main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Kickstarter Message
TV Tropes Needs Your Help
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
View Kickstarter Project
Series: Horatio Hornblower
aka: Hornblower
Wooden Ships and Iron Men. You will think Pirates are super lame after watching these Navy boys!

Hornblower is the umbrella title of a series of television drama programmes based on C. S. Forester's novels about the fictional character Horatio Hornblower, a Royal Naval officer during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. The miniseries stars Ioan Gruffudd in the title role and is produced by the British broadcaster Meridian Television, and shown on ITV in the UK and A&E Television Networks in the US.

The series consists of eight made-for-television movies, which are notable for their high production values. In the US, the series was retitled Horatio Hornblower, and some of the episodes were known by different titles. The eight movies cover the events of just three novels (Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, Lieutenant Hornblower, and Hornblower and the Hotspur), and various alterations and additions are made to the source material.

Ioan Gruffudd has expressed a wish to continue with his portrayal of Horatio Hornblower and have Hornblower's entire life and career covered by one actor. He even attempted to bring the show to the silver screen, but so far, the project seems to be in Development Hell.

The episodes of the Mini Series:

  • Series One:
    • "The Even Chance" (AKA "The Duel"): Midshipman Horatio Hornblower is given his first assignment in the Royal Navy, where he quickly draws the ire of his immediate superior
    • "The Examination for Lieutenant" (AKA "The Fire Ships"): Acting-Lieutenant Hornblower must prepare for his exam while dealing with a supply shortage and the plague.
    • "The Duchess and the Devil": Hornblower is captured by the Spanish, befriends a Duchess, and reunites with an old crewmate.
    • "The Frogs and the Lobsters" (AKA "The Wrong War"): Lieutenant Hornblower and the Indefatigable are assigned on a mission to restore the French monarchy, a mission which could be doomed from the start.
  • Series Two:
    • "Mutiny": Hornblower, on trial for mutiny, recounts the events which lead to the insane Captain Sawyer being removed from command.
    • "Retribution": The trial continues with the account of an attack on Spanish privateers and a prisoner mutiny, but if Hornblower's name is to be cleared, it will come at great cost.
  • Series Three:
    • "Loyalty": The Peace of Amiens reduces Hornblower to poverty, but he reunites with his friend Bush and gets a new ship to keep an eye on the French.
    • "Duty": Hornblower discovers that Irish spies in the Navy are plotting to free their country... with the help of Napoleon.

The series provides examples of:

  • Abandon Ship: In "The Even Chance", Hornblower's first command, the Marie Galant, has to be abandoned due to damage taken before Hornblower went aboard. This leads directly to a tense situation with Hornblower's British sailors sharing a lifeboat with their French prisoners, who outnumber them.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The times when Horatio (and occasionally Pellew) ruminates to someone else about his perceived failings or questioning the wisdom of his orders are not in-line with Hornblower's clam-like reserve and British naval etiquette. note . But as "what Horatio is thinking" is an integral part of the story, and audiences aren't telepathic, he has to say it out loud.
  • Air Hugging: Matthews almost-hugs Horatio in "Retribution" when lieutenants Horatio, Archie and Bush return safe and with glory from their mission.
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • Captain Sawyer may have been violent, insane, and definitely Series Two's major antagonist, but in "Retribution" we see just how far he's fallen from the officer he used to be, and by the time he is killed, it's hard not to pity him.
    • In "Loyalty", Captain Hammond is Driven to Suicide when he realizes his actions have resulted in a loved one's death.
  • Alliterative Name:
    • Horatio Hornblower. His friend the duchess likes to call him "Mr Aitch".
    • Katherine "Kitty" Cobham. She's an actress who deserves such a well-sounding name. Horatio calls her Kitty.
    • Maria Mason. She later marries and her name loses the alliterative appeal, but she sure does not mind.
  • Ambiguous Situation: In "Mutiny" and "Retribution", it's never fully resolved what happened when Captain Sawyer fell down in the hatchway. It might have been an accident, or one of three characters might have pushed him. The candidates are Lieutenant Hornblower, Lieutenant Kennedy or Midshipman Wellard. Captain Sawyer was mentally unstable even before his fall and at first couldn't remember what had happened. He later concluded that someone had pushed him, but it's really not a reliable piece of evidence. Wellard was drugged with laudanum and his memory was shaken, and he wasn't even sure about his own involvement. It's implied he later came to believe that one of the lieutenants had done it for the good of the ship. One of the lieutenants later confesses to the crime and he's legally pronounced guilty, but it's shown that other characters are surprised and don't actually believe him. He confessed to save the other officers from a Hanging Judge who was looking for a scapegoat to save Captain Sawyer's reputation. Lots of ambiguous flashbacks with ominous music suggest that the other lieutenant might have done it, however, it's by no means conclusive. This situation is also deliberately played ambiguously in the source material for this adaptation. Lieutenant Hornblower is narrated by Lieutenant Bush who simply doesn't know what happened as Hornblower never told anyone.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • In the books, Matthews and Styles are named in a short scene with little relevance to the rest of the story, in the series they're major characters that are with Hornblower his entire career.
