The Mutiny

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King Ferdinand: But you better sight land soon. There's rumblings of mutiny!
Christopher Columbus: Really?
King Ferdinand: Come over here and listen.
Christopher Columbus: All right.

Crew: Rumble, rumble, rumble! Mutiny, mutiny, mutiny!
Stan Freberg, The United States of America: The Early Years

Here's the situation: you're on a ship. The Captain is supposed to be the commanding officer on the ship, and his word is supposed to be law. But sometimes, members of the crew don't see it that way. Maybe someone gets it in his head to become captain himself, and the current captain needs to go. Maybe the captain is a bit too tyrannical or soft for the crew's liking, or they think the captain has lost his mind and is leading them on a suicidal course, and the crew would rather go back to Tahiti. Whatever the reason, someone gets the bright idea to take up arms against the captain and before you know it, we've got a mutiny on our hands.

Militarily speaking, a mutiny is the military form of sedition, a conspiracy to disobey a superior officer whose orders one is legally bound to obey. But in popular fiction, particularly Pirate stories, the term is mainly used for the rebellion of members of the crew against the captain or other person in charge of a ship, either at sea or in space. Just like rebellions on land, a mutiny may or may not be justified, though it's worth telling that mutinies are far less likely to be justified than regular rebellions. In many stories (and in real life) the penalty for mutiny is usually death, so many mutineers do not live long if they fail.

It's not always illegal. If the commanding officer's actions are illegal, immoral, or are themselves contrary to higher orders, his ranking underling can take action to "relieve him of command," usually using those exact words. Of course, the captain will still think it's mutiny. The junior officer will, of course, be expected to justify his actions before a full inquiry, military tribunal, court martial, or other group of stern old officers in the Denouement. When The Captain is the one who is technically disobeying orders from a higher power, it's an Anti-Mutiny.

As you might expect, mutinies are a case of Truth in Television, and there are many cases throughout history of mutinies happening not only on board ships, but on land as well.

Fictionally, Pirate ships may face mutinies that are treated just as seriously as those on other ships. In Real Life, pirates set up their ships so they could depose a captain as they pleased.

When the commanding officer does something illegal with the ship, that's not mutiny, that's barratry.


Examples of The Mutiny include:


Film[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Mutiny on the Bounty is a fictional recounting of the mutiny that went down aboard the HMS Bounty in 1789. Committed to film in 1934, 1962, and in 1984 as The Bounty.
    • The descendants of some of the mutineers still live on the island they sailed to.
    • William Bligh probably had something conducive to the mutiny about him. 19 years later, when he was the Governor of the New South Wales, he had another mutiny — the famous Rum Rebellion.
  • The Caine Mutiny, and the book of the same name by Herman Wouk on which the movie was based, concerns a mutiny aboard a WWII destroyer against a captain accused of cowardice and incompetence.
  • Crimson Tide had a mutiny aboard a submarine during rising tensions between the United States and Russia that were set to go nuclear. Tricky, in that none of the participants are sure who the mutineer actually is, as both sides claim legitimate authority within the Articles of War governing the United States Navy.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean, a few times, notably The Black Pearl taken from Jack in the backstory.
  • Battleship Potemkin. Truth in Television and a cinematic masterpiece.
  • Kirk skirts this line over and over again in the new Star Trek reboot.
  • HMS Defiant placed in the time of Spithead mutiny, the crew plans it from the beginning, and Dirk Bogarde's super-evil, sadistic first lieutenant gives them pretty good reason to do it.
  • Son of Kong crew stages a mutiny because they don't want to go back to Skull Island. Egged on by the villain of the film, but then they throw him overboard too.
  • Retrograde: A group of men are sent 100 years back in time to prevent a meteor carrying a deadly alien virus from colliding into Earth and bring humanity to the brink of extinction. However, during the mission, one of the commandos, Dalton, tries to take over the ship and kill the other crew so that he can change the past and remake the future in his own image.
  • Space Mutiny features The Mutiny... IN SPACE! I totally swear

