aka: Pointy Haired Military Boss
"I'm proud to say I've written another insane admiral. They must put something in the water at Federation Headquarters.
— Ronald D. Moore
In fictional military settings, the brass tend to be a bit unstable. Frequently they become so obsessed with their own pet projects that they endanger federation security
. Other times their brazenness and/or paranoia
almost leads to wars breaking out between rival superpowers. They may be a Conspiracy Theorist
with authority investigating the heroes, an Obstructive Bureaucrat
making hell for the heroes, or they may be covering up for their own wrongdoings. These are the ones most likely to send the heroes on a dubious mission. They could be a General Ripper
obsessed with the enemy, or they could be cowards who fear public exposure of their own wrongdoings.
All this insanity might make their organizations look incompetent, but presumably the Insane Admirals are just the ones we see... 95% of the brass in any given organization are probably decent folk, but spend their time rubber-stamping military contracts and attending state functions, and never do anything 45-minute drama-worthy. Please note this applies only to officers who are at command level, no one below the rank of Naval Captain/Army Colonel/Airforce Group Captain applies here, see The Neidermeyer
and Sociopathic Soldier
is a major Sub-Trope
of this. And see also Kicked Upstairs
, which is frequently how they end up getting to be Insane Admirals
instead of insane forty year-old ensigns.
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Anime and Manga
- Admiral Akainu in One Piece. Among other things, he destroys a boatload of civilians because one scholar might have slipped on board, he's shown interest in buying and using the incredibly deadly weapons created by Caesar Clown in spite of the fact that they render entire islands uninhabitable, and forcing the soldiers at Marineford to keep fighting at the cost of their lives, even though their main objective had already been completed.
- The two admirals from Irresponsible Captain Tylor. Their arguments always end with them trying to kill each other. (But they're really friends)
- Fittingly, since the Gundam franchise is largely considered to be Star Trek's Japanese counterpart, it contains an equally disproportionate number of high ranking nutcases:
- Gihren Zabi of the original Mobile Suit Gundam. He's Zeon's commander-in-chief, a brilliant public speaker and the real power behind his aging father, Sovereign Degwin. He's also a megalomaniacal psychopath and Social Darwinist with a fascist philosophy and a limited grasp of what it means to be a human being. This causes him to commit a number of tactical errors later in the series, and he adopts a very "Hitler in the bunker" type attitude by the end.
- Char Aznable doesn't start out as one of these. In fact, it would be fair to say that in MSG he's about as rational as a man plotting the deaths of all his superiors can be. By the time Char's Counterattack rolls around, however, this is no longer the case. Totally out of touch with the rest of humanity, and drunk on his own political ideology, he attempts to drop a meteor on the Earth claiming that this will somehow bring about world peace. Privately, he admits that he's "extremely wicked" and is endangering the world solely so that he can gain revenge on Amuro, and appease the memory of his late Love Interest, Lalah Sune.
- Zeon Rear-Admiral Ginias Sahalin of Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team is no picture of mental health. The head of the Apsalus project, his Mommy Issues, combined with his obsessive need to control his sister and claim all the credit for the project cause his mind to degenrate over the course of the series. By the end he's an Axe Crazy maniac who is ready to murder everyone around him, including his sister and all of his researchers, if it means that he gains sole control of the Apsalus III. This, combined with his Ill Boy status, has caused some fans to speculate that he has Wilson's Disease, a degenerative neurological condition that often causes schizophrenia-like symptoms.
- There is something in the water at the Zeon command centre. Gihren loyalist Colonel Killing from Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket murders his commanding officer and usurps his position, orders a nuclear strike on a colony, and cares nothing for his own troops, deliberately sabotaging a mission in order to gain permission for his nuclear attack.
- Jamitov Hymem and Bask Om from Zeta Gundam are respectively the commander and field leader of the Titans, the Earth Federation security force that occupies the colonies. Jamitov is an admiral with delusions of grandeur who seeks to gain control of the entire Earth Sphere for himself and plots against civillian leaders and the rest of the brass. Bask is a Colonel Kilgore and General Ripper with a fanatical loathing of all colonials, which stems from his time being tortured in a POW camp during the One Year War. His hatred and brutality are so extreme that madness is really the only explanation that works.