    • Archie Kennedy. He didn't even have a first name in the books. It results mostly from his being a Composite Character.
    • Jack Simpson. After the foiled duel in the first chapter, he stays on the Justinian and is never seen again.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The captains of the court-martial decide to ask Hornblower straight-out if he pushed Captain Sawyer, knowing that he is a man of honor. Archie answers it for them.
  • Artifact Title: "The Even Chance'' (changed to "The Duel" in some places). Borders on In Name Only. In the book, this refers to Hornblower arranging for only one pistol to be loaded in the duel, but neither he nor Simpson would know which, giving both a 50:50 chance, which Hornblower figured was better than his natural odds in a proper duel (the captain has neither pistol loaded, not wanting to lose either midshipman). Here, it is a standard duel.
  • Ass in Ambassador: Mr. Tapling of the diplomatic service — demanding, impossible to please, and generally a nuisance. He improves after Horatio puts him to work.
  • Backstab Backfire: When Simpson begs for his life during their duel, Horatio decides to spare him with Cruel Mercy, saying that he's not worth the powder. Simpson makes a big mistake and tries to stab Horatio in the back. A variation of this trope, since it is not the hero himself who kills the villain. Captain Pellew can afford the powder and thinks that Simpson is very much worth it. He shoots him dead.
  • Badass Adorable: Archie Kennedy is a sweet, enthusiastic Plucky Middie who really likes fighting the French! The first hint of this comes in "The Duel" (AKA "The Even Chance") after boarding a French ship and running up to Horatio afterwards to babble about how he "killed two! Well, one, certainly!" It's not always obvious in the earlier instalments due to the suffering he endures throughout, but by the second series, he's no less adorable but exponentially more badass. This includes helping Horatio blow up forts and shooting an enemy soldier off a tower from about a hundred yards away by a flintlock pistol. Have a look at the pic.
  • Badass Bookworm: Just the same as in the books, Horatio himself.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Archie really does not like seeing Wellard abused in Series Two; this probably has a great deal to do with the suffering he endured as a midshipman. When Randall, one of the sailors and below Wellard in rank, calls the latter "little boy" and mocks him, Archie gives him a pretty epic shout-down. And when Sawyer has Wellard beaten multiple times for no good reason, the rest of the lieutenants are angry at the injustice but he is positively seething.
    • Bush does not tolerate the crew of the Hotspur doing anything to embarrass the ship or her captain.
    • Captain Pellew chews his crew fairly often and sometimes it's hard to tell when he's serious about it, but when he learns that Bunting was stealing food, he goes berserk.
    • When Horatio and his men are in the Spanish prison, the Duchess brings them some fresh fruit. Hunter gets furious, and scurvy or no scurvy, he says he prefers British beef, crushes the basket underfoot and throws the battered fruit into an oubliette.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • This appears to be the Indefatigable's main role in Series One.
    • Horatio himself saves the "Indy" in this manner in "The Even Chance" (his attack with captured Papillon) and in "The Examination for Lieutenant" (he bravely boards a freaking fire ship and changes her course).
    • Horatio and co. surprised Mr Bush and the rest of the Renown's just at the point when they were about to surrender.
  • Big "NO!": Horatio cries big no when Mariette dies.
  • Big "YES!":
    • Midshipman Hether gives a Big "YES!" when Archie tells them they are being transferred to the Indefatigable. It's complete with jumping excitedly from a chair and cheerfully hitting the ship's ceiling.
    • Styles rejoices with moderately big Big "YES!" as Matthews informs the crew that Mr Hornblower survived his dangerous task in "Retribution".
  • Bilingual Bonus: Proper French and Spanish is frequently spoken. It's key in "The Even Chance" when Horatio asks the French schooner captain for a promise not to take the boat, and he instructs his men to wait until his command to do just that. Which doesn't work out great for them as Hornblower understands French himself.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "Retribution".
