Who would win…?

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When it comes to groups willing to argue passionately over possible outcomes to contests that will never take place, Sci-Fi-ers and sports nuts are far and away the most obnoxious. Inside the world of Sci-Fi, however, there may be no greater argument than over which unreal universe kicks the most ass–Star Wars or Star Trek. (The obvious answer is Star Trek, but that’s another post.)

The fights generally rage over the plausibility of the technology in each universe–midichlorians versus human-alien hybrid children, for example–or who has the superior technology–light sabers versus phasers. But Geekdad has added a whole new dimension to this debate. Which universe has the most pathetic cannon fodder?

Yes, the question is over whether the Imperial Stormtrooper with the completely ineffectual white armor and the aim of a cross-eyed chimp is more or less likely to die in a fight with an Ensign/Yeoman (guy in a red shirt) from Star Trek: The Original Series. Here’s Geekdad’s argument:

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.

I’m going with the redshirt as well, because I don’t think that it was the redshirts’ incompetence that got them killed–it was their nutbag captain beaming down into the middle of a potentially deadly situation without even taking scans first that got them killed half the time. I don’t have hard numbers on this (though I feel sure someone does), but I feel like the death toll for redshirts on away missions went down significantly in the latter Star Trek series, while stormtroopers never stopped dropping in droves.

And that makes sense–the stormtroopers are/were clones, right? They’re a product, potentially with their training slapped right into their brains; they don’t have to be great at what they do–they just have to move forward when they’re told to and fire their guns wildly when the mood strikes.

But not all redshirts died on away missions. Some of them moved up the chain of command and led their own away missions, with their own redshirts who died horribly, and over whom they were able to emote. They evolved, which is what makes them superior, and more likely to win in a fight with a stormtrooper.

Yes, I just burned over 600 words and significant time on a Saturday on that. We’re passionate. I told you.


Brian Spears is Senior Poetry Editor of The Rumpus and the author of A Witness in Exile (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011). His poem “Upon Reading That Andromeda Will One Day Devour Triangulum and Come For Us Next” was featured in Season 9 of Motion Poems. More from this author →