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Very commonly found in Napoleonic naval fiction. Occurs in the first Richard Bolitho novel, and in Lord Hornblower.
  • Treasure Island, Captain Flint's crew, under Long John Silver, rebelled in the backstory. They took over the Hispanola in the main story—although, this one was planned from the beginning, more accurately an infiltration than a mutiny.
  • In F.M. Busby's Rissa Kerguelen series, spaceship crews sometimes mutiny in order to get free of their totalitarian government; we see two of these mutinies in the books.
  • As Tom Clancy points out in the novel, not The Hunt for Red October. That's barratry.
  • The Lost Fleet has the Glory Hound Captain Falco lead a mutiny against the Alliance fleet commander John Geary, whom he thinks is a coward. He takes off with 40 ships to break through the enemy forces. He comes back with thirteen.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel The Flight of the Eisenstein, the captain of the Eisenstein is told that what he is doing is mutiny. He retorts that mutiny is when the crew revolts against the captain; when a captain disobeys the commander of the fleet, it's barratry. He still, in defiance of orders, flees in order to Bring News Back of Horus's treachery.
  • The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi, is a young adult novel about a mutiny on a ship where the protagonist ends up joining the mutineers.
  • A mutiny was what contributed to the conditions on the Generation Ship of Robert A. Heinlein's Orphans Of The Sky (originally two short stories, "Universe" and "Common Sense"), during which the ship's piloting crew was killed off, the survivors later forgetting their original purpose.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, a group of Night's Watch brothers, after surviving a large-scale attack by the undead Others, take shelter in a small keep owned by Craster, a sometimes friend of the Watch. During their stay, Craster mocks the Brothers and feeds them only meager rations, claiming that it is all he can afford to give. Several of the watchmen, half-starved and nearly crazed from the battle and subsequent retreat, accuse him of holding out on them, claiming that he must have ample stores for the coming winter to supply himself and his many wives. Lord Commander Mormont tries to put an end to their belligerence but is cut down by his own men, who proceed to murder Craster, raid his stores, and rape his women. Only Samwell holds back, fleeing the keep before the traitors recover themselves to bring word back to Castle Black about the Lord Commander's death.
  • Complete Monster First Mate Cox leads a mutiny on the Sweet Judy in the backstory of Nation. It fails when the captain realizes that If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him, and the mutineers are set adrift—leaving the Judy undermanned in the tsunami that sets off the plot of the book proper.
  • The Tarzan story opens with a mutiny. The crew of the Arrow rise up, kill the brutal officers and steal the ship. Because Lord Greystoke had been kind to the leader of the mutiny during the voyage, he and his pregnant wife are put ashore on a remote stretch of the African coast rather than being killed.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In the pilot of SeaQuest DSV, Commander Ford relieves Captain Stark of duty as she's about to launch a nuclear strike without just cause.
  • Nearly happened a couple times during the second season of Star Trek: Voyager, since a good number of the crewmembers were pulled from a crew that actively resisted Federation policies. Tuvok leads a mutiny thanks to brainwashing he received from a fanatical Maquis holdout. Unrelatedly, couple seasons later Tuvok revealed that he had been preparing to counter a full-scale mutiny from day one.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. In "Hatchery" Archer becomes obsessed with protecting a Xindi insectoid hatchery at the expense of their mission to save Earth. The by-the-book MACO's follow the Captain's orders, and the crew who've been together long enough to realize Archer is acting strangely, and now have the self-confidence to do something about it, try to apprehend and find out what is wrong with him.
  • Commander Riker of Star Trek: The Next Generation took his captain's side in a mutiny very early in his career; he later decided that had been the wrong call.

Picard: You know this is mutiny.

  • Battlestar Galactica Reimagined. With the support of Vice-President Zarek, Lt. Gaeta leads a full-scale armed mutiny against Admiral Adama and President Roslin.
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series, there was an interesting case in the episode "Turnabout Intruder", where Kirk had switched bodies with his jealous, insane ex-lover, who wanted to be captain. The rest of the crew became suspicious of their captain's irrational behaviour. However all medical tests showed that Kirk was perfectly fine and even when Scotty suggested that they mutiny, McCoy pointed out the medical report was all that Starfleet would accept and they would be the ones who irrationally mutiny against their captain.
  • An episode of JAG, "Cowboys and Cossacks", plays with both this trope, and the Hunt for Red October Barratry gag, when Harm and Bud, while guests aboard a Russian sub, conspire with one of the Russian officers to take the ship from the renegade Captain. Harm explains to Bud that what they are doing can not be legally defined as mutiny. Technically, it's an act of terrorism.

