A redshirt is a stock character, used frequently in science fiction but also in other genres, whose primary purpose is to die soon after being introduced, thus demonstrating the dangerous circumstances faced by the main characters. The term originates from the science fiction television series Star Trek, in which security officers wear red shirts and are often killed on field missions under the aforementioned circumstances.
Star Trek origins
In the original 1966 Star Trek
series, security officers, who wear red, meet tragic ends in many episodes. Typically, a landing party
includes at least one red-shirted security officer who is dead soon after the mission begins.
In the Pocket Books Star Trek novel Killing Time, a time-tampering plot twist turns Captain James T. Kirk into an ensign. While he is dressing for duty, a fellow crew member says, "Let's just say that on this ship — or probably any other — you don't want to wear a red shirt on landing-party duty.
The concept of "redshirts" has been parodied extensively. Some of the more notable instances:
- In the animated series Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys, Holo Boons were red-shirt-wearing characters who only existed for the purpose of being destroyed after being sent out into danger as one of the series' running gags.
- In the Family Guy episode "I Never Met the Dead Man", Captain Kirk announces that the landing party to a planet will consist of himself, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and a certain Ensign Ricky, wearing a red shirt. The ensign responds to this news with the words: "Ah, crap!" Later on in the episode, when William Shatner dies after being hit by a car driven by Meg in the rain, Ensign Ricky is seen in the onlooking crowd saying, "Huh. Didn't see that one coming."
- In the Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", the Planet Express team lands on a forbidden planet with a Star Trek convention. They encounter the lost cast members of Star Trek, including a previously-unknown "Welshie", who wears a red shirt and is killed by Melllvar, the self-proclaimed ultimate Star Trek fan. Throughout the episode, Melllvar continues to attack Welshie even though he is clearly dead.
- In the 1999 movie Galaxy Quest (a parody of Star Trek), the character Guy Fleegman is an actor who appeared in one episode of the fictional series Galaxy Quest as a crewman who was killed on an away mission before the first commercial break. Trapped with the rest of the cast in a real-life reenactment of the Galaxy Quest series, Guy spends the entire movie worrying that he is fated to die: "I'm expendable. I'm the guy in the episode who dies to prove how serious the situation is."
- An episode of the television show Homeboys in Outer Space featured the character Pippen (a self-parody of Montgomery Scott by James Doohan) saying "I saved that ship twenty-two times a year, but would they let me wear the blue shirt?"
- In the Kim Possible episode "_2004-2006", when Kim is temporarily sent to a Star Trek-esque TV show and given a red uniform, the captain tells her she is expendable and sends her on an away mission.
- In an episode of Lil' Bush, Lil' George meets a boy at summer camp that he nicknames "Redshirt," who later meets with an unexpected demise.
- In the webcomic Legostar Galactica, a parody of Star Wars and Star Trek, one of the characters is dressed all in red and named "Ensign Redshirt", and he dies frequently, a running joke throughout the comic.
- In the Lost episode "All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues", the character Boone describes the phenomenon of redshirts to another character, and is killed later in the season.
- The song "He's Dead Jim" from M.O.D.'s album Loved by Thousands, Hated by Millions is about a redshirt.
- In the Robot Chicken episode "The Munnery", a redshirt was stranded on a planet with Kirk, Spock, and other bridge crew. He was the only one armed, though, and kills and eats the others.
- In the South Park episode "City on the Edge of Forever" a kid wearing a Star Trek red shirt tries to leave the school bus and is killed by a gigantic black monster (voiced by Henry Winkler).
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode "The Other Guys", aboard an enemy vessel when the main characters of that episode come under attack, Coombs turns to Felger and says, "Oh, come on, Felger, we might as well be wearing red shirts."
- The Star Trek-themed band Warp 11 references redshirts in many of their songs, including "Rage Against the Federation" and "Boldly Go Down On Me", which are sung from the point of view of a redshirt.
- In the multiplayer portion of the video game "Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force", the default nickname for players is "RedShirt."