    • Sweet parts: The lieutenants of the Renown do not get hanged, Mr Bush recovers from his severe injury, and Horatio is celebrated as a national naval hero. Admiral Pellew proudly hands him a promotion. He's been made a commander of the ship Retribution.
    • Bitter, sad, and utterly tragic parts: Wellard dies. He dies a brave death but the loss of his young life feels senseless. He was a worthy little guy and his character could have been given a good development. Archie dies. It is heartbreaking to watch him die, trying to be brave till his last moments. Horatio's is obviously shattered, losing his dearest friend. He's even unable to hold his hand and tries to detach himself as it's way too painful for him.
    • Genuinely bittersweet moments:
      • Captain James Sawyer dies. He was a madman of a captain but he actually showed that he used to be a great leader. His death vindicated him but his fate was tragic, with his last command being taken away from him.
      • Buckland's lot invites sympathy mixed with evil pleasure. He is recognized for the fool he is, unfit for command who shouldn't have been made a first lieutenant. It must have been very hard to be surrounded by legends like Sawyer and rising stars like Horatio. His pulling The Uriah Gambit on Horatio and then blaming him for Captain Sawyer's accident, however, was crossing the line.
      • Archie committed a Heroic Sacrifice. He was dying anyway, being mortally wounded, so at least he used it to save his best friend's life and career, although he lost his honour and his good name.
      • Pellew recognized Archie's sacrifice and covertly praised him, actually never believing in his guilt. As a judge, he pronounced him guilty though, as it saved the other lieutenants, particularly his favourite Hornblower. Had the trial been just and fair, neither of the lieutenants would have been found guilty. This lack of care for Archie is a serious blemish in Pellew's character who was shown to care deeply about every men of his crew, but sadly, he always paid very little attention to Archie.
  • Blatant Lies: Hornblower, ironically enough for The Captain, is stricken with sea sickness every time he puts to sea. At one point, he makes a lame attempt to blame this on eating "a bad egg at breakfast". Lieutenant Bush replies that it is the most likely explanation.
  • Blood from the Mouth: The imminent and inevitable death of most named characters is indicated by the ominous streak of blood coming from their mouth.
    • Happens with Clayton in "The Even Chance" when he fights a duel with Jack Simpson.
    • Lt. Eccleston in "The Even Chance". It's a variation of this trope since the bleeding doesn't seem to be internal but he was either hurt in his mouth or his lips were badly cut. However, visually, it's definitely Blood from the Mouth.
    • In "Retribution", Archie's death is marked with blood from the mouth as well, even though he manages to live on for several days full of pain.
    • "Retribution": Wellard died a brave death. He also stays alive long enough to give a confession or testimony, implied to be a very significant one.
    • "Loyalty": Jack Hammond is dying after being shot, but he manages to have a heart-breaking speech with his captain and one family member.
  • Boarding Party:
    • "The Even Chance": Horatio misses his first opportunity to participate in a boarding party when he is taking a member of his division to the ship's surgeon. Archie didn't miss it and boy, did he enjoy his first battle!
    • "The Even Chance": The crew from the Indefatigable boards a French ship Papillon during a covert night raid.
    • "The Examination for the Lieutenant": Horatio and Captain Foster board a fire ship that was about to burn the Indefatigable down. Horatio manages to get to her helm and changes her course.
    • "The Devil and the Duchess": At the very beginning of this episode, Horatio and his division successfully board a French ship, but when they are taking her to England as a prize of war, they accidentally get in the middle of a Spanish fleet, and they are boarded themselves.
    • "Retribution": Horatio was ordered to command three Spanish ships, and he and his men managed to board Renown just in time to help their shipmates when the Spaniards had taken them.
  • Brainy Brunet: Horatio has curly brown hair, and he's highly intelligent — brilliant even — and highly competent.
  • Breakout Character: Archie Kennedy for the win. He was meant only to appear in "The Even Chance", but Jamie Bamber's portrayal made authors write him in subsequent parts as Horatio's Foil.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Archie Kennedy was a very cute and enthusiastic teenage midshipman. Unfortunately, he was tortured and tormented by a terrifying bully whose mere presence gave him seizures. He's later lost during a raid and spends some time in Spanish prison where he gets tortured. Poor boy.
    • Mr Wellard is a very likeable young midshipman, on friendly terms with Horatio the hero and his lancer Archie themselves. It's hart-breaking when Captain Sawyer starts picking on him and keeps having him severely beaten, completely unjustly.
  • Bridal Carry: "The Duchess and the Devil" has Horatio holding Archie in this classic position, carrying him in his arms when he realized that Archie has been starving himself. He tries to get help for him from Don Massaredo. Conveniently, it's also raining and it looks very dramatic.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Hornblower's admiration for Foster is dashed when Foster insists on taking meat from Hornblower's supply ship, which is still under quarantine for plague.
