The Real Math Behind Star Trek's Redshirts Theory

Captain Kirk Redshirt Theory Star Trek The Original Series CBS Red Shirt

Being a "Red Shirt" on the USS Enterprise has long been considered a kiss of death in the Star Trek universe. Security personnel and engineer characters seemingly died so frequently in the original Star Trek series that the term Redshirt was coined for stock characters introduced into an episode or film simply to have someone to kill off and heighten the drama. While popular, if the math behind a recent theory is to be believed, our boys in red may not have the riskiest job in Star Trek after all.

Enter mathematician James Grime, who has been exposing the legit science behind Star Trek with his lecture "Star Trek: The Math Of Khan." Via, we now have facts from an actual mathematician that prove wrong everyone who thought the original series' crimson-clothed security personnel and engineering were the most doomed. Avid Star Trek fans may jump to the episodes for evidence, since there are technically more redshirt deaths shown, but Grime points out that we're only seeing half the story from that perspective, and we have to look at the total crew numbers of each profession to get an accurate reading of the ship's actual mortality rates.

239 redshirts were employed on the Enterprise, and 25 died in the original series, which only nets them a 10% mortality rate. Gold shirts, on the other hand, had 55 members on the ship, and with 10 deaths, they earned a mortality rate of 18%, making command and helm personnel the deadliest profession to hold on the USS Enterprise. But even though the odds are higher overall for gold shirts, Grime adds that there is still a way to declare the Redshirt theory objectively true if you take the engineers out of the equation:

There is some truth in the old Star Trek myth if you look at security officers ... 20 percent of security officers died. So I think the moral of the story is, if you're on the Starship Enterprise and you want to survive, be a scientist.

That makes sense, and not just because we know only 6% of Star Trek's blue-shirted scientists died. You won't often send a scientist with zero combat training on a mission where confrontation and violence will be a factor. It also makes sense that gold-shirted crew, who are often in ranks of command, will find themselves in the line of fire more often than not. Essentially, we just need to change the Redshirt theory to specify that the combat type of Red Shirt has a higher mortality rate, and then everything can return to normal in the Star Trek universe.

So how will this groundbreaking revelation change the world of Star Trek? Most likely it will be ignored until you find the perfect opportunity to whip it out in a geeky conversation. Make sure to place a large bet on it, so it's really worth everyone wondering exactly how much time you spend watching and reading about science fiction. Rather than judging you, we encourage you to find more! Check out our midseason premiere guide and summer premiere schedule to see what all is on the horizon.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick Joest is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend with his hand in an eclectic mix of television goodness. Star Trek is his main jam, but he also regularly reports on happenings in the world of Star Trek, WWE, Doctor Who, 90 Day Fiancé, Quantum Leap, and Big Brother. He graduated from the University of Southern Indiana with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Radio and Television. He's great at hosting panels and appearing on podcasts if given the chance as well.