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Retro Interview: James Doohan

James Doohan, were he still alive, would turn 99 years old today.

James Doohan, were he still alive, would turn 99 years old today. Crazy, right? 99. Sadly, Star Trek's Montgomery "Scotty" Scott passed away on July 20, 2005. To commemorate his birthday, tracked down a conversation with Doohan, written by Ian Spelling for the New York Times Syndicate back in the summer of 1994. The interview captures the warm, candid, playful Doohan on the set of Star Trek Generations, on the last day that he, Walter Koenig and William Shatner shot the orbital skydiving sequence that ultimately didn't make the film's final cut.

Here's the full piece:

James Doohan's eyes shimmer, and he grins like a Cheshire cat as he surveys the scene.

All around him dozens of men and women are toiling on Generations, the big-screen adventure combining The Next Generation characters with Trek classic's Scotty (Doohan), Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Kirk (William Shatner).

Yes, Montgomery Scott, the beloved "miracle worker," is Trekking again.

On this day of filming, under a searing sun in a gorgeous expanse of mountains about 100 miles north of Los Angeles, only Doohan, Koenig and Shatner are scheduled to go before the cameras. The unlikely trio -- who seem to be getting along just fine, thank you -- are shooting a scene in which Scotty and Chekov greet Kirk after he has skydived to Earth from the heavens. It's the final day of work for Doohan and Koenig, though Shatner has about 10 days remaining.

"I'd love to tell you what Scotty's up to, but I can't talk about what we've done so far, and I've purposely not read the rest of the script," the affable Doohan says as he sits in a director's chair on the edge of the set during a shooting break. "I like to be entertained and surprised, so I'm saving all of that for when I watch the finished film."

Actually, Doohan is a bit surprised to be here at all.

In 1991, when the credits rolled on Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Doohan figured he'd seen the last of Montgomery Scott. Then came his "wonderful and welcome" appearance as a caught-in-time Scotty in the popular sixth-season Next Gen episode "Relics." Still, Doohan believed his big-screen Enterprise voyages were over. That's why he was so surprised to be offered a part in Generations.

"They had problems with Leonard (Nimoy) and De (DeForest Kelley), I guess. The next obvious choices were me and Walter, or Nichelle (Nichols) and George (Takei), or whatever combination."

Doohan pauses and twists in his chair, betraying a bit of pent-up frustration.

"The big problem was Paramount just didn't want to pay us what we know we're worth. So it was a tough decision to do it. It really was."

Another Doohan film that will probably be coming out soon is the independent feature Storybook. The Canadian-born actor plays a character named Uncle Monty who reads his nephew a tale about walking puppets that come to life.

"It's really quite cute," Doohan says, "and we're hoping a studio like Disney will pick it up and release it."

As for Doohan's long-awaited autobiography -- which will chronicle his childhood in Vancouver, British Columbia; his days as a Royal Canadian air force pilot during World War II; his early acting outings on radio and television and in films; and his Enterprise years -- the wait continues.

"I found out I wasn't a writer," he says, laughing. "So we called in (prolific Trek author) Peter David, who's doing it with me. There are very good stories to tell, but my agent, wife -- everybody -- told me I tell a hell of a lot better story than I write. So I'm telling Peter my stories."

The book will probably be out next spring, Doohan says.

In addition to his film and television work, Doohan does the occasional commercial, makes personal appearances and attends many Trek conventions.

"And, of course, I've got my wife, Wende, and the kids in Redmond, Wash., where I live now. So I keep busy.

"Boy, I'm telling you, I hardly have a minute to spare."