A "redshirt" is a stock character in fiction who dies soon after being introduced. The term originates from the original Star Trek (1966–69) television series in which the redshirted security personnel frequently die during episodes. Redshirt deaths are often used to dramatize the potential peril that the main characters face.
In many episodes of Star Trek red-uniformed security officers and engineers who accompany the main characters on landing parties often suffer quick deaths. Analysis of the original Star Trek episodes shows that of the 59 crew members killed in the series, 43 (73%) were wearing red shirts. In the Pocket Books Star Trek novel Killing Time, a crew member says, "You don't want to wear a red shirt on landing-party duty". The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine book Legends of the Ferengi says Starfleet security personnel "rarely survive beyond the second act break". The cinematic reboot of the franchise features a character named Olson (portrayed by Greg Ellis) who dies early on during a mission; he happens to wear a red uniform as an homage to the original series.
In other media, the term "redshirt" and images of characters wearing red shirts represent characters destined for suffering or death. The South Park episode "City on the Edge of Forever" (1998) appropriates its name from a Star Trek episode, and includes a direct Star Trek reference when one of the kids, wearing a red T-shirt, defies Mrs. Crabtree's instructions to remain on the bus and is immediately torn apart by a big scary monster lurking in the shadows. Galaxy Quest (1999), a comedy about actors from a defunct science-fiction television series serving on a real starship, included an actor who is terrified that he's going to die on an away mission because his only appearance in the show was as an unnamed character who was killed early in the episode. The only character injured in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Older and Far Away" (2002) wears a red shirt; writer Drew Greenberg confirmed that this "redshirt" reference was intentional. In the movie, "Spy Game" at the 23 minute mark, the target of a sniper assassination is referred to as a "red shirt". Early scripts for Lost (ABC, 2004–2010) describe the character of Hurley as a "red shirt". The term is also used in the Warehouse 13 episode "Implosion". Slate 's review of Prometheus describes characters who meet "grisly ends" in the film as "redshirts". John Scalzi's Hugo Award-winning novel Redshirts (2012) both spoofs and pays homage to the notion of disposable low-ranking crew members on a Star Trek-style starship.
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That was totally on purpose. It wasn’t just me - a group of us said, ‘Hey, a red shirt would be cool!’
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