Last week, movie fans were greeted with a new, international trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness. It was nothing short of spectacular, giving us a closer look at the conflict that catalyzes the story, and a few more morsels from Benedict Cumberbatch and his role as the film's villain, John Harrison. If you haven't seen it yet (why not?!), then you can view it below.
It definitely amps up the whole feeling of a great disaster and/or terrorist attack. In a post-Vulcan Federation (which writer-roducer Damon Lindelof stated would be an allegorical post-9/11 America), paranoia is high and Harrison's apparent attack on the Admiralty won't do much for the climate created by Nero's destruction of Vulcan.
In the whole sphere of social networking, I've heard some fans say that they're now "definitively sure" that Harrison is in fact Khan. I still stand by my belief that he's not. There's nothing that says he can't be tied to Khan in some way, but that doesn't mean that he is Khan (and if I'm wrong, I'll take a mea culpa in the Geek Beat). I really liked seeing a bit more of Earth, and in truth that alone has me really excited for the film. During the prime original series era,we didn't really get to see much of our own little blue ball in the cosmos, and seeing the Union Jack fly alongside the flag of the Federation was a cool, institutional touch about how some of the old nation states have acclimated to Earth's place in the larger picture.
Suffice it to say that I think the new trailer is great, and has made the wait for May 17 (or 15) that much more painful.
Last month's countdown profiled one of my absolute favorite Trek characters, Dr. Leonard H. McCoy. This week, I thought it'd be time to look at one of the most important cogs in the machine of the Enterprise (literally and figuratively): the incomparable engineer himself, Montgomery Scott.
"I like this ship! You know, it's exciting!"
Probably one of the most often quoted and cited characters in the entire Star Trek franchise, Montgomery Scott, or "Scotty" as he's called by his friends and colleagues, is regarded as one of the most important staples of the series and films, and, out of necessity, the most technically brilliant crew member of the starship Enterprise. The archetype of the engineer in science fiction has been exploited in different ways with interesting results, but by and large when most people think of "the engineer," they rightfully think of good ol' Scotty. Scotty was absent from the series' original concept when the first pilot, "The Cage," was produced in 1964. In the second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," Scotty made his debut and would be present on the Enterprise (and eventually the Enterprise-A) for most of the next 30 years.
Much of Scotty's early history, including his youth and his time at Starfleet Academy, hasn't been divulged in TV or films. It wasn't until the character's unforgettable appearance in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where he talked in a detail about what his career was like before serving aboard the Enterprise. He served on a few freighters and cruisers as well as starships, but it was on the Enterprise that he felt truly home on his ship. It was there that he first ascended to the role of chief engineer.
As far as his characterization, Scotty was definitely a crew member that many, many people gravitated toward immediately. When given an impossible technical situation in the middle of combat or an invasion of the ship, Scotty always fought valiantly for his ship and his Federation, not with his body (well, except for that one time), but with his mind and his technical prowess. It was for this reason that the characters and fans have always referred to Scotty as "the miracle worker," and it was a reputation the talented engineer took a great deal of pride in.
Beyond being the ship's foremost technical expert, he was also its second officer and a hell of a starship commander. When Captain Kirk and Spock were down on a planet engaged in negotiations or hanging out on the other side of the Vasquez Rocks while another redshirt was mysteriously killed, Scotty was usually the one in the captain's chair holding down the fort. One of my favorite instances where Scotty was in command comes from "A Taste of Armageddon" where Kirk and Spock are held hostage by a warring civilization that demands the Enterprise's crew to surrender and be executed.
After a bold order from Kirk, Scotty stands ready to destroy the planet's cities if the Captain and first officer aren't returned safely to the ship, and the hidden violence of the warring people is stopped immediately. Even without a whole lot of context, you knew that Scotty had an enormous wealth of knowledge and experience at his fingertips. This was largely due to the single actor that portrayed him for 30 years, and that man's own worldly experience.
James Doohan: Royal Canadian Artillery Gunner Turned Warp-Speed Wizard
James Montgomery Doohan was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 3, 1920. When he was only 19, World War II had just broken out in Europe and the young man enlisted with the Canadian military, becoming a gunner in the RC Artillery. Upon his enlistment he rose to the rank of sergeant, which earned him a place at the Officer Training School, eventually becoming a lieutenant. Doohan was part of the Allied effort on June 6, 1944's invasion of Juno Beach at Normandy, and was very nearly a part of that fateful day's long list of KIA's.
