Red Shirt

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A Red Shirt in his natural state.

Kirk: All right, men, this is a dangerous mission. And it's likely one of us will be killed. The landing party will consist of myself, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Ensign Ricky.

Ensign Ricky: Aw, crap.

The color of shirt worn by the nameless security personnel on the original Star Trek: The Original Series series. Their only job was to get eaten, shot, stabbed, disrupted, temporally-shifted, frozen, desalinated, or crushed into a cube. Their death would give William Shatner and DeForest Kelley a corpse to emote over, and Leonard Nimoy a corpse to, well, not emote over. (Gene Roddenberry inverted this trope in Star Trek: The Next Generation when he had all officers of command rank wear red shirts while the security and engineering departments wear gold.) In a series where The Main Characters Do Everything, if you suddenly see someone else involved, they are probably a Red Shirt.

A Red Shirt is the Good Counterpart of Evil Minions and Mooks—set filler for our heroes' side. Their purpose is almost exclusively to give the writers someone to kill who isn't a main character, although they can also serve as a Spear Carrier. They are used to show how the monster works, and demonstrate that it is indeed a deadly menace, without having to lose anyone important. Expect someone to say "He's Dead, Jim", lament this "valued crew member's senseless death", and then promptly forget him. Security personnel in general fall victim to the worst shade of this Trope, as most of the time their deaths aren't even acknowledged at all; according to Hollywood, you could walk into a bank and shoot a security guard right in the face without anyone making a fuss. If you shot anyone else afterward, the headline would just read "Bank Customers Killed".

In mass quantities, they make up the Redshirt Army. Frequently overlaps with Black Dude Dies First. The lowest level of the Super Weight scale is named after them.

Compare to The Worf Effect (a character is hurt, but not killed, to show the enemy's power), The World's Expert on Getting Killed, Retirony, Mauve Shirt, Sacrificial Lamb, Disposable Sex Worker, Anyone Can Die, Little Dead Riding Hood.

Contrast Plot Armor.

Examples of Red Shirts include:

Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In honor of the new Star Trek movie, a company has released a Red Shirt cologne. The slogan? "Because Tomorrow May Never Come." The packaging features a red-shirted officer in a set of crosshairs, and a Starfleet security badge with a bullet hole next to it.
  • You Deserve The Redshirt Treatment. An ad campaign by insurance company Independent Health sends the unintentional message of "You deserve to die horribly so William Shatner can emote over your dead body".
    • One Google search would have prevented the epic irony of that health care company's slogan.


Anime & Manga[edit | hide]

  • In Mobile Suit Gundam, the mass-produced federation Mooks were called RGM-79 GMs, which exploded by the dozens any time they were shown in a fight. Bonus Points because their standard armor was colored like a red T-shirt.
  • Occurs in Gundam Seed, in which Athurn's buddy Rusty (who never shows his face or has any dialog) is killed. He's wearing red, which ironically is supposed to be the uniform of ZAFT's elite.
    • Subverted in that Red Uniform ZAFT soldiers are the best pilots and usually don't die ignominiously like Green Uniforms. Reds are mostly central characters to the story and either survive or get killed by a Gundam pilot.
  • In Naruto:
  • The Japanese Burai Knightmare Frames through much of season one of Code Geass being expendable in combat, many scenes depict them either getting skewered by Cornelia's pike or completely annihilated by Lancelot. Interestingly, one of the Britannian Red Shirts (or should that be Mooks?) served as a Plot Point. One of them happened to be Shirley's father, who was killed by Lelouch, Shirley's crush, in a landslide in the battle of Narita. It starts Shirley's cutie-breaking which progresses throught the series.
  • In Bleach, when Ichigo and friends invade the Soul Society, anyone without a rank is pretty much dog food.
  • FUNimation voice actor Vic Mignogna wrote a (horribly catchy) song about the Red Shirt Anime equivalents, called "Soldier A":

Soldier A, Soldier A
The unsung hero of anime
Hip hooray for Soldier A
He only has one line but saves the day
He's called upon to grunt or yell or scream
Even if his mouth is never seen
Through the fray with ne'er to say
He'll lead the way, he's Soldier A

  • Yano in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
  • Oh, Matt of Death Note. 10 panels. He gets gunned down. Notable in a manga where Anyone Can Die because he wears a red striped shirt in the anime, and often gets fan-colored with red hair.
  • On the way to a battle with the forces of Marmo in Record of Lodoss War, protagonist Parn chats up a fellow soldier who is very optimistic about the whole thing. Naturally, as soon as the battle is over and the heroes lament the losses, they find the soldier's body. It was his fault—he really shouldn't have shown Parn that good-luck charm his child made for him.
  • All of Duel Academia in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, save the main characters, especially in Season 3.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: The Soldiers of the Time-Space Administration Bureau are, on the surface, highly trained individuals capable of solving most inter-dimensional threats... it's a shame, then, that the show mostly shoves them in situations only girls half their age can properly handle.
  • Gantz Every single time the group is sent on a mission, at least 75% of them are Red Shirts.
  • Absolutely any military vehicle that is not an Evangelion in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Their job is shoot ineffectually at the Angels so we can see just how invincible they are as they lazily annihilate the forces in their path.


Comics[edit | hide]

Jason: I decorated my gingerbread men in little Star Trek uniforms.
Paige: Good lord, could you be a bigger geek? (Jason eats a cookie) Why are they all wearing red shirts?

  • Green Lantern comics consistently depict unnamed (and occasionally, named) Green Lanterns getting slaughtered whenever a new bad guy shows up. Even though every one of them wields "the most powerful weapon in the universe," they inevitably suffer gruesome, meaningless deaths. This also highlights the completely arbitrary nature of combat between ring-wielders.
  • Mr. Immortal from Great Lakes Avengers got a red shirt for his X-Mas present since, you know, he's a Redshirt Army by himself...
  • In an IDW company Star Trek comic, a Red Shirt security officer named Boyd outright complains about this to Chekov, Bones, and two other security officers. His words: "You're not redshirts, you two are fine. Security doesn't always make it home as much as you guys."
  • Phil Foglio's Buck Godot series has the evil "X-Tel" corporation, whose security forces' uniform consists of grey shirts... and red PANTS.
  • In one issue of Toyfare's Twisted Toyfare Theatre, Kirk returns from a mission in which "only a dozen redshirts died," to find himself in the Mirror Universe, where the meek and pragmatic Mirror Kirk is protected by the immortal Redshirts. TTT loves playing with these. There are usually Redshirts around to die in stories featuring Captain Kirk, and the title page of one of the trade paperbacks shows Kirk and Spock standing amidst a sea of Redshirts while Spock looks around uneasily.
  • The X Wing Series comics started to display this later on. There were complaints after the first several arcs that, while people quit or transferred out, no-one ever died. Promptly someone who'd been there since the beginning and one who'd been around for an arc got killed in Requiem for a Rogue, and in the arc after that four new pilots were introduced. One instantly immersed himself in a subplot, another took equally little time to establish her status as part of a rather pragmatic Proud Warrior Race. The other two failed to do anything but sort of hang around in the background, and by the end of the book those two had been shot down and killed within two pages of each other.
  • Empowered, being a superhero comic (albeit a parody) also has Mooks, but one supervillain ThugBoy once worked for really took the cake when he made his Witless Minions wear shirts with an emblem looking like a bullseye. Wow. Now that is...
  • Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers: The whole mini-series is basiclly a Transformers story told from the viewpoint of a bunch of Red Shirt second stringers. In fact a large part of the characters's protrayals are built around the fact that this trope applies. Pyro fears that he'll die a meaningless death so he's spent most of his life trying to plan the perfect death. Ironfist is basiclly in complete denial about his role as a Red Shirt until later in the story where he seems to almost quietly accept his percieved unavoidable death.
  • In a recent Taskmaster mini-series, the main villian is former mook turned leader how actually CALLS himself Red Shirt. He's the only one that doesn't get the joke.
  • Agents of SHIELD who are not major characters could just as easily be called Blue Shirts with the number of times SHIELD agents are killed en masse.
    • The same goes for former Marvel supervillain prison, The Vault which was not only a Cardboard Prison but was staffed by an army of men wearing armor based on Iron Man suits called The Guardsmen. Every time there was a breakout, several of them would be killed. In fact, Venom once killed a group of Guardsmen during one of his many escapes and the guards' friends and family became an armored Super Team intent on killing him.
  • For nine issues, Amazing Stories ran a comic strip written and drawn by John Kovalic about the perils of being a red shirt. The strip was called Redshirts, and it has been collected in its entirety here.

Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • "Those Poor Guys In Red" by Vlad G. Pohnert is an excellent compilation set to "Another One Bites The Dust" by Queen providing an impressive number of examples of why those guys in Star Trek: The Original Series were the Trope Namer.
  • The Finnish Star Trek/Babylon 5 spoof Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning puts the Trek redshirts against the B5 security forces. The carnage was horrible. The redshirts throughout the Star Wreck series are also given names that reflect their expendable nature, such as "Lt. Suicide", "Sgt. Manshield", and "Lt. Cannonfodder".
  • Cleverly spoofed in a short Star Trek parody film, Steam Trek: The Moving Picture (premise: Trek as it would be done 100 years ago by George Melies), where the expendable member of the away team wears a shirt with a target on the back. Also, this character is listed in the opening credits as "Ensign Expendable". For some reason, the opening credits were cut out of the YouTube version, but the full parody film can be seen here, under "Films."
  • Notorious Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic author Stephen Ratliff unironically(?) gave us Ensign Throwaway in his Marissa Picard stories.
  • This is frequently played with in Trek fanfics. A typical example is here.
  • Played deliberately straight by the crew of the Enterprise in the Star Trek Deviant ART web comic, Ensign Sue Must Die! The crew quickly find out that Ensign Mary Sue is extremely annoying. Virtually all attempts to get rid of her fail. Including shooting her! She's spent the past few years building up an immunity to phaser blasts. So the crew turn to the one guaranteed way of killing off a crew member. They give her a promotion which changes her shirt colour from blue to red. They waste no time and go on an away mission, where she is killed almost immediately.

Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • If you're a 00-agent early in a James Bond film, kiss your ass goodbye. Subverted in GoldenEye, when the Big Bad turns out to be the "dead" 00-agent.
  • In the Hellboy movies the random B.P.R.D. agents who accompany the big red guy on his missions all but define redshirt.
  • Hilariously lampshaded in the Austin Powers movie Goldmember.

Nigel Powers: Have you got any idea how many anonymous henchmen I've killed over the years? I mean, look at you. You don't even have a name tag. You've got no chance. Why don't you just fall down?

  • This trope was parodied very effectively in Galaxy Quest in the character of Guy Fleegman, "Crewman Number Six"—who is the only cast member NOT shot or killed during the climactic final battle! (Although a bit of time travel makes everyone else better). Lampshade Hanging at its finest (also see Plucky Comic Relief). In the end, he gets a major role in the new Galaxy Quest series, in a reference to the fact that Star Trek: The Next Generation featured a Security officer as a main character throughout its entire run and in general saw far fewer redshirt deaths.
  • A film that seriously plays with the concept is Aliens. Who can forget Hudson's "Four more weeks and out" tirade? The movie does kinda play it straight with Crowe and Wierzbowski; one line from Crowe (said when he's offscreen), and no lines from poor Ski except a scream.
  • A discreet spoof in the movie The Running Man: Two contestants wore yellow jumpsuits while two wore red. Guess who died?
  • Star Wars:
  • The countless native African servants and carriers in the Allan Quartermain movie adaptions exist only to be eaten by crocodiles or killed by traps so that the danger can be demonstrated without killing off a main character.
  • During the opening of Indiana Jones and The Raiders of The Lost Ark, Indy is accompanied by two random native guides. They don't make it.
  • In the 2009 Star Trek movie, Kirk (in blue) and Sulu (in gold) are accompanied on a drop mission to take out a planetary drill with a character wearing red armor (to guard against the heat of reentry). Guess which one of the trio dies? At first it seems to be a subversion, as he survives what seems to be the obvious fate of missing the platform and falling to his death from the upper atmosphere of a planet. Unfortunately for the poor guy, it's a Double Subversion; his final fate actually manages to be fairly spectacular. His parachute catches on the platform, and he gets vaporized by the drill.

This was completely intentional, according to the commentary—Abrams and the writers called this their "red shirt moment".

  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Two crew members die in a teleporter accident, although they aren't seen to be wearing red shirts (in fact, no-one is).
    • This is an odd case, in that one of the victims of the transporter was Lt. Sonak, who would have been a main character in the aborted Star Trek: Phase II. Mr. Sonak was to replace Cdr. Spock, as Leonard Nimoy would not reprise his role for the series. When Nimoy agreed to return for the feature, which was based on elements of Phase II, Xon was killed so that there would be a vacancy for Spock to fill.
  • Star Trek: First Contact:
    • Ensign Lynch. Apparently, Picard attended his wedding. Something of a subversion, in that Captain Picard actually gets called out for how callously he dismisses Ensign Lynch's murder.
    • There's also another guy named Hawke.
  • The Mummy 1999. In the end, the only people who make it out are the four protagonists.
  • In Planet of the Dinosaurs, the cast wears various colored uniforms, but those killed die in no particular order.
  • There are literal redshirts in Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Subverted in Smokin Aces. Though many nameless cops bite it in the various shootouts, our hero is so distressed by the mass carnage that it sends him into a Heroic BSOD. He laments "So many people are dead!" even as his superiors try to get him to callously brush it off and do his job.
  • The X-Men film franchise averts this a few times:
    • A Red Shirt security guard eventually drove Nightcrawler away when he attacked the President. Granted, this was after a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from the mutant.
    • A Redshirt Army captured many mutant students in the same film. They drive the named X-Men away from the school in the process.
    • A lone police officer briefly takes Wolverine down with a shot to the head, which was also in the second film.
    • In the third, another Redshirt Army fights Magneto's own Redshirt Army, the Morlocks, and they hold their own quite well. In the same sequence, a nameless Morlock is able to briefly take the upper hand against Wolverine until he is defeated. Lampshaded when Magneto admits that he sent his least-powerful Mooks into battle as Cannon Fodder, saying "In chess, the pawns go first."
    • In Wolverine's own movie, he and Sabretooth are captured and executed by Red Shirt soldiers. They healed.
  • The Lord of the Rings series depicts several armies as both good guys and bad guys, so it's understandable when you get hundreds of Red Shirt moments per movie.
  • In Congo, all of the African porters fit this trope.
    • Also Richard. He wasn't even in the novel.
  • Beth Emhoff in Contagion is both this and a dead Living MacGuffin at the same time, being killed off within the first few minutes. Her recent interactions are then investigated throughout the rest of the film, and then the cause is revealed to be an infected pig being touched by a chef who then held her hand for a photograph.


