"O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done; The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won; The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring..."
The Captain — from the Latin caput, meaning "head" — is in charge. The Commanding Officer of The Squad or the Command Roster. It's good to be the Captain. Whether they're the Mission Control or actually working in the field, they're clearly the one running things. Any Cool Ship must have The Captain — no matter whether it's a Cool Boat, a Cool Starship, or a Cool Airship. He is expected to stay with that ship no matter what. And any Captain must have a Captain's Log.
They will almost always hold said actual rank, even if their performance would allow them to move up the chain of command. (Also true in non-naval branches of the armed forces (Army, Marines, etc.), since Captain is the highest of the Company Grade ranks, i.e. the officer ranks that participate in actual combat. From Major onward, officer ranks are more administrative.) This is sometimes confused by the naval convention that anyone in command of a given ship is referred to as "captain", no matter their rank (for most vessels, they're Commanders) — and all other "captains" receive a promotion for the duration of their stay. Horatio Hornblower becomes a captain while still a Midshipman.
Regardless of actual rank held, however, under most modern and historical laws the captain of a naval vessel is the Omnipotent Being on it when out in sea, since it is hispersonal responsibility to return to land with his crew complete and his ship in one piece. And not even the God-Emperor of the Universe can give orders past him in this case. To this extent, portrayal of The Captain as a Reasonable Authority Figure, an Officer and a Gentleman (sometimes in contrast with officers from other military branches) is undoubtedly Truth in Television.
Assuming he is a part of the main cast, The Captain (often along with his senior officers) is often depicted doing things that really should be delegated out to lower-ranked, more expendable personnel in order to have some tangible things to do (unlike in real life where officers are often doing lots of important but boring "office work"). However, since there's no drama in conferences, meetings, and paperwork, most writers would rather have him not behave like a real captain and hope no one notices. Often his participation in minor issues serves as Character Development, so that when a grave decision has to be made, he will be able to say "I Did What I Had to Do" without alienating the audience in the process.
Sometimes, however, The Captain is instead a background Reasonable Authority Figure, while the narrative focuses on people under his command. It's a road less taken because it's dramatically tricky to carry off, at least in a visual medium. Star Trek: The Next Generation tried a form of it in the early days, leaving Picard on the bridge and having Riker be the 'field guy'. While it made sense, it just didn't work in regards to drama. Indeed, this approach works best when The Captain is considerably older and noticeably unsuitable to physical action for reasons such as age or infirmity. This leaves a younger, less mature character to act as the "deputy" who is allowed to run around, get in and out of trouble, make mistakes, get involved romantically, learn valuable lessons, discover new things about himself, and do all sorts of things that The Captain would have already done to be where he is today, the general perception being that by the time a character reaches the point of becoming The Captain, his character has little room left for development. This approach is occasionally taken in anime but in many such cases, The Captain is often fated to die sometime before story's end so that the younger character may truly develop into a mature character and live up to the hope his mentor had for him.
A median approach between the two is to imply that available personnel are in a relatively small number, thus forcing and justifying the presence of the Captain and senior officers in field situations, or to outright establish that The Captain's skill and experience are just that indispensable due to Authority Equals Ass Kicking, thus making him the best one to handle the Monster of the Week.
Compare The Hero, The Good Captain, Supporting Leader, Commanding Coolness, Colonel Badass, Majorly Awesome, Captain Superhero. Contrast Da Chief. Do not confuse this with the Captain in Commedia dell'Arte, who's a Miles Gloriosus.
This trope concerns captains of ships and vessels of all kind and is almost exclusively a Navy trope. A Captain in the army is a lower-level officer who might at most command an infantry company of 120-160 men, or a tank squadron, or an artillery troop. he is higher than a lieutenant, but lower than a major, and the rank equates to a Navy lieutenant (a few grades below a Navy captain). An Army captain might be viewed as a Rupert with five or six years practical experience, and it is the highest level to which a British Army officer is automatically promoted: promotion to higher ranks is by competitive selection.
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The Leijiverse gives us a whole space force worth of examples:
Martian Successor Nadesico goes a long way in exploring... let's face it, deconstructing the function of a vessel's captain during its fifth episode. The conclusion reached by the Magical Computer is that the primary function, in an age of centralized command, is projecting an aura of confidence and collected calm, so that his subordinates can keep a cool head in critical situations. The analysis even notes that older, dignified captains (read: Captain Okita) have been increasingly replaced by young and attractive men and women who could motivate contemporary audiences...excuse me, crews. The Captain of the show, Yurika Misumaru, is a blatant and probably deliberate subversion of that analysis, since she is an actual tactical genius as well as a charismatic figurehead.
In the same chapter, they do a lot of funerals for each religion of the people that died in the previous chapter.
Lelouch, of Code Geass, founded and rescued the Japanese resistance movement from near-inevitable defeat and obscurity by transforming them into "The Order of Black Knights" and using his abilities and natural strategic talent to enable daring and dramatic displays of resistance and victory over the oppressors (motivated at least in part by his personal desire for revenge, given that Lelouch is an Anti-Hero).
The Gundam metaverse, with its love for Cool Ships, has a large share of Captains.
Captain Bright Noa from the original Mobile Suit Gundamsurvived so many of its sequels, he got dubbed "The Eternal Captain" by the fandom.
