The Inquisitor General

You may not love the fucking IG, but the IG loves fucking you.
— Old military saying

Ask anybody in the military, what's the most nerve-wracking experience they will ever face? Enemy tanks? Air strikes? Being shot to death?

No, you may find they most lament having to deal with The Inquisitor General.

This is a character whose job it is to go over everything you do with a fine-toothed comb and an electron microscope, making sure to catalog each of your transgressions, big and small. He could be a Drill Sergeant Nasty, The Neidermeyer, or even Colonel Badass. Assuming that he is a benevolent form of this trope, his goal is to help you become as flawless at what you do as possible, so you'll be less likely to make any mistakes when it counts for real. Of course, it's also possible that he's a Jerk Ass whose only goal is to make you look like an incompetent fool or get you angry enough to do something you'll regret.

Given his role, the Inquisitor General will tend to be Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, or Lawful Evil. This is, of course, very much Truth in Television for many organizations, who use these guys as checks against complacency and corruption.

Sub-Trope to The Inspector Is Coming and a Sister Trope to Internal Affairs, which is more commonly found in works about the police. Compare and contrast with The Political Officer.


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    Anime and Manga 

  • The Danny Kaye film The Inspector General has a man arrested for vagrancy mistaken for an Inspector General in disguise.

  • In The Spectre General by Theodore Cogswell, the last Imperial Marine unit of a fallen Empire is trapped on a forgotten planet, and has regressed in some ways. The commander invokes the Inspector General to keep the troops in line; what they don't know is that he's the IG in disguise, using what little tech still works to carry off the deception.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • Miles Vorkosigan pulls off faking this in The Warrior's Apprentice as part of an Indy Ploy - or rather, the latest in a long string of Indy Ploys.
    • In Memory, the reader is introduced to the position of Imperial Auditor, a troubleshooter answerable only to the Emperor with vast powers to investigate situations beyond what's addressed by normal channels, in a combination of this trope and its sister trope Internal Affairs. Miles is assigned the position to investigate an unusual attack on ImpSec's security chief, and thinks he's killing time waiting for field agents to report on off-planet leads. As it happens, after a few days of snooping, he finds what he needs to crack the case in the basement of ImpSec HQ.
  • In the Honor Harrington short story Fanatic, a State Sec Political Officer is sweating bullets after the suspected murder of his superior, whilst the government he works for, the People's Republic of Haven, is undergoing considerable political turmoil and purges. Things quickly get worse when he finds that the Inspector General being sent to investigate the death is none other than Victor Cachat, holder of many nicknames with terrifying implications. It doesn't help him much that he doesn't know what the readers know, that Victor is a good guy, just a terrifyingly cold blooded one, and recognizes that the protagonist is also obviously a good guy, despite who he worked for.
  • In the novel Warbirds, centered around an Air Force F-4 squadron before and during a fictional Middle East war, the egotistical, incompetent, and ambitious General Blevins forces the inspectorate to give the squadron (which is in fact a model of Air Force regulations) terrible report to destroy the career of the commanding officer, who made Blevins look like an idiot at the beginning of the book.
  • Mercilessly parodied (as was everything else) with the "Latrines General" in Good Soldier Švejk — a bumbling, dimwitted general whose only passion in life was inspecting and regulating military latrines.
  • Hilariously invoked in George Mac Donald Fraser's story The General Danced At Dawn; the Scottish General finds plenty of things to criticize but is really more interested in the officers' standard of Highland dancing.
  • In Carnifex, The Marchioness of Amnesty is sent to the United Earth Peace Fleet due to its difficulties in subduing the local population of Terra Nova, as well as for issues back on Earth.
  • In the Animorphs book "The Weakness", The Council of Thirteen sends an agent called the Inspector to evaluate Visser Three's campaign in trying to conquer Earth. The Inspector judges Visser Three incompetent, but before he can report to their superiors, Visser Three goads him into fighting the Animorphs himself. The Inspector is rather powerful, but the heroes manage to kill him, just as Visser Three wanted.

    Live Action Television 
  • Babylon 5 had several different kinds of examples:
    • The first-season episode Eyes, had an officer named Colonel Ari Ben Zayn arrive on the station to inquire into the details of recent events aboard the station, going all the way back to the series pilot episode. He also brings along Harriman Gray, a telepath, who is to scan each of the officers aboard the station to ensure that they are loyal to EarthGov. Ivanova refuses, ostensibly because she is offended that her superiors would even suggest her loyalty could be in question, but in actuality it is because she is a rogue telepath. In addition, it turned out that the Colonel was really was trying to destroy the station commander's reputation. He had been seeking that posting, and had been high on the list for consideration, but the Minbari (who had secured veto power in this regard in exchange for the funds necessary to finish the station) rejected him (and many others) in favor of Commander Sinclair.
    • Alfred Bester, being a PsiCop, is in a way this trope for the rest of the PsiCorps. He also uses his talents and authority to generally fuck with the mundanes when it serves his purposes.
    • In A Call To Arms, it is evident that the foreman at the shipyard for the new destroyers considers Micheal Garibaldi to be a most unwelcome version of this, but for the inverse of the normal reason: The foreman wants to get everything perfect, and Garibaldi is insisting that he accept things as "Good Enough" and move on so they can actually complete the project. Of course, it's also possible he was delaying over every little problem because he was actually The Mole.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation featured Inspector General officers in several episodes.

    Table Top RPG 
  • IntSec (Internal Security) has this function in Paranoia.
  • Inquisitors in Warhammer 40K are more concerned with rooting out heretics, xenos-sympathizers and other undesirables, so usually it's Administratum drones that look for this kind of misuse. The Imperial Guardsman's Uplifting Primer suggests that they have the power to execute soldiers found lacking in maintaining equipment perfectly clean.

    Web Comics 
  • Air Force Blues has a mild example in the form of Barbie's ex girlfriend, Captain Dhart. She appears from time to time to inspect the 809th, though nothing ever seems to come of it.
  • A Running Gag in Crew Dogs was that the Inspector General was a malicious Jerk Ass turned Up to Eleven, who seemed to have almost supernatural powers to catch the officers making mistakes.
    • One strip had the squadron commander assuring his daughter that there was no monster in the closet. When he opened the door to show her, the Inspector General was standing in the closet, asking the father "How's it feel to lie to your kid?"
    • In fact, the very first time the Inspector General is mentioned in the comic, one of the characters is trying to equate the Inspector General to a Mad Scientist. The logic behind his conclusion is a a bit weak, to say the least.