But you'd better sight land soon. There's rumblings of mutiny! Christopher Columbus:
Really? King Ferdinand:
Come over here and listen. Christopher Columbus:
All right. Crew: rumble rumble rumble. mutiny mutiny mutiny.
Here's the situation: you're on a ship. The Captain
is supposed to be the commanding officer on the ship, and his word is supposed to be law. But sometimes, members of the crew don't see it that way. Maybe someone gets it in his head to become captain himself, and the current captain needs to go. Maybe the captain is a bit too tyrannical or soft for the crew's liking, or they think the captain has lost his mind and is leading them on a suicidal course, and the crew would rather go back to Tahiti. Whatever the reason, someone gets the bright idea to take up arms against the captain and before you know it, we've got a mutiny on our hands.
Militarily speaking, a mutiny is the military form of sedition, a conspiracy to disobey a superior officer whose orders one is legally bound to obey. But in popular fiction, particularly pirate
stories, the term is mainly used for the rebellion of members of the crew against the captain or other person in charge of a ship, either at sea or in space. Just like rebellions on land, a mutiny may or may not be justified, though it's worth telling that mutinies are far less likely to be justified than regular rebellions. In many stories (and in real life) the penalty for mutiny is usually death, so many mutineers do not live long if they fail.
It's not always illegal. If the commanding officer's actions are illegal, immoral, or are themselves contrary to higher orders, his ranking underling can take action to "relieve him of command," usually using those exact words. Of course, the captain will still think it's mutiny.
The junior officer will
, of course, be expected to justify his actions before a full inquiry, military tribunal, court martial, or other group of stern old officers in the denouement
. When The Captain
is the one who is technically disobeying orders from a higher power
, it's an Anti-Mutiny
As you might expect, mutinies are a case of Truth in Television
, and there are many cases throughout history of mutinies happening not only on board ships, but on land as well.
ships may face mutinies that are treated just as seriously as those on other ships. In Real Life
, pirates set up their ships so they could depose a captain as they pleased.
When the commanding officer does something illegal with the ship, that's not mutiny
, that's barratry
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Anime and Manga
- Issue #68 of The Powerpuff Girls has the Micro-Puffs (mischievous dimensional sprite versions of the girls) brainwashing Bubbles and Buttercup into thinking they're the leader of the team. It doesn't work on Blossom, since she's the leader already. She gets some help from (of all people) Mojo Jojo.
Mojo Jojo: If you needed help, why do you not go to your hotshot Professor, hmmm? Why come to me?
Blossom: (coyly) Because, Mojo, I needed not only a brilliant mind but a diabolical one to help me beat the Micro-Puffs!
- Mutiny on the Bounty is a fictional recounting of the mutiny that went down aboard the HMS Bounty in 1789. Committed to film in 1934 and 1962, and in 1984 as The Bounty.
- The descendants of some of the mutineers still live on the island they sailed to.
- William Bligh probably had something conducive to the mutiny about him. 19 years later, when he was the Governor of the New South Wales, he had another mutiny — the famous Rum Rebellion.
- The Caine Mutiny, and the book of the same name by Herman Wouk on which the movie was based, concerns a mutiny aboard a WWII destroyer-minesweeper against a captain accused of cowardice and incompetence.
- Crimson Tide had a mutiny aboard a submarine during rising tensions between the United States and Russia that were set to go nuclear. Tricky, in that none of the participants are sure who the mutineer actually is, as both sides claim legitimate authority within the Articles of War governing the United States Navy.
- Pirates of the Caribbean, a few times, notably The Black Pearl taken from Jack in the backstory. And Jack in On Stranger Tides which would've been successful had Blackbeard not had a mystical sword that controlled the ship.
- Battleship Potemkin. Truth in Television and a cinematic masterpiece.
- Kirk skirts this line over and over again in the new Star Trek reboot.
- HMS Defiant placed in the time of Spithead mutiny, the crew plans it from the beginning, and Dirk Bogarde's super-evil, sadistic first lieutenant gives them pretty good reason to do it.
- Son of Kong crew stages a mutiny because they don't want to go back to Skull Island. Egged on by the villain of the film, but then they throw him overboard too.
- Retrograde: A group of men are sent 100 years back in time to prevent a meteor carrying a deadly alien virus from colliding into Earth and bring humanity to the brink of extinction. However, during the mission, one of the commandos, Dalton, tries to take over the ship and kill the other crew so that he can change the past and remake the future in his own image.
