It’s been over 50 years since Kirk, Spock and the original crew of the USS Enterprise set out to ‘boldly go where no [one] has gone before’. Since then, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek has inspired numerous spin-off shows, movies, and even reboots. In all this time, the series has made an unparalleled impact in pop-culture – but for all the serious love, there are also plenty of jokes.
One of the more famous examples pokes fun at the fact that characters who wear red shirts (usually designating engineering or security) were often the first – or only ones – to die when they beamed down on alien planets. This was such a frequent sight that it became a running gag in fandom. Basically, if you were a ‘redshirt,’ you weren’t long for this (or any other) world.
Because misfortune can be hilarious, here are the best Star Trek redshirt memes from around the internet.
10 Over before it began
Any up and coming actor knows how exciting it can be to get a role in your favorite TV series or film. Of course, that special joy is often quashed when you discover that your character exists for the sole purpose of coming onscreen and dying two seconds later, as was often the case in the original Star Trek.
This poor redshirt was so glad to get his big break – but his dreams didn’t stand a chance against the terrors of the universe.
9 You’re safe, Scotty
Of the main named characters in Star Trek: The Original Series, two regularly wore red shirts – Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, and Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott. While both characters are beloved, it was the men of the 1960s Star Trek who typically had a higher mortality rate – putting Scotty in the ‘firing line’ with his bright red shirt.
Playing off of that, this meme imagines Kirk assuring Scotty that he is not going to die, as the late Gene Roddenberry – Star Trek‘s creator – has deemed it so. Time to rest easy…right?
8 Or maybe not so safe…
This might seem like quite a bait and switch after the promises made by the last meme, but there was a time when Scotty was not invincible after all. In an episode called “The Changeling,” a space probe that goes by the name ‘Nomad’ shoots Scotty dead after he tries to defend Lieutenant Uhura from its mind-altering ways.
As tragic and shocking as this moment was, it does seem to reaffirm the idea that no one who wears a red shirt on the USS Enterprise is safe from an untimely demise…not even our beloved main cast.
7 Just kidding – he’s okay!
Thankfully, Scotty’s so-called death in “The Changeling” didn’t last too long. As one of the franchise’s most iconic characters – and a very proud native of Scotland (who would have guessed, with that name?) – Scotty proved that it takes more than a laser or two to keep him down.
Referencing the character’s genial but somewhat rugged nature, this funny meme shows us that Scotty is one of the few redshirts to actually survive throughout the original series.
6 I’m a doctor, not a…
One of the other lead characters in Star Trek‘s original series was Doctor Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, a southern gentleman whose warmth and outward compassion often clashed with the seemingly cold calculations of First Officer Mr. Spock. However, like Mr. Spock, Bones had his own iconic catchphrases that fans are always happy to quote back at you.
The most famous usually went something along the lines of “Damn it, Jim – I’m a doctor, not a [blank],” popping up when Captain Kirk would ask something of him that he wasn’t comfortable with or couldn’t understand. Here, the joke references this famous line while also playing lip service to the redshirt trope.
5 It’s scary for everyone
While in most episodes, Captain James T. Kirk would beam down with a couple lead characters (such as Spock and/or Bones), in this one he is seen with no less than five redshirts to accompany him.
The striking nature of this image makes it rife for jokes. In fact, you’ll see images from this episode appear a few times on our list…
4 Just a feeling…
From the same episode, this meme continues the joke of Kirk having some idea that the redshirts under his command are unlikely to return to the USS Enterprise alive.
Still, it’s really not the captain’s fault – after all, red usually equals death in the Star Trek: TOS universe.
3 Suicide Squad – no, not that one
The 2016 DC superhero blockbuster Suicide Squad may have divided fans, but its snappy title really seems to suit this image of Kirk posed with six unsuspecting redshirts. These highly-trained officers, who most likely spent years at Starfleet Academy to make it where they are today, are now most likely waiting to beam down to some random alien planet, just to get shot by a phaser minutes later.
Being security personnel around Captain Kirk is a dangerous job – but we’d still like to thank them for their fine service.
2 Big surprise
Again, the dangers of being a redshirt are highlighted here, showing how – when you’re a fan of the show – it gets to a point where you can pretty accurately guess who will live and who will die during a given mission every episode.
Even when the writers give names to the redshirts, it doesn’t stop them from meeting an untimely fate. In fact, 73% of the total Enterprise crew deaths from TOS are redshirts. Interesting, but perhaps a little bit sad for all the security and engineering personnel.
1 Kirk’s in on the joke
As the captain of the USS Enterprise, James Kirk is meant to be stoic and strong, always ready to take action and inspire his crew to succeed. With that said, what if he was really just as aware of the redshirt joke as the fans? And what if he went back to his chair and laughed about their unfortunate fate with the other lead characters?
It’s a possibility that seems oddly likely when you think about the sheer number of deaths aboard the Enterprise. Yikes!
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