Based on his own klutzy actions, author Robb Pearlman believes everyone has a little Redshirt in them.
Absurdity is not generally something fans think of when it comes to Star Trek. When it comes to Gene Roddenberry’s vision, fans reflect on its universal themes of diversity and hope, and certainly not death. All of which makes the running gag of the fate of Redshirts in The Original Series entertaining. Articles and essays have been published on the topic, and now author Robb Pearlman is taking a different look at the life of a Redshirt in his Star Trek: Redshirt’s Little Book of Doom.
“For awhile, I was thinking about how this unknown Redshirt got through his daily life,” Pearlman, who is an associate publisher for Rizzoli in New York City, said. “Those misadventures were appealing to me. What else happens to a Redshirt besides being murdered by a killer plant?
“Redshirts are such an important part of Star Trek culture. It’s not just a cliche but a inside joke that permeates throughout our society.”
Sucking crew members of all shirt colors into the vastness of space to meet their demise, J.J. Abrams’ films have been equal opportunity when it comes to deaths in the Kelvin Timeline. Still, the filmmakers highlighted the unfortunate termination of Chief Engineer Olson, or “Redshirt Chief Engineer” as stated in the shooting script, in the 2009 reboot as a nod to TOS. However, when it came to killing Redshirts, no one did it better than The Original Series, which saw 24 of its 55 Enterprise crew deaths wearing a Redshirt.
Desiring to take the focus off actually killing a Redshirt, the author warns there are no Redshirt deaths in his book, unlike an episode of South Park, which delighted in finding new ways to murder Kenny each week. Instead, Pearlman wanted to remind readers that they actually have a little Redshirt in them.
“I wanted to make Redshirts relatable because we all have our Redshirt moments,” Pearlman explained. “I wanted to include more universal things that we all go through, like having a tall person sit in front of us at the movie theater or a meter maid giving a ticket just as you are about to pull your car away.
“I have always been drawn to secondary characters. The main characters are interesting, but my favorite category of the Oscars are the Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. The impetus of Redshirt’s Little Book of Doom is my being a klutz, spilling water on myself, walking into things, etc. I am a watered down Redshirt.”
Death is something every security officer or military personnel must face, whether in the real world of fictional setting of the Final Frontier. And for all of them, they always need to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. In addition, to the inclusion of familiar Star Trek characters that fans can look forward to seeing in Redshirt’s Little Book of Doom, Pearlman also peppered the book with memorable moments from Trek lore, like the Kobayashi Maru.
“I think the Kobayashi Maru, because it is an unwinnable situation, could be a natural Redshirt fate. I did not want to be so literal about it however, so I created a scene in which his dog ate his homework, which is an essay about the Kobayashi Maru. So there is a wink and a nod, so it is not so completely on the nose.
“One of the things I like writing about Star Trek humor books is that the fans have a pretty good sense of humor about things. But my ultimate goal, because I like the property so much, is not to make fun of it, but to celebrate it. The challenge is to hit every gag without being snarky for snark’s sake. Star Trek fans are intelligent and well read, so when I write I can try for the non-obvious joke, rather than blunt with them all, and know they’ll get it!”
Speaking of the fans, those Pearlman has met at Comic Con or at Star Trek Conventions all have one common denominator, a joy of Star Trek that formed when they were younger. Whether subconsciously being drawn to ideas of hope and acceptance of the differences in others, Star Trek has left an indelible mark on fans at an early age. It is something Pearlman relates to children’s books in a connection a certain Vulcan might describe as fascinating.
“I started my career in children’s publishing. As a kid I loved reading and still do. When I was talking to people at comic cons and Star Trek cons, specifically about Star Trek, they spoke of it with the same reverence as people spoke about children’s books; its influence on their lives and the bonding experiences they had with their families. It is powerful and I thought it would be two great tastes that would be great together.”
Illustrated by European artist Anna-Maria Jung, readers and Star Trek fans might automatically assume that the book is for kids. However, that assumption could not be more wrong. Pearlman is quick to note that it is a humor book, just like his Star Trek: Fun with Kirk and Spock. That does not mean that kids cannot enjoy the Little Book of Doom though, as Pearlman envisions it for all ages and fans.
“Kids could appreciate it, but it’s more geared towards adults. It’s accessible to kids, and just like Kirk and Spock, it’s fun for the family. I think kids are little Redshirts because they are trying to figure out their bodies and their way in the world.
“There are deep cuts about specific characters, but I don’t want to give it away as that is part of the fun. There is something in there for the real diehard fan, as well as the casual fan. Some of the pages reference other pop culture citations, that if you get it you get is part of the fun, too.”
Silly is the best way to describe the book itself, as Jung takes liberties with uniforms and such, but the familiar colors and delta shield of Starfleet are always present. Jung’s efforts are impressive considering there is not a lot of text, and she is mostly responsible for relaying each page’s gag visually. She does this spectacularly by the way, whether it’s pushing something up a hill or attempting to do his own laundry.
Star Trek Redshirt’s Little Book of Doom is more fun than its title would suggest, and Star Trek fans should appreciate the irony of situations in which Pearlman and Jung place their Redshirt. The hardcover includes a bevy of Star Trek guest stars from The Original Series and its films, while also including some truly hilarious modern moments (i.e. Klingon selfie photobomb).
Hope and diversity are universal ideas that have permeated through all iterations of Star Trek, and reasons why scores of people associated with the show and film franchise believe it has lasted and continues to thrive as it approaches its jubilee in September. So it makes sense that Pearlman would not kill his Redshirt, but demonstrate that life is what we make of it.
“I think it all comes back to the idea of hope. I think by being a Star Trek fan you’re sort of automatically imbued with this sense of everything is going to be okay. There will be rocky bits and Klingons along the way. In this universe Roddenberry created where everyone on the planet banded together and got over their differences, there is no focus on race and gender, everyone is a person and that is more important than anything else. That hope is particularly helpful especially in times like these.”
Moral of the story, don’t always assume the Redshirt is going to bite the dust.
Star Trek: Redshirt’s Little Book of Doom retails for $14.99 and is available now on Amazon from Insight Editions.