The Redshirt Myth?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Warped9, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    TOS is known for being hard on Redshirts. The idea is if you're in security then you're probably not coming back.

    But is it really true or just an exaggerated accepted cliche? In GR's TMP novelization he states 94 of the crew died a violent death during the 5-year voyage. Now it's up in the air whether this book can be considered canon, but it certainly doesn't gel with what we saw onscreen.

    I just did a quick tally (and anyone feel free to correct me) and this is what I came up with:

    (Red) Security personnel: 19
    (Red) Support Services: 8
    (Blue) Sciences: 3
    (Gold) Command: 7

    Total: 37

    That's the total for the series with the bulk of those happening in the second season. Of those 37 casualties 27 of them are redshirts and 8 of those are Engineering or Support Services. Overall casualties averaged over 3 years = 12.3 deaths per year.

    Actually 3 of those deaths happened before the 5-year voyage: Kelso, Mitchell and Dehner. That brings the average down to 11.3 deaths per year.

    If we assume this average carried over the remaining two years then we could expect another 22-23 deaths before the end of the voyage. That would mean a total of 57-58 deaths in total during the 5-year voyage. That's quite a few short of the 94 GR states in his TMP novelization.

    Now if we accept TAS as the forth year of the voyage then that skews the numbers even more because no Enterprise casualties occurred throughout TAS. So we have to deduct at least 11 from the total which leaves us with 47 total over five years.

    47 casualties over five years is half of what GR states in his book. That's a huge discrepancy. Of 47 we have 19 Security casualties over three years averaging 6.3 per year. With that average (and no deaths seen in TAS) we could expect a total of 25-26 Security casualties over the five years.


    It seems to me that perhaps the Redshirt Myth might yet be another exaggerated cliche. Of course, this cliche could have gotten a boost from the bulk of Security casualties in second season: 12. That is effectively double the yearly average and a chunk of those happened in a few episodes: "The Changeling" and "Obsession."


    Thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  2. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk The Real Me Premium Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2001
    Location:
    Down in the tube station at midnight
    I don't think what we see in TOS/TAS is the entirety of the Enterprise's "5 Year Mission". Other deaths could have occurred between episodes. So there's no way to accurately calculate what the casualty rate was. "Insufficient data" as Spock might say,

    The numbers do show that security is more deadly than other jobs.

    Of course it's an exaggeration, but one based on what the show presents. Security are nameless extras for the most part and therefore cannon fodder. Away to show that the situation is serious and dangerous for our heroes.

    Is it a cliche? Yes, but not one unique to Star Trek, though Trek has given it a name.
     
  3. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2001
    Location:
    Burlington, VT, USA
    I agree with Nerys that there's no reason to believe we saw the entirety of the mission.

    And it's not unrealistic to think a single disastrous mission could kill 20 redshirts in one go. We likely saw a very small glimpse of Enterprise's variety of missions, especially given that the show had obvious real-world limitations.
     
  4. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    But that isn't what we see onscreen. If it's not seen or not referenced then it doesn't really count.

    People have accepted a cliché that Kirk made it with the green chicks, but it never happened...until ST09. We have people accepting that being a redshirt is effectively an automatic death sentence, but that isn't what we see.
     
  5. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2001
    Location:
    Burlington, VT, USA
    Since it's never referenced that we saw the entire 5 year mission, it doesn't count.

    I never thought being a redshirt was an automatic death sentence (beyond as a source of amusement), but realistically, being in security is all about being able and willing to take the risks to defend your crewmates. It would be bizarre if they did not have a disproportionately high mortality rate assuming the ship's engaging in missions with any appreciable dangers.
     
  6. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    Yes. But I mention the myth because it's a popular one with the general audience who often aren't knowledgeable about Trek. My thought was their accepted myth doesn't really hold up based on the episodes that they could have seen. Whole stretches of episodes go by without anyone dying.
     
  7. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk The Real Me Premium Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2001
    Location:
    Down in the tube station at midnight
    If we accept what's on screen the mission lasted roughly 79 hours.

    Both are jokes. People having fun with some of the tropes of the show.
     
  8. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    Yeah, and this is just for discussion. I don't really care one way or the other.
     
  9. Cyke101

    Cyke101 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2007
    Right. Other fiction have done it before and after the show, but TOS (or rather, its fans) made it popular. TOS didn't just present the trope, it became the Trope Namer.

    I love the first sentence description, too: "This is the Good Counterpart of Evil Minions and Mooks — set filler for our heroes' side."

    I also love that the Red Shirt is also related to The Red Shirt Army and The Worf Effect. If anything, it goes to show Trek's influence on TV writing, which is very much an endearing testament to the franchise's impact on television.

    But ahem, back on topic, according to this website referenced in the Red Shirt article, the percentage of crewmen killed is 73% red shirt, which is still high enough, imo, to make red shirts the Good Minions of TOS and enough to justify some aspects of the "myth." Some of those truths come with the job, after all -- everybody knows that serving in Starfleet is dangerous, and if you sign up for a security detail, you're going to be at the forefront of what is already a dangerous job.
     
  10. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Location:
    New York State

    In WNMHGB, Spock reports "Casualties: nine dead," so that should be added to the three you reported. But their shirts are unseen.

    Also, along with "Obsession" and "The Changeling", I would add "The Apple" as a major redshirt killer.

    "By Any Other Name" has a shocking choice of (red-dressed) victims. Did you tally up how many female crew members Kirk lost overall?