Gamebooks[edit | hide]

  • Averted in the Fighting Fantasy book Starship Traveller. Your security personnel are much more competent in both phaser and close combat; this is reflected by having all non-security characters take a -3 Skill penalty in combat—presumably showing that a character's Skill stat is for their particular job, not their ability in general. But then played almost straight in the fact that it is indicated that there are a great number of faceless nameless redshirts available in your crew for horrible things to happen to (if you play well-in a way that won't get your identified personnel killed) and that you and your crew repeatedly, if such things happen, suffer a critical giving-a-shit failure.
  • Played straight in the Lone Wolf series where the titular character has the Aura of Death about him. Any companion or ally Lone Wolf picks up along his travels is *extremely* likely to die in horrible circumstances before the end of the current book. Any boat Lone Wolf is on will be attacked by pirates, sink, or both. And for god's sake man don't try to rescue a person in distress, of course it's a Helghast who murdered some random person and took their place just to have a shot at killing Lone Wolf.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Subverted in the Star Trek Expanded Universe novel The Eyes of the Beholders, by A.C. Crispin. The apparent red shirt for a mission not only survives but saves the rest of the away team.
  • Played with in the Day of Honor TOS novel. A redshirt got himself good and toasted... but it was in an honorable way to the Klingons. They decided to give this guy an annual holiday.
  • Also brilliantly skewered in the James Alan Gardner novel Expendable.
  • Chapter 3: Lucky Red Shirt, from Hell’s Children by Andrew Boland. The Shirt does not turn out to be lucky.
  • The African porters of Congo, the movie or the Crichton novel, seemed to regenerate like clones. "Oh, look, there are three left. Oh, wait, the apes just killed them all. Hey, where did those other two porters come from?"
  • In the Christopher Moore novel The Stupidest Angel, one character decides to wear a Starfleet command shirt because it's a festive, Christmas-y red colour. Another character even comments on how the redshirts always died in that series. Guess who gets shot in the head when the lead zombie walk's through the door? Here's a hint. He's wearing a red shirt, and it ain't the guy in the Santa suit.
  • David Weber hands out "Redshirt Awards" to fans who spot errors in his books. In the next book, he names a character after the fan, and kills him. Some of the later Honor Harrington books have had entire ships crewed by Redshirts, which then get blown up.
  • Even though the Warrior Cats series has a strict Anyone Can Die policy (and how), the seldom seen Tribe of Rushing Water is made up of about 75% Red Shirts, who get killed off in bunches pretty much anytime the Tribe is featured in a book.
  • In the prologue of Eragon, Arya is accompanied by two guards who are killed in the ambush quite easily. It's eventually deconstructed (albeit a few books too late), as she was great friends with one and in love (as much as elves can be anyway) with the other. Their deaths, along with, y'know, being tortured, are the reason she became The Stoic.
  • Stackpole's X Wing Series novels tend to use this rather heavily. Any number of members of Rogue Squadron have few lines and no impact on the plot, and quickly get themselves killed in dogfights. Some of them stick around for a surprisingly long time, but they always get killed sooner or later; the characters will mourn and forget about it in about four pages. Notably in Isard's Revenge the only pilots who actually got killed were the ones who had been introduced specifically for that book. Novels by Aaron Allston in that same series avert this pretty hard by use of Cast of Snowflakes and Mauve Shirt.
    • Interestingly, the leader of Rogue Squadron, Wedge Antilles, is sometimes cited as an Anti Red Shirt—a minor supporting character with little backstory who survives multiple dangers. In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, where he's not minor, it doesn't apply, but in the movies, it does.
    • The Rebel/Republic pilots all wear orange flight suits, not quite playing it straight, but not quite not.
  • Lampshaded by one Ciaphas Cain short story, where Adeptus Mechanus soldiers wear red uniforms. Ciaphas's narration even refers to them specifically as "redshirts" at one point, and predictably they're all slaughtered when the Necrons wake up.
  • A Terry Pratchett post in his fan newsgroup:

DW is based on a slew of old myths, which reach their most "refined" form in Hindu mythology, which in turn of course derived from the original Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Planet of Wobbly Rocks where the Security Guard Got Shot".

  • All Quiet on the Western Front spends some time justifying this. The training received by German soldiers at the time didn't even remotely prepare them for combat, and a hefty percentage of the New Meat died horribly through not knowing something a veteran would know. A few survived by blind luck, learned what would kill them through seeing what killed everyone else, and became the Fire-Forged Friends the story centers around. They're not very effective at communicating their newfound survival strategies, so the waves of New Meat that supplement their ranks continue to get mowed down (and continue to get replaced.)
  • Played for Laughs in The Red Tape War: "Under no circumstances are you to jeopardize your life or your ship. The life of your companion, however, is absolutely and thoroughly expendable."
  • Utterly spindled, folded and mutilated by Night of the Living Trekkies, where the hero encounters a terrified man in a red shirt at a Star Trek convention attacked by the living dead. Turns out that "Ensign Willy Makit" has lost the rest of his group, several trekkies who claim to be from the U.S.S. Expendible... who died in ways completely unrelated to the zombies. (Willy didn't even know about them until the hero showed up.) It gets better: Willy's real name is Kenny Dyes, and he ultimately dies... in a way completely unrelated to the zombie attacks.
  • Averted in The Name of the Wind, where the Adem, a warrior race whose mercenaries wear all red outfits, and are pretty unlikely to even be wounded.
  • Parodied by John Scalzi in his book Redshirts, told from the point of view of an ensign on a space exploration vessel:

