Mortality Rates of Redshirts
Leonard H. McCoy
The United Federation of Planets, along with Starfleet command, has given the USS Enterprise a 5-year mission “to seek out new life, and new civilizations” (Pike, 2254, p.1964). In addition, the captain of the Enterprise has a standing order to investigate all quasars, and quasar-like phenomena, while keeping the Prime Directive, which is the principle of noninterference (Starfleet, 2258). At the beginning of the mission, there were 430 crewmembers on board the Enterprise (Starfleet). Fifty-eight crewmembers have died in the line of duty during the first 3 years of this mission. The majority (73%) of the fatalities have been among crewmembers wearing the red uniforms, commonly referred to as redshirts. The loss of 13.5% of the crew jeopardizes the completion of this mission of exploration and the disproportionate number of redshirt deaths has created cause for concern.
The problem is the unforeseen high number of deaths among the crew of the Enterprise jeopardizes the ship’s ability to complete her mission. The high rate of mortality has specifically affected the morale of redshirts on the ship. As a result, few crewmembers have volunteered to transfer from a command or science occupation to security.
According to Worf (2255), Klingon crews also experience high mortality rates due to their love of battle, bat’leth accidents during training and sparing, as well as a variety of honor inspired ritual suicides. Although Worf speculates the death rate is higher on Klingon ships than Federation vessels, an exact comparison is difficult to make. Klingon deaths are frequently recorded inaccurately so the warrior may enter Sto-Vo-Kor, the Klingon afterlife.
T’Pring (2257) identified several reasons for the differences in mortality rates between Humans and Vulcans. First, Vulcans have naturally longer life spans. She attributed this to their significantly less impulsive personality as compared to Humans. As Vulcans have learned to suppress their emotions, they have also adopted a rigidly logical approach to life. Vulcans see violence as a waste of resources, time, and lives, and therefore, illogical.
However, T’Pring failed to consider was the role of the Vulcan nerve pinch. Vulcans can perform this maneuver on any vertebrate by gripping at the base of the neck and applying pressure in a special way. The ability of being able to render an adversary unconscious by such a nonviolent means, may also contribute to the lower of mortality rates on Vulcan ships.
According to Starfleet (2258) the United Federation of Planets has over 150 member worlds, yet the only alien (Vulcan) currently serving on board the Enterprise is the first officer, Mr. Spock (Starfleet, 2258). Although Sarek is an ambassador for the Federation, he is not a member of Starfleet like his son, Spock.
The purpose of this study is to determine the cause of the higher rate of mortality among redshirts. Although redshirt deaths (24) outnumber deaths by crewmembers wearing blue (8), gold (10), or other uniforms (4) the cause of this increased mortality rates is unknown. Since both engineering and security personnel wear redshirts, the proposed research will determine if the shirt color alone predicts death, or if department assignment is also a factor. Previously established factors, which appear to be associated with premature death, will also be considered.
Scott (2269) found that there were no differences in the risk taking behaviors between crewmembers assigned to engineering and those in security. His research revealed the primary difference between the two assignments was the cause of death. Security personnel were more like to be killed by an alien species, while those in engineering were more likely to be killed by a massive explosion on the ship.
In my previous research, I proposed a Name Theory regarding crewmember deaths. I found that those crewmembers who were referred to by name had an increased chance of survival (McCoy 2260). I hypothesized that some crewmembers may believe that if they are only called “Ensign,” it was a sign they were not noticed by others. My research established that all six of the ensigns who died without names were wearing red shirts. I further hypothesized that this unconscious need for attention may increase the crewmembers’ risk taking behaviors.
Another established factor is protective effects of the social interactions among crewmembers. Chekov and Sulu (2262) observed that crewmembers who conversed with others appear to have lower mortality rates than those who remained silent. Using hierarchical regression, they found that there was an inverse relationship between the rank of the person they talked to and the redshirt’s mortality rate. In other words, if the redshirt spoke to the captain, the chances of survival were dramatically decreased. The role of speaking to others as a life-preserving strategy only appears effective with peers.
Finally, Rand (2436) developed the Short Red Theory of Service Survival. Although Rand’s research is limited entirely to women on the Enterprise, she found that among the four female deaths, only one of them (Thompson) was wearing a red dress. Of the remaining three female crewmembers who were killed, one was wearing gold, one was wearing blue, and the third was wearing blue and pants. Although the sample size is too small for anything more than a descriptive study, Rand hypothesized that if a female crewmember wore red, it was best for that red to be in the form of a short uniform dress.
The proposed research will use a quantitative method to whether mortality can be predicted by examining the following factors: (1) the color of the crewmember’s uniform, (2) departmental assignment, (3) being called by name, and (4) who, if anyone, they spoke to and (5) whether they were wearing a mini dress. The research will use pre-existing data to determine the influence of each of these variables, as well as interactions among the variables, on the mortality rate of the crewmember.
Significance of the Problem
When possible, the loss of any crewmember should be avoided. While space exploration is inherently dangerous, research may reveal methods to increase survivability (McCoy, 2260; Scott, 2269; Starfleet, 2258). At the current mortality rate, it is predicted that 96 crewmembers—nearly one-quarter of the crew (22.4%) will be lost by the end of the 5-year mission. This mortality rate is higher than among Vulcans, but not statistically different from the rates reported by Klingons. Replacing the crew with Starfleet academy graduates is not viable due to time constraints and distance limitations of transporters. In addition, the reputation of mortality rates on the Enterprise diminishes the likelihood of replacements from volunteers at any of the Federation outposts. In summary, the mortality rates must be lowered for the ship to complete her mission.
Relevance to the Field
Crew mortality is of primary concern for Starfleet and the United Federation of Planet. Starfleet command considers reducing the mortality rate of redshirts to be a top priority (Starfleet, 2258). The majority of redshirt deaths have occurred among crewmembers assigned to security detail. The question is whether the combination of having a name and conversing with other crewmembers would be sufficient to save lives or if duty assignment is the larger influence. While these factors have been researched individually, this would be the first study to determine if there is an interaction effect. The possibility that wearing short dresses by crewmember of either sex should likewise be considered.
Crewmembers from both engineering and security will be included in the study. If duty assignment is found to be a significant factor, then the same policy changes for security details would need to be applied to those assigned to engineering. These new policies may include an order for all crewmembers wearing redshirts to adopt a name and have conversations prior to going on away missions, being assigned to landing parties, or working on the warp core engine. Without reducing the redshirt mortality rates, the ability of the crew to carry out the last two years of its mission is jeopardized, and the crew cannot live long and prosper as ordered by the first officer.
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