    And out of curiosity, how did you interpret the events of "Charlie X"? Did the Thasians save anybody, like the girl turned in to a lizard and the one whose face was wiped out? [Or, better to my liking, her face was briefly covered with a mask that she tore off moments after we leave her.]
     
  11. Ssosmcin

    Ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2002
    Location:
    ssosmcin
    Well, I don't think it's a myth simply because the overwhelming percentage of shown deaths involved guys and gals in red uniforms. I think only Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea killed off more crewmembers. Usually played by the same four or five stunt and background dudes, but still...

    There’s nothing to suggest that WNMGB was “before the 5 year mission” other than changes in casts, sets and costumes. So the 12 dead people in the episode should be counted in the 5 year mission totals. Yeah, there's a fan assumption it happened before the 5 year tour because of all the changes but....

    ...we can look at the series in one of two ways: 1) as real events where things happened in between episodes and after the series ended; or 2) as a TV series where all that happened was what we saw on screen, and changes in casts, sets and costumes were all just part of what happens during TV series production. ;)

    There are a lot of accepted myths about Star Trek, mostly about Kirk (banging green women every week, his swagger, pausing every...third...word, etc.) and red shirts. The red shirts thing, though, is pretty well earned.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    It's not up in the air at all. "Canon" means the original core material as distinct from adaptations and pastiches in other media. And Roddenberry himself contradicted the novelization when he made TNG, because nobody in the 24th-century Starfleet had communications implants in their brains.

    Not that Roddenberry minded rewriting actual canon either, of course. Like many writers, he was willing to contradict and overwrite details of his earlier works that he'd come to reconsider or regret.


    But that's a very unwise assumption to make. At best it's just a rough order-of-magnitude approximation; one certainly can't take it too seriously as an expectation. A single disastrous incident could kill dozens.



    Then why are you treating a figure from a novel as a legitimate data point? You can't have it both ways.


    Marta would be offended to be so easily forgotten.



    The Thasian said outright, "We have returned your people and your ship to you. Everything is as it was." And of course we saw Janice being brought back from oblivion. There's no reason the Thasians would've saved one yeoman and abandoned everyone else.


    And the ship miniature itself, which went through major changes -- bridge dome lowered, deflector dish replaced, nacelles substantially altered, etc. Between that and the changes in interior sets and props, it's clear that the ship underwent a major refit, probably taking months. That makes more sense between missions than during one.
     
  13. bbjeg

    bbjeg Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    May 24, 2013
    Location:
    Right here buddy.
    I was pleased with NuTrek and Olson's outing. He did Star Trek redshirts well.

    Last Words: Yeehaw!
     
  14. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2008
    Location:
    #istandwithcbs
    I wonder if anyone' ever attempted to keep track of redshirt deaths in the novels and comics? I remember He Who Shall Not Be Named kept a list of 430 crewman which included all the episodes and novels up until about 1998 or therabouts - but there have been a LOT of TOS tie-ins since.

    I loved the look of terror (and accompanying music sting) when Chekov was told "go put on a red shirt" in Into Darkness.

    Perhaps, since Kirk hadn't yet lost a crewman at that point, one can look past the fourth wall gag and speculate that the "redshirt curse" began with another, older ship?
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  15. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    My tally was a quick-and-dirty one and I know I missed a few, but I was also guided by the axiom if it's not onscreen or referenced onscreen then it doesn't really count. In WNMHGB we have no idea who else died besides Kelso, Mitchell and Dehner. And technically there were no redshirts, but that's playing with semantics. Somehow I doubt all of those nine who died out of sight were all Security personnel. At best maybe it could be a third and as such wouldn't affect the overall average and total much at all.
     
  16. Armored Saint

    Armored Saint Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2012
    Location:
    Quebec City
    The Redshirt effect is not about the TOS universe, but about what is shown on screen. So, 37 hands lost in all series, it's almotst one casualty each two episodes. 27 dead redshirts, it's one victim each three episodes.
    Of course, it's not how it happened, it doesn't follow any specific frequency, but at the end, it's still a lot of redshirt killed on screen and they're indeed the classic casualties.
     
  17. Shawnster

    Shawnster Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2008
    Location:
    Clinton, OH
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Here's a more detailed breakdown:

    http://www.sitelogicmarketing.com/blog/02-analytics-according-to-captain-kirk

    According to it, the total number of crew fatalities in TOS was 59, and 73% of those were redshirts. In the first season, there was a pretty even mix of fatalities in different departments, but in seasons 2 & 3, the fatalities were overwhelmingly security guards. So there is some validity to the "myth" after all.

    EDIT: Although comparing it to that Ex Astris Scientia article (we cross-posted), it looks like they counted all the "unknowns" as redshirts, so clearly that skews the results. So I'd say the EAS breakdown is more reliable.
     
  19. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2001
    Location:
    Burlington, VT, USA
    If we were to look at this from a TNG standpoint we could probably skew the results sharply simply by including or excluding the (admittedly non-canon) Tezwa mission.
     
  20. Vandervecken

    Vandervecken Captain Captain

    Joined:
    May 1, 2012
    Location:
    Kobold
    I'd say this is the reason the feeling that redshirts are doomed really persists. It's not just that they're the ones who die. It's that, in some episodes, they're the only ones who die (The Apple just takes this to a ridiculous straining of probability), and this strains credulity.