The Starscream

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"I've always got Megatron's back... in my sights."
"Megatron, seriously. We're starting to think that the problem is you. Why the hell would you jump into Starscream's hands? The one guy on your team who consistently undermines your authority and attempts to overthrow your leadership?"

In some stories the Big Bad casts a shadow over everyone: They might be afraid of him, they might be his minions, or they might be the heroes trying to defeat him.

A certain type of character falls outside this pattern: a villain too ambitious or individualistic or just too stubborn to accept the supremacy of the Big Bad. Instead, this villain actually dreams about overthrowing the guy everyone else fears and taking his place. Sometimes he is a (grudging) servant of the Big Bad; sometimes he is entirely outside the established power structure. Either way, if the Big Bad ever stumbles or shows weakness, the Starscream will be there, ready to kick him out of the Astrotrain.

Depending on the nature of the character, he may be an over-optimistic fool or someone who might actually be able to pull it off. If the character is Badass enough, the heroes might be forced to try and stop him from toppling the original villain. Usually fond of playing Commander Contrarian to their boss' schemes (deservedly or not), who will normally Neck Lift them into kowtowing to their will. It can be hard to justify why the Big Bad keeps them around, but it may most commonly be so the Big Bad has a reason to always keep his guard up (and thus can rest assured that he will never become too complacent).

Differs from the Reliable Traitor in not always working for the Big Bad and in his reasons for working with the villain (if indeed he does so).

Not the same as The Dragon getting a promotion when he survives the Big Bad's downfall—that's Dragon Ascendant. Also not to be confused with Dragon Their Feet, where the Big Bad's right hand man screws his boss over by being strangely absent at a bad time. Compare and contrast Dragon with an Agenda, who has different goals from the Big Bad but is at least nominally loyal and generally won't turn on the Big Bad unless said goals are threatened.

If The Starscream succeeds in taking over the mantle of Big Bad from his superior, the former Big Bad may have actually been a Disc One Final Boss. If he was consistently portrayed as the more dangerous or important of the two to begin with, then he's also a Dragon-in-Chief.

Quite strongly related to the Rule of Two, where this is expected and quite nearly mandated.

Many examples can end up being The Millstone if their schemes consistently screw up the Big Bad's plans enough to let the heroes keep pulling off wins.

See also Bastard Understudy, with a similar attitude but more subtlety and patience, and The Dog Bites Back, for when the attacker has not planned but takes advantage of weakness (and/or Right Makes Might if said attacker was actively abused by his new victim.)

Often involves Nice Job Fixing It, Villain. All examples prone to contain Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.

Sub-trope of Evil Versus Evil. Opposite trope of The Creon, who will do anything in his power to stay second-in-command at all costs. Contrast Sarcastic Devotee, Professional Butt-Kisser, and Villainous Friendship (where The Dragon and the Big Bad trust each other as friends).

Examples of The Starscream include:

Transformers[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Transformers Generation 1
    • Starscream makes his first play for power in the first episode, and succeeded when Megatron was injured in the 1986 animated movie. Before that, of course, Status Quo Is God, so he'd fail every. Single. Episode. If Megatron so much as sneezes he'll start shouting "Megatron has fallen!" And Megatron would never punish him much for it. (Except in the movie, when he did). Cracked's "5 Reasons Megatron Should have Fired Starscream Years Ago" list provides five examples of Starscream's ambitious behavior as well as ineptitude in a single episode (the first ever episode no less!).
      • This was somewhat justified in that it was implied repeatedly that next to Megatron, Starscream was the strongest and (relatively) most competent Decepticon (If Megatron is the most competent... well that explains a lot). Making him the most valuable. Example: during the movie when he won that massive battle royale to determine who would replace Megatron as the leader. In the fan commentary of the movie, they mention that some sort of unused footage shows how Starscream won that battle: hiding in the corner until everybody else was tired out. Starscream's bravery and actual fighting skill may not have been showcased there, but his cunning and craftiness were.
      • In one episode, Thundercracker considers usurping Starscream's position only to be caught in the middle of planning by Starscream, who threatens to tell Megatron.
      • In The Movie, Megs-into-Galvatron actually kills Starscream, only to find himself as The Starscream to Unicron, with no better success than the original—less in fact, because Unicron is now the source of his power.
      • And of course in the post-movie season, Starscream comes back and then proceeds to backstab Unicron. While a ghost. Truly the man has Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. Oddly enough, the time he's backstabbing a Transformer Physical God works out better for him than when he was only up against Megatron—he gets a new body out of the deal, and Unicron gets nothing except a mismatched new pair of eyes that may or may not have been destroyed at the end of the episode. He then somehow ends up a disembodied spark who wandered for eons and somehow ended up in Earth's primordial past, possibly due to Galvatron killing him again while he was tumbling helplessly through space.
    • Scorponok in Transformers Headmasters was similar, but both sneakier and more willing to act against Galvatron.
  • The IDW version is a mix of G1 and Armada, a deadly and powerful warrior who used to see Megatron as a great hero (and even cried with joy when he first met Megatron, really) a few million years later and now he thinks Megatron has become what the Decepticons are fighting against.
    • In the current storyline, Starscream has convinced Bumblebee to let him join the new Cybertronian government, proving helpful in stopping renegade Decepticons still operating with their own agenda in the post-war world. So far, he seems genuinely invested in making this new arrangement work, but time will tell if his Chronic Backstabbing Disorder flares up again.
  • Leozack of Transformers Victory also qualifies as a member of the Starscream club. Deathsaurus/Dezaras eventually wised up and threatened to kill him if he continued his treacherous ways. Then there's Hellbat, whom the Transformers Wiki even describes as "a member of the Ambitious Screwups club". Thing about Hellbat is, his ambition lies in overthrowing Leozack as the leader of the Breastforce—making him the Starscream to the Starscream.
  • The Starscreams in Transformers Super God Masterforce and Transformers Headmasters would be Dauros and Mindwipe, respectively. Except Dauros is too dim to be deceptive and often openly challenges Blood's leadership, while Mindwipe's ulterior motives are wholly unrelated to usurping leadership of the Decepticon Headmasters in the first place.
  • In the Marvel US G1 Comics, Shockwave is The Starscream for a long while, and actually succeeds in wresting power from Megatron on a few occasions. Starscream has a few memorable moments, opting for big power grabs that still fail, but not as blatantly or stupidly as his animated counterpart.
    • Except in the Underbase Saga, where Starscream manages to trick two factions of Decepticons and the Autobots into fighting each other then gains control of the Underbase and kills virtually every Transformer in existence before blowing up. After that, you wonder why any Decepticon commander would recruit him: Megatron made sure he brainwashed him first and Shockwave couldn't afford to be choosy but Scorponok had no excuses.
    • And, in the Generation 2 comics, we finally get an explanation for why Megatron keeps Starscream around.
    • In the Marvel UK Earthforce stories, Starscream is surprisingly successful, managing to blackmail Soundwave into helping him depose both Megatron and Shockwave so the two of them can take over as joint leaders.
  • In an interesting inversion of the 1986 movie, in IDW's "Dead Universe Arc" (Spotlight: Galvatron, parts of Devastation and all of Revelation) the Starscream to Nova/Nemesis Prime is a version of Galvatron who borders on the Magnificent Bastard.
  • Also in IDW, Ramjet tries his hardest to be a Magnificent Bastard when he tries his hand at being The Starscream during his Spotlight issue, but fails miserably. Megatron finding out didn't help at all.
    • Interestingly, Ramjet got killed outright, whereas Starscream's punishment - having a hole blasted through him pointblank, was something Megs knew might not be fatal, and allowed him back in after.
  • Beast Era
    • Terrorsaur, in Beast Wars has the same MO, with the same suspicious lack of permanent consequences (though it might be explained by Megatron's lack of man-er... robot-power). Terrorsaur did succeed at defeating Megatron when hyped up on supercharged energon, but the effects didn't last long and Megatron eventually recovered...
      • In one episode, Terrorsaur somewhat succeeded after using Rattrap to capture Megatron (It Makes Sense in Context), only to have the Maximals advancing on their ship and Megatron mockingly asking him what his move will be as leader now. Terrorsaur panics, makes a lot of poor decisions and in the end is shamed in front of the Predacons who refuse to follow his lead any longer. Megatron = Magnificent Bastard.
      • Tarantulas took over this role after Terrorsaur's death at the beginning of season 2, but his motivations are a lot more mysterious and sinister than simple ambition.
        • Really, Tarantulas had this role by the midway point of Season 1 on the seeds of his agenda became to be spread, by which point Terrorsaur had basically been dismissed as a laughing stock and no one took his attempts to overthrow Megatron very seriously.
      • And of course, let's not forget the episode Possession, where the actual Starscream showed up, possessed Waspinator, lied about his past, then betrayed Beast Wars's Megatron, then betrayed Optimus Primal, then betrayed Megatron again...only to be betrayed in the end by Blackarachnia.
    • Dinobot joined the Maximals only after an unsuccessful attempt to take over, and remained a heroic version of this to Optimus, though never violent when Optimus was incapacitated in various ways he would always fight Rattrap and Rhinox for leadership. Though once, after Optimus was killed, Rhinox was not in the mood and even Dinobot backed down.
    • All There in the Manual states that Megatron himself was this to his former boss, Cryotek. So, about the only loyal Predacons were Scorponok, Inferno, and the Rubber Ducky (best summed up in this Lilformers strip: "I managed to keep at least two of my troops from betraying me! Two!") It appears that Megatron actually encourages treachery in some of his more competent troops. He's studied them so well that he's able to guess their schemes and incorporate them his own while letting the traitor think they're still in control. Megs only seems to really get pissed when a betrayer does their plan poorly. Best shown in "Master Blaster", when Tarantulas and Quickstrike betray him as he takes the spark of G1 Megatron into himself, is tossed into a lava pit, emerges with his new dragon beast mode, and proceeds to punish Tarantulas. Then he tells the scheming spider "I can suffer your treachery, Lieutenant, but not your INCOMPETENCE!", and tosses Tarantulas into the lava, remarking "Treachery requires no mistakes".
    • And in Beast Machines, we see Tankor/Rhinox act as Starscream. Although it's more probably a case of Freak-Out.
    • Meanwhile, the Beast Wars II version of Starscream wasn't like this at all (instead being Ambiguously Gay)... instead, the Megatron counterpart Megastorm was the ambitious screwup constantly trying to subvert Galvatron's leadership, with Galvatron looking the other way because Megastorm was also his brother. However, BW2 Screamer wasn't above trying to backstab his co-minions in an attempt to move up the food chain, and he even tried dunking Megastorm into a pit of Unicron-mojo to get rid of him. (Megastorm got better. Much better.)
  • Unicron Trilogy
    • In the first two parts of the Unicron Trilogy, Starscream is 1) desperately in need of Megatron's approval, and when he doesn't get it , he defects (following a little prompting from Sideways), and, later, 2) a zombie. In the third part, however, Transformers Cybertron, he's both a truly scheming The Starscream, and surprisingly successful. It comes to a head in "Showdown", where Galvatron is stunned, bordering on horrified, at the prospect that he might actually lose to Starscream. Basically, take the original Starscream, remove all 80s cartoon villain stupidity, and add three levels in Badass (Only three?). Over the course of the series, he Successfully betrays Megs, forming his own splinter group. Singlehandedly hands Autobots their skidplates on multiple occasions (most notably, defeating eleven of them in battle in a row and getting away with the MacGuffin, free and clear). Steals Atlantis. Fought God, twice. (And lost, both times, but still.) Siphoned life force out of Primus Himself while looking him right in the optics. And, finally, outlived Galvatron, thus becoming the only survivor of the (non-comedy-relief) Decepticons.
  • Transformers Animated
    • Starscream was shockingly proactive, almost succeeding in assassinating Megatron in the first episode and finding himself on Megatron's bad side immediately after. Then in the season two finale, his clones do this to him. Oh, the irony. Unlike most of his other incarnations, Megatron has essentially no tolerance for Starscream in this setting. In fact, since Starscream is immortal due to an Allspark fragment, Megatron literally kills him several times over, but Starscream did get the last laugh on Megatron in the finale. Posthumously.
  • The excellent Transformers spoof Incredible Change-Bots has Wheeee, the expy for Starscream, do this when Shootertron falls... only for Shootertron to get back up and berate him. ("Shootertron, you haven't fallen!" "No, I just fell. That laser blast put me off balance.")
  • Transformers Film Series
    • Some fans have theorized that during the big battle royale, Starscream subtly does this by transforming into one of the good guys' Air Force jets and firing a few shots off at Megatron before flying away. Not really confirmed by Word of God, but was more of a Sure Why Not. "It makes sense with the character, but would only really affect the sequel. This has appeared in the IDW Sequel/Prequel comic, which makes it at least mostly canon, though another version has him considering this but ultimately deciding against it. Revenge of the Fallen, actually confirms this incarnation of Starscream's treachery where it is revealed Starscream deliberately left Megatron to die just so that he could take over. Naturally, Megatron comes Back from the Dead and is pissed off to know this, so Starscream attempts a half-assed explanation.
      • What's different is not only is this Starscream a pretty good leader, but the reason he's a Decepticon (you can change sides if you want) is because he's trying to keep the Psychos For Hire in check and wants to kill Megatron for the good of all Cybertronians. (For the uninitiated, this Megatron is about as sane as Galvatron. And Galvatron is not even remotely sane.)
      • In IDW's The Reign of Starscream comic, Dreadwing is The Starscream... to Starscream himself. Starscream's method of dealing with him is about as pragmatic as Animated Megatron's method of dealing with his Starscream, except with less of "Death Montage" and more of "throwing one of the guy's allies into his spaceship". (READ: Starscream kills Dreadwing. By ripping out his spark.)
    • Dark of the Moon has Sentinel Prime, who not only betrayed the Autobots, but also attempts to become this as well. Alternately, as Sentinel is pretty obviously in charge of the Decepticons by the end, Megatron could be considered The Starscream instead.
  • Transformers: Shattered Glass
  • Transformers Aligned Universe

Starscream: Decepticons! Megatron has fallen in battle! I, Starscream, have taken my rightful place as your leader!
Megatron: Starscream, you halfwit, I still function!