Murrue Ramius is The Captain of the Cosmic Era, though Talia Gladys from Gundam SEED Destiny also makes a good showing (and indeed the two women have quite a bit in common). Ramius' gradual acceptance of her duties and responsibilities as The Captain is an important subplot of SEED.
As is Talia's carrying hers out to the bitter end in Destiny.
Also in SEED/SEED Destiny are Captain Natarle Badgiruel, who captains the Archangel's rival, the Dominion, and Captain Neo Roanoke of the Girty Lue, a bonafide villain and Manipulative Bastard who causes loads of problems for the heroes in the first part of Destiny.
Sumeragi Lee Noriega and Kati Mannequin in Gundam 00.
Gundam AGE has three, befitting its generational nature: the first is Grodek Ainoa (who actually stole the ship to pursue a personal agenda, but is otherwise a pretty decent guy), the second is former Bridge Bunny Millais Alloy, and the third is the young, timid, and woefully unprepared Natola Einus (though, to her credit, she gives her best effort at being a good commander and starts coming into her own near the end of the series).
The eponymous Irresponsible Captain Tylor is a subversion of this insofar as even his closest friends, subordinates and enemies cannot decide if he is an ungodly talented commander or a lazy bum with extraordinary luck. Sometimes he even manages to pull off the impression that he is both at the same time....
Sir Penwood from Hellsing is revealed to strive for this ideal despite his admitted incompetence. And his staff acknowledges it.
Bruno J. Global in Macross (Henry Gloval in Robotech). With his calm demeanor (and, in America, his Russian accent) he kept the Macross together and got them home. Humorously, his animation design is later used for Captain Nemo in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water.
Alex Row, the indomitable brain behind the Silvana (aka "Kill-em-all Silvana") in Last Exile. When Alex is captured, his XO Sophia Forrester also rises up to the challenge, competently skippering the ship during the final battle.
Being about pirates, One Piece has a lot of them. Hero Captain Monkey D. Luffy deserves special mention for appearing to be a complete Idiot Hero and Leeroy Jenkins, but eventually shows that he is actually a talented and inspiring leader with a very firm grasp on whether or not he and his crew can win a battle. His authority over his team is also absolute, regardless of his bouts of idiocy — when you have a loyal swordsman like Roronoa Zoro to ensure that his authority is respected, well, it's a good thing The Power of Friendship is the more prominent motivation.
Tatemiya Saiji, the substitute supreme pontiff of the Amakusa-style church in To Aru Majutsu no Index is essentially the captain of the group of Amakusa that work "in the field" so to speak. he is also often the leader of the group's jokes and attempts to help Itsuwa get Touma's affection...whether she wants the help or not at times.
Eureka Seven has Holland, who at first rules his crew with an iron fist, frequently beating on Renton and others for stepping out of line. He becomes a competent (as well as compassionate!) captain by the end.
In some of the X-Wing Series comics, the leader of Rogue Squadron, Wedge Antilles, is the Captain.
Gabriel Cole of The Mighty is in charge of Section Omega.
Ramius's Number Two Vasily Borodin also technically qualifies, by rank (Captain 2nd Class) if not by post.
Captains Murrell (destroyer escort) and Von Stolberg (U-boat), The Enemy Below.
Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean is either the greatest or worst pirate captain ever. Maybe both. Funny enough, for most of the time, he's not the one in charge, though he'd like to be (and he does manage to get a lot of characters, even enemies to do his bidding).
We also have the Four-Star Badass version, Commodore Norrington, commander of the HMS Dauntless. He, perhaps, fits this trope best (during the first movie, anyway).
The villains give us a ton of Large Ham captains. Captain Barbossa, sometime commander of the Black Pearl. Davy Jones, commander of the Flying Dutchman. Not quite sure where Cutler Beckett would fit.
The USS Enterprise from Star Trek goes through no less than three commanders; in order, Captain Christopher Pike, Commander Spock, and cadet James T. Kirk. Kirk even fulfills his Badass Boast when he becomes Captain of theEnterpriseinthree years, something Pike said would be possible in eight.
And our favorite Ax-Crazy, Captain Nero of the Narada.
The 80's Disney movie Flight of the Navigator features a kind-of-coming-of-age story about a boy learning to become the captain of a semi-sentient automated alien spaceship.
Galaxy Quest plays it straight in a Show Within a Show of the same name with Commander Peter Quincy Taggart of the NSEA Protector (an obvious Expy of Kirk). The film, however, is about the Real Life actors playing them. Jason Nesmith, the actor playing Taggart on the show, definitely does not qualify as this trope, although he tries to be, when a bunch of naive aliens show up expecting Nesmith to be their hero Taggart (they have no concept of fiction and assume all Earth transmissions are documentaries).
Flight Director Gene Kranz at Mission Control is a model leader who commands respect. Unassuming but firm, he's cool on many levels; he's calm and collected, exactly what is required when time is at the essence, makes critical, unprecedented and right decisions on his feet and never fails to be assertive but polite. When the occasion requires it he's stingy without being smug and proudly shoots down any defeatism. His empathy solidifies him as the perfect captain.
Jim Lovell, the savvy, competent and balanced commander of the Apollo 13.
Jack Aubrey of the Aubrey-Maturin series, as well as many other main characters.
