Redshirt (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.

Star Trek[edit]

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


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 Star Trek 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.[8]
  • 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.[9]
  • 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.[10]
  • Twenty-three minutes into the movie Spy Game (2001), the target of a sniper assassination is referred to as a "redshirt".[11]
  • Early scripts for Lost (ABC, 2004–10) describe the character of Hurley as a "redshirt".[2]
  • The term is also used in the Warehouse 13 episode "Implosion" (2009).[12]
  • Slate's review of Prometheus (2012) describes characters who meet "grisly ends" in the film as "redshirts".[13]
  • The term was used by United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II in his May 2013 judgment against Prenda Law.[14][15]
  • The Suite Life on Deck episode "Starship Tipton" is a homage parody to the Star Trek franchise, and as such also references redshirts, stating that that those who wear red always get killed.
  • Redshirts, a Hugo Award winning 2012 novel by John Scalzi
  • The term is used by the character Winn in the Supergirl episode "Supergirl Lives", when he's asked by Alex to stay behind and work on the teleport machine. He keeps repeating the phrase "I'm not a Redshirt" to show that he's scared of being attacked and dying while working on the teleporter.
  • The term is used by Phil Coulson in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "The Man Behind the Shield" when ridiculing Anton Ivanov, implying he is not notable within the world and when he dies will not matter.

See also[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. ^ a b 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 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?". Blog. Allposters. Retrieved January 30, 2015. 
  7. ^ "To Boldly Go", Star Trek (DVD release) (featurette) .
  8. ^ Phil Dyess-Nugent (12 October 2012). ""The City On The Edge Of Forever" (season 2, episode 7; originally aired 6/17/1998)". Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  9. ^ "Galaxy Quest (1999) Movie Review". Beyond Hollywood. 7 November 2002. Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  10. ^ "That was totally on purpose. It wasn’t just me - a group of us said, ‘Hey, a red shirt would be cool!’". Buffy the Vampire Slayer Magazine (34). June 2002. 
  11. ^ "Spy Game (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  12. ^ Vaux, R. (19 August 2009). "Warehouse 13: Implosion Review". Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  13. ^ Stevens, Dana (7 June 2012). "Prometheus". Slate. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  14. ^ "Does Prenda Believe In No-Win Scenarios? Because Judge Wright Just Gave Them One.". 
  15. ^

External links[edit]