- Patrick Zala of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is an utterly paranoid and psychotic General Ripper, with both What the Hell, Dad? and genocidal tendencies, who wants to exterminate every Natural in existence in Revenge for an attack on a ZAFT colony. His right-hand man, Commander Rau Le Creuset is even worse, being an Omnicidal Maniac who's out to get everyone on both sides killed. On the opposing side, we have Captain William Sutherland of the Earth Forces General Staff, who masterminds the use of the Cyclops system against his own men, authorises the use of nuclear weapons against ZAFT, serves as Muruta Azrael's Dragon, and is a card-carrying member of Blue Cosmos, a hate group that seeks the deaths of every last Coordinator.
- All the members of the senior staff fall under this in Fullmetal Alchemist. Justified by the fact that Father needs willing pawns for his plotting, and this collection of megalomaniacal asshats is the best he can come up with.
- Some of it is cultural differences but even by Abh standards some of their admirals are a little off their rockers. Specifically Admiral Spoor who rejoices in the nickname 'The Lady of Chaos' and Admiral Bibauth who is desperately trying to distance himself from the family nickname 'The Beautiful Madness' and in the process making himself look even worse. They are fortunately both fairly competent and aided by competent subordinates but definitely considered rather eccentric.
- Colonel Quaritch in Avatar shoots at anyone who non-lethally leaves his faction, and he goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the protagonist after his plans have been completely foiled.
- Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now
- The General in Z
- From Dr. Strangelove, General Jack D. Ripper.
- General Buck Turgidson, while much more grounded than Ripper, definitely has his moments as well.
- General Leland Zevo in Toys
- Played for Laughs in Hot Shots! with Admiral Benson, an amicable kook who tries to order the whole fleet to turn around and go back when his Admiral's hat blows off while on deck.
- Subverted in Mars Attacks!: General Decker seems like a raging whacko, but he turns out to be right about the Martians from start to finish. (He's still wrong about how to beat them, though.)
- Star Trek Into Darkness: In grand Trek tradition, Admiral Marcus is really a Blood Knight seeking to start a war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. He has no compunction about murdering loyal Starfleet officers in cold blood.
- Played for laughs with retired Admiral Boom in Mary Poppins.
- Anyone with the rank of Colonel or above in Catch-22
- Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny, both the original novel and the Film of the Book. His bizarre behavior eventually causes a subordinate to relieve him of command.
- Captain Sawyer from the Horatio Hornblower books.
- General Patton in Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe isn't short of crazy senior military officers. The vast majority are in the employ of the various Sith run empires throughout the GFFA's history, but that isn't surprising given the Sith not only bring their own level of crazy to anything they get involved in, but encourage it in others.
- Admiral Natasi Daala in the Jedi Academy Trilogy series. She returns in the Fate of the Jedi series as a crazy head of state.
- Captain Joak Drysso in the X-Wing Series novel The Bacta War
- Most of the various Warlords that broke away from the Empire following the Emperor's death in ROTJ tended to be a bit extra crazy as well. A bunch of them get out crazied by Daala who gets them all to a peace summit and then gases them to death when they can't come together to present a unified front.
- Admiral Bell in Varney the Vampire, while protective of his family and a generally decent guy, acts like a complete lunatic in most situations.
- The Vorkosigan Saga gives us Vice-Admiral Ges Vorrutyer, who combines dangerous military adventurism with a brutally manipulative attitude to his companions' lives, and in his spare time is a serial rapist.
- The Drowned Cities: Colonel Glenn Stern of the United Patriotic Front is a Knight Templar madman who believes he is saving America (something he barely understands the concept of) by chopping off the hands and feet of those he takes prisoner, and turning children into soldier boys. His archrival, General Sachs of the Army of God is implied to be just as crazy, as are the leaders of Taylor's Wolves, Tulane Company, the Freedom Militia, and all the other groups in the story.
- This is the default mindset for Yeerk Vissers in Animorphs, most of whom are shown to be motivated more by their personal agendas rather than military objectives. The standout is Visser Three (later Visser One), the Big Bad of the entire series. A dim-witted egomaniac with an unquenchable thirst for violence and a questionable grip on reality, Visser Three finds every excuse he can to butcher his own subordinates, spends the rest of his time playing politics with his superiors, and reacts to defeat like an angry child. His fanatical subordinate, Visser Two, is even more crazed, if that's possible to imagine. He also gets bonus points for taking an actual admiral as his host.
- Interestingly, Visser Three actually shows far more effectiveness, restraint, and... well, sanity, in the prequel Chronicles books. He gets a narrating role in The Hork-Bajir Chronicles in which he's downright the Only Sane Man among the Yeerks invading the Hork-Bajir homeworld.