The worms were in a frenzy. Somebody now was likely to die.
It was likely to be Ensign Davis.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Star Trek:
    • The first broadcast episode of the original series ("The Man Trap") has a body count of four minor crewmen, most of whom of course become monster chow shortly after beaming down to the planet. Ironically, the casualties are two blues, a gold and one unknown wearing a hazmat suit.
    • Despite it being the Trope Namer, quite a few of the characters that die in Star Trek: The Original Series are blue shirts or gold shirts. In fact, no red shirt deaths occur until the seventh episode. The dubious honor goes to Crewman Mathews, who is pushed into a bottomless pit in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"
    • This is either averted or subverted in "A Taste of Armageddon". Kirk, Spock, and three redshirts beam down to Eminiar VII whereupon landing, are sent to be killed. All of them survive.
    • An interesting case also occurs in "By Any Other Name". Two redshirts are turned into crystals, one of whom is a hot female yeoman, who would usually survive. The other is a more typical male security officer and is also black. It's the former that gets crushed into powder, however.
    • There is in fact an even more unfortunate color to be wearing, but it's more obscure: The two characters who wore the same beigey-yellow shirt both died in attacks on outposts, along with everyone with them.
    • Even the engineers (non-security redshirts during TOS) aren't safe, as shown in "The Ultimate Computer".
  • Later incarnations of Trek (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager) invert the term by switching uniform colors. Command staff in Star Trek: The Original Series wore yellowish uniforms and operations staff (such as security) red; from Star Trek: The Next Generation on this was swapped, making gold shirts the new target of preference while red shirts were usually safe and secure on bridge duty if not for the usual exploding console.
    • Not always, though, as the helm officer on the Enterprise-D was generally a redshirted ensign whose main function was to underscore how great the danger to the ship was by being the person on the bridge to die because of exploding consoles/suddenly materialising aliens/subspace phenomenon of the week/sentient voids in space/etc.
    • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Valiant", the title ship is crewed by cadet group called "Red Squad". Guess what happens...
  • Notably deconstructed in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Lower Decks." The episode was told almost entirely from the point of view of four low-level ensigns on the Enterprise, revealing how normally anonymous crewmembers deal with being kept in the dark about missions and being forced to constantly fight for the main characters’ respect. In the end, after one of them doesn’t make it back from the mission of the week, it deals with Captain Picard’s guilt and remorse at sending a comrade to her death.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. Averted in the early seasons by giving some screen time to crewmembers who were slated for death in later episodes (i.e. Hogan, Jonas, Carey). But eventually they reverted to bumping off anonymous ensigns by the shuttleload.
    • A notable subversion occurs in "Latent Image" where the Doctor is guilt-ridden over his choice to save Harry Kim as opposed to the expendable ensign.
    • And Harry Kim seems to have been intended as a subversion, as an Ensign without much of a real job on the ship, yet he's a major character. Who never, ever makes it past Ensign (except in alternate futures). And to be fair, Harry Kim does die an awful lot (he gets better).
    • The aversion is justified because of Voyager's premise. They are on the opposite side of the galaxy from Earth and 75,000 lightyears away from the closest starbase, so they don't have a practically infinite number of Starfleet recruits to replace them and they only have about 150 crew members, 100 being stated as the minimum to run the ship (though proven false on multple occasions). Thus they can't afford to have crew members Dying Like Animals all the time. However, they shaved about 1/7th of their time off every season, and got a few more crew in later, so the writers could start being more lenient and allow more deaths a few seasons in.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. The crew never suffered any fatal casualties in the first two seasons (despite incidents like a Romulan stealth mine blowing away a section of the hull), no doubt so as to avoid the "phaser fodder" cliché. All this changed in the third season Xindi war arc, with eighteen killed in "Azati Prime" alone. The trope is lampshaded in "The Forgotten", when Trip has to write a letter to the parents of a dead crewmember but can't remember much about her, so he keeps getting her mixed up with his Dead Little Sister. There's also two classic redshirt incidents: in "The Council" an away team takes along a MACO when entering one of the mysterious Spheres, and in Season 4 "Daedalus" Reed goes searching through a dark room for a Negative Space Wedgie with an unnamed crewmember—no guessing who gets killed on both occasions. Deliberately parodied in "In a Mirror, Darkly" where Mirror Reed puts on an Original Series redshirt with fatal consequences.
    • Starfleet Security's motto, according to one forum, was "Taking one for the team since 2151"
  • Played straight in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series and averted in one notable example: Helo was originally supposed to die during the miniseries, but the fans took a liking to him so the writers brought him back. Helo has since gotten his own season-long subplot, his own episode and has started a family with one of the core characters, as well as displaying morality that is more admirable and consistent than almost any other character on the show.
  • Random military types in Doctor Who often are used as cannon fodder. UNIT personnel are frequent victims. In the New Series, they have red hats too. This has been subverted a few times too. At least twice the Redshirt Army has beaten aliens the Doctor claimed they couldn't.
    • In the episode "Resurrection of the Daleks", the two who die in the Daleks' first assault have red hats.
    • In "Victory of the Daleks", new Daleks are created with colours according to their rank. Those with the rank of 'Drone' are red. We don't know if this was intentional.
  • In Crime and Punishment Series, the newly deceased Red Shirt often only has one week left to go before retirement. At the opposite end of a career-span, the first CSI episode had a Red Shirt who had only been on the job for a week (also done in The Bill).
  • Lost:
    • During a conversation with Lock, Boone was tying red shirts to trees. Eight episodes later, he died (and was the first main character to do so.) Lampshade Hanging and Foreshadowing at the same time. This scene is even more ironic because the actor who played Locke had been in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which he wore, you guessed it, a red shirt. He didn't die in the episode. Being that his Star Trek character got court martialed and imprisoned for his poor decisions as Captain which resulted in the deaths of his almost his entire crew and loss of his ship, he definitely doesn't have the right to call Kirk "a piss-poor Captain". (Although Kirk had his fair share of court martials as well, he only got a few redshirts killed at a time, not an entire crew in one go).
    • The show itself performs many a Lampshade Hanging on its actual red shirts. The characters Scott and Steve, for instance, are always confused by important characters, even after one of them dies (Hurley's eulogy for him boils down to "Sorry I could never remember your name.") The character Dr. Arzt is introduced near the end of season 1 and complains about how everyone (i.e., the main characters) acts like a high school clique. What happens to Arzt? He gets blown up an episode later.
    • A final point of irony in this quote comes from the fact that J.J. Abrams (the show's co-creator) went on to direct and produce the 2009 Star Trek movie (see above).
    • It's taken to pretty much the ultimate level in a Season 4 episode where one Red Shirt after another comes running out of a house during a huge gun battle, and each one is immediately mowed down. What makes it gold is that Sawyer screams at each one to go back in the house, and none of them listen.
    • So in conclusion, hopefully any background castaways have learned to duck and cover if one of their fellows starts to do anything more but help out quietly.
    • They haven't learned: in the second episode of season 5, Neil "Frogurt" gets hit by a flaming arrow while wearing a red shirt. Sure enough, several more redshirts get killed while the main characters successfully escape into the jungle.
  • 24. Any CTU field agent who isn't Jack Bauer or the season's Colonel Makepeace is a red shirt. In season 4 and part of season 5, CTU HQ's security officers actually wore red shirts—that is, until they were all killed at once in a nerve gas attack.
  • In Combat! they aren't so much red shirts as Redemption Equals Death shirts. In fact, a good way to tell if someone will die is if they are given a name.
  • Blakes Seven, having been designed in response to Star Trek, features a character announcing, "I am not expendable, I am not stupid, and I am not going."
  • In Babylon 5 the chief of security is Michael Garibaldi, who is named for the 19th century Italian revolutionary whose men were called The Red Shirts, making it possibly one of the best nods to this trope in history.
  • The Supernatural Season 5 episode "Good God, Y'All" has a whole town full of Red Shirts divided into thinking that the other side are demons so that Sam and Dean can figure it out and meet War, the Apocalyptic Horseman.
    • In season 6, Sam is called out for using the sheriff who fitted the monsters M.O. as bait to lure out the monster, and lead it back to its nest. In fact the trope was called by name.
    • Every girl Sam sleeps with With the exception of Cara in "Sex and Violence."
  • The Human Target season 1 episode "Rewind" has Laura, an antagonist assassin posing as a flight attendant, take the time to put on a stylish red jacket before getting into a fight with Chris Chance in the fuselage that leads to her falling out of an open hatch somewhere above Portland.
  • In the TV adaptation of Tremors nearly every episode starts off with some random construction worker/tourist/passer by getting brutally killed by some monster.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Potential slayers in season 7 repeatedly serve this role.
    • And parodied in the episode "Older and Far Away", where the one character who got hurt in the fight against the demon was a one-episode character wearing a red polo shirt.
  • In Todd and the Book of Pure Evil the student body of Crowley High frequently serves as victims of the user of the Book of Pure Evil (often another Crowley student). Lampshaded when the bodies of three students flayed alive are identified using the school's own set of dental records (created for such an occasion).
  • The Suite Life On Deck parodies this in the episode "Starship Tipton". Marcus says something along the lines of "Why do we have to wear these outfits? And the guys in red always get killed." Then a guy in a red shirt opens a hatch and gets sucked into space. Marcus replies "See?"
  • Lampshaded by Criminal Minds' Garcia about an unsub's medical records:

Garcia: Oh, my god, she was doomed. Like, Emily Brontë doomed. Like, Shakespeare doomed. Like, red-shirted ensign in Star Trek doomed.