    • Transformers Exodus also explores the origins of Starscream's behavior and why it is that Megatron tolerates his presence and repeated attempts at bumping him off.
    • Transformers Prime puts another twist on the character, Starscream wants to be in command and often IS in command while Megatron goes off on his own. But while he likes the power he does nothing to directly take over, assisting Megatron faithfully and warns him against dangerous risks several times. But he has been in charge for such long periods he likes the power and when it looks like Megatron has fallen, he takes command. When Megatron was found alive he tried to finish him off, only relented due to a fear of Soundwave. Once Megatron recovers and realized what Starscream did, he was furious.
      • Megatron revealed that he was aware of Starscream's schemes from the beginning. This Megatron feels that if someone is capable of overthrowing him then he deserves it, and only gets upset when Starscream becomes pathetically predictable. The episode "Partners" reveals that Starscream, for all his weaknesses and flaws throughout his various incarnations, is a very important part of the Decepticon war machine and if either captured or becoming a rogue agent he could reek havoc against them.
      • While not a very enthusiastic member of the 'Cons to begin with, Airachnid took on this role after Starscream left. When Megatron was acting so irrational even the generic troops were getting ansy she stepped in as a leader, though Soundwave proceeded to effortlessly shut down her power play.
        • Now Megatron has tried to have her pre-emptively eliminated, forcing her hand and making her join up with Starscream... where she promptly Starscreamed the 'bot himself.


Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Greed to Father and Dante.
    • Roy Mustang is the heroic version of this to King Bradley. He's fairly subtle and very patient, but all Roy's nearest and dearest and most of high command know, especially Bradley. They let him play; they could kill him anytime, but he's extremely useful and essentially harmless, considering all the cards they hold and that he'd never compromise far enough to really get into their circle.
    • Kimbley is this to Greed in the first anime.
  • Inu Yasha: Naraku had something of a problem with this. Hakudoushi was the ultimate example of this trope, followed very closely by the baby and Mouryoumaru.
    • The Band of Seven experienced this. Renkotsu planned on betraying his leader Bankotsu by acquiring enough jewel shards to become powerful enough to defeat him, including stealing Jakotsu's jewel shard (ensuring his death). As it turned out Bankotsu knew of Renkotsu's treasonous intentions, but wanted to give him a chance to redeem himself. Ultimately Bankotsu ended up killing Renkotsu, proving that he was never a real threat to him. Bankotsu even helped Renkotsu acquire all the jewel shards in his possession just to show his superiority over him and the futility of his efforts. He also claimed a superior sense morality before ending Renkotsu's life, exposing him as a complete and utter failure.
  • In Makai Senki Disgaea all hell inhabitants have this as mandatory trait. Etna serves for Laharl with hope to backstab him and take throne. She finally admits her ambitions to her master, who then just says, it would be unusual if it was in other way.
  • Mazinger Z: Two Dr. Hell's servants fit the trope: Viscount Pygman and Archduke Gorgon. The former disobeyed orders the whole time and finally betrayed his creator, taking over the Institute on his own and refusing handed over the control of it to Hell. The later allied himself with Hell but spend the whole time insulting and scorning Hell and his henchmen, undermining his authority and scheming to overthrow Hell at the first chance. He was sucessful. Gorgon subverted the trope slightly since he was not planning replacing Hell with himself but with the Emperor of Darkness.
  • Uonuma Usui of Rurouni Kenshin fits this trope and loudly so: he's actually told Shishio that he intends to kill him first chance he gets. Shishio is confident that said chance will never come, so he keeps Usui around because he's a handy killing machine who, while waiting for that chance, will happily slake his bloodlust on Shishio's enemies. Later on, Saito provokes him by saying that Usui knows he can't beat Shishio, so he's secretly happy to just hang around as one of the Juppon Gatana. He's right.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gendou Ikari is this to SEELE; he goes along with their plan for the Human Instrumentality Project for as long as he feels he has to, at least until the time is right to start his own Instrumentality.
  • The Gundam franchise has a long and noble history of Starscream villains. Observe:
  • Loki, one of the Eight Fists of Ragnarok in Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple attempts this against the gang's leader, Odin. Going so far as to assemble his own group of Fists and attempt to convince Odin's Dragon Berserker to become the new leader. Loki failed, due to Berserker's lack of interest in being in charge and was promptly beaten down by the unpredictable fighter for his effort.
  • In One Piece, there are several examples.
    • Hannyabal is the Vice-Warden of Impel Down, subordinate to Magellan, the Warden of Impel Down, is so ambitious that he outright states his ambitions to be warden himself in earshot of Magellan, and makes several attempts to get him in trouble, including allowing escaped prisoners Buggy the Clown and Mr. 3 to pass him. Unfortunately, their stupidity forced him to beat them up and capture them. The only time he deals with troublesome prisoners other than this is when his own job is on the line, as Luffy and Inazuma charging into Level 6 of Impel Down. Despite all of this, he works hard at his job and believes in their collective mission, so much so that Magellan will only allow Hannyabal to be his replacement.
    • A flashback reveals that Portgas D. Ace, of all people, started out as one before developing fanatical loyalty to Whitebeard. Of course, this is exactly as Whitebeard had hoped, as he had wanted Ace to be the next King of the Pirates anyway.
    • New Blackbeard member Avalo Pizarro, after some setbacks outright challenges Teach for his post as Captain. He steps down after Lafitte threatens to kill him, but who knows later...
    • Technically, Blackbeard himself could be considered a double Starscream since he was under Ace's command before defecting and starting his own crew. What makes it worse is that he succeeded in having both of his superiors eliminated, defeating and capturing Ace and turning him over to the Marines, thus leading to his execution then attacking Whitebeard when he was at his weakest with an army of the most powerful pirates that were in prison, followed by somehow using his Devil's Fruit powers to steal Whitebeard's own. Offhand, it would appear that Blackbeard became the most powerful and unopposed pirate in the series. Hopefully Luffy can give him a run for his money. He also betrayed The World Government by defecting from the Seven Warlords of the Sea after his crew's raid on Impel Down.
    • A heroic example is Roronoa Zoro, since he's come under Dracule Mihawk's tutelage for the purpose of gaining the strength to defeat Mihawk himself.
  • Does Schneizel el Britannia qualify? By the middle of R2, he clearly has no respect for his father anymore and is clearly angling to hear "Yes, your Majesty" rather than "Yes, your Highness." In fact, he even puts out a hit on his own father, only to have his half-brother beat him to it. The only reason to hesitate is that, for all of R1 and the majority of R2, he's perfectly content with his role as Prime Minister, and its only after he starts feeling that his father is a hindrance to The Empire that he begins to plot to take the throne. Most people in Schneizel's situation, when told that the Emperor did not care about "mundane" issues, would consider a coup to put in effective leadership too.
    • Schneizel mentions Damocles in season 1 - and considering what Damocles is, it could not have been built by Toromo in the one-month time skip. And in the Suzaku of the Counterattack manga, he kills the Emperor and becomes the Big Bad.
  • Several examples in Naruto:
    • Orochimaru suggests that Kabuto may be planning on betraying him, but in the three instances in which he appears to be planning to do so, he remains loyal to him (It helps that he started out as one of Orochimaru's former Akatsuki partner Sasori's spies).
    • Sasuke also did it to Orochimaru. While Orochimaru was thinking all along that Sasuke wants to obtain more powers and would happily give up his body in return, Sasuke not only obtains those powers, but absorbs Orochimaru instead using Orochimaru's own technique.
    • In the Three-Tails arc, Rinji appears to be planning to betray Kabuto and usurp his position and gets killed offscreen for it.
    • Hidan, as he has expressed his desire to kill his leader, but has no real desire to lead, he just wants to kill people.
    • Now that Kabuto has mastered Orochimaru's remains and Edo Tensei, many think he's in a position to be The Starscream to Madara Uchiha now that he's allied with him. Some evidence is how the Edo Tensei zombies are performing in the first battle of the war- like Deidara not attacking like he normally does and Sasori being under armed for combat.
    • Danzo abandoned Konoha to its destruction during the Pain Invasion arc to seize power for himself in the ashes while Tsunade was in a coma.
    • In volume 49, he was also implied to have Starscreamed the Third Hokage, having a hand in Orochimaru's invasion in order to seize power for himself.
  • Quamzin, the overzealous Zentradi warlord in Super Dimension Fortress Macross. While Vrlitwhai is a charismatic Magnificent Bastard who is just so cool that he manages to keep his badass persona even after his Heel Face Turn, even when he blatantly says he's only doing it to save his own skin, as Boddole-zer would kill him and his fleet for being tainted, Quamzin is just a dick who will stab anyone (especially his own superiors) in the back for another chance to attack the humans, or, well anyone else, really. He's such a loose cannon that the other Zentraedi have given him the epithet "Quamzin Ally-Killer". He's not really interested in taking control of the Zentradi fleet, he's just Ax Crazy and doesn't care about collateral damage among his allies.
  • The Espada Barragan was this to Aizen in Bleach. Barragan, the former self proclaimed ruler of the Hollows, hated Aizen for forcefully drafting and humiliating him in front of his subjects. His last act as his own powers of decay are slowly dissolving him is to throw his weapon at his head. Of course, this being Aizen, it didn't work.
    • Yoshino from the anime-only Bount arc initially seems like one, but actually turns out to be a Defector From Decadence. A more straight example is Utegawa, who tried to take control of Jin's scheme by trying to steal his seal. Unfortunately for him, he failed to take Jin's bodyguard into consideration.
    • Suggested to be the reason that Mayuri became Kisuke's Psycho for Hire in that he was told that if anything were to happen to Kisuke, Mayuri would get the chance to replace him. He does manage to replace his boss, but not by betraying him.
    • Ichigo's hollow half is this to him (although Ichigo obviously isn't a villain); he makes it abundantly clear that he'll only work for Ichigo so long as Ichigo is strong enough to keep him down.
  • Shapiro Keats. He makes it pretty clear that his ambitions reach higher than working for Muge Zorbados. Unfortunately, he alienates Luna, a very important potential ally, and Zorbados betrays him first.
  • Vegeta in Dragon Ball was essentially this to Freeza until his Heel Face Turn.
  • Spectra tries to usurp Prince Hydron in Bakugan: New Vestroia. It's unknown if Hydron actually knows of Spectra's machinations, but he's still going to get labeled as a traitor...because Mylene convinced the prince to retreat from New Vestroia and blame Spectra for the Vestals' failure there. She then tells the other Vestals, who think the prince is useless, that "he'll make a good fall guy", revealing that she is also planning to usurp both Spectra and Hydron.
  • Oskar von Reuenthal from Legend of Galactic Heroes is somewhat of an example. He actually is loyal to Kaiser Reinhard, but also a highly ambitious person himself. After Reinhard openly told Reuenthal to come at him whenever he wants if he really wants to challenge him (which he did rather because he just suffered a Heroic BSOD, not because he actually thought Reuenthal considered treachery), he begins to contemplate treachery but is kept in check by his good friend Mittermeier and his loyalty. It just goes to show what a conflicted person he is. He later does commit treachery, but more out of Pride (which makes him a classic example of a Tragic Hero) and not because he wanted to overthrow Kaiser Reinhard. Reuenthal knew he would fail and in the end shows that he's still loyal to Reinhard after all.
  • Hagall from Ah! My Goddess. In fact, she's only introduced when she's actually successfully deposed Hild as the leader of hell. Unusually for this trope, she did this because of her Undying Loyalty to Hild. Hagall usurped Hild because one of Hell's laws states that when the current ruler of Hell's term expires, the ruler must also die.
  • In F-Zero Falcon Densetsu, Zoda at one point sabotages the Crystal Cup race by disabling the astro-shields protecting the track floating in orbit around Earth from being bombarded by meteorites as part of his plan to get rid of Luna Ryder. Soon Black Shadow appears in his Black Bull to rescue her from the meteors and takes a hit from one of them making Zoda think he got rid of Black Shadow as well. With that, the overjoyed Zoda decides to take over as new leader of Dark Million, but what he didn't know was that the Black Bull that took a hit from the meteor to save Luna was a copy sent by the real Black Shadow. As soon as he returns to Black Shadow's throne room, he sees to his surprise that both Black Shadow and Luna are still alive. Voicing his suspicions that Zoda would try plotting something to get rid of her and the fact that he came up with a plan of his own to save her, he then gives him what he deserves for all the trouble he went through by pulling on the cord connected to his head and yanking it hard enough to cause him to scream in agony as oil spills all across the throne room.

Black Shadow: I suspected you would try plotting something to get rid of Luna. So I came up with a plan of my own to save her.
Luna: You deserve something for all the trouble you went through.
Zoda: No! That's not necessary!
Black Shadow: It certainly is. (yanks Zoda's cord and causes oil to start spilling)
Zoda: AAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!

    • This isn't the only time Zoda acted Starscreamy—he continued to attempt annihilating Luna and overthrowing Black Shadow many more times throughout the series before his final appearance.
  • Near the end of Chirin no Suzu, Chirin actually teams up with the evil wolf just so he can be powerful enough to kill him.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • In a straight up subversion Alexander Luthor from DC's Crisis Crossover Infinite Crisis knew that it is generally impossible for anybody to control somebody that's as insane as The Joker so he did not even try. The Joker was VERY unhappy that he was not picked for the team as Luthor eventually found out.
  • For some part of Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog, Robotnik's nephew Snively served as his increasingly untrustworthy lieutenant, and eventually set in motion a plan to destroy Robotnik. And he actually succeeded.
    • Robotnik/Eggman has stated that he knows that Snively and several of his Grandmasters are planning to turn on him, but precisely because of that they serve him to their fullest, because they want to take over a strong empire. He actually applauds Lien Da for an underhanded attempt and chastises Snively for a sloppy one.
    • In the Sonic Sat AM series, Snively constantly grumbles over having to serve the Doctor, but doesn't actually attempt to harm him. He simply plays along until Robotnik is electrocuted in the final episode, then is seen donning his uncle's trademark yellow cape. He does, however, resemble Starscream in voice, Especially considering his voice is done by Charlie Adler.
    • In the Fleetway Sonic the Comic series, Robotnik also had to fight against Commander Brutus, a robot with an indestructible body and a copy of his own brain patterns, who started off as Robotnik's Dragon and then rebelled against him. Robotnik himself was briefly The Starscream when he was allied with the Drakon Empire.
      • Robotnik's lackey Grimer also occasionally betrayed Robotnik, although he was generally a lot less proactive than most Starscreams; rather than actively work against Robotnik, he'd just take advantage of opportunities if they came up. Most notably, he betrayed Robotnik while Robotnik was betraying the Drakon Emperor; Robotnik was hiding the fact that he knew where the Chaos Emeralds were until he could gain an advantage, and Grimer eventually decided to reveal this and lead them to the Emeralds himself in exchange for a high-ranking position.
    • Also from the Archie comics, there's Miles, Tails' Evil Twin from Moebius. Originally loyal to Scourge (Sonic's counterpart), he eventually convinced the rest of the Suppression Squad to turn on him, and soon after set himself up as their new leader.
  • In DC Comics' Green Lantern, a powerful villain named Mongul seeks to take control of the Sinestro Corps from its current leader, Sinestro.
    • And before Mongul came onto the scene, Superboy-Prime was the Starscream, planning to betray the Sinestro Corps' "guardian", the Anti-Monitor, and kill him in revenge for the Anti-Monitor's destruction of Prime's entire universe.
    • Sinestro himself played the Starscream as well, back when he was still a Green Lantern. He had major plans to dethrone and murder his superiors, the Guardians, due to his belief they were doing a poor job running the universe (which, all things considered, probably isn't far off).
  • Marvel Comics' Fabian Cortez plays the trope straight, betraying Magneto and "killing" him.
  • Moonstone of the Thunderbolts and Dark Avengers. Hell, this goes back to her Masters of Evil days.
  • In Matt Wagner's Mage: The Hero Discovered, Emil Grackleflint
  • Marvel's Loki to the Asgardians.
  • Weasel of Deadpool fame (during the latter's Villain Protagonist arcs). He's nowhere near as scared of Deadpool as someone with his proximity and history should be, and Deadpool speculates in front of him that he might be one of these - but he's just too useful to kill.
  • Darth Wyrrlok is an unusual example- he betrays his master Darth Krayt only because he feels this best serves Krayt's own goal of a Sith-ruled galaxy. As he puts it: "Sometimes for the dream to live, the dreamer must die". High Moff Morlish Veed from the same series is a more traditional example, though his own shortsightedness means he generally winds up a pawn for more competent players.
  • Desaad, Torture Technician and advisor for Darkseid.
  • Grand Vizier Iznogoud, who wants to become "Caliph instead of the Caliph" (although the Caliph isn't really that much of a Big Bad, more of a Big Naive).


Fanfiction[edit | hide]

