Redshirt (stock character)

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Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock discover dead "redshirts" in the Star Trek episode "Obsession" (1967).

A "redshirt" is a stock character in fiction who dies soon after being introduced. The term originates from the original Star Trek (NBC, 1966–69) television series in which the red-shirted security personnel frequently die during episodes.[1] Redshirt deaths are often used to dramatize the potential peril that the main characters face.

Origin[edit]

In Star Trek, red-uniformed security officers and engineers who accompany the main characters on landing parties often suffer quick deaths.[2]

The first instance of what now is an established trope can be seen in the episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" (1966).[3] Of the 59 crew members killed in the series, 43 (73%) were wearing red shirts.[4] The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine book Legends of the Ferengi says Starfleet security personnel "rarely survive beyond the second act break".[5] An episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine titled "Valiant" (1998) also references red as a sort of bad luck omen, in which the plot centers around a group of cadets calling themselves "Red Squad", almost all of whom die in the episode.[6] The cinematic reboot of the franchise features a character named Olson (portrayed by Greg Ellis) who dies early on during a mission; he wears a red uniform in homage to the trope from the original series.[7]

Usage[edit]

In other media, the term "redshirt" and images of characters wearing red shirts has come to represent characters destined for disposable suffering or death.[8][9]

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.[10] Redshirts is a novel by John Scalzi that satirizes the trope, as is the PC game Redshirt.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bly, Robert W. (1996). Why You Should Never Beam Down in a Red Shirt: And 749 More Answers to Questions About Star Trek. ISBN 0-06-273384-2.
  2. ^ Itzkoff, David (14 May 2006). "On 'Lost,' the Castaway Who Stands Out Without Even Trying". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  3. ^ DeCandido, Keith (May 12, 2015). "Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"". Tor.com. Tor Books. Retrieved 2015-05-31.
  4. ^ Bailey, Matt. "Analytics According to Captain Kirk". SiteLogic Online Marketing Consultants. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  5. ^ Behr, Ira Steven; Robert Hewitt Wolfe. Legends of the Ferengi. ISBN 0-671-00728-9.
  6. ^ Jermaine, H. "The Star Trek Red Shirt: A Mysterious In-Show Omen?". Allposters.com Blog. Allposters. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
  7. ^ "To Boldly Go", Star Trek (DVD release)|format= requires |url= (help) (featurette).
  8. ^ Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling edited by Monica Valentinelli, Jaym Gates
  9. ^ The Nowhere Bible: Utopia, Dystopia, Science Fiction By Frauke Uhlenbruch, page 176
  10. ^ "Galaxy Quest (1999) Movie Review". Beyond Hollywood. 7 November 2002. Archived from the original on 3 October 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  11. ^ https://www.gog.com/game/redshirt

External links[edit]