  • Lost Tapes from Animal Planet has Noel Connor and Elise Mooney of the Enigma Corporation. Or specifically, anyone who is unfortunate enough to help them. Three appearances, five allies, no survivors.
  • Professional Wrestling has Armageddon 2000, Hell in a Cell. Undertaker vs. The Rock vs. Kurt Angle vs. Steve Austin vs. Triple H vs... Rikishi. Guess who gets chucked off the cell into a flatbed truck?
  • InStargate Atlantis any character who makes a premier appearance just as something is discovered is destined to meet a quick demise. The Red shirt du jour is introduced that episode, often by name. As the series' regulars investigate new technology or a recent discovery the newly introduced Red shirts keeping watch get toasted/Wraith-ed/introduced to the Monster of the Week.
  • In Stargate SG-1, several other SG teams were this.
    • This was lampshaded in an episode where a couple of Mauve Shirts are trying to rescue SG-1, and one of them says they might as well be wearing red shirts.


Music[edit | hide]

  • Parodied many times over in filk, from Leslie Fish's "Landing Party Blues" to "Redshirt's Lament":

Tis a gift to wear a gold shirt or a blue, you see
But look, my dear, what they have done to me
Even Engineering would a blessing be
But no, they've made me Security
Whe-en the landing party's gone
I'll be there with my red shirt on
I'll make sure my estate's all orderly
Because that is the last that you'll see of me

They said this air would be breathable
Get in, get out again and no one gets hurt
Something is dragging me up a hill
I look down in my red shirt
I look down in my red shirt


Sports[edit | hide]

  • Ever notice how in snooker it's the red balls that have the lowest value and don't get put back on the table after they've been potted?
  • In a way, American football averts this. When practicing, quarterbacks will wear red shirts so defenders will know not to hit them and thus not risk injuring them. This is because quarterbacks are the most important player on the offense and at the pro level, they're worth the most amount of money, so the quarterback is actually in the least amount of danger. However, it's played straight with college freshmen and rookie pros, who traditionally go through a "redshirt" year where they only play during practice.


Stand-up comedy[edit | hide]

  • Eddie Izzard has a routine poking fun at this, in which Steve from the accounts department beams down alongside Captain Kirk.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Paranoia has the players taking the roles of Troubleshooters tasked with the job of shooting trouble wherever it should arise in Alpha Complex. The starting rank is "Red". As each character is part of a six-pack of clones, the body count can rack up astronomically quickly....
  • This RPG motivational poster explains it all...
  • Brikwars gives Hero units the explicit ability to make other units Redshirt.
  • A minor setting in Warhammer 40,000 is Kill Team, where a squad of highly trained specialists go up against countless enemies, and they can purchase upgrades. The most useful: Red Shirt, a minor character who, according to the other Kill Team members, is probably going to get killed in a variety of gory ways. Can be averted in that if the Red Shirt survives, he becomes a member of the Team, and upgraded accordingly.
    • Acolytes in the 3rd edition Inquisition codexes were essentially extra Wounds for your Inquisitor.
    • Only War has "Comrades" - type of NPC using simplified, even less survivable rules. Their purpose is to be padding for units, provide volume of fire and perform less exciting duties - vox operators, loaders for gunners, spotters for snipers, choir for the priests, assistants for medics, spare weapon carriers, and so on. They are requisitioned from reserves (if any) much the same way as equipment, and are equipment (servitors) in the case of Tech-priest. However, Comrades with roles requiring more coordination than "carry extra stuff and shoot at my targets" cost XP (both sides need some training to work together efficiently), and there are variants including "veteran comrade" advancement (having an Old Soldier as one of the Comrades costs extra XP, but they fight somewhat better and can participate in Veteran Orders).
  • Munchkin:
    • In Star Munchkin, there is a hireling called a red shirt. Their only use is to die when you lose a battle, thus preventing the "Bad Stuff" from happening to you. However, they have, on a success, a one in six chance of getting overexcited and sacrificing themselves anyway.
    • The Good, the Bad and the Munchkin has the greenhorn, whose only purpose is to be fed to a monster so you can steal its stuff and run away while it's busy chewing.
  • The Grave Robbers From Outer Space series of B-movie games has a character in at least two whose function is that he has to die before anyone else.
  • Scion hangs a big lampshade on this with the rules for extras. Extras are red shirts in all but name.
    • Which it inherited in their entirety from it's papa-game, Exalted. The Exalted community has long referenced Extras as 'Mooks', and the game encourages them to be considered little more than ambulatory scenery for the awesome epic melodrama that is the Player Character's lives.
  • The Star Wreck Roleplaying Game literally has Redshirts instead of a hit points.
  • Spirit of the Century has minions. In a bit of a switch these are mostly for the villains, but they go down right quick, and, if they are attached to a character, must quite literally die before the character can even be hurt.
  • Given that there was inevitably a Collectible Card Game based on Star Trek, and given CCG Importance Dissonance, there were inevitably actual Red Shirt characters you could deploy. Having said that, once players hit on the idea of sending in a single character to set off all the opponent's traps, that tactic was inevitably called "Redshirting" as well.
  • Planet Mercenary, according to game mechanics preview, has “The Ablative Meat Shield” rule, providing a stream of Red shirts; they also can be promoted to Mauve shirts and used as spare Player Characters.

Theater[edit | hide]

  • Parodied with the Tortuga Twins live show "Tortuga Spies" where the show's villain has two minions in pink shirts. During the second act, a third minion wearing a red shirt is added and immediately shot and killed. It's then Lampshaded in that the villain comments about getting the joke as the minion is dragged off stage.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation licensed game (SNES/Genesis) has over a dozen Ensigns who can accompany you on away missions, despite there being no advantage in doing so; series regulars like Data and Worf have more health, while Dr. Crusher has healing packs. On the plus side, you can kill off as many Ensigns as you want, whereas losing two officers will abort the mission. Even the game doesn't care if they die.
  • Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force: The game lampshades this by giving the "Redshirt Award" to the teammate who died the most during a Capture the Flag or Team Deathmatch game.
    • The "Virtual Voyager" Mode of the expansion plays with this in the death message, (Like drilling a hole through Neelix, or arming the ships self-destruct causing crew members to whip out phasers on you) saying "What color shirt are you wearing?".
  • In Gears of War:
    • Carmine (whose name is a shade of red) is a rookie squadmember who is the only character to wear a helmet and mask. He's also the first squad member to die in the game (and actually one of the only two characters who die), shot in the head by a sniper after the first couple of levels.
    • Repeated in part two, when Carmine's brother (who joins your team) dies even more horribly. The first Carmine's Red Shirt status was Lampshaded before that by a dialogue between the brother and Dom.
    • Oddly, Benjamin Carmine (one of the original's three brothers, and the one in Gears 2) manages to last a lot longer, nearly to the end of the game. He also is a pretty damn good sniper.
    • Also in Gears of War, the member of Alpha Squad who runs off and is instantly killed by the berserker is listed in the credits as Redshirt Gyules.
  • Almost every friendly NPC in the first-person shooter Half-Life is a redshirt. The security guards tag along and give support, but their low hit points and wimpy pistols mean they never last long. And the scientists, oh those poor scientists. Almost all of them only exist to die in scripted set-pieces to remind you of how insanely dangerous everything is. (One of the guards, however, got his own spin-off. You don't mess with Barney.)
  • Fairly frequent in L.A. Noire's street crime submissions. Valiant police officers are usually picked off in beginning cut-scene for the mission, and you'll never see or hear of him again. They're never even mentioned when you report back for a coroner at the end of the mission. No "officer down" or "notify this nameless cop's family he's been shot," just get a coroner for, most likely, the guys you shot.
  • Parodied in Space Quest 5, where miscellaneous crew members all wear blue shirts, and Roger Wilco, the protagonist (and ship's captain) is the one who wears a red shirt. Guess who gets shot at all the time?