  • In "The Council Era", a Mass Effect fanfic taking place around 83 CE (in the first half) , both salarian advisor Tyrin Lieph and krogan advisor Halak Marr eventually overshadow their respective bosses (The Council for Tyrin, Krogan Overlord Kurvok for Halak) in terms of power and prominence.
    • Tyrin is temporarily Councilor after the asari Councilor gave him the title, and later was elected as Councilor after the salarian Councilor's death. Before this, he consistently manipulates the Councilors in order to further his own gains. He'd been conspiring to push himself into the upper political echelon in order to "improve" the galaxy as he saw fit for approximately 30 years. Telia and Roraan (the Councilors he served) were just collateral damage when he finally could start making ripples in the galaxy.
    • Halak forces Kurvok into retirement and becomes Overlord, but this is long after Marr began pulling the strings and became the real driving force behind the Krogan Rebellions.
  • Ponies Make War: Nihilus obediently obeys Titan's orders to hunt down the Mane Six—so she can take the Elements of Harmony (which Titan doesn't know exist) from them, corrupt them, and use them to overthrow Titan and establish herself as the new ruler of Equestria.
  • Ace Combat: The Equestrian War has Red Cyclone. He remains loyal to General Silverbeak until chapter 14.
  • Dusk and Dawn: In a similar vein to Ponies Make War above, Eclipse wants to unite the Elements of Harmony to overthrow Nightmare Moon for the good of Equestria.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Lord Sopesian and Lord Glozelle seek to overthrow King Miraz in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian by provoking him into accepting Peter's challenge of a mano-a-mano sword fight in hopes that he'll be killed. When this doesn't happen, Sopesian stabs Miraz in the back. Glozelle gets a Heel Face Turn, though.
    • In the book, Glozelle is the one who stabs Miraz to death, as revenge for his ex-leader insulting him before the duel with Peter takes place. Both him and Sopesian end up killed in battle.
  • In The Matrix trilogy, Agent Smith starts out as a loyal (if somewhat disgruntled) Agent of the system, but eventually rebels and decides to just kill everybody, humans and machines, which ultimately forces both sides to make peace so Neo can stop him.
  • Scott Evil takes over Dr. Evil's empire at the end of Goldmember. A variation in that he only gradually becomes this over the course of the series, as his suggestions are constantly ignored and he attempts to earn Dr. Evil's approval. It's only at the end once Dr. Evil has his Heel Face Turn that he finally snaps.
  • Modus operandi of virtually all Sith, who tend to be just waiting for their Master to slip up. Creator of the Rule of Two, Darth Bane, even applauds it in his apprentice when he finds out she would have supplanted him if he had lost certain battles. In fact, the rule was created because the Sith spent more time fighting between them (playing this trope straight) than trying to rule the galaxy/fight the Jedi, among many other things, but since the average Starscream is usually not strong enough to off their boss directly, or they'd be the boss as a matter of course. Same with the Sith[1]
    • Plagueis attempted to avert the trope when mentoring Darth Sidious/Palpatine, only for that to backfire horribly when Palpatine decided to kill him off in his sleep. It's also strongly implied that Sidious had also manipulated everything Plagueis did since becoming his apprentice (and possibly even before becoming his apprentice, if Book of Sith is anything to go by) with the latter never realizing it until his death.
    • Bane based the Rule Of Two off of a holocron left by Revan. True to form, Revan's apprentice, Malak, tried to assassinate him while he was fighting off a Jedi team sent to capture him.
    • In fact, Darth Maul almost failed a Sith Initiation Test because he was not a Starscream and was completely loyal to Darth Sidious, to the extent that Palpatine had to motivate Maul by lying about cultivating an apprentice (or at least a half-truth) to get him to have enough anger to even nearly kill his master.
    • Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader) in particular. In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin believes he can overthrow Palpatine and rule the galaxy with Padme, likely foreshadowed in Attack of the Clones with his mistrust in Senatorial politics. Then he tries it again with his son in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Special mention given because it does not involve the typical Sith MO of killing their masters over power, for it seems more like Anakin does not like how Palpatine rules, and wants to supplant him and perhaps do it better.
  • Repo the Genetic Opera has three Starscreams—the Largo siblings. Each of them would happily topple the other and can't wait until their father dies so they can get the top spot. Until the end of the film, where their father's crushing rejection of all three of them in favour of his ex-wife's kid causes Luigi and Pavi to stand behind Amber as she takes over the company.
  • Number Two Number Two of the Austin Powers franchise is a very rare sympathetic example.
  • Hector Barbossa from the Pirates of the Caribbean films was this to Jack Sparrow. Originally, Barbossa was Sparrow's first mate, until one day he and several other pirates on Sparrow's ship decided to get rid of their captain by throwing Sparrow overboard, and as a result Barbossa becomes their captain instead.
  • Rico in Judge Dredd, who murders Chief Justice Griffin and takes over control of Griffin's evil plan.
  • Riff-Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He pulls it off.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Consul in Hyperion is sent to the Ousters to spy on them. He goes there, betrays the whole human race by revealing vital information, and gains the Ousters' trust. Then he hijacks a base, kills the Ouster technicians and fire a weapon designed to destroy the anti-entropic fields surrounding the Time Tombs, thus releasing the Shrike. So he acted as the Starscream to both sides. Then he got sent on the Pilgrimage, which might have made it a Xanatos Gambit if that was his original plan. The other pilgrims, after realizing this, can't be bothered, because they figure this pilgrimage will kill them anyway, and won't make a difference.
  • The Kid of Stephen King's epic The Stand aimed to overthrow Randall Flagg.
  • The wizard Raistlin Majere of the Dragonlance novels was one of the most ambitious, planning to overthrow the all-powerful evil dragon goddess who was the chief villainess of the earlier books and to ascend to godhood to take her place. Actually, he wanted to eventually destroy the whole pantheon of Krynn and to become the sole new deity of the world. He managed it, too, although Time Travel, a horrifying vision of what would happen to the world if he succeeded, and an appeal from his twin brother stopped him from destroying the world. He chose Redemption Equals Death.
  • Saruman of The Lord of the Rings. His dreams of using the One Ring against Sauron were mostly left out of the films. And in the end treachery helps save the day. When Merry and Pippin are captured by a mixed band of orcs, Saruman's orcs insist on taking them to Isengard. En route, the orcs are wiped out by the Rohirrim, and the hobbits escape. If the orcs had gone to Mordor, it's unlikely anyone could have stopped them from reaching the Dark Tower—and Merry and Pippin would have spilled the whole plan under torture. One ringwraith (or even two trolls) standing guard at Mount Doom would have put paid to the quest.
  • In a way, Scourge of the Warrior Cats series is a Starscream, as he's generally treated as an underling by Tigerstar before slitting his throat and killing him nine times over with the emotion one would reserve for swatting a fly.
    • Mudclaw would probably count, too.
  • Lanfear in The Wheel of Time schemes to overthrow the Dark One, and still has a thing for main character (and old boyfriend) Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn. Despite playing The Dragon to the Dark One's Big Bad, she's pretty solidly on the side of the good guys in the first few books - she imagines that, teamed up with Rand, they'd be unstoppable.
    • The Wheel of Time also has Padan Fain, a Gollum / Agent Smith style wild card who's got a major grudge against both the Light side (Dragon Reborn) and the Dark side (the Dark One), and who (being empowered by Shadar Logoth) is enough of a threat to pull it off.
  • Visser Three is the Starscream to Visser One in Animorphs. Although he is the primary Big Bad and he does succeed.
    • Subverted (possibly) in that Visser Three isn't actually working for Visser One, he's working for the Council of Thirteen, whom Visser One just happens to be betraying.
  • Rupert of Hentzau is this to Black Michael in The Prisoner of Zenda.
  • Collectively, the Sisters of the Dark are sort of like this to Emperor Jagang in the Sword of Truth series. They're not trying to take over the Order that he runs, so much as pursuing their own goals while enslaved to him.
  • An unusual example comes from the Chronicles of Prydain. Originally, Arawn, the dreaded Death Lord and Big Bad of the series, was the consort and servant of Queen Achren,the ruler of Prydain in the series backstory, who taught him all of her secret arts. Arawn used this power to betray Achren and become Lord of Annuvin, at which point Achren became The Starscream to him.
  • Quite a lot of Redwall's villains have a Starscream. Lantur in Marlfox actually succeeds.
    • Zwilt the Shade is another notable one, as he virtually becomes another "main villain" when he seems to kill Vilaya.
  • Drake from the Gone (novel) series seems to serve this role to Caine-though Caine is certainly the mastermind villain, Drake would easily overpower him if he'd been Blessed with Suck (or Cursed with Awesome) with something better than his weird whip-arm. According to Word of God, Caine is sociopathic, while Drake is psychopathic, so they compliment each other's strengths and weaknesses.
  • The Forgotten Realms Dark Elves. Not only do they pursue the blessing of their goddess, The Goddess of Chaos, Lolth, which leads to a lot of squabbles, itself, but their entire race is just a pile-up of this. Families strive to climb the ranks and eventually join the council. On top of that, each elf strives to position him/herself as the most important in their family, under their matron mother. AS WELL AS becoming the highest rank in their chosen profession. (The children of the families can become priestess, warriors, or wizards.) If you can't guess, this leads to a LOT of backstabbing. And frontstabbing. And poisoning. And... Well, let's just say that the leading cause of death for Dark Elves is other Dark Elves.
  • Lensman. This behaviour is actually approved of among the various alien races opposing Civilisation due to the Social Darwinist nature of their society. It's believed that if a subordinate does succeed in usurping his superior, then the Big Bad was no longer fit to hold the job in the first place. And even among the "good" guys, the Palainians operate under this paradigm. Nadreck is loyal because he knows any of his three fellow Second-Stage Lensmen can kick his "spiny tokus" if he tries to cross them - and he'd also have Mentor of Arisia on his case. He can, and gleefully does, use every dirty trick in the book, and more, against the Bad Guys.
  • Speaker-To-Animals in Ringworld, and during the journey to the Ringworld itself, Speaker would pull this shit every ten pages, and each time would be EASILY thwarted by the Puppeteer. It becomes a Running Gag of sorts.
  • Joruus C'baoth to Grand Admiral Thrawn, for basically the entire time that they were a Big Bad Duumvirate. C'baoth chafed under Thrawn's directions and constantly tried to get around his orders. Thrawn's Commander Contrarian, Captain Pellaeon, even said that taking an insane cloned Jedi Master off his planet and into the Imperial fleet was a bad, bad idea. Thrawn had plans for the stunts C'baoth pulled, but if the two of them hadn't been killed more or less at the same time at the end of the book, it's anyone's guess what would have happened.
    • In the X Wing Series, Kirtan Loor gradually moves away from loyal minionhood and towards this. When he's put in charge of the Palpatine Counterinsurgency Front on newly-captured Coruscant while everyone higher-ranked than he is leaves, he gets a lot of autonomy, allowed to harass and terrorize the New Republic pretty much any way he wants. Eventually he decides that while he's not an idiot and won't directly oppose Isard, he's not terrified of her anymore, and she won't live forever. Not long after that thought hits, the head of the organization commissioned to neutralize the Palpatine Counterinsurgency Front tracks him down, but not to bring him to justice, just to get him to hit targets that head wants eliminated. Loor agrees, in part because otherwise he'd be either killed or taken to justice, but thinks that Flirry Vorru, too, won't live forever. At the end of The Krytos Trap he does actually turn against them, but to try and seek sanctuary with the New Republic in exchange for some information. It doesn't work out.
    • Fate of the Jedi has several conspiracies, each of them consisting of villains constantly trying to overthrow the others, or discarding them when their services are no longer required. The Lost Tribe of the Sith (Notice a pattern?) in particular want to learn what they can from Abeloth and then discard her.
  • Subverted in the second Mistborn book. Zane continually tries to kill his lord and father Straff, but he turns out to have no real desire to succeed- he hates Straff to be sure, but would rather just let him lead his armies and rule his kingdom, as Zane has no desire to do this himself. The assassination attempts are just because Straff, being in his own way as much of a paranoid psycho as Zane, expects assassination attempts and Zane simply obliges him. At one point Zane thinks to himself that if he really wanted Straff dead, Straff would already be dead. Also, Zane's one moral seems to be that "a man shouldn't kill his father".
  • John Dread from Tad Williams' Otherland is a Psycho for Hire mentored and kept on a short leash by Corrupt Corporate Executive Felix Jongleur, who uses him as a special "enforcer". As powerful as Jongleur is, he badly underestimates the ambition and cunning of his subordinate, who uses his Technopath powers to take over control of the Otherland network at the worst possible time for his boss and his plans, and thereby successfully graduates to Big Bad.
  • In I, Lucifer, Luce is rightly cautious about his absence being known in hell, as he'll likely be usurped. He figures that Astaroth will attempt to move against him should he learn of his "holiday" in typical Starscream fashion. Instead Uriel, whom Lucifer mistakingly thought loyal, has decided to take leadership and move against heaven whilst Astaroth fights loyally to maintain Satan's throne.
  • Black Company has the Taken, who spend more time sabotaging each other than actually fighting La Résistance. During the Battle of Charm, only Nightcrawler is apparently killed by enemy action: Shapeshifter is said to have been lost under suspicious circumstances, Stormbringer and Bonegnasher apparently kill each other, The Faceless Man and Moonbiter are assassinated and Soulcatcher openly attacks The Howler. Of course, most of them get better.
    • Soulcatcher herself is the queen of this trope. her plan in the first novel was to join the treacherous Taken planning to free the Dominator and play them off against the Taken loyal to the Lady, hoping to end up with the Rebel wizards, the other Taken and the Lady dead, leaving herself as the only person of power in the land, with the Dominator unable to free himself unassisted.
  • Keys to the Kingdom has Superior Saturday and the Piper, who both want to oust Lord Sunday and replace him as the new ruler of the House.
  • The entire Psychlo race in Battlefield Earth seems composed of Starscreams to the point that one wonders how they were able to cooperate enough to set up an empire at all.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "A Witch Shall Be Born", Conan joins Olgerd in raiding. When Olgerd drags his heels about attacking Constantius as promised, Conan invokes this trope.