Kaladin Stormblessed from The Stormlight Archive. When he was injured and likely to die, Gaz tried to assign his crew a new bridgeleader. His men just started calling Kaladin Captain instead. Later he got that title officially, when he became the head of Highprince Dalanars bodyguards.
Tons of 'em in Honor Harrington, including main character Honor Harrington. This is slightly subverted in that Harrington only commands "one ship" in the first book; afterwards, she acts as CO to task groups and fleets.
Well, in Honor Among Enemies she plays single captain again, and in both The Honor of the Queen and The Short Victorious War she's technically the captain of a ship but also has responsibilities to a larger task group. It's not until her reinstatement in In Enemy Hands that she's promoted past the point of responsibility for a single ship.
Richard Sharpe is made The Captain of the South Essex light company in the first novel (well, the first one in writing order). He ends up as acting battalion commander on several occasions (the closest equivalent to commanding a ship) and briefly acting brigade commander (roughly equivalent to a commodore), although much of his time in senior ranks (he rises to lieutenant-colonel) is spent in staff posts. It probably helps that the South Essex gets through a lot of colonels (two killed, one injured, three relieved of command).
Dudley Pope's Captain Ramage regularly leads boarding parties, espionage missions, and anything else that's going, and has several times been picked up wounded (white patch in his hair from being creased across the scalp; kayoed by a giant wood splinter kicked up by a cannon shot; nearly bled to death from a cutlass wound...).
Discworld: Captain Vimes]] before he's promoted to commander.
The captain in Rick Cook's Limbo System finds it disconcerting to deal with making first contact when he is completely out of touch with any superiors. Another character urges him to remember that he is the "master under God" of the ship, and suggests that he consider how captains of old acted with such authority.
Captain Ahab of Moby-Dick fame, distilled Captain essence.
Although his official rank is Lt. Commander, Matthew Reddy is the commanding officer of the USS Walker in Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series. Even after he becomes effectively an admiral, with other captains and at least one admiral under his authority, he objects to being called by any rank higher than "captain."
Gerswin, protagonist of L.E. Modesitt's the Forever Hero, is widely known as 'the captain', and serves as a captain for a large portion of the first novel; He is later promoted, and eventually leaves service, but he is still referred to as 'the captain'.
Captain John Brannigan, in the Revelation Space series by Alastair Reynolds. In addition to being over 700 years old, Captain Brannigan is a mostly cybernetic member of the Ultranauts, a cybernized interstellar space-faring faction. Near the end of Revelation Space, Captain Brannigan, who has a variant of the Melding Plague (a virus that distorts nanotech machinery, and turns it malignant), is unfrozen, and his nanotech virus takes over the ship, rendering the Captain also his own Cool Ship. In Absolution Gap, he uses as a sort of avatar a 21st-century mechanical spacesuit, and kills invaders of himself by turning walls into spikes, and setting up similar traps.
Captain Francis Crozier, captain of Terror, in Dan Simmons' The Terror. Captain Sir John Franklin is also present as a much less badass version of the trope.
Captain Holly Short of the Artemis Fowl series, who refused at first the promotion to Major and then never got it anyway.
Captain Vincent Lorimar of the Unda Vosari novel actually has two Cool Boats but still only refers to himself as the Captain.
The Wing Commander series has more than a few, in all its incarnations, but the split between the title of Captain and the rank is made most clear in the first part of the novel End Run, titled "Milk Run". The corvette sent on the reconnaissance mission is commanded by a Lt. Commander who, in the course of a mission, clashes with a mission specialist that holds a higher rank.
Tavi in the Codex Alera books. He begins his service in the legions as a cursor—a spy—in an experimental legion made up of volunteers from different parts of Alera. The First Aleran, as this legion is called, would never attack any one city because there would be officers in the ranks who would not stand for it, and would theoretically be useful as a highly mobile force that could put down trouble as it happened around the realm; in reality, it was pushed through the Senate and came to fruition to serve as an espionage hotbed. This "show and pony" legion was thought of as the one that would not see combat in the incipient civil war, but it just happened to be in the way of an invading Canim armada. Ritualists in the aforementioned armada brought down a wall on lightning onto the command tent during a meeting, effectively wiping out the upper echelons of officers and leaving Tavi in charge. He's very good at it, given that he has a functional grasp of the Canish language, society and tactical ability, and that he's a very flexible thinker and tactician, and ends up being in charge of the most battle-ready legion in Alera. His legionnaires adore him and will willingly follow him to their deaths.
There's also Captain Demos, captain of the Slive. He serves as absolute master on his ship because he can control the whole ship with his mind. He also tells Tavi that while he was the Princeps, Demos gives the orders on the ship; Tavi, regardless of his rank on land, would merely be a passenger at sea.
"Der Alte" (German for "The Old Man"),or more formally "Herr Kaleun" (short for Herr Kapitanleutnent, or Lieutenant-Commander), commander of the U-96 from Das Boot.
There are three in After Doomsday — the first captain of the men's ship loses his grip and is replaced by Donnan; on the women's ship, she maintains command.
In "Break", the captain must first deal with The Mutiny and then save the survivors on a badly damaged ship.
In "The Burning Bridge", the captain must keep his fleet united despite a
William McTavish of the SS Longhope in Passage to November, a 40-ish, decorated veteran of the Royal Navy who came to America at the request of Cleveland Transport to run their sole "salty."
