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Walk the Plank
The Doctor: A plank?
The Captain: The theory is very simple. You walk along it. At the end, you fall off.
Doctor Who, The Pirate Planet

Standard Pirate punishment: extending a wooden board or similar object over the side of a ship, and forcing the intended victim to step off the far end and presumably drown or be eaten.

This is a good scene for building suspense, if taken slowly. It is also an excellent opportunity for last-ditch-bravado and summing up antagonistic relationships. The plankee often tells the villain exactly what he thinks of him, and vice versa.

The victim is usually bound. An occasional twist is for an unbound victim to grab the plank on the way down or otherwise use it as a springboard into combat.

Real Life pirates executed people this way, but only rarely. There are, sadly, no surviving records of them making people walk 1.6 x 10-33 centimeters, although it is a given that most victims walked at least that far.

Since Space Is an Ocean, Space Pirates have a parallel punishment with a similar dramatic role: the victims are Thrown Out the Airlock. Sky Pirates seem to prefer the more old-fashioned plank—not surprising, since the airship's altitude would make it especially dangerous to the hero.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Audio Play 

    Comic Books 
  • In the Elseworlds story in Detective Comics Annual #7, the Laughing Man (The Joker) has Capitana Felina (Catwoman) walk the plank as part of their plan to trap Leatherwing (Batman).
  • In Sonic the Comic Captain Plunder makes Tails Walk the Plank into a pit in issue 23; however, Sonic reminds Tails he can fly. In another story, Captain Plunder makes Proctor Speckle Walk The Plank for eating his Old Carribean chocolate bars; however, Speckle changes into Mr Fry.

    Film 
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. In the The Crimson Permanent Assurance sketch, clerical workers force a captured executive to Walk The Plank. See it on YouTube here, starting at 3:10.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean, of course.
  • In Down Periscope, Dodge makes Pascal walk the plank — into a net suspended above a helpful fishing boat. The fishermen and most of the crew of the Stingray have a lot of fun with this, playing up the pirate theme. Pascal not so much, as he's blindfolded and unaware of the fishing boat's presence. So's the audience until the camera angle changes to watch his fall, and reveals the net.
  • Hook — Peter takes the hike.
  • In the Disney Peter Pan movie, after capturing the Darling kids and the Lost Boys, Captain Hook offers them a choice — join his crew and become pirates, or walk the plank. Wendy, the oldest of the Darlings, chooses the plank. Peter is able to rescue her before the big splash.
  • Mama Fratelli makes Andi walk the plank off the pirate ship in The Goonies.
  • Star Trek: Generations. While on a sailing ship holodeck program, Lt. Worf has to leap from the tip of the plank and grab his commander's cap (suspended overhead) as part of the ceremony marking his promotion. When he does this without falling off, Riker decides to make things more interesting by making the plank disappear. Evidently that was an error. Picard: "Number One, it's retract the plank, not remove the plank." (or, judging from Riker's grin, it wasn't.)

    Data immediately wonders why everybody else thinks Worf's impromptu dive is hilarious. Beverly Crusher makes the mistake of telling him that humans find the misfortune of others to be hilarious. Data immediately figures that if one is funny, two must be even better-and tosses the advice-giver overboard. Instead of more laughter, Data is met with horrified expressions, and Geordi must tell him that he has instead invoked an entirely different trope by applying it to the The Chick instead of the resident Klingon.
  • Star Wars: Episode VI -- Return of the Jedi - Jabba the Hutt's minions force Luke Skywalker to walk the plank extended from a hover skiff over the Sarlaac pit. Luke spins and grabs the plank as he falls, springboarding back off the to skiff to fight while R2-D2 launches his lightsaber to him.
  • In How To Train Your Dragon 2, Drago Bludvist orders his failed minion Eret and Hiccup's friends to do this. Since the water is icy, this would undoubtedly kill them. Eret overpowers his guards and frees everybody.

