Great Geek Debates: Stormtrooper vs. Redshirt

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.

You’ve heard of the old debate about what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Well, since that question is unanswerable, starting as it does from a logically impossible premise, I won’t be tackling it. I will, however, try my hand at a similar, but considerably more geeky question: Who would win a fight between a Star Wars stormtrooper and a Star Trek redshirt?

Now, you may (rightly) point out that this isn’t really a Great Geek Debate, but I would point out that, darn it, it should be one. It ties neatly into the Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate and into the classic thought problem mentioned above, and, besides, it’s fun! It’s also probably the most valid comparison between the two universes, since none of the major characters in either have clear parallels in the other.

So, on one side of this battle we have a stormtrooper. All stormtroopers are dressed in white armor even in environments (everywhere but Hoth-like places, really) where this makes them stick out like a sore thumb. This armor has significant downsides for its wearer: It weighs him down, makes him too loud to be able to sneak up on anyone, and makes it hard for him to see (Luke even comments on this when dressed as one). These disadvantages might be acceptable if the armor were at least mildly effective, but a single shot from any blaster — the most common weapon they are likely to encounter — goes right through it. And of course, as everyone knows, stormtroopers are such terrible shots that the safest place to be is wherever they’re aiming. I laugh every time I watch the original Star Wars and get to Obi-Wan’s line “Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise.”

Image: CBS Studios Inc.Image: CBS Studios Inc.

Image: CBS Studios Inc.

On the other side we have a redshirt. Redshirts are the hapless Enterprise crewmen who exist only to beam down with the main bridge crew so that someone can be killed, so that, in turn, Captain Kirk can have something to over-emote about. This happens with such regularity that one is forced to wonder whether there is a specific course at Starfleet Academy called “How to Die Before the Opening Credits.” Or perhaps it is simply a case of Darwinian natural selection, in that any crewman unable to compute the likely outcome of a mission on which the away team consists of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu and himself deserves to be weeded out of the gene pool. And why would any crewman agree to wear a red shirt? Indeed, if Scotty and Uhura didn’t also wear red, one would be forced to wonder whether the color red had some mystical power in the Star Trek universe to attract fatal shots, animal attacks, falling rocks, etc. (This power would no doubt be explained as a result of a sub-phase transposition field.)

Here’s the conundrum: Who would win this fight between a man incapable of hitting his target and a man capable of being killed by any shot? In order to make it interesting, we must assume that the fight takes place in an arena containing nothing else capable of killing the participants, for otherwise the redshirt would surely find another way to die before the stormtrooper found a way to kill him. Now, redshirts do occasionally manage to get a good phaser shot off before they snuff it, so that works in the redshirt’s favor. Also in the redshirt’s favor is the open question, much like the classic tree falling in the forest, as to whether a redshirt can die if Captain Kirk is not around to over-emote about his death. (And, I suppose, if Bones isn’t around to say “He’s dead, Jim.”) Truly, the only factor in the stormtrooper’s favor is the innate ability of a redshirt to turn life into a fighting chance to die, to paraphrase Dr. McCoy.

I’m inclined to think that, should a redshirt succeed in throwing himself into the path of a stormtrooper’s blaster bolt, which is quite possible considering how slowly the bolts move, the stormtrooper might well be so surprised at having actually killed someone that he would suffer a heart attack and die, too. Indeed, the stormtrooper’s best hope is likely a draw, either that way or by the redshirt successfully killing him and then finding some way of killing himself — there’s always the good-old accidental phaser overload, if nothing else works. Since that won’t always be the case, I’m going to have to give this, by a slim margin over a draw, to the redshirt.

What do you think? Please take the poll below and feel free to elaborate upon your answer in the comments.

Who would win a fight between a stormtrooper and a redshirt?(online surveys)

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