Also doubles as Badass In Charge. Retired Royal Navy Commander? Check. Brawny Scotsman with a hair-trigger temper? Check. Shades of Crazy Jealous Guy who will stop at nothing to protect the young woman in his care? Check and check mate!
Having survived many a storm on the open seas, it takes a lot to scare him. But the Great Lakes are prone to sudden gales, particularly in the autumn — the worst being called the November Witch, the sort of gale so vicious they're known to rip steel hulls to shreds and take entire ships to the bottom of the lake. His greatest fear is realized in November 1913 when the worst storm ever to strike the Great Lakes tears a swath of destruction from Duluth to Buffalo. Before it's over, more than 20 ships will have been forever lost and nearly 300 souls will have perished including most of the Longhope's crew.
The captain in the Stories Of Nypre series is literally called the captain. He is a somewhat minor character who takes his crew consisting of more important characters on their various journeys in the second book.
Nicholas Seafort in David Feintuch's Seafort Sage series (Midshipman's Hope, etc). A boy/man tortured by the heavy responsibilities that fall upon his shoulders.
Whoever's in charge of the ship Kydd is serving aboard at the moment during his early years in the Navy.
What Kydd becomes in Command, though at that point, he's technically only a commander.
In Victory, Kydd finally "makes post" and becomes captain of the Cool Boat, L'Aurore.
The Reynard Cycle : Roenel, captain of the Quicksilver. Call him anything other than "captain" at your own peril.
James T. Kirk (Star Trek), promoted to Admiral in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, is the real, true, one-and-only classic example of this trope in fictional media. However, the writers conspire to trap him in command of the Enterprise and its crew for the duration of that four-movie plot arc, and at the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, he is permanently reduced in rank to Captain. This seems to satisfy him, as he feels his proper place in the world is in the Captain's chair; in Generations, he tells Picard never to let himself be promoted out of it.
Spock would agree that Kirk belongs in the captain's chair.
"If I may be so bold, it was a mistake for you to accept promotion. Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material."
So would Bones, in fact, and those two never agree about anything.
"Get back your command. Before you become a part of this collection. Before you really do grow old."
Will Riker temporarily took the rank and position of captain in the two-part episode "The Best of Both Worlds", and would later permanently move on and become The Captain of the USS Titan at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis.
Major Kira gets promoted to Colonel, and takes over when Sisko joins the Prophets. In the relaunch novels, new character Elias Vaughn takes over her position as XO. (Vaughn himself later succeeds Kira as The Captain, although as a result of a Time Skip this period has yet to be chronicled.)
In the Mirror Universe double episode "In a Mirror, Darkly", Archer is a Commander to Captain Forrest (Admiral in "our" 'verse). He leads a mutiny and takes command by force. While crewmembers loyal to Forrest end up freeing Forrest, who takes the ship back from Archer, Forrest is later killed (along with the ISS Enterprise), while Archer becomes captain of the USS Defiant. It's only a temporary step, though, as his goal is not the captain's chair but The Emperor's throne.
Jeffrey Sinclair serves the role in the first season, a rare Commander instead of a Captain). The fact that Sinclair holds a greater position than his rank would normally warrant becomes a major plot point, as we learn that he was specifically requested to command Babylon 5 by the Minbari. In "Eyes" we meet a higher-ranking officer who resents this fact and attempts a coup.
John Sheridan, second through fourth seasons — he has to resign at the end of the fourth season and becomes the President of the new Interstellar Alliance instead.)
Jack O'Neill, Stargate SG-1. Though he started off as a Colonel and ended up a two-star General (in Stargate Universe he's been given a third star) — Colonel is the closest rank in the Air Force to what people think of when they think "Captain" anyways.
Carter becomes the Captain of SG-1 in season 8 (when O'Neill isn't with them), and Mitchel takes over the role in seasons 9 and 10.
"Colonel" is the Army/Marines/Air Force direct rank equivalent to the Naval rank "Captain". Both Army/Marines/Airforce "Colonel" and Naval "Captain" are rank O-6.
In fact, in SG-1 and Atlantis, the Captains of most of the Air Force ships like the Prometheus or the Odyssey are ranked as Colonel. This is accurate, considering that in the U.S. Military, all aerospace operations (presumably including space fleets) are operated by the Air Force.
John Sheppard of Stargate Atlantis, too. Although he started a Major and became a Lieutenant Colonel, he has remarked that "a lot of people never thought I'd make it past Captain"...
In the Air Force/Army/Marines, "Captain" is the rank immediately before "Major," and has nothing to do with the nautical commanding officer of a ship. Carter started with the rank of Captain, but she wasn't The Captain of SG-1.
Commander Adama (Battlestar Galactica), commanding officer of the titular warship in both versions. The peculiarities of the Colonial rank system make him a Commander rather than a Captain. Later in the re-imagined series, after Admiral Cain's death, Roslin promotes him to Admiral.
Also Admiral Cain and Lee Adama, neither of whom held the rank of captain at the time (Lee was promoted for the purpose): both filled this role when they were each in charge of the Pegasus.
Lee Adama (call-sign "Apollo") was the re-imagining of Captain Apollo from the original Galactica series, holding the rank of Captain from the Miniseries to Season 2. Becomes a Mythology Gag when Laura Roslin nicknames him "Captain Apollo" after initially mistaking his call-sign for his actual name, but continues to do so afterwards as it has a nice ring to it.
