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.

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 quickly 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]
  • Early scripts for Lost (ABC, 2004–10) describe the character of Hurley as a "redshirt".[2]
  • The term was used by United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II in his May 2013 judgment against Prenda Law.[11][12]
  • The Duckman TV series cartoon episode "Where No Duckman Has Gone Before" parodies the original Star Trek series and has the often-abused stuffed teddy bears Fluffy and Uranus as redshirts. Captain Duckman has the search party beam down to the planet's surface and insists on Fluffy and Uranus to get killed for dramatic purposes and personal pleasure. It takes too long and Duckman just shoots them dead himself.[1].

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)|format= requires |url= (help) (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. Archived from the original on 3 October 2012. 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. ^ "Does Prenda Believe In No-Win Scenarios? Because Judge Wright Just Gave Them One".
  12. ^

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