- Space Mutiny features The Mutiny... IN SPACE! Shaped Like Itself and Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Very commonly found in Napoleonic naval fiction. Occurs in the first Richard Bolitho novel, and in Lord Hornblower.
- Treasure Island, Captain Flint's crew, under Long John Silver, rebelled in the backstory. They took over the Hispanola in the main story — although, this one was planned from the beginning, more accurately an infiltration than a mutiny.
- In F.M. Busby's Rissa Kerguelen series, spaceship crews sometimes mutiny in order to get free of their totalitarian government; we see two of these mutinies in the books.
- As Tom Clancy points out in the novel, not The Hunt for Red October. That's barratry.
- The Lost Fleet has the Glory Hound Captain Falco lead a mutiny against the Alliance fleet commander John Geary, whom he thinks is a coward. He takes off with 40 ships to break through the enemy forces. He comes back with thirteen.
- In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel The Flight of the Eisenstein, the captain of the Eisenstein is told that what he is doing is mutiny. He retorts that mutiny is when the crew revolts against the captain; when a captain disobeys the commander of the fleet, it's barratry. He still, in defiance of orders, flees in order to Bring News Back of Horus's treachery.
- The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi, is a young adult novel about a mutiny on a ship where the protagonist ends up joining the mutineers.
- A mutiny was what contributed to the conditions on the Generation Ship of Robert A. Heinlein's Orphans Of The Sky (originally two short stories, "Universe" and "Common Sense"), during which the ship's piloting crew was killed off, the survivors later forgetting their original purpose.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, a group of Night's Watch brothers, after surviving a large-scale attack by the undead Others, take shelter in a small keep owned by Craster, a sometimes friend of the Watch. During their stay, Craster mocks the Brothers and feeds them only meager rations, claiming that it is all he can afford to give. Several of the watchmen, half-starved and nearly crazed from the battle and subsequent retreat, accuse him of holding out on them, claiming that he must have ample stores for the coming winter to supply himself and his many wives. Lord Commander Mormont tries to put an end to their belligerence but is cut down by his own men, who proceed to murder Craster, raid his stores, and rape his women. Only Samwell holds back, fleeing the keep before the traitors recover themselves to bring word back to Castle Black about the Lord Commander's death.
- First Mate Cox leads a mutiny on the Sweet Judy in the backstory of Nation. It fails when the captain realizes that If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him, and the mutineers are set adrift—leaving the Judy undermanned in the tsunami that sets off the plot of the book proper.
- Tarzan of the Apes opens with a mutiny. The crew of the Arrow rise up, kill the brutal officers and steal the ship. Because Lord Greystoke had been kind to the leader of the mutiny during the voyage, he and his pregnant wife are put ashore on a remote stretch of the African coast rather than being killed.
- In Poul Anderson's "Break", although the captain wonders whether passengers can mutiny, he chiefly deals with stopping them by force and then surviving the damage.
- In Sarah A. Hoyt's Darkship Thieves, Athena wakes up to find that her father's crew have mutinied and are coming after her.
- In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga novel The Vor Game, Miles comes face to face with one against his commanding officer. To enliven matters, the question of whether the orders should have been defied is ambiguous.
- In Michael Flynn's Spiral Arm novel On The Razor's Edge, this is what finally brought down a maxraj, ordering his troops to engage in a particularly brutal repression.
- In Terminal World, a mutiny is planned against Ricasso, the leader of the Swarm.
- In the pilot of SeaQuest DSV, Commander Ford relieves Captain Stark of duty as she's about to launch a nuclear strike without just cause.
- Nearly happened a couple times during the second season of Star Trek: Voyager, since a good number of the crewmembers were pulled from a crew that actively resisted Federation policies. Tuvok leads a mutiny thanks to brainwashing he received from a fanatical Maquis holdout. Unrelatedly, couple seasons earlier Tuvok had revealed that he had been preparing to counter a full-scale mutiny from day one.
- Star Trek: Enterprise. In "Hatchery" Archer becomes obsessed with protecting a Xindi insectoid hatchery at the expense of their mission to save Earth. The by-the-book MACO's follow the Captain's orders, and the crew who've been together long enough to realize Archer is acting strangely, and now have the self-confidence to do something about it, try to apprehend and find out what is wrong with him.
- Commander Riker of Star Trek: The Next Generation took his captain's side in a mutiny (an Anti-Mutiny, specifically) very early in his career; he later decided that had been the wrong call.