Mal Reynolds (Firefly). Was a Sergeant, but held a brevet rank of Captain in wartime before becoming the master of a merchant ship.
Jack Harkness (Torchwood, but not Doctor Who; ironically, it's mostly in the latter that he's referred to as "Captain Jack").
Technically, his greatcoat bears the insignia of "Group Captain", which is a full title, is never referred to as "Captain", and has the equivalent rank of "Colonel" in the armed forces. And in his first appearance, his uniform bears the insignia of "Squadron Leader", which has the equivalent rank of "Major".
The Doctor is technically the captain of the TARDIS, though he's never referred to as such, and is usually also the entire crew.
Nathan Hale Bridger (SeaQuest DSV, first through second seasons), though he left, and Oliver Hudson (seaQuest 2032).
Although it's never mentioned on-screen, off-screen media has Jack Bauer as a former Captain in Delta Force.
The fictionalized version of Edward Pellew, Captain of the HMS Indefatigable (which he commanded for a time in real life) in the Horatio Hornblower novels and television miniseries (where he was played by Robert Lindsay).
Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear since it's 2002 revival. His status as the unofficial leader of the other presenters is lampshaded by the visiting German presenters of D-Motor, who refer to him as "Top Gear Boss".
James May's most commonly used nickname is "Captain Slow".
Captain Brass from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, although as a kind of subversion, since the actual team leaders were Grissom and now DB. Brass *was* the team leader, until Ecklie got mad and put Grissom in charge in the first episode.
The makers of the TV drama Colditz wrote the token Royal Navy officer, Lt. Dick Player, as an amalgam of several famous, or perhaps notorious, British submarine commanders who saw German captivity. In reality, there is a story of submariner Tommy Catlow getting onto the roof — disregarding an artillery barrage from the nearby Americans — to set out a large Union Jack where it could be seen, so as to advise the Yanks they were approaching a POW camp.
Captain Marcus Chaplin, USN, commander of the attack submarine Colorado in Last Resort.
Sheldon: "Gentlemen, if I may interject, I’ve decided my rank will be captain. If it’s good enough for Kirk, Crunch and Kangaroo, it’s good enough for me."
Leonard fits the role when it comes to the group's general dynamics, with even Sheldon equating him to Kirk at least once.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Xander Harris. Come Season 8, he's the de facto leader of the international Slayers' organization because of his uncanny ability to bring out the best in his girls.
Captain Hammer (first season) and Captain Stanley on Emergency!. Captain Hochrader was a character of,the week, and Gage and Desoto become captains in one of the films. Various other captains pop up when other stations are assisting on fires, and they are identified by the white stripe on the helmet.
Valkur, the god of naval warfare in the Forgotten Realms setting. Among his titles is "Captain of the Waves".
The Imperial Navy in Warhammer 40K obviously has captains, but it also has the even more awesome title of Lord-Captain (also sometimes known as flag captain, but that doesn't sound quite as cool), which is reserved for the captain in command of a detachment of vessels. It is a title so awesome even in-universe, that most Rogue Traders refer themselves as lord-captain despite most of them not qualifying on the title(while large Rogue Trader dynasties do have fleets of ships, most of the time they operate independently), and technically since it's a rank in the Navy, which Rogue Traders aren't part of, they wouldn't be able to use it even them. Not that any of them gives a damn.
The individuals in charge of large Space Marine ships are referred to as "shipmaster", since they often have Space Marine Brother-Captains on the bridge at the same time and using the same rank would cause confusion. The shipmaster himself is not a Space Marine, but a Chapter serf: an individual selected for (and not being up to par for) Space Marine training, and serving the Chapter otherwise.
The unofficial in-field leader of a team is called a captain. The role is frequently honorary, but most times given to The Ace or The Smart Guy of the team. In some cases the captain may be given the responsibility of interacting with game officials regarding application and interpretation of the rules.
Bill Russell, the main gear behind the Boston Celtics dynasty. He led them to 11 titles in 13 years, whereas before his coming the Celtics had never won a single title.
New York Yankees star shortstop Derek Jeter.
National Hockey League Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier. In 1994, the New York Rangers were trailing the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in the best of seven Eastern Conference final, with the sixth game in New Jersey, where the Devils had proven nearly unbeatable. Many writers were saying that there was little to no chance of the Rangers winning. In his personal Crowning Moment Of Awesome, team captain Messier emphatically stated that the Rangers were going to win Game 6, no matter what. On the ice, he scored a hat-trick (three goals, kinda like a baseball player going 5-6 with 2 home runs) and Rangers won the game in overtime. They eventually beat the Devils and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
And before the Rangers, he was captain of Oilers, following no other than Wayne Gretzky.
No love for Steve Yzerman? He was the captain of the Detroit Red Wings for 20 years (a record), led them to 3 Stanley Cup championships and his jersey was retired with the captain's c on it◊.