Droole: This may be dangerous, lets split up so we can cover more territory.
Roger: Don't you think we should stick together?
Droole: Only if you do a quick wardrobe change, sir.
Roger: This is hardly a time to play fashion critic.
Droole: It's not that, it's your shirt... it's... well... so red... It's bad luck.
(they separate, only for Roger to be attacked later)

  • The amateur PC Adventure Game Adventures in the Galaxy of Fantabulous Wonderment, which is pretty much what it sounds like, takes the trope to its logical extreme by making redshirts into a commodity cloned and sold in 5-packs. They die in a great number of interesting ways. In fact it's actually impossible for an away mission to end any way but the death of the redshirt.
  • Jean Jack Gibson, from Snatcher. His outfit is more of a burgundy-orange, but it doesn't change the fact that his only purpose in-story is to be brutally murdered half an hour into the game.
  • In Mass Effect, the introductory mission on Eden Prime begins with a squadmate named Richard L. Jenkins. Guess what happens the first time you encounter any enemies. Go on, guess.
  • Introversion Software, creators of Uplink, included a bunch of bonus materials with the game. The catch? They (weakly) encrypted them via a encryption called "Red Shirt". Guess how long they expected it to take the fans to break the encryption? They also encrypted some game data (most notably, saved games) with the method, and replaced it with an update, called Red Shirt 2, in later versions. Their next game, Darwinia, also use a modified version of Red Shirt 2 for its saved games.
  • In Uplink itself, the LAN admins give their co-workers surprisingly obvious passwords, as if they want their friends' machines to get hacked into.
    • Not quite. Passwords start out weak, and are crackable with a dictionary attack (which is faster than brute force). However, as security breaches become bigger news, passwords get stronger and the dictionary attack becomes useless.
  • Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis lampshaded this. All the named characters who died appear in the ending... in pictures, wearing red shirts.
  • The oarsmen on the ship to Tolbi in Golden Sun exist only to be slain by sea monsters, thus giving the player a chance to veer the ship off its course—and they're all wearing red bandanas.
  • In Fire Emblem, since the games are known for having Loads and Loads of Characters, you would think that there would not be many red shirts. However, on numerous occasions green colored "Other" units will be found either as generic guards or NPC reinforcements. They are usually of the class "Soldier", which no characters that you recruit will ever have (though they are also sometimes seen as enemy units). Worse still, they have some of the lowest stats in the game. Soldiers are given better stats and made into a playable class in Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, but they still seem to be the go-to class for neutral units.
  • Quest for Glory 5 has "Kokeeno Pookameeso" as one of your competitors for the throne. This translates into "Red Shirt". Guess which of your competitors is first to die? (If you do the side quests, Kokeeno acts a bit more like a Mauve Shirt, getting a good amount of dialog that shows him to be a good and honorable man with admirable reasons for entering the Rites of Rulership. Sadly, it doesn't do him a lot of good.)
  • Parodied and lampshaded in the fourth movie based off of Mastermind World Conqueror.

Male Patsy: I'm not dying to prove the situation is critical! I won't go down like a goddamned redshirt!
The Tudor: You know, we're all wearing red shirts...
Female Patsy: Oh, **** me, none of us are safe! He could kill one of us at any time...!
Mastermind: While I appreciate, and thank you for, the Star Trek reference, you got me. I was going to test this portable Doom Laser out on one of you.

  • In Spore, there is an achievement called "Red Shirt" to obtain it you must lose 100 crew members while playing adventures.
  • The repair team in Dead Space consist of three named characters and some additional guards. None of the latter survive the first act.
  • In Star Trek Online:
    • Your ship's crew is made up almost entirely of these. The crew is represented as a bar shaped like a line of people, and it gets colored and goes dark as you take damage in space. On the ground, any party member spot not filled with a bridge officer has a generic security officer to fill the spot, who is not customizable or upgradable. The only exceptions are the Captain (the player's character) and his/her NPC senior officers.
    • This trope is inverted in the tutorial when your Captain sends you over alone to a ship infested with Borg; a total red shirt mission. Instead of the Borg killing you, they board your ship and kill off every officer aboard. This leaves you, an ensign, as the senior surviving officer and thus in command of the ship.
  • In Halo Marines drop like flies.
    • The first two redshirts pop up right after the tutorial (one of them is only in existence on Easy or Normal). One of the crewmen who was guiding your tutorial is gunned down by Elites, and the other is killed by an explosion as soon as he leaves the room.
    • Sergeant Johnson was likely intended as a redshirt until Bungie realized how much the fans liked him.
    • In fact, when Halo is blown up, it was very likely that every marine on it was dead. And if it wasn't... well, they're dead now.
  • Double Subverted in Tales of the Abyss. Because clones (here called "replicas") aren't bound to a prophecy that affects the entire planet's population, the Big Bad wants to replicate the world and everyone in it. Since cloning people in this setting tends to kill the original, the originals that the Big Bad used for his clone army become Red Shirts to their replicas, since the Big Bad wants them to live in the place of the originals. However, that same clone army ends up becoming Red Shirts themselves when our heroes storm his fortress and wipe them out.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy VII, the blue-clad Shinra Army can often be cut down by the weakest of hits. It's worse in Crisis Core, where 1000 Shinra infantryman are unable to defeat Zack in an optional mission. In Dirge of Cerberus, the white-shirted WRO serves this purpose.
    • Final Fantasy VIII has the Galbaldian soldiers, who in a funny way look like Shinra Army, who are also easily cut down. This really shines bright in the SeeD final exam part of the game when the anxious Galbaldians who attempt to ambush your party try to fight at obviously unwinnable odds. Their are even soldiers in Red uniforms as well as the blue.
  • During a surprise attack on a supply depot in Growlanser 2, the mildly Genre Savvy enemy commander has the following exchange with a guard:

Byron: You... token guard that's gonna die anyway... try and slow them down!
Burnstein Soldier 6: Uh... okay...

