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infinite energy

Reaching the New Energy Frontier
An Interview with James "Scotty" Doohan
(Originally Published July-August, 1999 In Infinite Energy Magazine Issue #26)
by Jeffery D. Kooistra
james "scotty" doohan The generation of scientists and engineers that put us on the Moon was heavily influenced by the science fiction of the Golden Age--those stories that appeared in pulp magazines in the 30's and 40's. But for those scientists and engineers who came later, after the pulp era had passed, there was TV.

The 60's was a great time for TV science fiction. There was "The Twilight Zone" and "Time Tunnel" and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea." There was "Lost in Space" and "The Outer Limits." But most of all, there was "Star Trek."

"Star Trek" was special. For the would-be swashbuckler, Captain Kirk provided a role model. For women, there was Mr. Spock--tall, dark, mysterious, and unattainable. But for us would-be engineers, there was Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, of the Starship Enterprise, the finest engineer in the whole Star Fleet.

Scotty was my personal icon. Let Kirk deal with the monsters and the women of the week. Let Spock go around being logical. When I watched "Star Trek," I wanted to know what was going on in the engine room. I wanted to keep that warp drive working. I wanted to troubleshoot the transporter. I wanted to be with Scotty fighting his way through electrical discharges in the Jeffries tube to save the day.

It is James Doohan who gave life to Scotty. In the show, it was always clear that Scotty loved the technology that had been entrusted to him. During my brief interview with Mr. Doohan, it became clear to me, as it will to you, that here was a man who also has an ongoing love affair with science and technology.

No wonder so many of us scientists-and-engineers-to-be wanted to be like Scotty--James Doohan, it turns out, was one of us.

Infinite Energy (IE): Do you recall hearing about cold fusion back in 1989 when the story first broke?

James Doohan: Yes and I was very excited about it and I couldn't believe what happened, you know. After awhile, the thing with the government and the poo-pooing from some so-called experts was just too much for me. And, of course, ten years later, I was just thrilled to have Chris [Toussaint] call me and do the job for him that I did on video.

IE: Were you aware that there was still ongoing research happening even though it. . .

James Doohan: Not really, no. I read science magazines an awful lot, but I didn't hear much about it.

IE: That explains it.

James Doohan: I'll tell you, I am just terribly excited with the script that Chris [and Eugene Mallove and Jed Rothwell] wrote because it fills me in with all the different people around the world, scientists who are working on it, including Chinese and Indians and Japanese.

IE: Did it come as a surprise to you that scientists could be as rabid as they were in attacking the cold fusion work?

James Doohan: Oh, absolutely. I was horrified at this because I believed that Fleischmann and Pons had done it. I believed they had done it.

IE: You were right. It turns out they had done it.

James Doohan: What shocked me, my manager called me up one day and told me that I was going to do a video on "Cold Fusion: Fire from Water" and I couldn't believe it. I couldn't wait to get there and start working on it.

IE: Oh, we were delighted to have you.

James Doohan: Well, I was always... I used to get 100% in physics and chemistry and mathematics (well, maybe a couple of points off in mathematics), and that was in high school. Of course, the war came along and I was in the Army for six years and two months and I landed on D-Day, number one off on my beach.

IE: Really?

James Doohan: Yes, and was in charge of my LBA when I was an artillery officer and got in my commission in England. So, I started out as a Private and ended up as a Captain. So, to me, it was always very exciting to do things like that.

IE: Is it conceivable that if the war hadn't come along you might have gone into science?

James Doohan: Oh, absolutely. As a matter of fact, in a strange way... I talked to my older brother, who is now a retired Canadian army general. I talked to him and he was a full colonel at that time, after the war, and I said, "What do you think I should do?" And he said, "'Well," he said, "the veterans administration, because of your service. . ." (because I was five and a half years overseas and that's double-time). He said, "The veterans administration in Canada owes you nine years of training and education." "So," he said, "Why don't you go to the veterans school and bone up on subjects that you haven't had for seven years?" And I thought that was a good idea so I moved to London, Ontario from Sarnia, Ontario, which is sixty miles west of London. It was a fluke that between Christmas and New Year's of 1945 and 1946, I put my books down, turned on the radio and heard the worst drama I had ever heard, ever. It got my dander up because I had done some speaking and a little bit of acting.

The thing was, I went down to the local radio station and made a recording and listened to it. The first time I had heard my own voice, and I was disgusted. Everybody is also disgusted I find out. I told the operator about that and he says, "What are you talking about? You're good." I said, "Well, where do you go to learn?" Happenstance was that I--that the radio station--had received a brochure that mourning in the mail of a drama school that was opening in Toronto for veterans and anybody else who wanted it. So, I got their address, sent them a wire, and got an answer back an hour and a half later. I was there going to their opening the following Monday and I won a two-year scholarship to the neighborhood playhouse, which, at that time, I didn't know anything about drama schools. But I won this scholarship to New York and, subsequently, I did my two years there and then was the assistant to the teacher for three years after that. In the meantime, of course, I was on television the very first Tuesday of television and then, of course, it excited me. I was on one of the very first color television [shows], which happened to be "Peyton Place," "Star Trek," and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea."

IE: Do you think we are going to witness the coming of this new energy age?

James Doohan: Oh, absolutely. I'm quite sure. I hope that it's done in my lifetime. I'm seventy-nine years of age now, but I hope that it's done. It excites me to think more about it. I was just thrilled.

IE: How scientifically aware is the Hollywood community?

James Doohan: I think there are a lot of people who are aware of scientific things that go on and I think they are going to be as proud of me as I am of myself for getting the job. I think there's an awful lot of really good thinking brains down there.

IE: So, you think that the people in Hollywood could be made more aware of the situation that's been going on in cold fusion since the beginning?

James Doohan: Oh, yes. Thank God, the video that I did is going to help. I think that they're all going to be jealous of me for getting that job.

IE: Oh, good. We're glad to hear that, believe you me. . . Hollywood supports all sorts of causes, from conventional party politics to animal rights, human rights, and AIDS research. Do you think it would be possible to start a groundswell of opinion and financial support for cold fusion research in contrast to commercial investment within the Hollywood community?

James Doohan: I don't see any reason why that shouldn't be done, but I'm just not the person to do it.

That's all right, Mr. Scott--you've done your part. James Doohan was the perfect choice to narrate Cold Fusion: Fire From Water, for the physics of cold fusion really is of a kind that lies beyond the cutting edge. The new energy age will be a period when "Treknology"--that is, technology one might now only expect to find in "Star Trek"--is ubiquitous. It was always clear in every episode of "Star Trek" that the future is a place of abundant hope and infinite energy.

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