Redshirt (character)

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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), operations officers (such as security officers), who wear uniforms with red shirts, accompany the main characters on landing parties. The red-shirted characters usually meet their demise soon after the mission gets underway.

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 who joins Kirk and Sulu's landing party and, in 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, wears a 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 Stargate SG-1 episode The Other Guys (Episode eight of season six, aired 2 August 2002) minor characters Jay Felger and Simon Coombs are thrown into a dangerous confrontation. Coombs, whose remarks label him as a Star Trek fan of a high order, at one point says, "Oh, come on, Felger. We might as well be wearin' red shirts!", a comment that is entirely lost on Felger. The in joke is made even more pointed by the fact that Coombs is played by actor John Billingsley, a regular cast member of Star Trek: Enterprise.
  • In the Lost television series, the character of Hurley was initially described as a "red shirt" in early scripts; this is made explicit when Hurley is scared to do something dangerous while wearing a red shirt.[5]
  • In the Marvel Comics 2010 limited series Taskmaster, a henchman takes the codename Redshirt, but is unaware of its origins.[6] He is killed in the following issue.[7]
  • In the FoxTrot comic dated 12/19/10, Jason Fox pays homage to Redshirts by making gingerbread men in red Star Trek uniforms and subsequently eating them.[8]
  • In the South Park episode City on the Edge of Forever, one of the students wears a red shirt with a badge on it. He is later eaten by a monster.

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