As one of Star Trek’s most beloved characters, Montgomery “Scotty” Scott spent a lifetime exploring the galaxy on the USS Enterprise, boldly going beyond the final frontier.
Now it can be revealed that in death the actor who played the starship’s chief engineer has travelled nearly 1.7 billion miles through space, orbiting Earth more than 70,000 times, after his ashes were hidden secretly on the International Space Station.
“It was completely clandestine,” said Richard Garriott, a video game entrepreneur who smuggled James Doohan’s ashes on to the ISS in 2008 during a 12-day mission as a private astronaut.
“His family were very pleased that the ashes made it up there but we were all disappointed we didn’t get to talk about it publicly for so long. Now enough time has passed that we can,” he told The Times.
Doohan, a Second World War veteran, starred in the original Star Trek series from 1966 to 1969 and in subsequent films, adopting a trademark Scottish accent despite being Canadian.
His character’s technical wizardry helped Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and the crew of the Enterprise through 23rd-century cosmic crises that included Klingons on the starboard bow, an invasion of proliferating tribbles and hitches with the ship’s transporter.
The phrase “beam me up, Scotty” entered popular culture and was the title of his 1996 autobiography even though no one in the series ever said it. Doohan died in 2005, aged 85.
In 2007 some of his ashes were flown briefly to the edge of space on a suborbital rocket before parachuting back to Earth and being lost for three weeks on a mountainside. In 2008 a sample destined for orbit was destroyed when the rocket failed.
Anxious to fulfil his father’s request to be laid to rest among the stars, Doohan’s son, Chris, contacted Mr Garriott, a millionaire adventurer who holds American and British citizenship and is the son of the late astronaut Owen Garriott. When he got the call Mr Garriott was days from launching to the ISS on a Russian Soyuz capsule for a $30 million odyssey brokered by Space Adventures, a company he co-founded.
“I said ‘I’m in quarantine in Kazakhstan . . . but if you can get the ashes to me, I’ll find a way of getting them aboard.’ A couple of days before flight, this package arrived and I made a plan,” Mr Garriott said.
He printed three cards bearing a photograph of Doohan, laminated them with a sprinkling of ashes sealed inside and tucked them inside his flight data file. The file had clearance to fly; the cards with the ashes did not, potentially placing Mr Garriott in what Scotty might have termed “a wee bit of trouble” with the Russian and US space agencies.
“Everything that officially goes on board is logged, inspected and bagged — there’s a process, but there was no time to put it through that process,” he said.
“The concern afterwards was that it could disrupt relations because I didn’t have permission . . . so in an abundance of caution I was asked to tell the family ‘Let’s not make a big deal out of it publicly’.”
Chris Doohan, who in 2013 took over the role of Scotty in the web-based film series Star Trek Continues, has not spoken of their secret until now and Mr Garriott has shared it only anecdotally outside a mainstream audience.
“Richard said ‘We’ve got to keep this hush hush for a little while’ and here we are 12 years later. What he did was touching — it meant so much to me, so much to my family and it would have meant so much to my dad,” the younger Doohan, 61, said.
“My dad had three passions: space, science and trains. He always wanted to go into space.”
One of the three cards is framed on a wall in Doohan’s California home. A second was floated into space by Mr Garriott and would have long burnt up in Earth’s atmosphere, as would a separate sample sent into orbit on a SpaceX rocket in 2012.
The third is under the cladding on the floor of the space station’s Columbus module, where he hid it in 2008.
“As far as I know, no one has ever seen it there and no one has moved it,” Mr Garriott, 59, said. “James Doohan got his resting place among the stars.”