Thursday, July 21, 2005

JAMES DOOHAN: A PERSONAL REFLECTION

It was about eight years ago when I met James Doohan, who portrayed Commander Montgomery Scott on the classic 'Star Trek'.

A friend of mine from the Idiot's Delight Digest, Listener Mara, was working for the FOX cable off-shoot, FX. And she invited me to come and hang out behind the scenes while they broadcast a charity sci-fi auction.

James Doohan was the guest for the show.

The show was broadcast from the "Apartment", that mock-up of the ideal home from which they were doing their attempt at a morning show with Tom Bergeron and Bob the puppet.

(BTW - Bob was cool. Somebody should get him a new gig. If the Pets.Com Sock-Dog can get work with 1-800-BAR-NONE......)

Anyway, after the auction show was over, (and I had helped myself to more than my share of the backstage repast), I made ready to leave and worked up de noive to say goodnight to Mr. Doohan.

I held out my hand to shake his and with his firm grip I realized there was something just a little bit.... off.

As we broke contact, I had to look - and saw that he was missing his middle finger.

Afterwards I found out that he "gave the finger to Hitler" as it was shot off at Juno Beach on D-Day, 11 years to the day before I was born. (He was also shot once in the chest and several times in the leg. Luckily for us TV fanatics, they didn't stop him.)

It may very well be that Mr. Doohan's portrayal of Scotty on 'Star Trek' was one of the last two acting roles in Toobworld in which an actor's actual physical condition was not worked into the plotline. (The other one that comes to mind would be Gary Burghoff's slightly deformed hand, which for the most part was kept from view in 'M*A*S*H'.)

According to the obits in today's papers, the IMDb has noted that the hand with the missing finger shows up in only two episodes - "The Trouble With Tribbles" and "Catspaw". But those shots must have been by accident, as there was an episode in which Scotty had to give testimony in a court case and he had to lay his hand down on an identiscreen.

That hand has five fingers, so obviously a stunt hand had to be called in.....

Nowadays the digital deletion would have been addressed in the series; they might even have been able to build an entire plotine around it. That's what happened with Jim Byrnes as Lifeguard on 'Wiseguy'; we've seen Robert D. Hall handling his fake leg on 'CSI'. Heather Mills-McCartney portrayed herself on a soap opera so that she could address the issue in a few episodes earlier this summer.

At any rate, Mr. Doohan will probably be the only member of the original 'Star Trek' cast whom I'll get to meet. (I did get to ask a question of Leonard Nimoy at Universal Studios back in 1989, but I was in a big audience, so that doesn't really count.)

James Doohan died Wednesday, the anniversary of the first Moon landing, at the age of 85.

BCnU....
Tele-Toby

1 comment:

BZTV said...

You have a very thought provoking, fun blog and I've really enjoyed it. As the former chairman of the TV Academy, I wish their website had been as interesting!