    Literature 

    Live Action TV 
  • Old-style Batman: "By thunder, thee will walk the plank deck."
  • In the appropriately named Doctor Who story The Pirate Planet, the Captain gives this description: "The theory is very simple. You walk along it. At the end, you fall off. Drop one thousand feet. Dead."
    • The Eleventh Doctor almost does this in "The Curse of the Black Spot".
    • Also seen in "Enlightenment", with the Eternals vanishing the moment they go over the side (the human bodies they inhabit, of course, would not be so unaffected).
  • In Only Fools and Horses episode "May the Force Be With You", Del's school rival and police officer Roy Slater complains that he was always the one who had to walk the plank when they played pirates in the local park pond as kids. Del points out that they did let him play Bluebeard once. Slater responds that was the day that Bluebeard had to walk the plank.
    • This was referenced in the pilot episode of the Rock And Chips trilogy when after being told by the school gym teacher to buzz off, Del and his gang suggest heading to the park, and Slater protests that he doesn't want to walk the plank again. Del assures him that grown-ups don't play pirates. However, when the gang are seen hanging out in the Ritz Cinema (where Del's mother Joan works), Slater is soaking wet.
  • A "fantasy" episode of Married... with Children was a pirate epic. Three lovely wenches were offered a choice: sleep with Bud, or walk the plank. Poor Bud can't get laid in a fantasy episode.
  • On Once Upon a Time, when Captain Hook retakes the Jolly Roger from Blackbeard, he forces Blackbeard to walk the plank and offers the rest of the crew two choices: accept him as the new captain or follow the old one. Ariel also walks the plank, but voluntarily. (She reassumes her natural mermaid form upon entering the water, so she's alright.)

    Music 
  • Cosmo Jarvis' Gay Pirates features this as the ultimate punishment (though in the video, at least, it seems they get better.)
  • Alestorm, being a pirate metal band, features this in at least some of their songs, such as "Captain Morgan's Revenge" and "Keelhauled."

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Played with in Calvin and Hobbes.
    Hobbes: Our ship IS a plank.
    Calvin: And you're gonna walk it, wise guy!
  • Happens in an issue of Little Nemo in Slumberland.
  • Played with in The Farside, where a pirate seems to be whistling and dancing off the plank, only for the captain to grab him by the ear and say "Oh no, you'll walk the plank like everyone else!"

    Pinball 

    Theatre 
  • This is Growltiger's final fate in Cats, forced to walk the plank by Genghis and his crew of Siamese cats.

    Video Games 
  • In The Curse of Monkey Island, Guybrush is forced to walk the plank, but there's a dinghy directly underneath it, which he jumps into. When the pirates complain that they didn't hear a splash, Guybrush shouts "Splash!" to satisfy them. Later you have to saw off the plank in order to force the pirates to find an alternate means of torture. They promptly tar and feather you.
  • In Puzzle Pirates, you can use the /plank command to eject other players from your ship (or any ship that you are, by virtue of your rank in a crew, authorized to command). If the pirate made to walk the plank is a jobber (that is, hired help rather than a member of the crew) then their employment with the crew is also automatically terminated so they can't just hop back on. Hilariously, a captain can inflict this on himself.
  • One possible death sequence in King's Quest III.
  • Referenced in WarpForce, where Jayson (a Space Pirate) threatens to make the Player Character and Vogenvuld "walk the plank into the fusion coolant".
  • Bubble Dizzy begins with Dizzy being forced to walk the plank off a pirate ship. He catches the edge of the plank, but falls in after a pirate jumps on his hand a few times.
  • In Kingdom Hearts I, Captain Hook and his crew force Sora and his friends to do this. Fortunately, Sora discovers his happy thought and flies, turning the tables on them.