  • General Bluque in Stationery Voyagers plays this to Emperor Alhox the entire time. By the time Alhox grows wise to it, the Teal Fleet alone remains loyal to him. He ends up taking the blame for what was ultimately Bluque's idea also, namely, allowing the Voyagers' stalker to be Captain Nonpriel. As his memory starts to return to him, he realizes that Bluque was behind the murder of Lubius also. A MAJOR Heel Face Turn ensues for Alhox. Fearing the Voyagers won't accept him even after his epiphany, he convinces them that they need him to defeat Melchar. Thankfully for them, the Mystery Wanderer also proves to be a Starscream for Bluque, which essentially eliminates the RMM as a threat to anyone.
  • The Divine Comedy features a whole segment dedicated to this, in the ninth and nethermost circle of hell. At first we have Caina, for betrayers of family; then Antenora, for betrayers of nation; then Ptolomea, for betrayers of friends; and finally, Judecca, for...this trope. All are in a frozen lake, befitting their "cold-blooded" crimes. Note that even if you did it because your boss was evil, you go here.
  • Nicci in Sword of Truth, who was Jagang's real Dragon as Death's Mistress, but later does a High Heel Face Turn in Faith of the Fallen, where she becomes Richard and the good guys' ally and main Black Magician Girl. Before this, though, she saw Jagang as a brute (albeit a brilliant one) and since he could no longer enter her mind, constantly planned to eventually become the real evil.
  • Logno in Chapterhouse: Dune. She succeeds in killing the Great Honored Matre, but she doesn't enjoy her victory for long. The main Honored Matre force falls shortly afterwards, and she herself dies.
  • The nameless artist in The Dark Is Rising: Greenwitch. He plans to retrieve the canister containing the ancient prophesy from the titular Greenwitch, going against the wishes of his masters. It doesn't end well for him.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Ba'al of Stargate SG-1 who was supposedly in the service of Anubis while he was in fact trying to topple him and take his place. This led him to cooperate with SG-1 to stop Anubis from obtaining a weapon that would give him power over the entire galaxy. Notably, Ba'al betrayed Anubis in this manner twice. Ba'al also stuck around to continue playing The Starscream in the Ori story arc, scheming to undermine the Ori's Take Over the Galaxy plot so that he could be the one to Take Over the Galaxy. And Despite perpetually making himself a nuisance or worse to much more powerful Big Bads, Ba'al managed to outlast them all, mostly through being Dangerously Genre Savvy.
    • Qetesh becomes Ba'al's own Starscream in Stargate: Continuum
    • On the Darker and Edgier spin-off Stargate Universe, Colonel Young, has two Starscreams, Camille Wray of the IOA, and the much more dangerous Dr Nicholas Rush.
    • The Genii leader Cowen in Stargate Atlantis has Ladon Radim pretend to be planning a coup in order to lure Sheppard into an ambush. When Weir tells him that they are able to cure Radim's sister from near-terminal radiation poisoning, Cowen tells her he does not care - in Radim's hearing. Guess what happens next.
  • Spike, in season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and thus well before his himification. As an unwilling minion to Angelus, Spike seemed content to stick to snarky remarks and threatening glares, until Angelus unveiled his plan to destroy the world... and seemed poised to pull it off, too. Spike, who likes the world, was not amused. He promptly betrayed Angelus to the good guys. And this wasn't the first time Spike successfully Starscreamed somebody, either. Initially he was in league with the Anointed One, the late Master's right-hand boy. This lasted all of one episode, before Spike killed the "Annoying One" and took over.
    • Mr. Trick also became one when he grew tired of being The Dragon for the old-minded Kakistos and left him to be dusted by Buffy and Faith.
    • If one considers Adam to be Maggie Walsh's Dragon, then he also pulled a Starscream against his creator.
    • In Angel, Lilah Morgan pulls one on Linwood Murrow, the President of Wolfram & Hart Special Projects Division, but does it with the blessing of the Senior Partners.
  • Scorpius upstaging Crais in Farscape is a rare example of it actually working. Ironic since Scorpius was originally created to be a one story villain to never be seen again.
    • Also ironic since Scorpius technically outranks Crais
  • Power Rangers uses this in most seasons after Power Rangers in Space. Generally, there's two dragons- one Starscreamy, and one loyal. Which one ends up on top varies.
    • The first of these was Darkonda. Interestingly, he wasn't after the Big Bad of the season per se. Rather, he wanted to go all the way and destroy the Man Behind the Man. Interestingly, he succeeded, but failed to survive the attack.
    • Some non-dragon villains in Power Rangers can also qualify as Starscreams. For example, Power Rangers Wild Force brings us Mandilok, the Mouth General of the Orgs. Having been suspicious of Master Org and finally realized he was actually the human Dr. Viktor Adler, Jindrax and Toxica went to look for a replacement for Master Org, and they found Mandilok. He was more than happy to be of service to them as their new master. Later, after Viktor lost all of his Org powers in battle with Cole, Jindrax and Toxica introduced Viktor to Mandilok and, mocking him out of knowledge that the real Master Org died 3,000 years ago and claiming that Master Org is never coming back, he throws Viktor off a cliff, taking his place as the new master of the Orgs for a while until the reborn Master Org's eventual return.
    • Grizzaka, the Land Overlord in Power Rangers Jungle Fury, also qualifies as a Starscream. Naturally, he blames Dai Shi for losing the war 10,000 years ago and hates humans even more. This makes perfect sense as, after being revived by Camille, he, upon arriving at Dai Shi's temple, is surprised to see that Dai Shi is now using the human Jarrod as a vessel. Jarrod wants Grizzaka to teach him Zocato, but, naturally, Grizzaka isn't too thrilled about that and simply refuses to take orders from any human. Guess what he does next?
    • Generally, The Starscream is the less sympathetic of the two, as the loyal Dragon has Noble Demon traits while the treacherous one is all about greed and power, but in Power Rangers Time Force, when you find out what Frax's beef with Ransik really is... ouch.
    • Broodwing of Power Rangers SPD got the farthest. As he was the arms dealer the Big Bad and the various unaffiliated criminals got their weaponry from, he was able to easily step into the role of The Heavy and there wasn't much anyone else could do. (It helps that Broody was the main villain of Dekaranger, SPD's parent Super Sentai series, so it was a lot cheaper to have him as the villain.)
  • Similar deal in Super Sentai, the series Power Rangers gets its footage from. They vary in how successful they are. Notably, in Choujin Sentai Jetman, Radiguet, the villain that is ultimately the series Big Bad gets reduced to a Starscream ... for only two episodes.
    • Tensou Sentai Goseiger has the one who takes the cake. At first Buredoran simply knows things the others don't and keeps the real deal to himself, but in the end he's actually using the strengths of all three villain organization to further his own plan. He's a fallen Gosei Angel who wants to use the power that will resurrect everyone for the final judgment at the end of the world to instead erase all life. His supposed bosses were actually so far beneath him it's not funny.
  • Kamen Rider Dragon Knight gives us Kamen Rider Torque. Fearing a You Have Failed Me..., he decides to go after his boss first. It doesn't work out so well, and not for his failure, but his treachery, he winds up being among the first of oh-so-many to be taken out by his replacement as The Dragon, the smooth but sociopathic Kamen Rider Strike.
  • Tom Zarek on Battlestar Galactica starts working to topple or undermine President Roslin as soon as he's introduced, stopping just short of an assassination attempt. After Roslin suffers a Heroic BSOD in "A Disquiet Follows My Soul", he partners with Gaeta to stage a mutiny and take control of the fleet, and shows signs of usurping him as well.
  • Shane Vendrell from The Shield is that series' Starscream, though the writers took a great deal of time (about three seasons) to pull the trigger on his betrayal of Vic Mackey. Though Vic takes him back into the fold once Shane crashes and burns on his own during season four, the reconciliation doesn't last very long. Shane murders fellow Strike Team member Curtis "Lem" Lemansky, when Shane realizes that Vic was stalling on giving the order to kill him, due to Vic's sentimentality keeping him from realizing Lem had to be killed before IAD could break him and bring the entire Strike Team down. This in turn leads to a confrontation for seasons six and seven, between Shane (Starscream) and Vic (Megatron) and Ronnie (Soundwave).
  • Blakes Seven features computer hacker Avon on the heroes' side, who constantly attempts to abandon Blake and make off with the Liberator and the fabulous wealth it holds, and makes no secret of this. Eventually, Blake disappears on his own, and Avon wins the subsequent power struggle against Tarrant, putting him in charge; however, by then, he has become increasingly paranoid, decides to continue the resistance, and wants Blake back. When they meet again, he shoots Blake because he is afraid that Blake has betrayed the ideals of the revolution and sold out to The Federation.
  • Arch-fiend Sylar of Heroes. Every volume features a major Big Bad either directly or indirectly recruiting him as their Dragon. Because Evil Is Not a Toy, it never ends well for anyone except Sylar.
    • * Emile Danko was this to Nathan Petrelli in Volume 4. When Danko took over he was much worse
  • Alex Krycek (The X-Files) has had a few sneaky attempts at clawing his way to power, including his stint in charge at a Russian gulag, his recurring threats (and eventual attempt) to kill the Cigarette Smoking Man (and when that failed, attempting to ensure his place as CSM's successor) and manipulating Jeffrey Spender. You can practically see him waiting in the shadows, ready to seize power with both hands. Well, one hand anyway.
  • Captain Grisham to Colonel Montoya in Queen of Swords.
  • Jayne from Firefly frequently alludes to his willingness to betray Mal if he feels it will profit him. When Zoe is left in charge of the ship, she semi-seriously expresses concern that the "power-hungry maniac" will kill her in her sleep. However, Jayne is gentled quite a bit after Mal threatens to blow him out the airlock into space.
    • Simon got to play the reluctant crony version of this in the final episode, Objects in Space, when the bounty hunter Jubal Early makes him help track down River. Early Lampshades it himself, saying "You're gonna help me because every second you're with me is a chance to turn the tables, get the better of me, and it's the only chance your sister has. Maybe you'll find your moment. Maybe I'll slip." This, in fact, does happen, but Simon, neither being a fighter nor having a gun, loses spectacularly.
  • Diana reveals herself to be one of these towards the end of V: The Final Battle.
    • And in the followup TV series, she got one of her own in Lydia.
  • Defied Trope with Jamie in The Thick of It: Malcolm specifically chose a Bastard Understudy too batshit to pull off a successful betrayal. Eventually he does make a rather pathetic attempt, which fails horribly.
  • Samir Mehran in season 8 of Twenty Four. Although, unlike most examples of the trope, he didn't plan it all along, he only decided to overthrow his boss (Farhad Hassan) when said boss proved unwilling to threaten New York with a dirty bomb to force the Americans to give up President Hassan.
  • Both Darken Rahl and Nicci pull a Starscream on The Keeper in Legend of the Seeker.
  • The Mirror Universe of Star Trek:
    • Sulu plots to get rid of both Kirk and Spock, but suddenly finds himself badly outnumbered when Marlena uses the Tantalus Field to wipe out his men.
    • Garak repeatedly tried to get rid of Intendant Kira, with little success. Kira kept him on because he was good at his job (but not nearly as good at interrogation as Garak-prime).
    • Archer was The Starscream to Captain Forrest, and in a way to the Imperial Starfleet once he had his hands on the prime universe's Defiant (the one from "The Tholian Web", not the Deep Space Nine battleship), only for Hoshi to betray him and take over.
    • In the regular universe, Damar wound up as the Starscream to Dukat by killing his daughter, therefore driving him insane. However, this was a subversion. Damar did this because he saw Ziyal as a traitor to Cardassia and killing her in Dukat's best interest, not because he disdained Dukat or wanted his job. Nonetheless, this all put Dukat out of the leadership and second-in-command Damar in his stead.
  • In The A-Team episode "The Rabbit Who Ate Las Vegas", Hannibal's plan to rescue an innocent professor out from under a Vegas mob boss' nose goes perfectly smoothly... until, just as they're getting away, the boss' right-hand man, Martell, takes advantage of the trouble they've been causing to throw his boss out of a window and frame them for it.
  • Ted Altman spends the first season of Intelligence playing this role, setting in motion a number of schemes to undermine and replace his boss as head of the Vancouver Organized Crime Unit.
  • Season 6 of Supernatural gives us Castiel, the local Sixth Ranger Traitor. He and Crowley hatch a plan to set themselves up as the new God and Lucifer, respectively. Their alliance hits a few snags, and ultimately Cas becomes God, but Crowley does not become Lucifer.
    • Note that Cas had more power than Crowley for most of their working relationship, rather than working under him, and prior to that had joined La Résistance for moral reasons at great personal cost, even leaving aside that he'd already died twice saving the world by this point. He was also becoming God to end a war that he'd started to prevent the apocalypse beginning again. His qualifications as Starscream are slim, but The Dark Side Will Make You Forget is prominent.
  • Rare quasi-sympathetic example with Edmund Blackadder in his first and third incarnations. It's hard to blame him given the dangerously inept powers in charge. The second, fourth, Victorian, and Cavalier Years incarnations are, arguably, just trying to stay alive.
  • Stringer Bell in The Wire fits this trope perfectly, killing D'Angelo behind Avon's back, and taking advantage of Avon's imprisonment to restructure the Barksdale Organization under his own model. We like him, because his model is smarter and more professional, and will lead to less violence, but he doesn't get the extent to which Avon only cares about playing The Game, and goes down because he thought it was about making the most money.
  • Early in the run of The Office (USA), Dwight Schrute is enamored with Michael. As the show goes on, he decides he should be the one running the Scranton branch and becomes the Starscream to anyone who's actually running it.
  • Nikita plays with trope in an interesting way, in that Percy—the Big Bad of the show—is himself The Starscream to his superiors in Oversight; he stopped being loyal to them years ago, and keeps secret documentation of all the government's dirty secrets prepped to be released upon his death, thus insuring that they can't assassinate him without bringing down the whole government (them primarily).
    • Towards the end of Season 1, Percy gained his own Starscream in Amanda, who at some point turned on him and joined with Oversight to take him down; by the time Season 2 starts, Percy is locked up, and Amanda's running Division. More recently, she's become a more classical Starscream towards Oversight, in that she's actively plotting against them, and seems intent to bring them down.
  • In Doctor Who the Daleks have repeatedly turned against and overthrown their creator, Davros, only to come crawling back when they are weak, because he is smarter than them. Not smart enough to have realized that when he created a race that thinks they are superior to everyone, that would include himself, though. Subverted in the 2005 revival episode "The Stolen Earth"; the Daleks don't even pretend to respect him this time, and are keeping him as a "pet".
  • In C-Drama Holy Pearl Kagura-expy Hu Ji despises her master and spends a large part of the series maneuvering to wrest power from him.
  • A non-villainous example has Penelope from Gossip Girl constantly trying to usurp Blair's role as Alpha Bithc


Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • David Otunga showed signs of this toward The Nexus leader Wade Barrett. When the Nexus was in a situation where all of the members faced other WWE wrestlers and Barrett told the other members to either win or be kicked out of the group, Otunga was quick to point out this applied to Barrett as well. He expressed his desire to win a battle royal to determine the #1 contender to Randy Orton's WWE championship, which didn't impress Barrett. On the same night, he tried to make friends with John Cena, knowing that Cena was unhappy being a part of the Nexus and was the most likely member of the group to turn on Barrett. This backfired, as Cena was able to eliminate Otunga and justify his actions by telling Barrett what Otunga was trying to do. He led the Nexus on an invasion of WWE Smackdown (without Barrett) and failed miserably, with Barrett pointing out that the next time he decides to undermine his leadership, he should be successful about it. Barrett for his part seems well aware of Otunga's discontent, and has on a number of occasions put him in some really bad situations because of it, such as forcing him to forfeit the Tag Team Titles to Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater, or forcing him to wrestle Edge with the stipulation that he'd be fired if he lost. He seemed to have the rest of Nexus on his side of the struggle; all of them left Barrett to be beaten down by Cena alone.
    • Interestingly, he didn't seem to have a problem when CM Punk became leader of the Nexus.
  • Kurt Angle was this in the early part of the Main Event Mafia against Sting. Eventually, Angle got fed up with Sting not being evil enough and usurped his control of the group.
  • The Rock became this for Faarooq in the Nation of Domination, and eventually took over and retooled the stable to his own liking.
  • The Corporation era in WWF was full of Starscreams. First it was Shane McMahon usurping power right out from under his own father to form the Corporate Ministry. Then it was Vince McMahon taking said power away from his wife (in a double swerve orchestrated with his own son, thus rendering the previous insurrection moot). Then later on in 1999 after the McMahons turned face, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon took control of the company in a very Machiavellian fashion in what was known as the McMahon-Helmsley Era. Stone Cold eventually got involved too as part of the InVasion angle when all of WCW and ECW were a Starscream.

Religion[edit | hide]

