How Linlithgow celebrated the town's most famous fictitious son
It's one thing for the heritage industry to make a song and dance about the great architectural icons and historic characters of Linlithgow's fascinating past. Doomed Mary Queen of Scots, and blood-drenched Oliver Cromwell with his iron-clad stormtroopers, are just two of the best-known people worth remembering.
But tourism and town development chiefs have boldly gone a step farther by celebrating future history.
It’s all a bit light-hearted, of course, but Star Trek is easily in the top three bracket for most famous sci-fi franchise of all time.
So it was hardly a surprise when the 200 tickets made available for a special screening of The Wrath of Khan in Linlithgow Palace – the first film ever shown there – were snapped in short order.
At least 800 people had to be disappointed, but it was, after all, a real historic occasion – a 50th birthday celebration for the TV series that has gripped the imagination of countless millions.
Linlithgow was the obvious candidate for the bash because it is, or will be, the official birthplace of the starship Enteprise’s famous chief engineer – in 2222.
Claims have been made for Aberdeen in the past, based in part on Scotty’s accent, but of course that’s a sad delusion because nowhere in the series does he ever say: “Fit like, captain?”.
Cast iron proof appears in the early Star Trek book Vulcan’s Glory, where author Dorothy DC Fontana refers to Scotty’s mother’s house in Linlithgow. She wrote: “Lieutenant Montgomery Scott had no trouble finding his quarters either.
“He not only knew the blueprints of the ship intimately, but he had built an exact cutaway scale replica of the Enterprise as soon as he learned of his assignment to her.”
And then – crucially: “Her corridors and decks and service tunnels were already as familiar to him as his mother’s house in Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland.”
The scene at the weekend was equal to the grandeur of the mythical occasion.
Characters (beamed down all the way from Dundee) dressed in Star Wars flight deck livery popped up in the Palace, where there were special filmed messages for the Trekkie faithful from actor Simon (“Shaun of the Dead”) Pegg, who plays Scotty in the latest Star Wars epic, and movie director Nicholas Meyer.
The 50th anniversary enterprise was organised by Linlithgow Town Centre Bid, and must be one of the most imaginative attention-grabbers yet devised for any Scottish town centre.
Many towns can fairly say “Robert Burns slept here”, or point to the skeletal remains of castles trashed by vengeful barons in days of yore – but Linlithgow will now go down in future (science fiction) history as the birthplace of Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott.
Despite being well past the main tourism season anyone visiting the town at the weekend would have instantly realised something special was going on, even before the brilliant bustle of the folk festival is taken into consideration.
Together with the town’s BID , organising the weekend spectacular, were VisitScotland, Historic Environment Scotland and Film Mobile.
They have helped ensure that what was originally advertised as “a five year mission” for the Enterprise will run – perhaps – forever.
Life behind the legend
You’ve seen the movie – now tour “The Scotty Story” at a new exhibition at Linlithgow’s Annet House Museum, formally opened last week by Linlithgow Provost Tom Kerr.
It is a Trekkie’s paradise, featuring not only a whole welter of fascinating facts about the late actor James Doohan – a larger than life character worth a book in his own right – but also some superb exhibits from the long-running series.
This exhibition, first seen in 2007, has been put back on display to mark the 50th anniversary of Doohan’s first appearance in episode two of the original Star Trek series “Where No Man Has Gone Before” screened in September 1966.
On view are the Star Ship Enterprise itself and its old sparring partner, a Klingon Battle Cruiser.
When you consider how these days model shops and toy shops are positively stuffed with Star Trek spin-off toys, figurines and merchandise fully half a century after the Enterprise first soared on to our (black and white) screens, the ongoing success of the concept tells its own story.
Series like Blake’s Seven or Logan’s Run have their cult followings, but they’re a niche market – like 70s prog rock – while Star Trek just keeps getting bigger and more successful.
Its “mission statement” seems as relevant now as in the 60s, too, with its message of international cooperation and humanity.
Linlithgow Heritage Trust, who operate the museum, are proud to be part of the events celebrating the life of “Scotty”, and have asked us to pass on their appreciation fo the support given by Linlithgow Bid to the project.
The team say they’re also delighted at the effort put into the shop window displays in the “Scotty Trail” in the High Street – which brought the whole venture to life.
The museum is open from Monday to Saturday, 11am to 5pm and Sunday 1pm to 4pm. Further details are available at www.annethousemuseum.org.uk.