Marking the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day is a holiday in the United States for honoring those who died serving in the Armed Forces. We don’t know if Starfleet has any such celebration, but it probably needs one – Memory Alpha exhaustively details the many, many Starfleet crew who died in the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th Centuries.
But until we have an official Starfleet Memorial Day, we’d like to recommend the following five episodes to watch this weekend to honor the fallen Redshirts among us.
5. The Changeling
Though done with a fraction of the budget of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Changeling tells the same story but much better – and in 1/18th the same amount of time. An ancient probe (Nomad) has mutated into a killbot and the Enterprise has to stop it. Of course the crew has to do it with four fewer crewmembers, whom Nomad destroys.
Only one of the Redshirts is even given a name, because – as Guy says on Galaxy Quest – the other three aren’t important enough to have one.
4. Skin of Evil
You could probably see this one coming. Tasha Yar exits the series the way most security officers do, dying at the hands of a powerful alien to prove the stakes to the other, more important characters. (Note also that with the uniform change in the 24th Century, this is when Redshirts became Goldshirts.) Sure a parallel version of Natasha would later get a chance for a death that “meant something,” but at least this one gets a memorial service.
Thank goodness no one besides the starring crew came to her funeral – would have been so embarrassing for them not to get a shout-out from her!
3. Ashes to Ashes
This one’s an interesting twist where we meet a Redshirt only after she has come back from the dead. Lyndsey dies off-camera, has an entire backstory about being Harry Kim’s best friend retconned into the story, and then spends the rest of her days as a reanimated alien pseudo-zombie.
This episode would have been really powerful if they’d … y’know … introduced Lyndsey earlier and established her as a character we cared about. Also the B-story is a plot with Seven that overshadows the rest of the crew (imagine that). Oh well. #redshirtsgetnolove
2. The Bonding
A very creative take on this recurring theme, The Bonding is all about what happens after the Redshirt (Marla Aster) dies. Our fallen crewmate leaves a son behind, who must cope with the loss of his mother. Worf, as Aster’s commanding officer, decides it is his responsibility to adopt and protect the orphaned boy … who is never heard from again.
This episode is remarkable for introducing to the franchise Ronald D. Moore, who later said that Gene Roddenberry had objected to the script because in the future humans will have evolved beyond the need for grief … which is kind of inhuman, if you think about it.
Honorable mention: Rocks and Shoals
One of the best DS9 episodes ever, Rocks and Shoals features a knock-down, drag-out fight to the death between the crew of the Defiant and a bunch of Jem Hadar stranded on an alien world together. Not everyone makes it off the rock alive!
1. The Apple
Though tied with The Changeling for the TOS episode with the highest Redshirt count (4), I’m giving the award to The Apple because as Memory Alpha says, “This is the episode in which the redshirt phenomenon comes to the fore. Every red-shirted male in the landing party dies horribly. Hendorff is killed by the plant’s poisoned darts, Kaplan by the lightning, Mallory is blown up by an exploding rock, and Marple is killed by a blow to the head.”
And through the whole episode, Chekov’s main concern is trying to get with Yeoman Landon – the only Redshirt to survive the away team!
Not enough time for all those? Just check out this Redshirt montage: