Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"Beam Us Up, Scotty!"

Star Trek’s James Doohan Heads for the Heavens; Legacy Lives On

James Doohan, who passed away this week at 85, will always be remembered as Montgomery Scott, the brusque Scotsman - the take charge Chief Engineer known to the world (in fact, to many worlds) simply as “Scotty.”

Mr. Scott was most adept at getting his fellow space voyagers – you know, the folks who always interfered with the “Prime Directive” – out of harm’s way. With the Enterprise crippled, Klingons to starboard, and Captain Kirk yelling from the Bridge, “Scotty, we need warp speed,” Mr. Scott, cool as a cucumber, would matter-of-factly quip, “You’ll have to fire me, Captain. I’m doing the best I can. The Dilithium crystals are all but depleted.”

Sure enough, within seconds of annihilation – and without further commercial interruption – Mr. Scott would manage a circuit break here and a wire splice there, and warp speed it was. The Enterprise, and, so it would seem, the universe itself, was saved.

As much of a wiz as Scotty was in Engineering, his greatest feats were always accomplished in the Transporter room, where Mr. Scott was at the “Away Team’s” beck and call. Just one, “Beam me up, Scotty,” and those in search of intelligent life in that final frontier (save for crew members wearing the off-color shirts – the extras - who never made it back) would dematerialize safely, and then materialize - almost always in one piece - on the mother ship.

Many a time, right here on planet Earth – where the search for intelligent life continues – a good Communicator and a long-reaching tractor beam would come in mighty handy.

Imagine the scenarios as they play out before Starfleet Command:

Town Councilman Tony Santino: “You earthlings enjoy paying twice the tax for your garbage collection. Now repeat after me. ‘I am willing to pay more for local control.’”

Residents of Sanitary District 2: “Scotty, beam us up!”
Sanitary District 1 Counsel, Nat Swergold, to the Jewish residents of the Five Towns: “I have studied the Hebrews for some time now, and understand the needs of your species. You will have extra trucks to collect bread during Passover.”

Residents of Sanitary District 1: “Scotty, beam us up!”
Town of Hempstead Supervisor, Kate Murray: “Ah, another ‘Summer of Love’ for me and my precious pets. Ray, be a nice boy and mail these letters, will you?”

Town of Hempstead residents: “Scotty, Beam us up!”
Alas, we do not live in an age of great Communicators, and with Scotty’s passing, the Transporters have all gone still. We are left here, on sometimes alien turf, the atmosphere dense with gas – or is it simply hot air? – to fend for ourselves.

It has been more than a generation since the original Star Trek series went off the air in 1969. Man has walked, driven and golfed on the Moon. Star Trek, itself in the time-warp of syndication, has evolved into the Next Generation, and from there, into Deep Space. And we’ve had our share of Star Wars sequels, prequels, and Jar Jar Binks.

Yet, what is old is new again. From the radio days of the Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds, to today’s Tom Cruise thriller, where seemingly indestructible machines and their other-worldly operators threaten to destroy all of humanity.

No, Scotty is no longer with us to “beam us up.” He is among the stars, once again. Fear not, however, you fellow travelers of time, space and the Town of Hempstead (where no Democrat has gone before). For no machine is everlasting, and no being – whether Martian or Mondello – is forever durable. Indeed, machines, by their own devices, are prone to failure, and their operators, as hardy and long-lived as they may appear, susceptible to the most basic effects that both they and we too often take for granted – the air, the water, the vote!

Goodbye, Mr. Scott. We will be hailing you on all frequencies. “Beam us up!”

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