- Subverted by the original Visser One, who seems to have taken Esplin's role as the Only Sane Man in the Yeerk Empire in the present day.
- The Honor Harrington series mostly averts this trope hard, with many of the main protagonists being (or becoming) flag officers in their respective space navies. The Solarian League, however, plays it straight with alarming regularity, Josef Byng and Sandra Crandall being just two of the more egregious examples.
- Elvis Santino was a vanishingly rare Manticoran example.
- 'Allo 'Allo!: Those Wacky Nazis, with any officer above the rank of Colonel really (resident cast members are Colonel Von Strom and General Von Clinkerhoven). Again, the insanity is Played for Laughs.
- Babylon 5: Colonel Ari Ben-Zayn.
- Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) (2000's): Admiral Cain, of course.
- Blackadder Goes Forth: General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay "Insanity" Melchett, whose determination to move his drinks cabinet six inches closer to Berlin inspired many a "Big Push".
- Doctor Who: In the Tom Baker episode The Ribos Operation (part 1 of the Key to Time adventure), the Graf Vynda-K is the perfect example.
- Fawlty Towers: Major Gowen (although a retired officer), doesn't know what day of the week it is. Then again, how much of this is simply due to the Major being frequently inebriated, we're not entirely sure.
- Horatio Hornblower: Captain Sawyer from this Mini Series adaptation. His case is Played for Drama. He starts as viciously critical and unjust, continues to be extremely paranoid and ends up genuinely mad. His lieutenants are in an unenviable position, especially when the ship's surgeon is Captain's friend, an alcoholic and unwilling to pronounce him unfit for command. Whatever steps they consider to take would be ultimately a mutiny.
- Mash: Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele from the episode "The General Flipped at Dawn". He is promoted at the end to boot, after dancing a jig to 'The Missisippi Mud' out of a court-martial. On rare occasions, his lookalike Potter showed signs of a crazy edge—but considering the camp he ran, he can be forgiven.
- Revolution: Bass Monroe in turns this Up to Eleven as an unhinged military dictator of the Monroe Republic (formerly the northeastern US and parts of Canada). As the show goes on, it becomes a Deconstructed Trope, with loyal officers Mile Matheson (revealed to have been one in episode 3) and Tom Neville (occurred in episode 13) betraying him, because he would have had them killed. His paranoia and insanity causes a lot of competent officers to be killed off, including Colonel John Faber (episode 8), a militia captain who worked under Neville (episode 14), and Jeremy Baker, who calls him out on his behaviour before his death in episode 17. In fact, by the first season finale, Tom Neville takes over the Monroe Republic and Bass Monroe is left to run off on his own.
- Sharpe: This trope tends to turn up in this series, probably the most extreme (although far from unique) example from that series is Sir Henry Simmerson.
- Star Trek:
- Star Trek: The Original Series:
- "The Doomsday Machine" - Commodore Matt Decker is driven mad after watching the titular machine kill his entire crew, and commandeers the Enterprise in a vain attempt to destroy it. When that proves unsuccessful, he commits suicide, flying a shuttlecraft into it. That was an attempted Taking You with Me though.
- "The Deadly Years" - With Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise senior staff incapacitated, Commodore Stocker takes command of the Enterprise and orders the ship into the Neutral Zone, against Star Fleet regulations.
- "Whom Gods Destroy" - Garth of Izar, a former Starfleet Fleet Captain who develops megalomania and ends up in the asylum on Elba II.
- Star Trek VI - Several Federation and Klingon brass conspired to assassinate each other's heads of government.
- Even Kirk veered towards this trope in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock — technically he did steal valuable Federation property to go to restricted space in order to complete a pet project, it just happened to be the right thing to do and a rather reasonable pet project.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- Admiral Jameson violated the Prime Directive by providing weapons to both sides in an armed conflict.
- Admiral Norah Satie ruthlessly investigated the crew of the Enterprise-D, believing that there was a traitor among them. When her investigation proved fruitless she became rather unhinged.
- Admiral Kennely conspired with Cardassians.
- Admiral Pressman conducted secret (and illegal) tests involving a Federation cloaking device and lied to other officers about it.
- Star Trek: Insurrection - Admiral Dougherty is conspiring with an enemy power to remove an indigenous population from its homeworld in order to gain access to valuable resources.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- Admiral Leyton convinced the Federation President to declare martial law on Earth, carefully maneuvering his way into launching a coup. He was the Knight Templar General Ripper type.
