Todd: Hartley: I’m With Stupid
August 8, 2008
Sometimes you have to wonder about Scotland. First there’s Scotch whiskey, which, despite the bizarre fascination old men seem to have with it, tastes like peat moss. Then, of course, there’s haggis, which is essentially sheep heart, lungs and liver boiled in the stomach of the animal. (In case you were wondering, haggis is considered food ” not by me, mind you, but apparently Scottish people actually eat it.)
I do have to give Scotland credit for a couple of things. It is, after all, the birthplace of golf, which has simultaneously enhanced and ruined more lives than anything short of alcohol. And it definitely says something about the will of Scots that they stubbornly cling to the fantasy that a monster is swimming around in one of their lochs, despite the fact that the guy who took the only picture of Nessie admitted it was a hoax.
It seems, though, that Scotland is not content to rest on those laurels. One might think that being the home of golf and the last dinosaur on the planet would be enough, but Scotland is setting its sights even higher. Scotland wants to be the home of a fictional character who hasn’t been born yet, and there is a bitter custody battle being fought over which town gets to claim him as a native son.
The character in question, Montgomery Scott, better known as “Scotty,” was the chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise on the original “Star Trek” series, and he will be born in 2222 somewhere in Scotland. Sadly, however, the actor who made Scotty famous, James Doohan, died in 2005.
Since Doohan’s death, a number of towns, Linlithgow and Aberdeen chief among them, have claimed to be the “official birthplace” of Scotty. Linlithgow cites as evidence a passage from the novel “Vulcan’s Glory” that states Scotty was born there, and there are plans to place a commemorative plaque in the town in his memory.
Aberdeen, meanwhile, has the support of Star Trek historians and points out that in one episode of the show Scotty called himself “an old Aberdeen pub crawler.” Given this body of evidence, city leaders in Aberdeen also have plans to erect a monument to Scotty.
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You and I might find it odd that these towns want to memorialize a made-up character
from a short-lived TV series who might not even be from there, but then you and I don’t live in Aberdeen or Linlithgow. Maybe those places have nothing else to be proud of. Maybe possibly being Scotty’s birthplace a couple of centuries from now is the best thing that will ever not really happen there.
It might make more sense, one would think, for Linlithgow or Aberdeen to erect a statue of Doohan, a decorated World War II veteran who stormed the beach at Normandy and was, by all accounts, an exceptionally kind, generous man. That, however, wouldn’t work because, ironically enough, “Scotty” isn’t even Scottish.
Doohan was born in Vancouver, Canada, the son of Irish immigrants. So the monuments, if they ever get built, will have to be to Scotty alone.
Whether he ever gets a statue or not, I, for one, hope Scotty rests in peace after he is eventually born and then dies, because a brilliant engineer and space explorer like him deserves as much. Doohan, too, deserves to rest in peace, but so far he hasn’t had much luck on that front.
In his will, Doohan requested that he be given a “space funeral.” One was first attempted in April 2007, when a SpaceLoft XL rocket with a quarter ounce of his ashes briefly entered space before parachuting back to Earth. The ashes were recovered, and since then “there have been several attempts to send my father on his way,” according to Doohan’s son, Ehrich Blackhound.
The latest attempt to blast Doohan into space occurred just six days ago, when his ashes were loaded onto SpaceX Falcon 1 and launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. This time, however, the rocket disappeared just two minutes after lift-off, marking the third failure in a row for SpaceX, a company that is hoping to revolutionize low-cost space delivery and is thus far doing a lousy job of it.
As of this writing, the whereabouts of Falcon 1, and Doohan’s ashes, remain a mystery that will likely never be solved. Rest assured, though, that a bunch of towns in Scotland will soon be claiming that the rocket crash-landed there. I’m told that monuments commemorating the event are already in the works.