Scots dopers: How fake is Scotty's accent on Star Trek?

I’ve been wondering about this ever since I was a kid. When I started watching Star Trek at age 7, it was because of Scotty that I decided that Scotland is my favorite country. James Doohan was Canadian, but apparently he was well respected as an actor who could do accents. Indeed, I understand that his spontaneous Scottish accent while auditioning persuaded the writers to make Scotty … er … Scottish.

Decades later – I’ve never been to Scotland, but I’ve heard many Scottish accents, and none of them sound like James Doohan’s. Is it possible that such a well-respected accent-tician was actually a hack? How fake is Scotty’s accent?

Eh, it’s not great - it’s a non-native trying to do a generic Scots accent, and not sounding like any Scottish person ever. That’s all right though, because Scotty’s a cool guy (a positive stereotype even - likes a drink and is a great engineer), plus I don’t think James Doohan ever claimed any kind of authenticity.

According to Doohan, the only reason Scotty was Scottish was because Roddenberry told him to pick an ethnicity. Doohan felt that the Scots were natural engineers, so he chose Scottish.

Nice to see, that. I think a lot of actors would have gone with whatever accent was easiest for them.


In the defense of Star Trek cannon, I hereby fanwank that the Scottish accent has drifted over the centuries so that Scotty in fact has a perfectly typical 23rd century Scottish accent.

How do you know that’s not exactly how Scottish people will sound several centuries from now? :slight_smile: Accents do change over time, you know.

Yeah, that too. In any case he isn’t due to be born for a couple of hundred years, in the town of…well, that’s a matter of some controversy in the real world.

I think you mis-spelled that. You meant to spell it “photon torpedoes”. :wink:

He sounds at least as Scottish as Jean-Luc Picard sounds French…

I humbly submit, that had he picked Canadian, Star Trek would never have become the phenomenon it did.

Aye Cap’n - I dinna ken fix these engines!


Hey you hoser - how aboot giving me some more time to fix this, eh?

For what little it is worth, when I was in Glasgow, I was shocked to hear some accents that actually did sound akin to Scotty’s. I didn’t hear anything else like it in the rest of Scotland.

I got the feeling that Glasgow is the mixing pot* of Scotland and probably had the most blended accent of the places I visited.

Was I imagining what I heard or is it possible that Doohan based it on a Glasgow accent?

  • Actually it reminded me of Milwaukee.

I’ve long described it as “Music-Hall Aberdeen.”

A typical Glaswegian, yesterday (video)

Now that was a joke, I found the Glasgow accent one of the easiest to understand on American ears. I think it was near Kirriemuir I had the most problems. I stayed out on a farm and found some little tavern nearby that served a great steak. (I believe the town has a statue of Peter Pan as James Barrie was born there.)

I really recall the Glasgow accent to be relatively mild compared to a city like Edinburgh or a town like Sterling.

The bandaged one, or the one behind the desk?


Well the one behind the desk sounded perfectly normal. The other one was unintelligible. That’s not much of a pattern to go by.

Now it may have just been Doohan covering his ass, but I’ve read several interviews where he claimed to have done a “generic” Scots accent on purpose because American audiences would not have been able to understand a full-blown Scots accent. I saw him at my one and only ST convention back in the early 90s, and he did a rnage of accents in a little skit along the lines of “What if the engineer had been_____?” Honestly, every accent he did was very broad and over-the-top to my ears.

I have to agree in some case. I recall watching an absolutely captivating movie from Scotland a few years back which (iirc) concerned a middle-aged drug addict falling in love with his counselor and trying to keep a young addict from going down the same road he had traveled (can’t recall the title of the film). Even though it was in English, I was glad the damn thing was subtitled as I only understood about every fourth word.

Sir Rhosis

Craig Ferguson frequently jokes on his show that he thinks Doohan sounds Pakistani. It’s not that bad, but it is sort of generic-foreigner-trying-to-do-a-Scottish-accent.

It’s Stirling, no “e”, ken?

I wish I could see what Craig is doing on his sober-Craig chat show. He was funny when he was doing his stand-up as Bing Hitler.Very self-destructive though.