How do we say goodbye to Lieutenant Chapman?
Back in the days of sailing ships, captains would conduct funerals for sailors lost in action. Burial at sea, as they called it. These days we’re launching coffins out of starships and sending them falling into stars or onto planets. Come to think of it, that’s probably not a good idea. What if it crashes into a religious site on a pre-warp civilization planet and ends up leaving them irritated with the Federation?
Anyway, that’s beside the point.
Lieutenant Chapman graduated top in his class at the Academy with an emphasis on becoming a security officer. That would mean going out in the stars in starships… as a red shirt.
They say red shirts don’t last long out there in the stars. They seem to be cannon fodder. They seem to die a lot on away missions on planets far from home. They meet horrible endings at the hands of mysterious beings or in engineering mishaps. They seem to lurk in the background around the core of the command. At least until they meet grisly ends.
They say being a red shirt is a curse. Well, I say that’s a superstition, and this is supposed to be an age without superstition. I mean, if all red shirts were meant to die, how do you explain Scotty? He’s still alive and well and sneaking gulps from that flask he carries. Don’t think I haven’t noticed the flask, Mr. Scott. We need to talk about your drinking habits.
Lieutenant Chapman survived it all. Space engagements with the Klingons and Romulans. Skirmishes on distant worlds with the Ferengi. Wait a minute, have they been written into the continuity yet? Somebody ask Gene.
He survived that diplomatic incident we had with the Andorians that left them not talking to us for a year. I mean, just because he tripped and knocked the ambassador over didn’t mean they had to ignore us. What a bunch of ingrates. He survived the telepathic aliens trying to alter our minds, and the mirror universe Spock. He survived that warp core explosion that took out twenty-three of our red shirts in engineering last year. Which reminds me, we need more red shirts. Both the shirts, and officers to wear them. We’re running out of both.
Lieutenant Chapman survived that time we were on Talos Prime and the toga wearing aliens pitted us all against each other. On a related note, what is it about aliens in togas? If this was a television show, you’d think the costume department was being run on the cheap. He survived that whole mishap with Khan. Which reminds me, do you think Khan’s going to be pissed off someday about the whole abandoning him and his people thing if we go back to Ceti Alpha Five?
Chapman survived the volcanic eruption on Gama Prime. He escaped from the giant spiders on Theta Seven that ate six of our red shirts. He even managed to get away from those phaser arms dealers on Nexos Two. I was busy making out with their princess, so thanks to Spock and Bones for handling that with their usual decorum and tact. He even survived that encounter with the Daleks, which we can’t talk about, because the other studio never signed off on that crossover. Wait a minute, I didn’t write that. Spock, who wrote this? What do you mean, someone’s breaking the Fourth Wall? What’s a Fourth Wall? Where’s... the logic... in that?
I’m getting off track. Back to Lieutenant Chapman. Truly one... of the luckiest red shirts around. But luck ran out. Maybe it’s true. Maybe being a red shirt means putting a target on your back.
Maybe death, or fate, or whatever it is, is more than just an allegorical figure in a black robe, stalking us when our time is up. Maybe death sees red shirts as easy pickings, an old Earth expression.
Maybe it’s just inevitable.
Lieutenant Chapman knew the risks of being a Federation security officer. He knew the high death tolls associated with being a red shirt. But he did his duty with courage and integrity and fortitude. He saw his fellow red shirts die in awful ways. He knew the stories about being turned to rock and fed to giant lizards and transporter accidents and warp breaches and all that.
And still he served.
Until the day the Klingons attacked us again.
Oh, sure, the day was ours. We fought them off. Kicked their asses.
But not before they did damage to the Enterprise.
Including blasting a hole in the ship that sucked Lieutenant Chapman out into the void of space.
Without a space suit.
They say being out in space, unprotected, is a horrible way to die. Blood boiling, arteries bursting under pressure. You’ve got just enough time for your life to flash before your eyes and your head bursts. Well, it’s probably for the best that we’re committing Chapman’s remains to the orbit of the nearest star. His family wouldn’t want to see what’s left of him.
Crew of the Enterprise, we bid farewell to one of our own. Again. This seems to happen a lot.
To Lieutenant Angus Argyle Chapman. Thank you for your service. Say hello to the rest of the red shirts in whatever afterlife comes after this, because Gene was never really all that clear on Federation ideas about death. Whoever this Gene guy is. Spock, is Gene the guy who’s breaking through this Fourth Wall?
Before we send Chapman off into the cold vacuum of space, again, I’d just like to add that as he was an officer with seniority and service, he had his own quarters. Those quarters will be given to the winner of the first annual Enterprise Red Shirt Thunderdome Match. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m off to seduce the daughter of the Andorian ambassador, so may the best red shirt not die.