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Mephistopheles in Dungeons & Dragons rules the eighth layer of Baator, Cania. He makes no secret of his plots to conquer the ninth layer, Nessus, and overthrow Asmodeus. In fact, he has said as such directly to Asmodeus's face. Asmodeus, being the ultimate Magnificent Bastard, has absolutely no fear of Mephistopheles and allows him to plot away.
    • This applies to the rest of the Lords of the Nine as well (they're devils, what do you expect?) to a (much) lesser degree, but most strongly to Levistus. He is still suffering the punishment from his previous coup attempts, buried in ice after killing Asmodeus' consort when he suspected her of betraying one of his schemes. Despite this, he maintains control over Stygia, and the actual reason he was imprisoned was for being too whimsical.
    • On the other hand is Geryon, a subordinate who was punished for being too loyal, because loyalty is weakness in Baator. Which is ironic, because Dante's Geryon was the "Beast of Fraud".
    • Baalzebul is a subversion - a Starscream who actually did manage to get punished. Baalzebul used to be the #2 guy in Hell - a demonic angel figure who ruled 2 layers of Hell, one himself and one through another Lord he manipulated. Asmodeus melted him into a sluglike form and demoted him to #3.
    • According to Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells, just about every devil is either a Starscream to his/her/its superior, or at least hopes to replace the superior upon the latter's death or demotion.
    • Elsewhere in the D&D game, several Ravenloft darklords have Starscreams on the payroll. One of the most powerful darklords, Azalin the lich-king, actually used to be a Starscream, before he left Strahd's domain and service. In so doing, Azalin gained his own domain, so that one was a draw.
    • The vampire Kas was this to Vecna. The attempted coup didn't really work (at least not in the long term), although Vecna did lose his hand and eye.
  • In the Scarred Lands tabletop RPG, one of the villains is a being called Mormus, AKA The Jack Of Tears, who rules over his own part of the world. He has four lieutenants, and all but one of them is planning to usurp him and betray each other. Mormus's well aware of this, but he lets them continue their machinations just because it amuses him.
  • Warhammer 40,000. Find a Chaos warband, Ork mob, Dark Eldar Kabal, or Imperial planet. Find the next most powerful Marine, next biggest Ork, next most powerful Dark Eldar, or next highest-ranking noble. Congratulations, there's a 98% chance the person you've found fits the bill in a manner appropriate to the race in question. Their rate of Starscreaming is close to 100%, as the only person in their entire society not trying to overthrow his/her superior is Asdrubael Vect, and only because he has no superior to backstab. And although they are viciously competitive, the Dark Eldar set aside their personal ambition and grudges when it comes time to execute a realspace raid for captives and plunder - they're scheming bastards, but they aren't stupid enough to sabotage their Kabal's success (not to mention risk their own lives) by screwing up the battle plan.
  • The Skaven in Warhammer Fantasy Battle. If a Grey Seer doesn't honestly believe his ascent to the Council of Thirteen, usually by betraying everyone in sight, isn't the only hope for the Skaven race, he's been trained wrong. The primary weakness of the Skaven is that the vitally important role of The Starscream is given to everyone (though since the race literally breeds like rats, it's probably a vital form of population control).
  • Princess Magnificent With Lips Of Coral And Robes of Black Feathers from Exalted was forced by her bosses to work for the First and Forsaken Lion; she's not happy about that arrangement at all, and plots his downfall. It's gotten to the point where fans sometimes refer to them as "Princess Starscream and the First and Forsaken Megatron."
  • If you're playing a Ventrue in Vampire: The Requiem, and you're NOT the Prince, you're this.
    • The Ventrue see the Daeva as this and they have good reasons for thinking this way.
  • Sometimes one Starscream just isn't enough, so the New Phyrexia set from Magic the Gathering gives us the black Phyrexian faction - The Seven Steel Thanes, which is basically seven Starscreams, each with their own personal army and each trying to out-stab the other six, as well as any other Phyrexian higher-ups that happen to stand between them and the position of Father of Machines.
    • Magic the Gathering loves these. Storyline-wise, Tezzeret is turning into one. But more gameplay-wise, you get your choice of the Lord of the Pit and Force of Nature. Arabian Nights gave us four djinn who do this. All of which are creatures that are powerful, at least for the cost to summon them, but use up a resource or hurt their controller directly. The Juzám Djinn listed above is considered the best, both among those djinn and among creatures in general when it was introduced. Most new players will still react to such things as "Any card that hurts you is bad," but many experienced players have been more than happy to deal with the drawbacks of creatures like these.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • Cassius in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. A subversion Older Than Steam; Cassius succeeds in killing Caesar, but he doesn't succeed in taking control of Rome.
  • Macbeth in Shakespeare's play of the same name, although we really don't learn enough about Duncan to determine whether he could be considered the Big Bad or not. Macbeth succeeds, but never manages to completely control Scotland and is himself overthrown.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Karai in the ending to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash Up's Arcade Mode.
  • Ashnard, from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance thought of all of his generals as Starscreams, but never worried about it. It's just what happens when you combine the Social Darwinist with a Blood Knight.
  • Marluxia from Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories. He planned to overthrow the Organization by using Namine's memory-manipulating powers in order to turn Sora into a mindless puppet and send him to destroy the superior members. Unfortunately for him, after being betrayed twice (First by Mad Scientist Vexen and then by Lovable Traitor Axel) and losing his Dragon Larxene at the hands of Sora, Marluxia was left alone to fight Sora and Co. and was no match for him. He also undermined himself by threatening to report any members of Castle Oblivion if they didn't listen to him. Zexion, in charge of a small group in the basement, wanted to use Riku to STOP the rebellion. But, thanks to yet ANOTHER betrayal by "lovable" traitor Axel, a.k.a. Magnificent Bastard (as a matter of fact, some fans hate Axel for this), Zexion's group is killed one by one by Riku, (besides Vexen, who Axel kills), until Zexion is alone. Then Axel eventually backstabs him by leading the Riku Replica to Zexion and telling him he could become his own person by absorbing Zexion's darkness, which does no good, because Riku eventually kills Replica. Zexion possibly has one of the WORST deaths, seeing as he gets choked into fading. And as 358/2 Days shows, all that killing Axel did was under orders from Saix, the Organization's second-in-command, to get rid of the traitors... But that was also meant to eliminate obstacles to their plan to overthrow Xemnas and get the Organization back on the path to their original goal of reuniting with their hearts. Yeah, Organization XIII in general has a bit of a problem with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
  • While Kefka from Final Fantasy VI may have some subversions, it is generally impossible for anybody to control somebody that insane, as Emperor Gestahl eventually found out.
  • Much like Kefka above, while Luca Blight from Suikoden II may have some subversions, it is generally impossible for anybody to control somebody that insane, as his father, Agares Blight eventually found out. That out of the way, the real Starscream of Suikoden II was the main character's former best friend, Jowy. As soon as Luca is out of the way, Jowy reveals his true plans, and the war continues.
  • The Emperor plays this role in Dissidia Final Fantasy, and doesn't seem to mind admitting to Chaos's face that he's plotting something. He gets taken down by the heroes before his plan succeeds.
  • Happens a lot in Final Fantasy games, at least the later ones:
  • In Jade Empire, Master Li has already tried to steal power from the Emperor once, and in the course of the game he gets his revenge, pulling off a masterful Xanatos Gambit twenty years in the making to become the game's true Big Bad.
    • Not to mention the Lotus Assassins ALL seem to have this outlook. Especially Gang toward Shin; after helping Gang kill his direct superior Shin to get his favor, you can kill Gang yourself.
  • In Odin Sphere, Brigan attempts to overthrow Demon Lord Odin by killing his daughter and announcing it to make Odin look bad. Although his plan never even gets to the first act, because Gwendolyn kills him before he can even begin his plan, he does manage to snatch power for a short while because he later possesses Odin from beyond the grave, only to wind up getting exorcised by, you guessed it, Gwendolyn.
  • Prometheus and Pandora from Mega Man ZX obviously hate their creator, but they had their reasons for not stabbing him in the back at first - Master Albert had to limit the amount of time they could live in order to keep them under control, since they had to keep going back for maintenance in order to stay alive. But when they do, Prometheus simply walks up to Master Albert, kills him off right in front of the hero, and declares that Albert's "Game of Destiny" was all a farce (Those two are the only villainous characters in the series who actually realised this), and that he and Pandora will destroy everything as part of their revenge. Interestingly enough, they didn't quite succeed. There's a good reason why Master Albert is a Magnificent Bastard - Albert actually faked his death as part of a plan that his own creations unintentionally provided him with, and it's implied that both Prometheus and Pandora are both dead... thanks to their own traitorous actions.
    • Mr. King from Mega Man Star Force 3 is a shining example of an evil villain with a disastrous (for him) hiring policy. Ace defected to the Satella Police before the game starts, Joker has been serving him to fulfill his own desire for power, Jack and Queen were using him solely to access Meteor G as a WMD, with or without Corvus and Virgo's guidance, and Heartless was only half-loyal so she could try to contact Kelvin Stelar. The man was literally surrounded by traitors with intellect on par with aforementioned Prometheus and Pandora, and wound up the only human in Dealer to not live to the end credits. Then again, it's not clear whether he died or not after the Crimson Dragon was subdued.
  • In Vay, Sadoul actually kills his superior, Emperor Zeal, halfway through the game and positions himself as the real Big Bad.
  • Jade, Emperor Zog's second-in-command in Breath of Fire I, who helps Ryu and his allies throughout the game disguised as a thinly veiled cloaked man with a color swap --- in the process dropping big hints on how Ryu can fight the Dark Dragon Empire right down to letting Ryu know about a weapon (a bottled song named 'D.Hrt') that reduces Zog's HP by half in one blow (and Ryu's to 1). After Zog is defeated, Jade reveals himself, having set Ryu up to defeat Zog to obtain the Goddess Myria's powers all for himself. Later on, Jade's hints potentially end up stabbing himself in the foot --- if the player defeated Zog the hard way without D.Hrt, he/she can instead use it against the mind-controlled Sara (who Jade kidnaps at the start of the game and had kept around for his own purposes) when she transforms into a Dragon and fights the party. This reduces her HP (and as usual, Ryu's) to 1, instead of half.
  • Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat. While loyal to Shao Kahn in the first three canonical installments, in Deadly Alliance he teams up with Quan Chi to take the realms for themselves. There's also the matter of his endings in Mortal Kombat II and 3, where he kills his former master and conquers both Earthrealm and Outworld. Sort of justified by the fact that you actually need to defeat Shao Kahn with Shang Tsung to get said ending.
    • Mortal Kombat also offers us Reiko who apparently acts as a starscream to both Shao Kahn, whose power (or at least the helmet) he wants for himself, and Quan Chi, who he openly dislikes despite being a member of the Brotherhood of Shadow. In Armageddon, it's hinted that he let Taven beat him so that Taven could continue hunting down Quan Chi.
    • Quan Chi himself serves as this to Shinnok. In turn, his most powerful enforcer, Noob Saibot, acts as a starscream to him.
    • If her in-game endings serve as any indication, Tanya is this in spades.
  • The Barbarossa campaign of Age of Empires II has Henry the Lion getting ambitious and betraying Barbarossa twice, and then being exiled. As you finish the last scenario, The Narrator says "What of Henry the Lion? With Barbarossa gone, there was nothing to stop him from returning to the Holy Roman Empire. But I'm an old man now. What harm could I possibly do?
  • Alastor from Painkiller, who turned out to not be upset at all that Daniel helped him kill Lucifer. Also, Eve, who wanted Daniel to kill Alastor so that she could become ruler of Hell herself.
  • Brauner in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin uses Dracula's castle and powers to exact revenge on humanity, all while keeping Dracula sealed away. His plans are thwarted when the heroes defeat him and, not too long after, gets killed off by Death, Dracula's second-in-command.
  • Amelissan from Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal fits the bill nicely. While Bhaal could foresee his death, he did not realize his head priestess would be happy to take his place as the goddess of murder instead of reviving him. You'd think a name like Amelissan the Black-Hearted would have given him a clue.
    • Played for laughs with Smug Snake Edwin Odesseiron, who often plots killing the hero and his party under his breath, apparently unaware that everyone can hear him.
    • Sarevok, too; an especially competent one. Presumably few ever thought Rieltar/Reiltar Anchev, leader of the local branch of the evil merchant organisation, was really the Big Bad, since it was obviously the guy with the Glowing Eyes of Doom and Spikes of Villainy seen at the beginning. But most of the plot is about thwarting the Iron Throne's actions, largely centering around Rieltar's plans which he has no idea are only a part of Sarevok's own plan. Rieltar doesn't really understand Sarevok and especially hasn't a clue about his motives, which is why Sarevok is able to dispose of him casually at the strategically right moment while Rieltar thinks himself safe.
  • "You see, power shifts quickly in the Brotherhood...."
  • Sho Minamimoto from The World Ends With You has elements of this; while several people want to overthrow the god-like Composer, Sho is the only one who is willing to toy with the exceedingly dangerous and violent Taboo Noise to do such, and the only one willing to chase the Composer to the RealGround (which is to say, mortal life) to do it. In a bit of a twist, the ending reveals that the Composer, Joshua, actually kind of enjoys having such a loose cannon around.
    • This also fits Mitsuki Konishi. She states on the final day that she would have no qualms whatsoever about betraying Megumi Kitaniji in order to take his place as Conductor. She makes a deal with Minamimoto that she will help him defeat the Composer, so long as she is allowed to be second in command.
  • In the fourth game of the Quest for Glory series, Ad Avis hates being magically compelled to serve his master,Katrina. At the end of the game he baits her into breaking the bond by attacking him. He then proceeds to kill her by casting a spell that brings her to the attention of the Eldritch Abomination who's brain the scene takes place in..
  • In Conker's Bad Fur Day, the Weasel Scientist fits this trope well. At the end of the game, he kills the panther king by putting an alien egg inside him
  • Cecile in Winback, who offs the Big Bad Kenneth near the end of the game, before being temporarily KO'ed by The Mole.
  • In the Mario & Luigi RPG series, Fawful sort of fills this role. Although wholeheartedly loyal to Cackletta throughout most of the first game, and never actually outright betraying her, in the final fight he has the sudden realization that--* gasp* --he is merely a useless peon, and decides to disregard his boss and fight the titular brothers on his own accord. He then goes on to be the only character exclusive to the Mario RPGs outside of the main four characters of the series (The Bros., Peach and Bowser) to appear more than twice. In his second appearance he is recovering from his first defeat and describes the events of the first game, but completely neglects to mention Cackletta at all, and makes himself out to be the true villain. In the third game, Bowser's Inside Story, Fawful is the main villain.
  • According to a Nintendo Adventure gamebook, Wendy O. Koopa is actually this to Bowser.
  • Dalton from Chrono Trigger, who seems all too eager to usurp the throne the first chance he gets.
  • In Mega Man X, Vile is a loyal second-in-command of the Big Bad Sigma. Maverick Hunter X, on the other hand, retcons him into becoming this, especially in his own story, where he decides to take on both his enemies X and Zero and Sigma's Maverick army. Vile also admits in his ending that he actually didn't know if he would have fought Sigma or joined him.
  • In Pokémon Platinum, Charon somewhat fits this role, seemingly having a completely different agenda than the rest of Team Galactic. This finally comes to fruition when the player goes to Stark Mountain and ends up encountering Team Galactic again, something that didn't happen in Diamond and Pearl. An extra battle with Mars and Jupiter is fought, and then they leave while Charon enters the mountain. He is eventually captured by Looker.
  • Astaroth, in the Soul Series gets a double dose. In the first Soul Calibur, he's working for Big Bad Nightmare. The next game shows that he was really looking for a chance to take Nightmare down, to bring his Artifact of Doom to the cult of Ares which created him - but after failing, he destroys the cult and starts working for Ares directly. By the third game, his endings start showing him trying to kill Ares, as well.
  • For most of the game, Kuja's actual intent in Final Fantasy IX is to enslave a powerful eidolon and use it to overthrow Garland as ruler of Terra, seizing control of both worlds himself.
  • The orc player character (later revealed to be Doomhammer) in Warcraft I. You eventually overthrow your boss (Blackhand) and rule the Horde yourself.
    • Gul'dan, waiting for the right chance to betray Orgrim Doomhammer throughout Warcraft: Tides of Darkness.
    • And in World of Warcraft, Varimathras to Sylvanas. It doesn't end well for him.
    • Also Arthas to Ner'zhul in Arthas: Rise of the Lich King.
  • Wernher is eventually revealed to be this in The Pitt add-on of Fallout 3. While initially coming across as noble and heroic, and claiming to be an escaped slave, Ashur reveals that he was actually the latter's second-in-command, and wanted to use Ashur's radiation-free daughter as a way to gain power.
    • Col. Autumn played the Starscream for President Eden. Seeing that Eden is dead and that Autumn can optionally be let go during the final confrontation (albeit with a large portion of his power base broken), he succeeded to some extent.
  • in Fallout: New Vegas, Benny is this to Mr. House, planning to use the Platinum Chip to take over New Vegas. Of course, House is fully aware of Benny's plan, but can't really do anything by himself. That's where you come in...
  • Many people have speculated that Lucien will become this to Zamorak in RuneScape, since he's already one to Zaros.
  • Sindri Myr in the original Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War; Lord Bale is his Megatron.
  • Escape From St Marys: Renuka Desai, in her attempts to overthrow Mr. Souza. The man denies her computer access... and forces her to do his laundry.
  • In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Etna openly threatens to become this to Laharl if he should ever step out of line as Overlord of the Netherworld. He has no problem with this because A) it's how demons are supposed to act, B) it's Etna's way of fulfilling her promise to Laharl's father to make sure he becomes a good Overlord, and C) Laharl deeply respects Etna, knows she could do the job well, and would rather she be his replacement than anyone else.
  • Albert Wesker in Resident Evil deconstructs this when it comes to Umbrella due to not only his boss, Ozwell E. Spencer, being totally aware of backstabbing him, but also orchestrating the plans resulting in Wesker deciding to take down Umbrella.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • When Bun-bun captains a pirate ship in Sluggy Freelance, his Jerkass behavior inevitably drives every single one of his first mates to try and kill him. Bun-bun actually encourages this, since he "feels safer knowing where the next mutiny is coming from." Ironically, his first first mate, Blacksoul, who gave him the idea, wasn't actually trying to mutiny, though Bun-bun thought so.
  • Drizz'l of Eight Bit Theater managed to usurp Garland. For about a day.
    • On the other side of the "Light" Warrior/Dark Warrior fence, BM taking advantage of Thief's absence once to take over. It didn't last.
  • Redcloak is this to Xykon in The Order of the Stick, but more subtle than most of examples.
    • And Tsukiko is this to him until she tries to take his position, which gets her killed.
  • Gloog from A Game of Fools is constantly trying to undermine Captain Sepultra's authority (and at one point manages to briefly overthrow him), mainly because Sepultra won't allow some of Gloog's more sinister antics.
  • O'Halloran's constant attempts to usurp the Chairman in Building 12 certainly qualify.
  • Homestuck: Jack Noir. In every Sburb session, Jack is strongly predisposed to loathe the Black Queen and will seek to overthrow her wherever possible. While normally he just begrudgingly offers to help the players dethrone her as he did in the trolls' session, in the kids' session he gets an opportunity more suited to his tastes in the form of an Infinity Plus One Bunny - he uses it to kill the Black Queen, take her Ring of Power, go One-Winged Angel, take command of Derse for himself, and obliterate both the Prospitian and Dersite armies on the Battlefield. All because he really hated the harlequin/princess hat.
    • In the kids' session, he has taken on the title of "Sovereign Slayer". He's earned it.
  • One episode of Hijinks Ensue.
  • Cerise from Eerie Cuties and Magick Chicks plots to overthrow Melissa, the clique leader.
  • Captain Vole from Girl Genius finds himself promoted into this role, Gilgamesh Wulfenbach having decided that having a Super Soldier as The Starscream and still being alive will give others pause if they consider attacking him.

Gilgamesh: We'll make a game of it! "Who's the scariest monster?"

