It’s not easy being a “Star Trek” extra. I can only imagine the cold sweats and terror you’d feel if the wardrobe manager handed you a fresh red shirt from the rack. Your chance of making it through the episode just took a dive. Or did it? New mathematical calculations show that the redshirt death rate may not be as dire as we thought.
Matthew Barsalou breaks down the numbers for Significance Magazine. He sticks with the original series and starts by looking at the casualty rates for the different uniform colors across all three seasons.
There were a total of 55 deaths. In sheer numbers, redshirts took the brunt of it with 24 dead. Only 9 characters wearing the yellow/gold command uniforms kicked the space bucket. Rounding it out, 7 blue shirts bit the dust and 15 of the deceased were of an unknown uniform color.
If you just stop there, it sure looks like redshirts are the most dangerous branch of Starfleet service. But wait, there’s more. With an official count of 430 total crew members, the numbers show that 239 work in security, engineering, and operations, wearing red shirts.
Barsalou then goes all math geek and applies to the data the Bayes’ Theorem formula for calculating conditional probabilities. After a little mathematical shake and bake, he determines there is a 61.9 percent chance that any given casualty is wearing a red shirt. That still sounds high, but it’s not really once you consider the sheer number of redshirts running around the Starship.
“Although Enterprise crew members in redshirts suffer many more casualties than crew members in other uniforms, they suffer fewer casualties than crew members in gold uniforms when the entire population size is considered,” Barsalou writes. “Only 10 percent of the entire redshirt population was lost during the three year run of Star Trek. This is less than the 13.4 percent of goldshirts, but more than the 5.1 percent of blueshirts.”
There you have it. When you’re applying for Star Fleet Academy and considering which branch of service you want to go into, you may actually be better off wearing a red shirt than a gold one. To be on the safe side, though, you might want to follow Mr. Spock’s footsteps into the sciences branch.