Oogami Ichiro (Sakura Taisen; partial subversion: While a natural leader, was given command of an elite fighting team as his first assignment)
Tact Mayers (Galaxy Angel gameverse; refuses to take on a higher authority, and was even reluctant to become Captain of the Elsior, because he believes authority distances people and makes them more unfeeling)
Falric better known as "The Captain" in Warcraft 3. He was Arthas's loyal sidekick, but when in Northrend he did not hesitate to temporarily take command and try to get the army back home against Arthas's wishes. Just a shame Arthas went and sunk his ship first, so the Captain's glory moment as a true Captain was short lived. In fact, he ended up making a Face-Heel Turn alongside Arthas, and can be seen in the campaign's ending cinematic accompanying his master into the capital city, where he helps murder the aristocracy and watches Arthas kill his father. In effect, he became that which he hated most.
In the new Wrath of the Lich King instance, Halls of Reflection, Falric returns as the first boss, engaging the players during the fifth wave of a gruelling gauntlet of undead foes.
A few years later we have the Skybreaker, commanded by High Captain Justin Bartlett, and Orgrim's Hammer, commanded by Sky-Reaver Korm Blackscar. Both captains send adventurers on missions throughout Icecrown, and are a source of PvP daily quests. During the ships' most important action, however, they are commanded by Muradin Bronzebeard and Varok Saurfang.
Super Robot Wars, being a huge mecha crossover, naturally has a couple of their own, including:
Lt. Colonel Daitetsu Minase. Cool Old Guy. Captain of the Hagane, which has a BFG attached to the front. Occasionally commands the Kurogane, which has a DRILL instead.
Tetsuya. Starts as Daitetsu's sidekick, but eventually inherits the Kurogane and comes into his own after Daitetsu is killed.
Lt. Lee Linjun. Jerk Ass. Turns on the heroes. Trys to ram the Kurogane, which as mentioned before, has a drill on the front; not his brightest moment.
Lefina Enfield. Captain of the Hiryuu Custom and considered a Teen Genius (youngest person to ever pilot a battleship), and the only female captain. She and the Hiryuu Custom could be considered Shot Outs to Yurika Misumaru and the Nadesico.
And sometimes, Elzam von Branstein takes this role and rides the Kurogane, after Tetsuya takes over Hagane.
Blessfield Ardygun, patriarch of the Ardygun family and is succeeded by his daughter Shihomi after a certain incident the captains the transformable and combining battleship Valstork.
And the Exile in the sequel too, although Bao-dur insists on calling him/her General, due to it being their rank during the Mandalorian Wars.
Jacob Keyes in Halo, and later his daughter Miranda Keyes in Halo 2 and 3, though his daughter was actually a commander.
Fleet Admiral Sir Terrance Hood in Halo 2 and 3 probably qualifies as well.
Captain Veronica Dare from Halo 3: ODST, leader of the squad of Helljumpers that the Rookie is part of, would count, if not for the presence of Gunnery Sergeant Eddie Buck. Despite not actually holding the rank, he's a far better fit for the role. In large part due to him being Captain Reynolds.
There's also the little fact that she's not ODST. While she does hold the rank of captain in the UNSC Navy, she's primarily an ONI spook. Naturally, your typical ground-pounder will resent that.
Rtas 'Vadum(ee) (AKA Half-Jaw), who became a Ship Master (captain) and Fleet Master (admiral) of a Separatist ship.
The Captain in Crusader is a minor subversion of the trope. He's definitely the lead character, but he doesn't make any decisions except how to accomplish his mission. He uncomplainingly takes mission directives from his superiors and seems to be content in his given role "Dude Who Blasts the Shit Out of Entire Civilizations of Mooks."
The quarians of the Migrant Fleet refer to Shepard as Captain Shepard, despite Shepard pointing out that s/he is only ever reached the rank of Commander. It's explained that because s/he commands a ship and is responsible for the lives of their crew, this is Shepard's legal status under quarian law, allowing them the authority to speak as an advocate for their crew in legal matters.
The Russian version of the game has Shepard referred to as "Captain", as the Russian equivalent of "Commander" is "Captain 2nd Class" or "Captain" for short. The translators just figured that transliterating "Commander" would be too awkward for Russian gamers.
None of the Pikmin were able to defend themselves from the various wildlife of their native planet were it not for the leadership of Captain Olimar.
MostIvaliceGames feature clans, and all clans has clan leaders, right? Montblanc seems to be the most known clan leader, which he leads Clan Nutsy from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Clan Centurio from the two other games.
Tetra from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker became Pirate Captain around the age of 10, because her mother died and left no heir but her. The leadership qualities she got this way are probably what later helped her founding a whole Kingdom with her as the Queen.
Not sure if this counts, but Captain Falcon from F-Zero fights like a few dozen people in one and apparently has the title of Captain because he was once a Captain in the Galaxy Police, which means he actually had men at his disposal, once.
In Company of Heroes, the British Troops refer to you as "The Captain". There is also a unit called "Captain" which must be built unlock the M3 Stuart Light Tank and the Next Tier, however he is not a Hero Unit (he's actually pretty weak) and does not represent the player in any way.
In Star Trek Online, much like in the movies and series, you will be "The Captain" of a ship. Although you start out as Ensign in the Tutorial Missions, then you get promoted to Lieutenant and get your own Ship, because Starfleet lacks Captains for all the ships with so many threats around them, later you rank up to eventually become Captain in rank too. But only for short as you will be soon Rear Admiral or with "Season 2" up to Vice Admiral, but still be in control of a ship (because of the beforementioned lack of Captains).