  • In Drowtales, Suu'be Nori'fu is this to Quain'tana, and hints have popped up in the main story, since Suu'be resents Quain for making her own daughter Koil'doarth no longer be the heir. Rosof says that if Quain were to let her heir Ariel train under Suu'be Ariel would probably die in an "accident" and Word of God is that Suu'be would try to get rid of Quain if she thought she could get away with it, while on the other hand Quain knows that she can't get rid of Suu'be, leaving them in a state of constantly pulling at each other.
    • Sene'kha was also this to Kiel's mother Ven'ndia, and it's heavily implied that it was Sene'kha who coaxed Kharla into killing her. After Sene'kha took over Starscreaming seems to have become S.O.P. in the Vloz'ress.
    • And collectively, all three Sharen sisters, Snadhya'rune, Sarv'swati and Zala'ess, pulled this on their mother, though she didn't know until the moment of the actual betrayal.
  • General Izor, of Dubious Company. Given that his boss is a Psychopathic Manchild Evil Overlord that throws hissy-fits involving conquering yet another country, and wants to become a god of war by sacrificing Sal, could you blame him?

Izor: Think about it. You could end the constant Kreedor aggression, help sow peace between various nations.

  • Fruit Incest has the Transfarmers characters, in which the appropriately named Starspray and Planescream both plot to overthrow their leader Cottontron as well as each other simultaneously.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • In Kate Modern: The Last Work, the Shadow is this to Rupert van Helden. It is left ambiguous whether he succeeds or not, but Word of God is that the Shadow killed Rupert.
  • When The Nostalgia Critic becomes the president of Kickassia, his Distaff Counterpart The Nostalgia Chick becomes an ambitious Sarah Palin lookalike vice-president who tries to assassinate him every five minutes or so.
  • On top of being a Complete Monster and Dirty Coward, Twp'atwt from the Protectors of the Plot Continuum reveals himself to be this during the Black Cats' attack on HQ; while he had previously appeared loyal, it turns out that he and his lover - Serna Tjan - are planning to overthrow the Bracket Fungus and the rest of the Cats after they've taken over, leaving Twp and Serna as leaders of the PPC. Unfortunately for them, they run into Blue Photon and the Mysterious Somebody respectively shortly after this revelation, resulting in their Karmic Deaths. This was also hinted at in the prior story, The Reorganisation, when Twp'atwt attempted to blackmail the Nightshade and Orchid into making a clone of the Mysterious Somebody that would obey Twp's every command.
  • At the end of Linkara's Lord Vyce story arc, it is revealed that Linksano was actually this all along, spying on Vyce for Linkara so that he could be the conquerer of universes.
  • Were Alive has Scratch who is at the very least a Dragon with an Agenda who has set off on her own to get revenge on Pegs for killing Latch. But as of Chapter 24 she may be looking to overthrow Durai.
    • Gatekeeper was also this to Marcus. In Chapter 19 he staged a coup to take control of the Colony.
  • Chaos Fighters: Chemical Warriors-RAKSA has Harlion who took over the mayor's monument from Ortla.
  • A variation in Survival of the Fittest - Hayley Kelly was playing the game in v4 mainly to protect her ex-girlfriend, Ema Ryan. However, when it came down to the wire, almost 30 students left, Ema Ryan decided she could do the rest on her own and killed Hayley, went on to become a late-game player who killed almost the same amount of people Hayley did (about eight, including Hayley herself), but ultimately died of her injuries when there was less than ten students left.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Rasp from Dino Riders, although not to the consistency of the trope namer. Interestingly, his voice actor was the same who did the voice of the original Megatron, Frank Welker. He also voiced the Big Bad, Krulos. This more-or-less means that he was trying to backstab himself.
  • General Skarr from Evil Con Carne.
  • Glove from Bionic Six.
    • Which is most amusing since Glove, like Rasp, was voiced by Frank Welker, the original voice of Megatron.
  • Makuta Icarax from Bionicle believes that Big Bad Teridax's (the Makuta) plan to take control of the universe (by putting the Great Spirit asleep and then reawaken him once preparations are complete) to be too convoluted, and prefers to batter people into submission instead. When Teridax was temporary unable to monitor the actions of his whole Brotherhood, Icarax decided to speed up the process by going to war. He had already claimed some areas when Teridax arrived and beat him up. He's only kept alive because of his talent at fighting and the fear he inspires in his foes.
    • After being deevolved by Toa Ignika, he later gets killed by some of his fellow members when he tries to ruin The Plan, making him a historical Starscream. The ones that killed him though suddenly outlive their usefulness.
  • Ozai to Firelord Azulon in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
    • To precisely what extent he masterminded his father's death is uncertain, though he was deeply pleased with the results; his initial intent was to maneuver one-up on his brother, the heir Iroh, his father's favorite.
  • Zero, on Challenge of the Go Bots. Zero had been the leader of the Renegades, and Cy-Kill stole the job from him after defecting from the Guardians. Zero had every reason to resent Cy-Kill, and he wanted his job back.
  • Mighty Max's Warmonger was Skullmaster's Dragon and Starscream throughout, and temporarily succeeded in replacing him. Skullmaster, in a rare attack of competence, set the whole thing up: Skullmaster being offstage encouraged the heroes to blow the spell that could stop (kill?) him on the Hydra instead.
  • On The Fairly OddParents, the Lead Eliminator eventually tires of taking orders and tries to revolt. He promptly gets "unmade". Though he eventually comes back as a One-Winged Angel, the true villain of the special.
  • In Chaotic, Lord Van Bloot is a lieutenant of Chaor, supreme ruler of the Underworld, that really wants the bigger chair. Heck the latest sets in the card game reveals that he has allied with the M'arillians to achieve his goals of ruling the Underworld (even thought that would just make him a mere governor if the M'arillians succeed in taking Perim)
  • In The Secret of NIMH 2, the original villain Dr. Valentine, who barely gets a few lines, is replaced by Martin, who now fancies himself the ruler of Thorn Valley.
  • Hammerhead in the Gang War arc of The Spectacular Spider Man to Tombstone.
  • In WITCH, Cedric eats Phobos unexpectedly after Phobos agrees to give 'a fraction of his power' - which he decided to interpret as 3/3, 4/4 or equivalent.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 (2003), Baxter Stockman plays this role whenever he's working with The Foot, and will take any opportunity to be a thorn in the Shredder's side.
  • In Exo Squad, Draconis regularly plots against Phaeton, but his plans always come to naught. Phaeton eventually gets rid of him anyways.
    • Typhonus also has a Starscream moment in the first season finale, when he responds to Able Squad taking Phaeton hostage by reminding them that everyone is expendable. It doesn't work out well for him either.
  • According to Word of God, Samy on Jimmy Two Shoes would overthrow Lucius if he had the chance. Considering his status, this seems unlikely.
  • Rampage in G.I. Joe Extreme. Unlike most other examples, Iron Klaw is smart enough to get rid of him (and not allow him back) when he shows his True Colors.
    • Hilariously Enough, this is what Cobra Commander becomes after Serpentor becomes head of Cobra in season two of the original G.I. Joe cartoon. However, Serpentor was more than willing to leave Cobra Commander behind to be either captured by the Joes or to die in the miniseries in which he (Serpentor) first appeared. Cobra Commander then pointed out that sooner or later that the rest of the Cobra would realize that Serpentor was not perfect and that a scapegoat would be needed when things fail. Also, Serpentor usually never finds out about Cobra Commander's attempts to kill him. The closest Serpentor got to finding out was in the episode where Cobra Commander summoned an Eldritch Abomination to kill Serpentor, though Serpentor thought that the Joes were the ones behind the attack in the end.
  • Gantu on Lilo & Stitch: The Series. While not actively attempting to overthrow Hamsterviel, he does take opportunities to break away from him. When he got 627 and Dupe, for example.
  • Happened once in Kim Possible: A Sitch In Time, where after Drakken and his Villain Team-Up squad were arrested, Shego decided to use the Time Monkey to take over the world twenty years later, though it's not that much of a shock when you think about it. She was actually very successful, even managing to have the other villains under him thumb. If it wasn't for the huge Reset Button that was set at the end of the movie due to Ron breaking the Time Monkey, she would've been known as the most successful Starscream in history (literally).
  • He Man and The Masters of The Universe had Evil-Lyn who many a times has worked behind Skeletor's back for her own purposes. There's even been a few times when Skeletor was aware of her treachery. Unlike Megatron, Skeletor doesn't take kindly to this and usually attempts to make her pay with her life. However, Evil-Lyn usually gets lucky and manages to get a little leverage over Skeletor that forces him to accept her back into his ranks.
    • Skeletor himself was one to Hordak. According to Word of God, if the 2002 incarnation hadn't been yanked due to the network fouling things up, Skeletor would've been a successful Starscream.
    • In the '80s version, both Beast Man and Clawful had Starscreamish tendencies. Beastman only passively resented Skeletor and intended to wait for a good moment, but Clawful threatened to overthrow Skeletor to his face and then laughed off his threats.
  • In Rocky and Bullwinkle, Boris Badenov tried many a time to stab his boss Fearless Leader in the back.
    • Of course, when you're dealing with evil spies, what do you expect?
  • In Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes, Abomination is The Starscream to Baron Zemo. Abomination is an interesting example since before joining Zemo, he was a loyal Dragon to the Leader.
  • Scroop, the main villain of Treasure Planet is actually this to Silver.
  • Shenzi from The Lion King is actually this to Scar, especially after he took over the Pridelands and kept everything to himself, causing the hyena and her fellow comrades Banzai and Ed to become embittered of him and start spending time trying to overthrow Scar. When Scar loses in a fight against Simba at the end of the film, the hyenas finally confront him for the very last time and succeed in their plot of killing Scar.
  • Grimian of Battle Force 5 is an incredibly persistent Starscream, his constant attempts of usurping command from Kalus almost becoming a Running Gag. His last attempt at taking over is heavily implied to be his last. You can only push Kalus so far...
    • Krocomodo was originally this trope for the Vandals before Grimian booted him out of it.
    • Another one who actually succeeded is Zemerik. He was originally Krytus' Dragon but gained free will and overthrew him, imprisoned him and his team, then became a Dragon Ascendant, serving as one of the Big Bads in season 1. Unfortunately for him, Krytus was freed in season 2 and took the role back by force.
  • Valmont in Jackie Chan Adventures betrays Shendu right after he betrays him. He plans on robbing him of his palace, but fails. Next, he pulls an Enemy Mine on Jackie to remove Shendu from him.
  • Jafar the Evil Vizier in Disney Animated Canon's Aladdin. (Name probably inspired by Mir Jafar, below.) His lifestyle is as the Mind Control-equipt Power Behind The Throne to the weak sultan of Agrabah, with ambitions only to greater magical power, but as Jasmine's coming-of-age threatens to introduce political competition,[2] he conceives an intent to marry into the succession.
    • Eventually after securing the genie he just makes a wish and is sultan of Agrabah, which is thinking kind of small compared to some versions of the story given it appears to be a wealthy little oasis city all by its lonesome in a bunch of dunelands, maybe a lesser cousin of Samarkand. Anyway he turns the real sultan into a court jester. He did not like pretending to respect the guy.
    • Points for his coming up with the succession thing within the story, and from Iago's suggestion. No Hikaru Genji Plan here, folks!
  • In Ben 10 Ultimate Alien Vilgax is eventually Demoted to Dragon by Diagon. When he reappears for the Grand Finale he loudly proclaims his Undying Loyalty to Diagon. Ben immediately calls him out on his bullcrap, believing that the real Vilgax isn't loyal to anyone but himself. Ben is completely right. Vilgax also manages to be a successful Starscream, tricking Diagon into attacking an energy absorbing device -- bad news for Diagon since he's an Energy Being -- sealing (possibly killing) him.
  • Airball in Stunt Dawgs.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Siblings can easily become this, especially when the parents aren't around.
  • There were more than two dozen attempts to kill Adolf Hitler, many of them by the military. The most notable, and the one that got the furthest, was the July 20 plot, which was started because Hitler was mismanaging military resources and leading Germany to destruction through his inept micromanagement of forces on the East and policy towards the West, as well as his status as a commoner (the plotters largely being Prussian officer men).
    • When Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and one of Hitler's most trusted underlings, entered peace negotiations with the Allies as World War Two was ending, Hitler flew into what was described as his most ferocious rage ever. He called it the worst betrayal in history, stripped Himmler of all his positions in the Reich and ordered his execution upon capture (the Allies caught Himmler first, however, and he committed suicide via Cyanide Pill before an interrogation could take place).
  • Though not to imply that either political party was good or evil, the former Australian Federal Treasurer Peter Costello almost always seemed to exemplify this role. Nearly any time the then Prime Minister John Howard made any kind of screw up, showed any sign of weakness or even hinted that he may quit/retire, Costello would be there with an attempt to usurp power, even though the thought of him becoming Prime Minister through succession was abhorrent to many Australians. He never confronted Howard, though, and finally lost his opportunity when the Howard government was voted out.
    • Even with the Liberal Party now out of power, Costello still seems to be causing trouble for whoever happens to be the party leader simply because his "will he or won't he" nature in regards to leadership challenges causes much public speculation any time he says anything.
      • Also in the Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull, after they got out of power. After a leadership dispute, Brenden Nelson became the party leader-but he was incredibly unpopular. Turnbull was seen as being after the leadership, which caused much speculation as to who supported who. It came to a head when Nelson decided to resolve it all by putting it to a vote - which Turnbull won.
      • And roll on 2009 - after trying to get the Liberal Party to help the Government pass Climate Change legislation, Malcolm Turnbull himself faced open revolt in the party, decided to resolve it all by putting it to a vote, which was won by Tony "The Headkicker" Abbott.
    • Also in Australia politics, judging by their behaviour recently, the NSW Labour Party is an entire party of Starscreams.
      • The Tasmanian Greens to...well...everyone. How about we just say politician is another word for Starscream and leave it at that?
    • On the ALP side of Australian politics, Treasurer Paul Keating has a quite similar relationship to his own Prime Minister, Bob Hawke. Unlike Costello, Keating forced the issue - twice - and on the second attempt was successful, becoming Prime Minister in his own right. Although both Keating and Costello are retired from politics now, they both still comment on it in the media, and Keating will never let Costello forget which of them had the guts to go for it (or that Keating's career became the inspiration for Keating The Musical, although that's another story).
      • Due to the indoctrination of his father, this troper grew up viewing the G1 Transformers as a close analogy of Australian politics, with the Decepticons representing the Labour Party. As such, Paul Keating will forever be remembered as Starscream incarnate. His personality was very similar, and his successful backstabbing of Bob Hawke ironically occurred within a few years of the release of the G1 movie.
    • Julia Gillard is now being suspected of being this after replacing Kevin Rudd as leader of the ALP and therefore the Prime Minister.
      • While it's an unusual event, it's less to do with Gillard's ambitions and more that Rudd had managed to amass a few too many powerful enemies, and Gillard happened to be next in line.
  • Laventry Beria for Joseph Stalin, including rumors that he poisoned him.
    • Stalin himself arguably played this role to Vladimir Lenin, to the point where Lenin denounced Stalin in a testament written shortly before his death. Being the Magnificent Bastard that he was, however, Stalin managed to blunt the testament's effects and set himself up as the Vozhd (Russian. In English it is leader and in German... Führer. Doesn't it reminf you of someone?) anyway.
    • In turn, Stalin was petrified that his generals, and most specifically Georgi Zhukov, were setting themselves up to play this role. Most of the Red Army's officer corps was purged and executed during the 1930's, but Zhukov was able to escape the purge by having been Reassigned to Antarctica (or in his case, Siberia) where he was able to build his own army group far from and largely devoid of the politics that plagued the rest of the Soviet military during this time period. It's notable that Zhukov was part of the tribunal which, in the wake of Stalin's demise, tried and sentenced Beria to death—one Starscream taking out another.
  • Aaron Burr, most famous for killing Alexander Hamilton, was rather persistent in his quest for certain positions. In the presidential election of 1800, the Democratic-Republican Party (yes, that was its name) nominated Thomas Jefferson for President and Aaron Burr for Vice-President. However, at the time, the President and Vice-President were not elected separately—the Vice-President was the Presidential candidate who got the second-most votes, and each member of the Electoral College had two votes to cast. Therefore, the Democratic-Republicans arranged for 73 electoral votes be cast for Jefferson, 72 for Burr, and 1 for some other guy. However, that some other guy was never picked, and as a result, the vote was tied at 73-73. This pushed the election for President to the House of Representatives, where under the convoluted rules of the Constitution under these circumstances, the opposition Federalists had a majority. Burr could have quietly declared that he did not actually want to be President and have the House pick from there; he did not. The House therefore spent a whole week and 35 ballots before Alexander Hamilton, leader of the Federalists, stepped in. Hamilton hated Jefferson personally, but hated Burr even more (being the leader of the Democratic-Republicans in his native New York); beyond that, he regarded Burr as unprincipled and rather slimy, two charges of which even Hamilton accepted Jefferson was innocent. Therefore, Hamilton convinced enough Federalists in the House to vote for Jefferson for President, leaving Burr to take the Vice-Presidency. Understandably resentful, Jefferson effectively locked Burr out of Washington politics, despite the fact that he was VP. Realizing his presidential career was going nowhere fast, Burr decided to run for governor of NY—but failed to do that in part due (again!) to the efforts of Alexander Hamilton. After losing his bid for governor (famously killing Hamilton in a duel in the process), Burr decided to go off into the West to start a conspiracy with the probable intent of overthrowing Jefferson or at least creating Burr's own break-away state where he could be president. Jefferson got wind of it, AGAIN, and was even less pleased. Ultimately, Burr fled the US, eventually ending up in France, where he once again tried to conspire against Jefferson and the US by intriguing with Napoleon. It didn't work very well for him this time either.
  • Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury. Chase was exceedingly competent. His problem was that his ego and inability to be loyal for even a minute undermined his ambitions. He'd previously hopped parties three times (having been a Whig, Know-Nothing, and a Democrat in his native Ohio). That could have been overcome, but his close alliance with the Radical Republicans then brought him into deep conflict with Lincoln, who was trying to keep the entire party together, and believed (with good reasons) that the Radicals would have run the thing into the ground inside a month. However, while Chase was cunning, Lincoln was a genius and crushed his political ambitions like a walnut. Chase eventually wound up as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (a Kicked Upstairs role at the time), dropped out, tried for the presidency again, and lost.
    • It's also interesting to note that William H. Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State, seemed to have the makings of this trope too at first, having lost out on the Republican presidential nomination to Lincoln and being convinced in his early days as Secretary of State that he could do a better job than the President, to the point of sending Lincoln a letter about how he was too vacillating on what to do about the South and that he should start a war with Mexico so that the seceded states would rejoin the Union to fight against the foreign threat. However, after Lincoln made it clear to Seward (as politely as possible, of course) that he was the one in charge, Seward then went on to subvert this trope, becoming extremely close and loyal to Lincoln to such an extent that Chase criticized him for being too buddy-buddy with the President and even supporting his successor Andrew Johnson against the wrath of the Radical Republicans.
  • Akechi Mitsuhide, the man who killed Oda Nobunaga.
  • Older Than Feudalism: This could pretty much sum up the entire Roman Empire in the third and fourth centuries CE. One series of these after another. Almost every Emperor was a military general who betrayed his Emperor and seized power for himself, only to have the exact same thing happen to him. Spoofed hilariously in Futurama (re, Fry the Solid). Also, The reason the Empire's capital was moved from Rome to the more defensible Ravenna was due to the Emperor getting sick of the fact that every time it got quiet in Gaul the Army Of The Rhine would march on Rome.
  • When US President Ronald Reagan was shot, Alexander Haig, the Secretary of State, immediately came out and made statements that, because Vice President Bush was away on business, Haig was now the President of the United States. To clarify, Haig was completely wrong. The Secretary of State is fourth in the line of succession (after the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and the President pro tem of the Senate).
  • The upper tiers of the British Labour Party saw a resurgence in quiet backroom meetings in the twilight days of Gordon Brown, as various factions try and persuade each other that the only hope to improve the poll numbers is for their candidate to force out and replace Gordon Brown. Gordon himself can't really complain, as the last years of the Blair ministry were marked by several Brownite factions trying to persuade Tony to expedite his departure, while Gordon remained conspicuously silent.
    • On the Conservative side, it was Michael Heseltine that actually challenged Margaret Thatcher for leadership of the Conservative party but you will have not seen a less convincing impression of Man-Loyally-Standing-by-His-Boss than that of John Major.
  • Irish politics saw a perfect example of this trope in summer 2010 when the deputy leader of the opposition party Fine Gael mounted a campaign to topple the less-popular leader Enda Kenny in order to boost the party's election prospects. He still failed, and Kenny became Taoiseach anyway, the 2011 elections being a crushing defeat for the ruling Fianna Fail (they dropped to third place, and the leader lost his seat).
  • Happened in Canada during the 1990s. Generally successful Finance Minister Paul Martin was so obviously Prime Minister Jean Chretien's successor as next leader of the Liberal party (and probable prime minister) that he was visibly chafing at having to wait and eventually resigned from cabinet (or was forced out, depending on who you ask) to sit as an ordinary backbencher until Chretien did retire.
    • Previously, the Progressive Conservatives were renowned for this happening in a regular basis.
    • It's also worth noting that Chretien got the last laugh by retiring just before the sponsorship scandal (an illegal deal that funnelled more than $100 million of taxpayer money to Liberal-friendly public relations firms in Quebec) came to light. The whole mess fell into Paul Martin's lap, and it cast a pall over his entire reign as prime minister. The Liberals were reduced to a minority government in the 2004 election, and then their government collapsed altogether a year later, paving the way for the Conservatives to take power under Stephen Harper in an early 2006 election.
  • Emperor Justinian I spent much of his reign worried that General Belisarius was The Starscream, so much so that he recalled him to Constantinople several times. Ironically, the historical record suggests that not only was Belisarius loyal, he was exceptionally loyal; in fact when he "accepted" the title of Augustus of the West from the Ostrogoths he even entered Ravenna fully in a position to become emperor and then proclaimed that he'd conquered the city in the name of Justinian.
  • Happened in Panama too when Manuel Noriega was dictator. The funny thing is that the rebellion caught Noriega in his own office and despite being at their mercy, Noriega managed to convince them to surrender and guess what, the idiots did it. Of course, Noriega wasn't so nice. When he caught them the next day he ordered his troops to kill them.
  • General George B. McClellan was Lincoln's first choice for leader of the Union Army. He was a notoriously scrupulous general who was loathe to spill blood of his soldiers, and due to his policy of always overestimating the Confederate forces, he was fooled into believing that the Confederate army was twice the reported size when they simply marched by in a loop and doubled back on themselves. The fact is that he was so unbelievably calculating BECAUSE he wanted to be seen as a benevolent and wise leader with the best interests of the nation's military at heart... because he had a plan to run for President under the Democratic ticket as opposition to Abraham Lincoln (which he eventually did, and lost, because he was viewed as both a bad leader AND an opportunist in a time of Civil War).
  • On the Confederate side, General James Longstreet was a highly competent and generally effective leader who on several occasions screwed over the other Confederate leadership. At Second Manassas he refused to follow Lee's instruction and thereby missed an opportunity to devastate the Union forces. Preceding the battle of Chancellorville, Longstreet again refused to cooperate, with disastrous results. At the battle of Seven Pines, he blamed Maj. Gen. Benjamin Huger for his screw-ups. Later, at Gettysburg, Longstreet refused to inform Lee of a change in the enemy disposition before Pickett's infamous charge, and allowed Lee to take the fall for it.
  • The Tea Party in the US seems to be doing a bit of this, claiming the Republicans are too soft. In some cases, Tea Party candidates have won the primaries over the standard conservatives. Though their enthusiasm was the engine behind the election victories of 2010, those victories almost seem Pyrrhic considering the unpopularity the Tea Paty later engendered.
    • No 'almost' about the victory's Pyrrhic nature, when you look at the rise of Occupy Wall Street and the fact that Tea Party candidates lost elections the standard conservatives would have won in a landslide. This may have cost Republicans the Senate.
  • Nur al-Din, the ruler of Syria in the Seljuk empire, hoped to unite Muslim forces against the crusader kingdoms. To this end he sent the young and capable commander Salah al-Din to stablise Egypt. After gaining control of Egypt both Nur al-Din and Salah al-Din separately realised that if Salah al-Din returned to the Seljuks he would not be allowed to keep his stewardship of Egypt. They would never meet again, but Saladin did eventually return to Syria after Nur al-Dins death, when he brought much of Syria under his own control.
  • In a way, The American Revolution was this to the British Empire, sorta. British empire, big and ruled by a corrupt king, set up colonies on America. The colonies had to pay taxes like the rest of the empire but didn't get voting rights due to no longer living on British Soil (Of course, the other colonies in the world had the same deal), and so plotted to over throw the British Empire and form their own country. Somewhat averted, however, as they didn't take over but form their own 'empire', and weren't alone, Several other Empires, such as the French and the Spanish, backed them up after the British made enemies of them.
    • Which backfired big-time on the Spanish, because the British, essentially in revenge, backed all of their rebellious colonies (either openly or clandestinely) in South America, which caused the Spanish Empire to essentially disintegrate.
  • Naturally, this is fairly common within organized crime. Famous Starscreams of The Mafia include Johnny Torrio, Albert Anastasia, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Vito Genovese, "Crazy Joe" Gallo, and John Gotti.
  • Another notable example from the 1750s in India is Mir Jafar. Essentially, Jafar sold out his Nawab (leader) to the English so that HE could become Nawab of Bengal. He is so well known for this in India that to this very day, to call someone a Mir Jafar means to call them a traitor.
  • Lysimachos, one of Alexander the Great's successors, was paranoid about this to the point where he likely caused some of his underlings to become this. One of his "best" moves was to order the death of 2000 of his own mercenaries whose baggage had been looted by the enemy, in case this had made them discontented and prone to desert.
  • The book SEAL Target Geronimo" paints Osama Bin Laden's number two man, Ayman Al-Zawahiri as this. He allegedly assassinated Bin Laden's mentor in the wake of the Afghan-Soviet War and, during the War On Terror itself, allowed Bin Laden's courier to be compromised and did nothing about it, leading to Osama's discovery by US intelligence and elimination by SEAL Team Six.
  • It's possible that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may have had a role in his predecessor's assassination. Egyptian prosecutors have started an investigation into the matter.

Notes

  1. The idea with the Rule of Two is that the master would train the apprentice until they inevitably could learn nothing more and killed their master, starting the cycle anew. In practice, most Sith are so power-hungry and impatient that they will kill their master before they've even come close to surpassing them, meaning that subsequent generations of Sith are often weaker. Likewise, the masters, paranoid of being offed by their own students, never teach them enough to let them get that strong. The only thing that keeps Sith from bleeding themselves out entirely is the fact that fallen Jedi become new (and better) Sith on occasion; fresh blood, as it were. There are very few instances where the Rule of Two has been properly obeyed. Even Palpatine, easily one the most successful Sith ever, did not truly beat his master. He murdered him in his sleep by getting him drunk enough to pass out and then electrocute him with Sith Lightning, and it's hinted he never did learn the full extent of his master's significant power. And without the Rule of Two, it'd be even worse - back when there was no rule against taking more than one apprentice, it was relatively common for two or more to form an alliance of convenience and then turn on each other. The winner in that situation just has to be slightly better than their fellow apprentices.
  2. in the form of Jasmine coming into a queen's estate and being able to get rid of him, rather than in the form of her prospective husband staking out his own turf