Among the things I am troubled by in pop culture (in a vague, extraordinarily boring sort of way) are questions of what bits filter through into the general public’s consciousness.  Take the original Star Trek, for example.  It’s become a cliche to point out that Captain Kirk never says “Beam me up, Scotty” or to point out that the transporter broke every other episode, but there are deeper questions to delve into.  For example, why is the Mirror Universe Spock’s beard a symbol of evil when he was the only crew member in that universe who WASN’T a complete bastard?  How do the doors always know to wait for the most dramatic dialogue cue?  Why does James Kirk have three different command shirts?  But, I’ve saved the best for last…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) finds this entire discussion to be highly illogical, asking:  Given that he’s an engineer dealing with engine components and dangerous materials, why do the creators of Star Trek go so far out of their way to hide Montgomery Scott’s missing finger?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Shush
    September 8, 2012 at 11:32 am — Reply

    I always thought it was Montgomery Scott being a bit self-conscious about it.

    Alternatively, it could be seen as something of a distraction.

    • September 8, 2012 at 11:46 am — Reply

      Likely it was James Doohan being self-conscious about it, but still… It would have added a lot of character to Scotty’s backstory for me.

  2. J_Michael_T
    September 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm — Reply

    I think it wouldn’t make sense to live in an age of incredible medical technology and walk around missing a finger … although they should have played it as an obsessive fanaticism to the Vulcan salute which led him to remove that finger ;)

  3. Slappy
    September 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm — Reply

    They wanted to get some practice having seen the future knowing that Gary Burghoff would need to hide his whole hand.

  4. Space Cadet Juan
    September 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm — Reply

    Yeah if Scotty lost a finger I just assume Bones would grow him a new one.

  5. Oldcomicfan
    September 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm — Reply

    I’d guess for the same reason Telly Savalas was careful to always conceal his maimed and twisted finger. It was either an embarrassment or a distraction.

  6. Josh "Spaceboot" Treleaven
    September 8, 2012 at 1:53 pm — Reply

    Okay so this is the first I’m hearing of it, so I guess they hid it pretty well. Mind you, I haven’t seen the Original Series since I was very small, so it’s not like it takes much to hide stuff from me.

    My theory: it would have been too much of a distraction. Any scene that had Scotty’s hand in it would get the audience thinking about the hand. It’s not like the writing was good enough to hold the audience by itself. I have read some accounts of the early series, and Spock’s ears barely made the cut.

    I think Roddenberry was able to fit in exactly as much weirdness as studios and audiences would bear at the time. And not a finger more.

    As comics fans, I think you would appreciate this. A “whole” character can be drawn very simply, and not even all of his fingers have to be on panel, the reader’s brain just fills them in. But a damaged character, or one with a flaw, needs to be focused in on. Or at least in Spock’s case, the ears are always out there, always up front, so we can sort of get used to them.

    My counter MSQOTD: What would a shop teacher in The Simpsons look like?

    • Slappy
      September 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm — Reply

      The Canadian D-Day vet lost it during WWII.

  7. Chris_in_Texas
    September 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm — Reply

    I think that it comes down to the vision, of the future, that Roddenberry chose to portray. A future where technology and medicine were capable of almost anything. Burns healed instantly, the cure of diseases with a single injection. Basically miracle medicines. I believe that the concealment of Scotty’s finger was a ploy to hide the shortcomings of the available technological of the effects industry of the late sixties. Showing a main character with a missing finger, would have raised doubts in the minds of viewers.

    For example, in the episode, “Spock’s Brain”, Spock’s brain is literally removed and placed in a machine called the Controller. Later McCoy is able to return Spock’s brain to his noggin, after using a spiky helmet called the Teacher.

    Basically, I think it boils down to the fact that, you have an actor with a real physical injury in a series which has miracle medical procedures. I believe, that Roddenberry may have thought, it would be difficult to explain why his injury wasn’t repaired. At least in a convincing manner.

    That’s my thoughts on the MSQOTD.

  8. September 9, 2012 at 3:07 am — Reply

    Put me down for “They woulda cloned him a new one” too. Really, this isn’t the most challenging of questions. I give it 2/10, and please resubmit this project with full citations. (Ooops. Sorry. Kinda started sounding like a teacher I used to have, way back when..)

  9. September 9, 2012 at 6:00 am — Reply

    Simply put, Scotty never had a missing finger, James Doohan did. Actors are distinct from their roles. If Doohan played MacBeth, would MacBeth have to have a missing finger?

    • September 10, 2012 at 12:01 am — Reply

      Exactly. James Doohan was missing a digit, but not Scotty. They even went so far as to use hand doubles for close-up shots of Scotty working the transporter. You could occasionally see the hand with the missing finger, when Scotty was holding a phaser or something, but overall they did a dang good job keeping it out of sight.

      A similar thing happened in the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Walter Jones is missing the middle finger on his left hand, but his character, Zach Taylor, was not. I’ve heard they even added a prosthetic finger to the glove of the Black Ranger costume.

  10. Sean
    September 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm — Reply

    More confusing if you take this article ( seriously, since it claims that Doohan played himself on TNG’s “Relics.”

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