Now a commander in charge of over 100 men, Doohan was shot by a German machine gun on his way back to his command post, and sustained injuries in his right hand, his leg, and his chest. This would perhaps be the first miracle connected to Star Trek's miracle worker, because had it not been for a metal cigarette case in his pocket, the shot Doohan sustained to his chest would have most likely been fatal. Doohan put it succinctly in his autobiography, Beam Me Up, Scotty: "I was 24, and if the Germans had been marginally better shots, I wouldn't have seen 25."
He wouldn't leave the beach without other serious injuries, though. The shot he sustained in his right hand took his middle finger with it, and if you look closely in Scotty's appearances, you'll notice carefully framed shots that obscure this fact from the audience. I wasn't even aware of this until I was a teenager, and had been watching Star Trek throughout my entire childhood.
When he came back from the war, Doohan sought a career in show business, first working in radio, films, and theater before pursuing television. He worked on Westerns like Gunsmoke, Have Gun – Will Travel and The Virginian before he started picking up sci-fi roles in classics like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. From there, Doohan had a date with destiny: he read for a man named Roddenberry in a second pilot for a show called Star Trek. After doing several accents picked up from his time abroad, Roddenberry and Doohan would create history together when the actor settled on his Scottish voice. Scots are great engineers, he would say. If you're going to have an engineer, you might as well make him a Scotsman. What that seemingly arbitrary choice would do for science fiction and future engineers' imaginations cannot be understated.
Simon Pegg: Creating Scotty for the Alternate Reality
As we discussed a bit in the McCoy profile, Star Trek fans everywhere doubting the new film's ability to emulate many of the characters from the original series. And rightfully so. Along with Dr. McCoy, Scotty was only one of two roles in the original cast where the originator is no longer with us, so fans couldn't have the same relief for Scotty and McCoy that you could have for Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Chekov and Uhura, who all had the ability to give their successors a bit of a blessing.
When I heard that Simon Pegg was cast as Scotty I had immediate doubts (similar to those doubts for Karl Urban as McCoy). I was a fan of Pegg, to be sure, but didn't really see the star of Shaun of the Dead as having the ability to embody the brilliant engineer I'd known all my life.
As with Urban, I was very pleasantly surprised upon my first viewing of the new film. Normally when we think of comedic actors taking up a previously (at least somewhat) serious role, fans tend to automatically think they'll go in the direction of caricature. While Scotty has a bit of a different temperament in the newest film compared to his previous appearances, both the writing and Pegg's performance combine into a new take on Scotty that is still dripping with reverence for what came before.
Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci infused Scotty's words with atechnical prowess and intellect in perhaps an even more pronounced fashion than classic Trek ever did, and while Scotty had some more openly comedic moments, Pegg did the best thing he could've possibly done: he believed what he was saying. When working the transporter controls in the film's climax, he's overjoyed at his ability to do the job well and by his success. When he tells Kirk he's "givin' her all she's got," he really means it and racks his brain to come up with a solution. It doesn't hurt any that Pegg is a profoundly huge fan of the franchise, noting how he sat down to reruns of the original series as a kid on BBC2.
Scotty is a great character across multiple iterations. He's inspired people to enter the engineering field, and for someone like me with little actual technical ingenuity, he's inspired my imagination along with millions of other fans. Simon Pegg has big shoes to fill, but he also knows that, and has treated the role with the care and attention it deserves: that of a fan's. This is the Countdown's salute to James Doohan, Simon Pegg, and that unmistakable miracle worker that forever binds them together, Montgomery Scott himself.
One of my favorite Scotty quotes comes from his Next Generation appearance in the episode "Relics," where he tells Enterprise-D chief engineer Geordi La Forge the simplest and greatest summation of his entire career aboard the original Enterprise: "I have spent my whole life trying to figure out crazy ways of doing things." With a legacy as simple and unmistakeable as that, there's no further explanation needed as to why Scotty himself is probably one of the franchise's greatest miracles of all.
Dedicated with love and respect to James Montgomery Doohan. The Enterprise boldly goes Into Darkness in 49 days.
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, Batman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. You can find his weekly piece The Geek Beat every Tuesday and the Star Trek Into Darkness Countdown every other Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.