How Strange New Worlds Season 1 Challenged the Red Shirt of Star Trek Trope


“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” showrunner Henry Alonzo Myers discusses how the series challenges the image of “Star Trek” in a red shirt. The latest entry in the popular sci-fi franchise tells of Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) and his capable crew on the aircraft carrier Enterprise five years before Captain James T. Kirk takes command of the Federation flagship. “Strange New Worlds” is the sixth show presented after the rebranding of the CBS series, designed for several generations, starting with “Star Trek: Discovery” in 2017. The Star Trek entry with the highest rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Although the image of the red shirt can be used on television and in movies, it originated in Star Trek: The Original Series, because the series often featured one-time characters who accompanied the main cast on their expeditions. These characters were wearing red shirts and usually died by the end of the episode. This image has continued throughout the long-running series, but Myers recently explained how Strange New Worlds tried to challenge him.

In a recent interview with Cinema Blend, Myers described how “Strange New Worlds” challenged the classic red shirt style from “Star Trek.” In the penultimate episode of Season 1, Captain Pike responds to a distress call from another Federation ship. The landing party finds a crew killed by a Bugle and a survivor infected with Bugle eggs. While trying to destroy the last Bugle, the chief engineer of the USS Enterprise, Commander Hemmer (Bruce Horak), was sprayed with the alien’s saliva, infecting him with Bugle eggs as well. To protect his team, Hemmer jumped into a deep abyss, killing himself. Myers explained that although Hemmer was wearing a red shirt during this scene, his death was far from meaningless. Read below what the showrunner said.

“Such a death should matter. You want it to feel real. This is the universe where people die. it really means when the red shirt dies. That it has some resonance, that a drama arises out of it… The essence of what we’re trying to do in Strange New Worlds is to tell character stories through genre.”

Myers explained that the series does not intend to take lightly the death of characters, including those in red shirts. However, Hemmer surpassed the image of the red shirt as he was a well-established character with emotional ties to the other main characters aboard the USS Enterprise. The image of the red shirt usually referred to the characters who would be introduced in the episode of their death. Although the series gave Hemmer an emotional send-off in episode 9, “All Those Who Wander,” perhaps the right challenge to the red-shirted trope would fit his own parameters.

However, this episode featured two characters who matched the classic red shirt pattern. In the alien-inspired episode, two brand new characters were part of a landing party on a desert planet: Ensign Chia (Jessica Danecker) and Lieutenant Duke (Ted Kellogg). Both were introduced in the episode and killed off in the episode, but the show’s writers were wary of these two characters as they were immediately developed in the first scene of the show, which takes place at their promotion ceremonies. Emotional ties have also been established, especially between Lieutenant Duke and Spock (Ethan Peck) through the Starfleet tradition of a Vulcan calling Lieutenant Duke the wrong rank, thereby owing him a drink. While the deaths of Chia and Duke may not have been as impressive as the death of Hemmer, a character who has been introduced and developed since the show’s first episode, their deaths resonated with the production team, deeply affecting Spock. With the return of the second season of “Strange New Worlds” in 2023, the series will have more than enough chances to play with a red shirt again.