohan. Decades later, people still know precisely who you mean when you say “The engines willnae take much more of this!”.

I never met the guy, and never will now, but in the personal interviews that I’ve seen, he comes across as a geniune and caring person who’s prepared to help people however he can, and a skilled and memorable actor.

I’m sad that he’s gone. If for no other reason than I’ll never see a Star Trek movie where Scotty kicks Kirks ass from one end of the ship to the other.


  1. I was watching the original series with some mates a while couple of days ago, Scotty always came through.
    It rekindled my love for Star-Trek.

  2. Which Scot invented lost-wax casting? I thought it was the Greeks in about 1200BC. Maybe it was the Scottish Greeks. “Och aye, hoots etc.! I, the great McAdonopolopolous have invented this great new casting process! I’ll be rich RICH!”

    Or maybe it was the Chinese about 1200BC. Those foreigners all look alike to me.

    • William Ged, I reckon. Does seem the kind of thing that Mermen of Atlantis and suchlike would have invented, though, back in Times of Legend and Heroes and Mystery and Enchantment and Xena: Warrior Princess.

  3. You appear to notbe the only peron who got interested in things via Scotty. The BBC report says “Star Trek’s impact became apparent when he was awarded an honorary doctorate in Engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering, after half the students there said that Scotty had inspired them to take up the subject.”