    • Captain Sawyer in "Mutiny" and "Retribution". All the lieutenants under Sawyer saw him as a hero of the Nile. Horatio and Archie are pre-broken, having served under him for some time, and Bush comes to realize it over the course of "Mutiny". It was worst probably for Hobbs, a gunner, who served under him for 15 years or so but his Undying Loyalty kept him from realizing that Captain Sawyer is unable to command the ship. It's still clear that he used to be a great leader but his age, mental state and his doctor's treatment made him a wreck of a man.
  • Burial at Sea: Many men die during battles at sea, and some funerals are shown, Wooden Ships and Iron Men style.
    • In "The Even Chance", Davy Williams from Hornblower's division dies after a cannonball tore off his leg. Hornblower's concern for him (and for his men during the funeral) marks the point where his men start to respect him.
    • In "The Examination for Lieutenant", Finch who previously saved Hornblower's life dies and has a funeral. They also sell his stuff in order to gain money to support his widow.
    • At the beginning of "Retribution", quite a few men who died during a battle with Spaniards are prepared to be buried at sea, and boatswain Matthews is shown to be particularly caring about giving them a decent send-off.
  • Card Games: Hornblower is himself a great fan of the game of Whist. It's used several times for the plot. In "The Even Chance", Hornblower finds an opportunity to challenge his tormentor to a duel when the latter angrily implies that Hornblower is cheating in front of officers from another ship and then pointedly refuses to apologize. In "Loyalty", Hornblower uses gambling to gain money when officers starve on half-pay.
  • Call Back: In "The Wrong War"/"The Frogs and the Lobsters", Horatio asks Archie how it feels to be back "on this side of the channel" (i.e. in France). This references the previous episode, "The Duchess and the Devil", in which both were prisoners of the Spanish.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Archie wakes flinging himself up in "The Duchess and the Devil" with accompanying gasp of "Simpson!".
  • Character Title: The show is known either as Hornblower or Horatio Hornblower.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In "The Duchess and the Devil," Kennedy speaks briefly of being put in a hole in the ground with no room to stand up or lie down as punishment for attempting to escape. Naturally, later on, Horatio spends some time in this hole when he takes the blame for a poorly-executed escape attempt by a subordinate.
  • Chekhov's Skill: In "Duty", Doughty has a chance early on to demonstrate his skill at swimming.
  • Child Soldiers: Powder boys are seen in "Mutiny" and "Loyalty", and there is one weird-looking, very young midshipman in "The Even Chance". One powder boy was tragically blown to smithereens which bloodied and scared Jack Hammond but otherwise the trope is not explored much.
  • Clucking Funny:
    • When a Froggie, AKA a French royalist soldier aboard the Indefatigable tries to take an officers' chicken and cook it for himself and his buddies, our lower-deck seamen are infuriated. Horatio tries to settle the matter and tells them that nobody explained the rations issues to the French. Styles then inconspicuously attempts to take the chicken for his pals, and Horatio must reprimand him and orders him to put the chicken back. Cuts from this scene appear in Fan Vids and Styles' apparent love for chickens gets mentioned in Fan Fic.
    • When Moncoutant returns to his château, he's horrified to find out that peasants have been living there, using his paintings as fuel and raising their animals in his rooms. When a frightened chicken, poor thing, runs through the room, jumps on the table and clucks aloud, he does not find it funny. Viewers do.
  • Civil War:
    • The episode "The Frogs and the Lobsters" focuses on French Royalists trying to invade France and collect supporters and then revert the process of the French Revolution.
    • Similarly, the civil-war-like conflict is explored in "Loyalty": The Irish resistance against the United Kingdom, and Major Côtard is a French soldier fighting against Napoleon.
  • Composite Character: Archie Kennedy is a composite of various minor characters throughout the novels. He is notably given actions of an unnamed sailor in "The Even Chance" by having a seizure during a raid, forcing Horatio to knock him out to keep him quiet, and Lt. Bracegirdle's lines in "The Wrong War", Bracegirdle being a fellow midshipman in the written version.
  • Conspicuous CGI: The weather and explosions in Series 3. One of the rain scenes looks realistic, except that the lighting on the actors makes it clear that they're filming on a sunny day.
  • Convulsive Seizures: Archie suffers from epilepsy or some similar disease in his early appearances. The fits seem to be at least somewhat stress-induced.
