StandardPiratepunishment: 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 10-33centimeters, 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.
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Anime and Manga
Mahou Sensei Negima!, Chapter 268. This was how Queen Arika was supposed to be executed, walking off a plank settled over a huge canyon full of monsters. Luckily for her, Ala Alba (commanded by Nagi, who is able to catch her and drag her out without his powers) is there to save her.
Surprisingly averted in the pirate manga One Piece. It is especially noteworthy with how One Piece has a lot of so-called "Devil Fruit users" - people who have been granted superpowers by eating magical fruits but paid for the powers by losing their ability to swim - so making them walk the plank would be quite the effective tactic against them.
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.
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.
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 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.)
In Pirates of the Caribbean, one of the exits from the upper level is "Walk the Plank", which drops balls directly onto the main playfield.
This is Growltiger's final fate in Cats, forced to walk the plank by Genghis and his crew of Siamese cats.
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.
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.
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, thatPlank.
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".
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.