  • In the Cataclysm expansion of World of Warcraft, there's a quest named "Madness" in which you are to accompany a Horde Negotiator to speak with the leader of the Dragonmaw clan of Orcs. You're informed that two have already been sent and not returned, but the quest giver feels assured that if you accompany the negotiator, the clan leader will respect your strength. Along the way, the developers attempt a trope overload, as the Negotiator lampshades Retirony, informs you that "After these negotiations, I am looking forward to a long and prosperous life." If talked to, he questions you "Hey, does this red shirt make me look expendable?" Once you begin negotiations, as one might predict from the quest name, the following conversation eventually takes place: "This is madness!" "This is... DRAGONMAW!" with an accompanying sparta kick into the fire for the poor Red Shirt.
    • One particular player we all know about happens to have been in a party all wearing red shirts when his name became immortalized. Maybe that's why Leeroy...Leeroyed.
  • Subverted in a trailer for Marvel vs. Capcom 3: When Chun Li's helicopter is brought down by Super Skrull, both she and Captain America actually take care to save and protect the nameless pilot.
  • The Tutorial level of Metal Arms: Glitch in the System features a pair of droids named Hosed and Screwed. No points for guessing what happens to them.
  • Any non-plot-critical NPC's in the Medal of Honor series. Sometimes, your allies are scripted to automatically drop dead if they aren't killed prior to a certain point. Plot-essential NPC's will generally become these after they've served their purpose.
  • In EVE Online, there's a mission where the objective is to find a man named Red. When he's found he's dead and described as wearing a red shirt.
  • Touhou has both the fairy maids of Koumakan and the rabbits of Eientei, alternating between Red Shirts and Mooks depending on perspective, whose sole purpose is to get slaughtered by vastly more powerful characters, with Silent Sinner in Blue in particular not being kind to them. Fortunately for them, in Gensoukyou Non Lethal KOs are the law.
  • In Fallout 3, the power armored soldier in Operation Anchorage who runs into the pulse field and dies is labeled a Red Shirt in the GECK.
  • In the Team Fortress 2 "Meet The Videos" this trope is inverted with the RED team mercenaries regularly defeating BLU mercenaries.
  • The Gallian army in Valkyria Chronicles. If the raw deal a Red Shirt normally gets is a sushi platter, the one these guys get is still flopping on the deck with its eyes bugging out. For starters, their only representative is an asshole and none of them have faces, defining traits, or redeeming value (when their enemy counterparts get two cutscenes to show how human they are). Then the vast majority gets burnt alive in an explosion, which is par for the Red Shirt course, except the explosion was a woobiefying moment for the person who blew them up, and no one cares that they're all dead afterward. And as if that wasn't enough, if the player somehow manages to kill off all the distinct personalities of Squad 7, they'll start filling slots in the militia, and still have no faces or final words, fully prepared to die in thankless, anonymous droves (and if the player didn't care about Squad 7, they probably won't mind killing off what amounts to ordinary, faceless Player Mooks). Apparently the difference between the militia and the army is that the army can train soldiers to be more disposable than toilet paper.
  • When you go to trap the dragon Odahviing in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the people on the Dragonsreach balcony are you, the Jarl of Whiterun, his adjutant, and some nameless guard. No points for guessing which one gets snapped up and flung into the distance on Odahviing's first pass.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Coffin Comics: The first comic uses this as an example of a Warcraft dungeon party gone wrong.
  • Completely subverted in Starslip Crisis with the introduction of Quine, a "Protocol Officer" who's in charge of building relationships with new species. While he has a tendency to die on every "away mission", upon death, a clone is awakened on ship with all of his memories up to the time of death intact. The trope is outright inverted by the fact that he's the only member on the ship with this privilege (due to the rarity and importance of the protocol officer).
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • The appropriately red-shirted Lieutenant (later Lieutenant-Commander) Der Trihs (Red Shirt spelled backwards) is a subversion, as he's repeatedly injured in various grievous ways, including being reduced to a head-in-a-jar a couple of times, but never actually dies. Instead, he actually "wins the game" by retiring from the mercenary business to live with a pretty girl on a paradisaical vacation-planet. It is revealed at one point that his skull is quite nearly impervious to harm.
    • Another strip also references this: "Would you take a red shirt for a pay raise?"
  • Intragalactic has its Enstant Ensigns, who are apparently mass-produced disposable clones in stylish red outfits. They work hard and die with great efficiency, some even climbing into their disposal Ensacks before the ship crashes, to save time. Then, when the ship docks, they are taken off to the Ensignerator.
  • Officers Getskilled and Oneshot in Girly. Amusingly, neither of them die, and Getskilled goes on to become a minor part of the ensemble until at last he meets his eventual fate. It's pretty cool.
  • Sluggy Freelance has been around long enough to have hit this Trope dozens of times. Without even bringing in the number of disposable elves who die in the formerly annual Christmas messes, there's:
  • I Was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space features at least two strips Lampshading this Trope, as seen here.
  • What's New with Phil and Dixie strip on "Weatherlight" Saga has "Snapper" McFipt:

Shipman. You know when a monster or ninja or something sneaks on board and attacks a crewman to show how evil it is? Well, the person it attacks is McFipt, and he's getting pretty tired of it.

  • Parodied in Legostar Galactica where one of the main characters is Ensign Red Shirt and is continually being killed yet is always brought back to life. It's to the point that a laser shot in the opposite direction will actually bend just to hit him. It is subverted later, however, when a series of accidents fall on another character while sparing Ensign Red Shirt, who's the first surprised.
  • Played with in Strip 480 of Metroid: Third Derivative in which Joey asks for red paint so he can paint a Red Shirt on all the other degenerates.
  • Heavily subverted and parodied in the Order of the Stick, where two nameless redshirts manage to survive (and even become secondary characters) by the rule of Nominal Importance. Belkar even referred to them as "the two redshirts" at the beginning.
  • Referenced in this Freefall strip.
  • And in this Unshelved strip.
  • In The KAMics we see the Redshirt Bearer Brigade & in the author's notes User:KAM brags none will survive.
  • The clone troopers in Darths and Droids. Amusingly, in some cases they're eager to die.

Cdr. Cody: Although, we could go in first to see if it's a trap.
Obi-wan: That's... very nice of you. But don't worry. I'm sure it's a trap.
Cody: We could go in first and trigger the trap.
Obi-wan: You guys need a union.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Finding creative ways to kill off redshirts was part of the fun for some of the writers of the League of Intergalactic Cosmic Champions (other writers thought they were sick).
  • This shirt.
  • This shirt, too.
  • The French Web writer ASP Explorer, in the 9th story in his work Les Fantastiques Aventures de Morgoth l'Empaleur (not related to this Morgoth), plays with this hilariously: the adventuring party meet in jail a young and idealistic 1st-level mage called Tiberius K. Redshirt. He wishes to accompany them when they escape, and shortly later we learn that his middle name is Kenny. One of the main characters explains stealthily to the hero that nobody else expect him to last alive very long, because he doesn't have the thing, whatever it is, that make an adventurer. He open doors, he pull levers, he press switches and not only lives through the dungeon, which ironically is not the case of the character who distrusted him, though it is unrelated, but gains enough XP to become 8th-level innkeeper when he quits adventuring. He then lives a long and peaceful life until the age of ninety-three years, when he dies by falling from a staircase.
    • And his death is later retconned away when he gains another bunch of levels and more-or-less ascend to godhood.
  • All D-class personnel of the SCP Foundation are this. Class D is the designation given to those who handle the more dangerous SCP items, and they tend to be brutally killed en masse. Being demoted to Class D is considered a Fate Worse Than Death.
  • Cheat Commandos parodies this with its Green Helmets. "We've got, like, fifty of them!" Taken further as Green Helmet action figures come in packs of three, and are advertised as being "extra melty".
  • On Stone Trek this is consistently Lampshaded: Every time a Red Shirt dies, a "Dead Red Shirt Count" is shown.
    • It's also played with in the episode Star Trekkin just about everyone but Kirkstone, Sprock, and RcKoy dies, though Sprock is transformed into one of the creepy jellyfish (his head on their tentacles).
  • Lampshaded in Worms Trek Rhapsody. One gets hit by a Klingon missile (Scotty's line "Hit by Klingon missiles, no!"), another gets fired out of a torpedo bay ("Photon torpedooooooos!").
  • Parodied in this image caption.
  • The College Humor short Jurassic Park Character's Awful Realization is explicitly about this, wherein the main cast are arguing over who should distract the T-rex with a flare. Gennaro is elected for this, and accuses the others, "I'm only here to die, aren't I?" The other characters fail to reassure him ("You're a very important character!") and an argument ensues wherein Genre Savvy Gennaro insists it's unfair to ask the most obviously doomed character to go out there, saying Grant and Ellie are both needed experts, Malcolm is the tension-relieving comic relief, and Tim and Lex are kids, and he's simply "the lawyer." The others try and convince him maybe he's a Mauve Shirt instead. Malcolm ultimately tosses him out of the Explorer and after a failed attempt to persuade the T-rex he's plot relevant by saying he's Tim and Lex's real father, he gets nommed.
  • On Smosh, in this video.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Captain Simian and The Space Monkeys: The holo-boons, Hard Light baboons in red jumpsuits.
  • Perfectly parodied in the South Park episode "City on the Edge of Forever". The school bus is trapped teetering on the edge of a cliff and the bus driver leaves to find help, ordering the kids to remain on the bus or else a big black monster will eat them. After a long time of waiting, the children grow nervous and antsy. One of the kids—a child wearing an actual Star Trek Red Shirt outfit—can't take the waiting and leaves the bus to find help. No black monster appears and the kid even waves back to the other kids, causing remarks from the main characters about how the bus driver must have lied... only for the big black monster to immediately appear and eat the red-shirted kid.
  • Futurama:
    • Parodied in "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", in which the entire Star Trek: The Original Series cast is threatened by a jealous energy being, but only Welshy (a parody of a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Scotty), who's dressed in the classic Red Shirt, gets killed. Three times over.
    • In the same episode, a flashback of the so-called Star Trek Wars is shown where some officials are throwing redshirted Star Trek devotees into a volcano while chanting "He's dead Jim."
    • Additionally, Zapp Brannigan's entire brigade all wear red which accurately shows how he often sacrifices them freely and considers all missions suicide missions.
  • Kim Possible:
    • Parodied in the Trapped in TV Land episode called "Dimension Twist", when Kim is temporarily sent to a Star Trek-esque TV show and appears in a red uniform:

