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A dead "redshirt", Lt. Leslie (Eddie Paskey), in the Star Trek episode "Obsession" (1967)

Redshirt is a slang term for a minor stock character of an adventure drama who dies violently soon after being introduced in order to dramatize the dangerous situation experienced by the main characters. The term originated with fans of the science fiction television series Star Trek, from the red shirts worn by Starfleet security officers and engineers, who frequently meet their demise during the episodes.[1]


Star Trek

In many episodes of the original Star Trek series (1966-1969), security officers and engineers, who wear uniforms with red shirts, accompany the main characters on landing parties. The officers usually die violently soon after.

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."[2] In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine book Legends of the Ferengi, an entry comparing the life-span of various beings with the shelf life of gold-pressed latinum includes the entry "Lifespan of a Federation hew-mon working for Starfleet security: Rarely survive beyond the second act break".[3]

The eleventh Star Trek film features a red-uniformed character (Security Officer Olsen) who joins Kirk and Sulu's landing party and, in an homage to the original series, dies soon after the mission's start.[4]

In popular culture

  • In the MythBusters, Episode 137 – Mini Myth Mayhem, while testing the Gorn Cannon myth, the crash test dummy, Buster, is made to wear the red shirt. Since the myth was related to Star Trek, Grant felt it was the ideal shirt for Buster, explaining how the red shirt was bad luck for any Star Trek crew-member.
  • In the Family Guy episode "I Never Met the Dead Man" a brief scene from a Star Trek episode is depicted. After warning that the away mission is dangerous and will likely result in a death, Kirk chooses Spock, McCoy and the redshirt "Ensign Ricky" to accompany him. Ensign Ricky responds with "Aww crap."
  • Redshirt Blues is a fan-made film that directly satirizes Star Trek's redshirts.[5]
  • In the movie Galaxy Quest, one of the characters had previously played "Crewman Number Six" in episode 81 of "Galaxy Quest" and was killed before the first commercial break. Throughout the movie, as he finds himself in a real world recreation of the series, he becomes increasingly paranoid that he will meet the same fate as his television counterpart. He makes references to the general attributes of redshirts as proof.
  • In the South Park episode "City on the Edge of Forever" (which shares its title with a Star Trek episode of the same name), a child wearing a red Star Trek uniform volunteers to go fetch much-needed help. He is killed moments later.
  • In an episode of Robot Chicken, a redshirt is seen beaming down to a planet from the doomed Enterprise, along with Spock, Kirk, Bones and Uhura. In a reverse of the normal tradition, the redshirt kills the major crewmembers with a phaser (as he was the only one to bring a weapon) after they suggest that he sacrifice himself to be eaten so that they may survive.
  • In an episode of Kim Possible, (compiled entirely of spoofs from various T.V. shows) Kim Possible is shown in an episode of "Star Fleet". While talking to her nerdy friend Wade, it is revealed that she is wearing a red shirt and is chosen to go along on a mission. Wade tells her that the redshirt never comes back alive. She is saved by Wade's technology moments after her ship has been shot and she is plummeting to the ground.

See also


  1. ^ Robert W. Bly (1996). Why You Should Never Beam Down in a Red Shirt: And 749 More Answers to Questions About Star Trek. ISBN 0062733842. 
  2. ^ Hise, Della Van (1985). Killing Time. Pocket Books. ISBN 0671524887. 
  3. ^ Behr, Ira Steven; Robert Hewitt Wolfe. Legends of the Ferengi. ISBN 0671007289. 
  4. ^ To Boldly Go featurette on Star Trek DVD release
  5. ^ Ross, Dalton (2001-09-10). "What To Watch". Entertainment Weekly.,,254840,00.html. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 

External links

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