- In "Allegiance", Riker and the senior staff mutiny when "Picard" (actually an alien imposter) orders the Enterprise to approach a hazardous pulsar.
- Lampshaded in "Disaster" by Picard when three children he has made "officers" disobey his order to leave him to die.
Picard: You know this is mutiny.
- Battlestar Galactica. With the support of Vice-President Zarek, Lt. Gaeta leads a full-scale armed mutiny against Admiral Adama and President Roslin.
- In Star Trek: The Original Series, there was an interesting case in the episode "Turnabout Intruder", where Kirk had switched bodies with his jealous, insane ex-lover, who wanted to be captain. The rest of the crew became suspicious of their captain's irrational behaviour. However all medical tests showed that Kirk was perfectly fine and even when Scotty suggested that they mutiny, McCoy pointed out the medical report was all that Starfleet would accept and they would be the ones who irrationally mutiny against their captain.
- Apparently illegally ordered executions don't qualify under Starfleet regs.
- Spock mutinies in Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Menagerie".
- In "The Tholian Web" Ensign Chekov asks if the crew of the Defiant mutinied while examining the ship.
- An episode of JAG, "Cowboys and Cossacks", plays with both this trope, and the Barratry gag from The Hunt for Red October, when Harm and Bud, while guests aboard a Russian sub, conspire with one of the Russian officers to take the ship from the renegade Captain. Harm explains to Bud that what they are doing can not be legally defined as mutiny, given that they are not members of the crew. Technically, it's an act of terrorism.
- Stargate Universe: One is staged by the civilians and scientists in the aptly named "Divided", orchestrated by Rush and Camille, who want power away from the military. Suffice it to say it doesn't go so well. T.J. even points out the stupidity of a bunch of civilians going up against US Air Force Colonel.
Chloe: Don't worry. You won't have to stay in here for much longer.
T.J.: I know , 'cause the colonel's gonna take back the ship. You don't have any idea what you're up against.
Chloe: I think we do.
T.J.: Not a clue. (She sits up and glares at Chloe.) Sorry, but a bunch of civilians up against the colonel's training and experience?
Chloe: It's about listening to reason.
T.J.: (standing up) Not once you took this ship. That made it war, and that's what we do.
- The mini-series Horatio Hornblower features mutiny in its second instalment (episodes "Mutiny" and "Retribution"), which are an adaptation of the book Lieutenant Hornblower, but with notable changes. The lieutenants of HMS Renown have to deal with a Crazy Captain and a Doctor Jerk who hesitates to pronounce him unfit to command. Too bad Captain Sawyer is a Living Legend because that only complicate things further and a subsequent court-martial screws the poor men over.
- Running Wild song "Mutiny" on the album Port Royal.
- Alestorm's "Captain Morgan's Revenge" kicks off with a mutiny that ends with the pirates making the title captain Walk the Plank, only for him to pronounce a dying curse upon them all...
- In Pay Me, Bug!, Velis Enge organizes a mutiny against Captain Vindh.
- This is of course Truth in Television, so expect several references to mutinies here.
- Mutinying was rather infamous during the Vietnam War, including throwing a grenade into an unpopular commanding officer's tent while making it seem as though the enemy threw it inside, to which in some cases the Pentagon even encouraged that behavior in certain circumstances. This type of mutiny even has a name: Fragging.
- An attempt to stop Emperor Hirohito from negotiating peace with the allies occurred from an entire 24 hours on August 15, 1945, earning the title Japan's Longest Day.
- The Spithead Mutiny in 1797 was an interesting one. It was a mutiny by an entire fleet of British ships in time of war. It was so orderly that historians often compare it to a labor strike. This mutiny was notable for the political savvy of the mutineers which involved demanding no more then they could demand without losing sympathy. This included a pay raise, removal of corrupt officers, and a more standardized enforcement of regulation. Notably it did not demand the abolition of flogging; the sailors were prepared to accept much severity, including flogging, if it was predictable severity, but they did not want captains whose punishments were erratic. Another notable part of their proposal was to concede from the beginning the promise to renounce the mutiny and sail into battle if the French were spotted coming out of harbor as demonstration of their non-treasonous motives. These PR gambits made the Spithead Mutiny more successful then many.
- The Russian Revolution of 1917 (the first one, not the second) and subsequent German Revolution of 1918 that deposed the Kaiser began in earnest via naval mutinies.