    Webcomics 
  • Happens three times in Sluggy Freelance.
    • The first time is in an early arc where Bun-Bun decides to "play" pirate in North Virginia. He makes a rich, elderly couple walk the plank off their own yacht. Fortunately for them they were in the shallows, and for that bit of bad navigation Bun-Bun makes Kiki walk the plank as well, telling her to "roll those two lardasses into the deep end" when she gets down there.
    • The second time is during the "Oceans Unmoving" story arc, where Calix and Honest Stu are forced to walk the plank by the pirates and leaf people combined. This is considered the worst fate possible in Timeless Space.
    • The third time is during the sea voyage to Africa. The captain agrees to allow Riff to build one on his ship, after he learns that all the carrot cakes have been stolen. Of course, Riff adds explosives, which go off when a seagull lands on the plank, damaging the ship. The captain quickly creates a plank out of a folding deck chair and makes Riff walk it.
  • In Dubious Company, after Walter takes over Barry's ship, he makes the former captain do this while the ship is beached.
    • Walter also has a policy of keelhauling enemies until he looks up the word in the dictionary. Once Mary becomes the mole, the crew asks him to reinstitute the policy.
  • After Greenbeard captures Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle while they are vacationing on a yacht in Li'l Gotham, he makes Bruce walk the plank.

    Western Animation 
  • The Bugs Bunny cartoon High Diving Hare. It's really a diving board but it's treated as if it's a "walk the plank" plank several times.
  • Said in an episode of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers by a pi-rat.
  • Featured in an episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy where the Kanker Sisters dressed as pirates force Jimmy and Johnny to walk the Plank. Yes, that Plank.
  • The Backyardigans plays this trope straight in "Pirate Treasure" and "Fly Girl", but surprisingly averts it in "Pirate Camp".
  • In an episode of Rugrats has babies fantasizing as pirates and Angelica puts Tommy on the plank.
  • This was constantly threatened in Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! probably because the pirates really can't do anything violent on Scooby Doo.
  • A Woody Woodpecker cartoon had Woody being forced to walk the plank several times by a pirate dog. Each time he did it, Woody would walk over the edge of the plank, upside-down along the underside of it and would then somehow come up behind the dog and jab him in the rear, causing him to jump into the water.
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) episode "Raphael Meets His Match", piratical villain Captain Filch holds the yacht crew hostage and force them to walk the plank (that goes for April) unless his ransom is received.
  • The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. The Hooded Claw attempts to force Penelope to walk the plank in the episode "Arabian Desert Danger". And, yes, the incongruity of forcing someone to walk the plank in the desert was Lampshaded. The cannonballs were an interesting addition, though.
  • Played with in Time Warp Trio. Some pirates hear them mention it and think it's a good idea. Later on, some British guy hears this and tells another British guy to write it down, as it's "a splendid idea".
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: In "Liar, Liar, You For Hire?", Captain Johnny makes K'nuckles walk the plank into a Shark Pool.
  • This is the result of a "Plankable Offense" in the Grojband episode "On the Air and Out to Sea".
  • In Pocket Dragons a group of sky pirates make the dragons walk the plank — but don't know they're supposed to walk off it, so they end up walking up and down it.
  • In the Darker and Edgier Peter Pan & the Pirates, Hook is Genre Savvy enough to strap a weight to Wendy's foot before trying this on her to ensure she drowns (she's still rescued).
  • Camp Lakebottom: Ghost Pirate Captain Spitbeard tries to McGee walk the plank (off a flying ship) in "Pirates of Ickygloomy". He ends up going off the plank himself.

    Real Life 
  • Older Than Radio example from That Other Wiki: "The earliest known use of the phrase is the latter half of the 18th century... the phrase 'walking the plank' is recorded in Francis Grose's 'Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue', which was published in 1788... In 1769, mutineer George Wood confessed to his chaplain at Newgate Prison that he and his fellow mutineers had sent their officers to walk the plank."
  • In 1822, William Smith, captain of the sloop Blessing, was forced to walk the plank by the pirate crew of the schooner Emanuel.
  • In 1829, pirates intercepted the Dutch brig Vhan Fredericka in the Leeward Passage between the Virgin Islands, and murdered most of the crew by making them walk the plank with cannonballs tied to their feet.
  • Averted in the actual Golden Age of Piracy, when superfluous captives who got dropped in the drink would simply be tossed overboard bodily, often with a slit throat. Fridge Logic supports this, as wooden planks on shipboard have better uses than cheap drama, and rigging up an impromptu diving board risks breakage to valuable hull-mending materials.
    • Usually, pirates didn't do that - they usually just marooned them, instead.
    • Another punishment that was much more gruesome and popular would be keelhauling.


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alternative title(s): Walking The Plank
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