- At least the more or less regular appearances of Admiral Nechayev earlier (though she still had her Obstructive Bureaucrat tendencies, this was actually part of a Dominion simulation, and her other appearances tended to center around the Maquis.Admiral Bill Ross in the later seasons in the series presented Star Fleet's brass in a better light. As a big part of the Dominion War Arc, he practically became part of the Deep Space Nine crew, and the audience got to know and trust him.
- Star Trek Into Darkness: Admiral Marcus deliberately revived Khan in order to exploit his brutality and created a number of terrible weapons systems with his help. Marcus planned to start an "inevitable" war against the Klingons preemptively. He even went so far as to secretly build himself an unmarked, black starship twice the size of the Enterprise and designed purely for combat.
- Really, the list of admirals in Star Trek who are not either insane or talking heads giving generic orders off a viewscreen is awfully short.
- Played for Laughs in The Navy Lark with a parade of insane Vice-Admirals, and Commodores over the years. However, the actual Admiral in charge, while being a bit out of date and overbearing, was more often than not a Benevolent Boss and on more than one occasion the Only Sane Man.
- That and his alcoholism dulls his interest in what's actually going on...
- Varied by episode, really. On at least one occasion - well into the 1970s - he was portrayed as not knowing that World War Two had ended.
- Major Bloodnok in The Goon Show has some insanity revolving around his gastric problems.
- Doesn't really fit here, though, being a) below Colonel and b) pretty savvy, just a lecherous crook with IBS.
- French Fries in Dino Attack RPG. Where to begin? Remaining completely oblivious to the mounting tension between the two sides, he escalated what was once a debate between realists and idealists to whole new levels of violence (and didn't get punished until long after it was over). His favorite strategy is to send the men out of Dino Attack Headquarters walking very slowly toward a hoard of mutant dinosaurs. He tried to murder a Half-Human Hybrid who was working with the team for no reason other than being a hideous abomination, and he proudly boasted about killing one of the commanding elite agents' tamed mutant dinosaurs.
- These turn up from time to time in Warhammer
- Many if not nearly all the officers of the Imperial Guard in Warhammer 40,000. Inquisitors (especially Radicals) also fit the description.
- It's actually kind of hard to tell when one is insane or just ruthless. While individual regiments may differ, standard Imperial Guard policy is that the life of a soldier is worth less than the weapon he was carrying. "Losses are acceptable; failure is not".
- Szuriel, Horseman of War, and Angel of Desolation is what happens when you combine the worst traits of a General Ripper and a Colonel Kilgore with Psycho for Hire, We Have Reserves, War God and Archdaemon. It isn't pretty.
- Many occasionally appear in BattleTech a good example is Khan Raina Montose of Clan Ice Hellion, she lead the Clan in their invasion of Clan Jade Falcons occupation zone. She orders her Clan push on their invasion even though their supply lines have been intercepted by the Falcons.
- Kefka from Final Fantasy VI was made conspicuously insane after an experiment Gone Horribly Wrong, and becomes obsessed with acquring personal power at all costs. Emperor Gestahl still trusts him as his right-hand man long enough for him to successfully usurp the power of the Warring Triad and set off The End of the World as We Know It.
- Admiral Greyfield (Sigismundo in the Europe version) in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin.
- The Valuan admiralty of Skies of Arcadia has a problem with this. Admirals Galcian, Ramirez, and De Loco are all nuts (and evil), while Alfonso is incompetent (and evil) and Vigoro is... eccentric (and not so much evil as amoral). Small wonder the only two competent, sane admirals come off as the sympathetic villains of the lot...
- One of the personalities your generals can have in the Total War series is this trope.
- In Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, your CO, Admiral Akkaraju, plans to use the Kato cannon against Avernus, disobeying High Command. In one of the two paths offered in the game, you can choose to stop him.
- Admiral Han'Gerrel from Mass Effect is of the General Ripper type, while his colleague Admiral Daro'Xen is this combined with Mad Scientist.
- Did I hear Star Trek? How about Admiral B'Vat in Star Trek Online? He wants to continue the war between the Federation and the Klingons by going so far as to find and unleash a second Doomsday Machine on the Federation just so that they have a reason to keep fighting. His past self from the Star Trek: The Original Series era is so disgusted with this, he tells the player character to go kill him.
- In Wing Commander, Geoffrey Tolwyn is initially a Jerkass who doesn't get along with the Player Character. In the fourth game, he becomes the Big Bad, trying to manipulate the Confederation into a war with a splinter government and preparing a eugenics program.