Scotty Says Goodbye

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Scotty Says Goodbye

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By Joal Ryan

Once, James Doohan worked the Star Trek fan circuit 50 weekends a year--no convention or college campus too remote for the franchise's indefatigable Scotty.


Says wife Wende Doohan: "He loved the fans, the affection."


This weekend, Doohan, 84 and slowed by the diseases of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes, will say goodbye. To the conventions, to the fans--though not the affection.


"Beam Me Up Scotty...One Last Time" is the quite-serious title to a three-day event at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel billed as a farewell to the actor who, as fiery Montgomery Scott, ran the U.S.S. Enterprise's engineering deck on Trek's 1966-69 flagship series and six big-screen adventures.


The fest opens with a party Friday night, before turning into a more conventional convention on Saturday and Sunday. A Doohan roast, benefiting Alzheimer's research, and featuring an appearance by Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong, is set for Saturday night.


Doohan, whose family disclosed his battle with Alzheimer's in July, was said to be unavailable for interviews to talk about the event, which dovetails with Tuesday's scheduled unveiling of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But wife Wende says "he's totally aware of it--totally looking forward to it."


As such, Doohan is set to attend. And in a show of intergalactic unity, so are his sometimes-fractious crew mates: William Shatner (Captain Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (news) (Mr. Spock), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), Walter Koenig (Ensign Chekov), George Takei (Lt. Sulu), Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman Rand) and Majel Barrett Roddenberry (Nurse Chapel, as well as creator Gene Roddenberry's widow).


The only original cast member to miss the reunion, scheduled for Sunday, is DeForest Kelley, Starfleet's esteemed Dr. McCoy, who died in 1999.


Koenig says he wishes Kelley had had a chance to say a public goodbye. For that reason, he finds nothing sad in the notion of a farewell convention for Doohan.


"I think it's a very happy occasion," says Koenig. "You're celebrating the life and times of a talent, of a fellow performer who we've grown to know over four decades or so. I just think it's a beautiful gesture."


Steven Stevens Sr., Doohan's longtime agent, says he came up with the idea for the con when it became clear his friend, who last did one in November 2003, wasn't going to be able to hit the road for Trek.


This weekend, Doohan won't do the question-and-answer and autograph sessions that are the staple of fan events. But he will visit the convention floor.


"Probably some of it is kind of a bit wistful," says Wende Doohan, "but being realistic, he can't get out and do the convention circuit like he used to."


According to Koenig, nobody did the con circuit like Doohan used to.


"Nobody was that active," says Koenig, who estimates he himself tops out at 12-13 cons a year. "Jimmy was doing colleges and conventions...I think the fans really love him because he remembers their names."


Though Doohan and shipmates have attended thousands of conventions across the world since the Trekker movement exploded in the early 1970s, Stevens says none of them have done an event with such a sense of finality.


For all stars, not just Star Trek players, Stevens says "there never seems to be a last [convention]...Nobody ever wants to say this is my final one." The motivations to keep pressing the fan flesh are as much psychological as financial, he says.


For the Doohan tribute, Stevens says it wasn't too difficult to round up the surviving actors.

Shatner and Nimoy were one matter, yes. The two stars can be notoriously standoffish with the supporting cast. Shatner, in particular, clashed with Doohan, although Doohan's son Chris said in July that the two had recently repaired their relationship and "told each other how much they love each other."

Koenig says the last time he remembers all the original Trek actors, Kelley included, being on one stage together was for a Roddenberry tribute following the producer's death in 1991. Per Koenig, the lack of shared stage time since then isn't because Shatner and Nimoy don't do conventions.

"Leonard and Bill prefer to be out there alone--what can I tell you?" Koenig says.

But on Sunday, they will all be out there together.

With the remaining Trek cast reunited for what promises to be the last time, Stevens says fans won't just be saying goodbye to Doohan or Scotty. They'll be saying goodbye to an era.

"They realize that it's coming to an end," says Stevens. "And they don't want it to come to an end."
 

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