Music[edit | hide]

  • Running Wild song "Mutiny" on the album Port Royal.
  • Alestorm's "Captain Morgan's Revenge" kicks off with a mutiny that ends with the pirates making the title captain Walk the Plank, only for him to pronounce a dying curse upon them all...

Video Games[edit | hide]

"We be hearing the call of the sirens. She be wanting us to wash her hair."

  • Allegiance, a team-based multiplayer Space Sim / Real Time Strategy hybrid, has The Mutiny as part of its gameplay mechanics. One player on each team fills the role of a commander, taking care of most of the RTS-level elements of the game—building bases, investing in research, and managing the big picture of the battle. At any time, any other member of the team can propose a mutiny, at which point everyone on the team gets a vote—and if the mutiny passes, that player takes over. This doesn't happen too often, but will happen to commanders who make egregious mistakes, especially if they behave arrogantly or harshly towards the rest of their team despite their own obvious flaws. (Competent commanders can usually get away with it, though...)
  • In Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, the War Room erupted into this after the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff attempted to call off the Nuclear Strike after he learned from Big Boss that the missile data was fake.
  • In Sid Meier's Pirates!!, you take command of your first ship (at 18!) as the result of a mutiny. Also, while you're commanding your fleet, if you have too many pirates and too little gold, the crew will become upset after a time and mutiny. Also if you run out of food. Or try to sail for too long without dividing the loot from the expedition. However, the mathematics for happiness work in your favor here: if you have enough gold in the hold to ensure 1000 gold per person minimum (after your cut), the crew will never get upset about the amount of time you spend sailing, and you can keep the expedition alive indefinitely (though the risk of losing it all in a bad engagement is very real, as your crew is likely relatively small).
  • Final Fantasy VIII: After a failed attempt to assassinate Edea, the real boss of Balamb Garden, NORG, decided to offer the head of the involved !SEE Ds (your party, that is) to her on a silver plate to save his own arse. Cid doesn't take this well, and decided that he's through with this greedy bastard. A Garden-wide armed conflict ensues between NORG's goons and students loyal to Cid.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • In Pay Me, Bug!, Velis Enge organizes a mutiny against Captain Vindh.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Exo Squad had several (yes, several) mutinies by the resident General Ripper Captain Marcus against the Big Good, Admiral Winfield. Ended every time with him taking control of the fleet and being beaten like a red-headed stepchild by whatever enemy he went against. You'd think his subordinates would learn...
    • Whaddaya mean several? The first couple times he takes over the fleet is because Winfield's incapacitated. Although, he did try The Hero JT Marsh for mutiny after Marsh tried to prevent him for doing something intensely stupid.
    • Marcus takes command of the Exofleet exactly 2 times. The first time is because Winfield is injured during a battle with the pirates, not mutiny. The second time Marcus DID mutiny and it ended as bad as a mutiny possible could.
  • The Simpsons: Homer unintentionally mutinied against the Naval Captain while part of a Naval Reserve Sub Crew (It makes sense in context). The captain had to clean out a bunch of items (specifically contraband junk food that was implied to have been belonging to Homer.) and promoted Homer to captain in his stead. However, shortly afterwards, the sub Homer was on was about to collide with another submarine (which Moe claimed was an enemy sub). Homer, when wondering what his captain said, decided on saying fire the torpedo. Unfortunately, he forgot that his captain was still in the torpedo tube, and... well... he was fired into the enemy sub, comically making an impression on the enemy sub. Similarly, the enemy sub also considered using their officer to do so (although only because of a poor choice of words on the officer's part), but stopped when he explains he meant fire a real torpedo.
    • Homer then commits treason and nearly starts a world war. Par for the course.