The novelization reveals that she is a pretty competent commander, although she is heavily criticized by some of the Rebel Alliance leaders (it's all political). In the past, she was in command of an elite bomber wing and convinced Vader to amend his order to kill civilians.
It's, at least, justified in this 'verse why a battle barge commander personally goes down in a drop-pod to battle hordes of Tyranids. That's what a Space Marine ought to do, no matter the rank.
Explicitly namedropped in Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters with the player character, and he only has the role because the leader of the original mission, Captain Burton, performs a Heroic Sacrifice to keep the Precursor vessel from being captured/destroyed en route back to Earth, and only the player character can easily interface with the vessel's computers.
Parodied in Homestuck, when Vriska declares herself the Captain of the expedition to find Lord English's weakness. She later learns that the "naval nicknames" she gave several other characters, such as "Commodore" and "Admiral", actually means they outrank her. (The characters given the names already knew this, and had been silently laughing at her misunderstanding the whole time.)
In The Gamers Alliance, several characters hold the rank of captain. Some examples are Ax (leader of the Blades of Vigilance), Kaizoku (pirate captain and commander of the Black Hunters), Varalia (captain of the Myridian palace guards) and Razoul (captain of the Black Guard) among others.
Church in Red vs. Blue, while the de-facto leader of the titular Blues, is the only one to actually consider himself a Captain, despite their previous Captain's death occurring prior to the start of the series.
Subverted in an odd way as he's tied for the second lowest rank of either army; he's only a standard Private (along with Donut and Caboose), compared to Minor Junior Private Negative First Class Grif (although he might technically still be a sergeant) and Privates First Class Simmons and Tucker.
Tech Infantry has several, from Erich Von Shrakenberg (until he gets promoted to Commodore and then Admiral) to James Welthammer (who technically is a rankless civilian, but commands a space freighter). Xinjao O'Reilly eventually gets his own ship to command as well.
Though they might have fancy titles like "Pirate Lord", The Captain is your basic character class choice for Open Blue (unless you prefer to be a marine/crewman/street urchin/whatever), seeing as it's a pirate RP set in the age of sail.
Ultra Magnus commands the entire Autobot Defense Force, while Optimus Prime was captain of a Space Bridge repair force, and now commands a single unit of Autobots on Earth (which are the same 'bots really). The rank of Prime is thus equivalent to the rank of Captain, while the rank of Magnus better matches that of Admiral, or Grand Admiral.
Optimus Primal actually was a ship captain until the events of the show. The Maximals' base is their crashed ship, the Axalon, in the first few seasons. Then they relocate to the Ark. Megatron (not the original one) is also, technically, captain of the Darksyde, even though his allies stole it from the Maximals. Likewise, the crashed hulk of the Darksyde is the Predacons' base. Near the end of the series, they relocate to the Nemesis.
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is a Captain. Like he could be anything but. For whatever reason, in the Toy Story movies Buzz assumes more of a futuristic Knight in Shining Armor role and the role of the Captain is assumed by Woody. While Woody and Buzz are equals, it is Woody who is the commander in chief of the green army men and who coordinates missions and projects.
Goliath in Gargoyles, although his position as clan leader seems to be more one of responsibility than of privilege.
Captain Simian of Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys qualifies. Though he's very open to suggestions from his crew, he's always the team leader. He gets rebuked all the time by his second-in-command for jumping in headfirst without a plan, but it usually works out; his crew is confident in his ability to get them out of any situation.
Much like Col. Jack O'Neill, Skipper from The Penguins of Madagascar fits this role as the head of his Five four man band. In one episode, he becomes a literal ship captain when they build the Penguin One spaceship.
Goodness knows how this page could get to 2010 without mention of Futurama's Captain Zapp Brannigan, not-at-all-erstwhile hero of the Democratic Order of Planets, and apparently its entire general staff. Definitely a subversion of the trope, and a gigantic send-up of the mythology around Captain James Kirk. Brannigan's portrayal was actually intended to be less Kirk specifically, and more what the real (and now rather doughy and loopy) William Shatner would be like as a starship captain. Turns out, not a very good one.
Mulan's Captain Shang, who also happens to be Team Dad of his division.
Another literal example: Captain Zachary Foxx, leader of the Galaxy Rangers.
In "Journey To The Tower of Omens," the hands-on, field-leader type is exemplified in Captain Tygus, who conducts a one-man assault on a heavily guarded tower powered by a MacGuffin he's Plundering for his Commander.
Shining Armor, older brother to Twilight Sparkle, is the captain of the Canterlot Royal Guard. Considering that it is the only military force seen in Equestria (as of the end of season 3), his position is equivalent of a real life General.
You know all that stuff that Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey did in the movies? Captain Thomas Cochrane did it all first; and did it for real.
John Paul Jones. Badass quotes include; when being asked by a British officer if he was ready to surrender, he responded, "I have not yet begun to fight." And upon being asked if he'd strike his colors for surrender, "I may sink. But I'll be damned if I strike!", and lastly his Dare to Be Badass speech: "I have no connecton to ships that do not travel fast, because I intend to go into harm's way"
Lieutenant-Commander Malcolm Wanklyn VC DSO**, British submarine ace, who sank a truly massive amount of shipping in the dangerous, shallow and exposed waters of the Mediterranean as the CO of HMS Upholder. See the other wiki: .
