As John Scalzi has explored in his novel Redshirts, the secret lives of hapless and expendable space-faring crewmembers sort of represents an interesting incarnation of outer space versions of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Should we feel sorry for these folks? Is the universe playing a joke on them? Should they just wear a different color?
Well, in the actual Star Trek universe, “redshirt” deaths were not always limited to red! Here are 10 memorable redshirt deaths dressed in blue, gold, and other colors from the original Star Trek.
10.) Crewman Green (Uniform Color: Gold), “The Man Trap”
In the first ever aired (but not first filmed) Trek episode, the M-113 salt vampire goes on a killing rampage and then shape-shifts into its victims. Following the death of the blue-shirted Darnell, the next victim is Crewman Green. So, if you’re going by the chronological viewings of Star Trek as it was seen by the public, the first Redshirt death was not red. Instead Darnell was in blue, and then memorably (because the creature assumed his form), a guy named Green wearing gold was the next to die. No redshirts here.
9.) Joe (Uniform Color: Blue), “The Naked Time”
Take it easy, Joe! The first person to bring the touchy-feely everyone-loses-their-cool illness to the Enterprise is a guy named Joe. Joe took his space glove off while on a creepy planet with Spock. Later, he flips out in the break room and stabs himself with a butter knife while everyone is trying to have lunch. Bummer.
8.) Robert Tomlinson (Uniform Color: Gold), “Balance of Terror”
This episode opens with Captain Kirk famously performing a wedding ceremony between Robert Tomlinson and his blushing bride, Angela Martine. This good-looking, seemingly nice guy is in charge of actually firing the phasers (a job which we never really see again). Tragically, instead of the racist-against-Vulcans Lt. Styles biting it, this nice guy gets killed instead. On his wedding day! One of the more memorable sad endings to a classic Trek story.
7.) Lee Kelso (Uniform Color: Beige?), “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
Back when the Starfleet uniforms sort of looked like the ones in “The Cage,” and Sulu wore blue, there was this Kelso guy who was flying the ship with Gary Mitchell. Kelso gets strangled via telekinesis when Gary Mitchell moves a cable with his mind. At some point Spock brings down a giant phaser-rifle to take down Mitchell, but not in time to save poor Kelso. He was really good friends with Mitchell, too.
6.) Karen Tracy (Uniform Color: Blue), “Wolf in the Fold”
Better know as the “the episode where Scotty kills a hooker,” this episode featured the return of Jack the Ripper and was written by the Robert Bloch, most famous for penning the novel Psycho. Poor Karen Tracy, a medical technician, is stabbed by the entity known as Redjac while it is still in Scotty’s body. All she was really there to do was to check on Scotty and make sure he wasn’t crazy. Totally unfair.
5.) Latimer (Uniform Color: Gold), “The Galileo Seven”
When a shuttlecraft crash-lands on a lonely planet, giant cave people with super long spears start attacking the Starfleet folks. The first one to get a spear through the body is Latimer. Spock doesn’t think they have time to bury the body, a fact that pisses off the rest of the all-human crew. The real tragedy here is Latimer wasn’t even vaporized or anything cool in an outer-space vein. Instead: cavemen.
4.) Sam (Uniform Color: Pink Bathrobe), “Charlie X”
Super-powered teenager alien Charlie really hates it when people laugh at him. In an (unintentionally) hilariously memorable scene, Captain Kirk tries to teach Charlie how to be a man by showing off some wrestling moves. At one point, to demonstrate, he spars with Sam, an affable guy who lets Kirk throw him around. But when Sam laughs at Charlie—Zap! He’s dead. (Apparently he was brought back to life in the novelization of this episode, but onscreen, he stays dead.)
3.) D’Amato (Uniform Color: Blue), “That Which Survives”
When one of the actresses to play Catwoman shows up on Star Trek, you know you’re in trouble. Lee Meriwether is a crazy alien who says, “I am for you (your name here)” before she kills you. At one point, she is totally “for” D’Amato and then she kills him. Just by touching him. The thing here is that D’Amato was a geologist, and the study of people who play Catwoman who can also kill with a touch is definitely not part of his professional background.
2.) Arlene Galway (Uniform Color: Blue), “The Deadly Years”
In another universe, the person who would have been the first to go in this episode would be Chekov. He screams like such a baby in this one, and is oddly the only one who doesn’t get infected with the super-fast aging sickness. One of the first people to die of rapid aging is this nice person named Arlene Galway. Really quite depressing and a little jarring, she dies of old age before her time. Sometimes Star Trek feels like a dark, dark comedy.
1.) Sam Kirk (Uniform Color: Civilian Orange Colored thing), “Operation—Annihilate!”
James T. Kirk’s brother probably gets the worst meaningless death of all. Though maybe not an exact fit for the definition of a redshirt, George Samuel Kirk does die an undignified death at the hands of flying flapjack aliens. Also, like a genuine redshirt, he also has no lines and everyone (including his brother) seem to get over his death pretty quickly. Finally, and most undignified, he is given a porn-mustache, which wouldn’t be truly rocked by another redshirt until Sam Rockwell in Galaxy Quest.
Now, we’re not saying some Star Trek people weren’t killed by Klingons. But, it’s important to note none of the above actually were and you’d be hard-pressed to find characters with names who were. Klingons: the greatest enemy of the Enterprise crew? Seems more like random B.S. was the greatest threat.
Share your thoughts about other redshirt moments from all the Treks in the comments below!
Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of Tor.com. Stubby doesn’t consider some members of its crew to be expendable. Stubby views all of them that way. Except for you. You’re special.