It turns out being a Redshirt is less perilous than you think

Illustration for article titled It turns out being a Redshirt is less perilous than you think

A recent still from Star Trek: Into Darkness shows Benedict Cumberbatch surrounded by redshirts. This, we surmised, could only mean one thing. Anyone with a hint of SF-savvy knows that the grisly fate of a Starfleet crew member clad in crimson is as certain as Cumbermouth's tubercle is sharply defined; in the Star Trek Universe, red means dead. Or does it?

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Over on Significance, a magazine all about statistics, Matthew Barsalou has conducted a Bayesian statistical analysis of just how deadly (or not) wearing a red shirt truly is. Using a casualty figures complied by epic Star Trek wiki Memory Alpha, Barsalou set out to see whether wearing red in Star Trek: TOS is as hazardous has it's been made out to be. After much number-crunching, here's his conclusion:

Although Enterprise crew members in redshirts suffer many more casualties than crew members in other uniforms, they suffer fewer casualties than crew members in gold uniforms when the entire population size is considered. Only 10% of the entire redshirt population was lost during the three year run of Star Trek. This is less than the 13.4% of goldshirts, but more than the 5.1% of blueshirts. What is truly hazardous is not wearing a redshirt, but being a member of the security department. The red-shirted members of security were only 20.9% of the entire crew, but there is a 72.2% chance that the next casualty is in a redshirt and 64.5% chance this red-shirted victim is a member of the security department. The remaining redshirts, operations and engineering make up the largest single population, but only have an 8.6% chance of being a casualty.

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In other words, he says, redshirts are safe, so long as they're not on security detail. Tons more figures, graphs, and analysis over at Significance.

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DISCUSSION

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John Hazard

Enough with the redshirt jokes! They are so old and tired. Worse, it bothers me that the current creators of Trek are making doomed red shirt winks in the Trek movies, rather than concentrating on something more essential to Trek like commenting on the human condition.

Here's a redshirt "filk" song from the 90's, and it was an old joke then.

(Lyrics copyright 1992 by Joel Polowin. To Paul Simon’s "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover")

The problem is something 'bout your clothes, she said to me

The red shirt and the stripeless sleeves yell, "I'm Security!"

And when you get down planet-side with Kirk, you'll get to see

There must be fifty ways to kill an ensign

He takes a landing party down to find what's going on

A couple of the bridge crew, and some extras come along

And then before you know it - the `expendables' are gone

There must be fifty ways to kill an ensign

Fifty ways to kill an ensign

Just step on a rock, Jock

Get thorns from some plants, Lance

A Horta can spray, Ray

Just listen to me

Clouds drink up your blood, Bud

Computers can kill, Bill

You could lose all your salt, Walt

Kirk gets away free...

She said it grieves me so to see you with such nerves

Not ev'ryone who goes with Kirk will suffer from this curse

But then of course, you must recall - they sometimes suffer WORSE

There must be fifty ways...

Just tell him, "I'm not stupid and I'm not expendable

I'm not going!" Tell him that he's a Denebian slime devil

And he's overbearing, swaggering, and dictatorial

He'll find a new way to kill an ensign

Fifty-one ways to kill an ensign