Lieutenant-Commander Tommy Catlow, who escaped from a pre-war submarine disaster (HMS Thetes sank with a full crew in the Mersey Estuary in 1937. Catlow, then a junior officer, tested an untried and unreliable escape system, and got out to deliver messages to the rescue team). He spent the early part of his war sinking Axis shipping in the Med. Captured by the Italians, he attempted escape so frequently that he was handed over to the Germans and incarcerated at Colditz. At war's end, he was on the short-list for a place in the famous glider... the makers of the TV drama Colditz wrote him in as the token Royal Navy officer, Lt. Dick Player.
Captain James A. Lovell USN, Flight Commander of Apollo 13.
Perhaps moreso, Gene Kranz, the NASA Flight Director who served as the primary authority figure during not only the Apollo 13 crisis, but also the first manned lunar landing during the Apollo 11 mission. The American space program designates a Flight Director for every manned space mission. While confined to the Mission Control center, standing policy dictates that "Flight" has ultimate authority in all decisions regarding the mission; not even the President of the United States can supersede a call made by the Flight Director.
Captain Michel Bacos of Air France flight 139. When it was hijacked by terrorists in June of 1976, they freed all non-Jewish passengers. Captain Bacos emphatically stated that all the passengers were his responsibility, including the Jews, and he flat-out refused to leave if they weren't going to either. His act of badass inspired the flight crew to follow suit. Whatever the French term for Badass is, he's it.
In case of airships (that is, anything that flies, from balloons and blimps to Space Shuttle), once an emergency happens, the commander of the airship (no matter of actual credentials, as long as he/she is not usurping the command without valid reason) is operating under "prevention of catastrophe" as the only law concerning him. It is said that the crew of the famous Concorde crash sacrificed themselves and their passengers in order not to crash into housing area, which would bring many more deaths. So when an aircraft makes an emergency landing on your property destroying it, expect a long talk with your insurance agent, as any court will send you packing in first hearing, probably with verbal whipping.
You will find in every air emergency that the crew always considers where the plane might crash and will do what is necessary to avoid hitting a populated area.
Likewise, the US Coast Guard/International Navigation Rules for seagoing vessels essentially state in the very second rule that any of the rules in the whole book can be broken if breaking them was necessary to avoid danger such as collision or grounding.
Most US nuclear submarine commanders hold the actual rank of Commander. Most Soviet/Russian nuclear sub commanders are two ranks higher up the list.
Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson, the first commanding officer of the first nuclear submarine the USS Nautilus.
Commander William R. Anderson, who took the Nautilus on its famous voyage under the North Pole in 1958.
Captain Anna Ivanovna Shchetinina, the world's first woman to serve as a captain of an ocean-going vessel, evacuated people from Tallinn during World War II and smuggled war cargo supplies during enemy bombardment.
Captain Isaac Hull of the USS Constitution. During the War of 1812, the Constitution was confronted by the British ship HMS Guerriere. The Constitution warred the other ship to scraps, an action that served notice that Britain's feared Navy now had a contender.
This is a main reason (combined with Jackson's victory at New Orleans) why Parliament ratified the treaty ending the War of 1812. If Hull and Jackson hadn't convinced them that the American military deserved to be taken seriously, that would have been unpleasant for both sides.
...Sort of. The British had already had serious problems with other American armies and ships before. On land, the problem was that the British knew from experience that they couldn't actually occupy the colonies, and raiding the coast had proven expensive. On the sea, the actual damage caused by the Americans was a pinprick, but the mere fact that they could deliver that pinprick was sobering.
You hardly need to be a Captain Badass when the ship you're sailing, despite being about as seaworthy as a haystack, is immune to the enemy's guns and massively outmatches her in firepower; that goes double when the other ship is overdue for refit and repairs. Hull never commanded in battle again, as he learned his brother had died while he was at sea and left a widow and children that he now needed to care for.
Captain Tom Parham. First African-American to reach rank of Captain, and beloved Navy chaplain.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the man who survived a Mandela-like incarceration in the Siberian gulags, was formerly a Captain in the Red Army.
And because surviving Soviet work camps isn't impressive enough, he found time to survive undiagnosed cancer.
That era probably provided the archetype of what The Captain is.
The famous Battle of Trafalgar had more of these than you can shake a stick at. Notably, the two captains/hereos of that engagement were actually admirals; Horatio Nelson of the (aptly) named Victory and Cuthbert Collingwood of the Royal Sovereign.
Muammar Gaddafi at the time of his coup. He promoted himself to Colonel soon after.
Lieutenant Commander Earnest E Evans — captain of the USS Johnston of Taffy 3. This completely badass half Cherokee who commanded the USS Johnston during the Battle Off Samar. When the Japanese fleet during the Battle off Samar was first sighted, Evans did not hesitate and his ship immediately headed directly towards the far superior enemy. He is reported to have told his crew over the ship's intercom: "A large Japanese fleet has been contacted. They are fifteen miles away and headed in our direction. They are believed to have four battleships, eight cruisers, and a number of destroyers. This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can." In his attack run he managed to take out of the battle two Japanese heavy cruisers in moments. While he abandoned ship with the rest of the crew when the Johnston sank, he was not rescued. Maybe his brass balls took him to the ocean floor.