In praise of the Star Trek Red shirts.

It takes quite a special individual to get into Star fleet Academy. There is a tricky entrance exam and interview before the admissions board agrees for you to be able to attend the campus in San Francisco. Even after that you have a long 4 years ahead of you learning how to be a valuable member of Starfleet and then receive your commission and first job. If you go by teleport or shuttle up to the gleaming new Constellation class ship that will take you through the heavens. Maybe you’ll get the Enterprise or the historic Potemkin. As you enter your new ship you go to your cabin and find the new uniform you are given. As you open the cupboard your heart sinks, it’s a red shirt. You’re doomed.

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They still had an important job to do to protect the interests and individuals in their care. The services provided by these businesses are much like the ‘Red Shirts’, although not involving intergalactic travel!

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It’s something of a cliché but in the original series of Star Trek the chances of you surviving an away a mission or being called to help deal with some alien presence on the Enterprise were greatly reduced if you were wearing a Red Shirt (although this has been debunked by maths).  The colour scheme for the star fleet was pretty simple. Gold indicated Command, Blue was science and medical everything else like communications, engineering and security was Red. There were two scenarios where the Red shirt was introduced. First of all Spock and Kirk would be ready to beam down to some planet somewhere and just before they went they would be introduced to Lieutenant Witherspoon and Yeoman Abernathy who would be joining them form some department that previously had never been talked about before. A quick shake of hands and down to the surface to investigate whatever was causing the problem plague that particular episode would ensue. Spock and Kirk would wander off living Witherspoon and Abernathy to guard something or investigate a funny looking rock. Tellingly, the camera would come off them and stay with Kirk and Spock as they discussed the issue. 5 lines of dialogue later a piercing scream would be heard or some kind of yell and Kirk and Spock would run back to find the lifeless bodies of Witherspoon and Abernathy dead from “someone or something” as Spock usually put it.

It wasn’t always the case. Scotty the chief engineer wore Red and so did Uhuru but then if they did go on a mission there were plenty of Witherspoon’s and Abernathy’s around to still take the hit.  In the end the writers didn’t even bother to introduce them. They just turned up and died. The whole process was thrown on its head with the Next generation when Red became the command colour as worn by Picard and Riker.

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