Wade: This is the part of the show where they pick series regulars to go on a mission. Just make sure you're not the one wearing...
Kim: ... A Red Shirt?
Pseudo-Kirk: And... (to Kim) you! You're expendable.

    • And parodied again in another episode with a cheese tour guide wearing a red dress and a logo that resembles Starfleet's. She is last seen swept away in molten cheddar, no sign of Kim rescuing her or anything.
    • Also, Drakken's rank-and-file henchmen wear red uniforms. They don't get killed because it's not that kind of show, but they are generally easy to defeat.
  • Family Guy:
    • Parodied in the same episode that the quote at the top of this article comes from: when Peter is running in the road with William Shatner, the latter gets hit and killed by a car. The camera then pans to Ensign Ricky, who declares: "I did not see that coming."
  • Played straight in The Simpsons "Trouble with Trillions", where a man in Moe's we've never seen before is arrested for admitting to being part of a militia which plans to beat up US presidents. Lampshaded in the DVD Commentary.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • The episode "Lair of Grievous" makes use of this Trope; Jedi Master Kit Fisto is accompanied on his mission by his never-before-mentioned Padawan Nahdar Vebb and a group of clone troopers. Predictably enough, each of them had died a horrible death by the end of the episode. The writers were aware of this convention and gave the clones red-striped body armour.
    • Any clone that bears completely white armor would be dead by the end of the episode.
    • Any clone that doesn't have a name in any episode.
    • Many clones who DO have names also die. Their death is just more noticible and sudden, and gives a name for the main characters to scream out in sorrow. Matchstiiiiiiick!!!
  • Lampshaded endlessly in an episode of The Venture Brothers, where Mauve Shirt Henchmen #21 and #24 repeatedly taunt the previously unseen Henchman #1 for his red shirt status. By the end of the episode, #1 is beaten to death by Brock Samson, as the Genre Savvy #21 and #24 miraculously escape harm. Although, bizarrely enough, it later turned out that #1 Wasn't Quite Dead after all...
  • The Red Shirt gets his revenge in Robot Chicken with a Star Trek sketch. When the crew teleported down to a planet to survive the Enterprise exploding, the crew reasons that to survive one of them must be sacrificed as food. Obviously they choose the Red Shirt first, but the Red Shirt tells them off by saying "On behalf of all the redshirts that fell before me, it makes me very very proud to speak the following sentence... I'm the only one that brought a gun." He proceeds to kill and eat them all.

"Mmm... that's good ham."

  • Spoofed mercilessly in Sev Trek: Puss in Boots (the Australian CGI spoof of Star Trek: The Next Generation). An alien asks the Enterforaprize to supply hosts for its young, as they're reputed to have "endless supplies of expendable ensigns". After the offer is curtly refused ("Each ensign is a valuable member of our crew!") the alien runs rampant on the ship causing the death of 47 ensigns, mainly due to Failsafe Failures and the lousy aim of the main characters. The ensigns have names ranging from Ensign Anonymous to (naturally) Ensign Expendable. One dying ensign laments the fact that he would have been promoted to lieutenant in a few days, therefore becoming immune.
  • The Klokateers in Metalocalypse

Facebones: And most important, remember -- death is an everyday part of the workplace! So, when you see a dead body, don't freak out!
Toki: (is taking out the trash and comes across a rotting corpse) Wowee!
Facebones: Just... ring your Deth-bell!
Toki: (rings his Deth-bell)

  • Providence soldiers in Generator Rex. Not only are they merely cannon fodder, they're also completely useless when battling against actual EVOs, presumably so Rex can come and save the day. It gets horribly ironic in the episode "Basic", when Rex and Noah take up Providence's basic training - the trainees are expected to take down one of the strongest EVOs in the series (one that not even Rex was able to defeat, even with his powers). Each of them, alone. With just a gun. It's not so much Training from Hell as it is a ridiculous joke.
    • Naturally this rule doesn't apply to any Providence Soldier whose seen Without A Helmet, they're all Mauve Shirts and generally fair pretty well, though the rules of Family-Friendly Firearms seem to dictate that they can never accomplish anything meaningful with their rifle-err, "Blasters".
  • Lampshaded in the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Duck Trek"

Plucky: Spork, Doctor, you're with me. (To the Red Shirts) You extras wander off that way and disappear. (And they do)


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The Thai Red Shirts have begun to display this Trope, as they seem to be regularly defeated, or forced into retreat, by the Thai army. Probably because they are mainly civilians up against the Thai army, but one still can't deny that the placement of the name makes it somehow appropriate.
  • Some think that the British Redcoats in the Revolutionary war embodied this Trope. Your Mileage May Vary.
    • Arguably, the Battle of New Orleans at the end of the War of 1812 might fit this.
    • They were Red Shirts, but no more than the Rebels, the French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were.
  • The men fighting for Italian freedom fighter Garibaldi were also called red shirts. Things went better for them.
  • General A.P. Hill in the American Civil War apparently wore a Red Shirt that he called his "battle shirt" into battle. He dies in battle after Gettysburg.
  • The Red Shirt Fridays initiative is meant to honor killed and injured US military personnel. Either the RSF folks aren't aware of the Trope or they're deliberately making this a Funny Aneurysm Moment.
  • National security expert Richard Clarke, appearing on Real Time with Bill Maher:

Maher: Osama bin Laden never had a cell-phone or an Internet connection, because then you could track him. His number-two never had any, but the number-three... That's how he kept getting killed.
Clarke: Number Three was like the guy with the red shirt on Star Trek- (applause break) -we got a lot of them.

  • The Irish Brigade in the Service of France wore long skirted red coats while French uniforms were typically blue. The Irish Brigade is most well known for battles like Fontenoy, Cremona and Ramillies...in which they suffered extremely heavy casualties.
  • Averted with Greg Page.
  • Spartans were famous for wearing red cloaks. But then they didn't care. They were Spartans.
  • Ordinance(the guys that load bombs on planes) on US carriers wears red shirts. This is a bit of a subversion as despite the nasty stuff they work with they are not more likely to get killed then anyone else, or rather if anything does go off despite all precaution, a lot of people who aren't wearing red shirts are going to die in the crowded ship and the split-second difference from being the red shirt closest to the explosion will be meaningless.