Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Send Up to the Red Shirt Ensign

Star Trek: Does my ass look dead in this?

Martin Anderson

A short but nonetheless reverent tribute to the utterly doomed wearer of the red shirt in Star Trek…

Paramount are aiming J.J. Abrams' Star Trek at the lucrative popcorn kiddies that are the mainstay of any summer blockbuster, with action, stunts, SFX and SEX. But frankly they could have invented something new and stuck a couple of huge stars in it and not be hamstrung by Trekkers whining about canon. Abrams' Star Trek has a broader phaser bearing, additionally designed to make the crustier geek - like myself - warmly nostalgic.

Therefore it was (sorry to be callous) with some pleasure as well as amusement that I watched the short-lived red-shirt dive to his absolutely inevitable doom at the preview screening of scenes from Star Trek last week.

Back in the days of TOS, killing a character mid-season usually meant that an actor themselves had actually died or - worse - asked for a pay-rise; the bold strategy of developing a regular character only to plan - often more than a series ahead - to kill them off within the course of a multi-year story arc was but a glimmer in the eye of a network that liked to rifle-shuffle its episodes (it was against this sort of background that the death of Spock in 1982's Wrath Of Khan had such impact, even if Paramount spent the following movie reversing it).

Thus Kirk's love-interest of the week (how much action would Kirk have got if all those sexy aliens could have turned to Wikipedia to find out what a 'kiss' is?) was heading for the exit-swish by minute 49, and anyone who died that week would also have been introduced that same episode…Kirk's uncle, McCoy's ex-girlfriend, Spock's mum's neighbour's plumber…the principals were safe; unlike the red-shirted security guards who beamed down on 'away' details, whose lifespan was in the territory of a mayfly.

YouTuber comedy4cast paid a glorious editing tribute to these hapless hunks of phaser-fodder…

Number cruncher Matt Bailey worked out that 72% of fatalities on the Enterprise's original five-year mission were red-shirts (assuming the original three seasons covered that particular time span), and the Star Trek media wiki commemorates the fallen in the complete Trek canon death-count.

So I'd just like to thank J.J. for wasting poor Olson in Star Trek, since it brought back a lot of happy memories, and remind the anxious starfleet WAGs and mums that it is possible to reach a grand dotage in the dreaded colour…

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