  • Cool Boat:
    • The Indefatigable, most prominently. She is never boarded and never seriously damaged. Her sailors love her to bits. What a ship!
    • Horatio's ship Hotspur is less cool than the "Indy", but she is still a very fine ship.
  • Crocodile Tears: Jack Simpsons sheds some fake tears in front of Captain Pellew and the Indefatigable's officers during a briefing about the destroyed Justinian. Most feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.
  • Cruel Mercy: Horatio to Simpson, after being given a free shot at the latter who had just cheated in their duel. After letting Simpson beg for his life, Horatio decides he is not worth killing and spares him, letting him live in utter humiliation after exposing his cowardice.
    Horatio: You're not worth the powder.
  • Cunning Linguist: Hornblower is fluent in French, and uses this skill both to act as a translator and to try and slip past the enemy from time to time. He later gets the opportunity to learn Spanish after failing to bluff his way past a Spanish fleet and ends up in a Spanish prison. His French was actually quite convincing, according to the Spanish commander. However, one of the Spanish officers personally knew the French officer who should have been in command of the ship Hornblower had recently captured.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Horatio tries to pass off his bruises after being beaten by Simpson as the result of an accidental fall. His superior officer doesn't take this excuse and punishes Horatio for lying, indicating that he knew Horatio had fought with someone, but without knowing whom there was no way to punish the other party — which means Simpson gets away with it.
    Horatio: I fell, sir.
    Eccleston: On both sides of your face?
  • Damage Control: Hornblower realizes too late that the Marie Galant, a French prize ship that he's been put in command of has been holed and is taking on water. They first feather a sail to use as a patch to cover the hole and keep more water from coming in, and then they begin slinging the cargo of rice overboard; the water was causing the rice to expand, splitting the ship apart from the inside. Ultimately, they are forced to Abandon Ship.
    • In Mutiny, HMS Renown runs aground while under fire from a Spanish fort. An anchor is put in a boat and dropped some distance away so the ship can use it to pull herself free.
  • Deadpan Snarker: There are many snarkers with some interesting variety on this show.
    • Captain Pellew, who has the "deadpan" part down so well that it takes Horatio forever to figure out when he's joking. A wonderful example of a non-arrogant Tall, Dark and Snarky character.
    • Archie Kennedy has his smartass moments, especially in "The Frogs and the Lobsters". He manages to have a straight face most of the time, but sometimes he smirks or laughs.
    • Bush in his very first scene establishes himself as Tall, Dark and Snarky:
      Bush: Interesting welcoming ceremony, Mr Hornblower.
    • Captain Keene, even though he's a tired old gentleman, has some grand snarks.
      Keene: [reviewing answers after the midshipmen have been set a navigational exercise]: Mr Simpson? Ah! We must all rejoice! The sources of the Nile have been discovered at last, your ship, as far as I can tell from your illiterate scrawl, is in central Africa! Let us see what other terrae incognitiae has been discovered by the remaining intrepid explorers of this class. [Keene reads their answers in turn] Mr Heather? No. Mr Rawlings? No. Mr Kennedy? No. Mr Hornblower? Ah, you must be proud. To be alone successful, in this class of intellectual giants.
    • Gentleman Snarker and a distinguished member of The Proud Elite Major "My Lord" Edrington snarks nearly all the time and is as cool as can be. Though he sometimes slips from the deadpan part, and smirks.
    • Captain Collins uttered some sarcastic remarks during the trial in "Retribution".
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Depending on how invested you are in the Hornblower/Archie Ho Yay, you could see the fate of Mariette as this.
  • Deer in the Headlights:
    • "The Even Chance": Archie is alone, grabbing his hat and preparing for a night raid, when Simpson comes in, and says ominously: "Jack's missed you, boy." Archie just freezes, unable to move or talk, and goes pale. The menace of the scene is palpable.
    • In "Mutiny", when Captain Sawyer orders to have Wellard beaten again, and again unjustly, poor Wellard has a pure Deer in the Headlights stare when he hears it.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Archie Kennedy loses his will to live in "The Duchess and the Devil" after being tormented by Simpson, lost at sea, imprisoned in Spain, and tortured. When he's reunited with his friend, successful and heroic Horatio, he feels his life is one big screw-up. In addition, he probably feels he's a burden for Hornblower and his men, and he would only slow them down if they wanted to escape. Archie's solution? Suicide by starvation.
  • Dies Wide Shut: Averted for every character whose face is visible when they die, except for the villain of Series Three.
  • Dirty Coward: Jack Hammond panics during his first battle after being spattered with someone else's blood. He ends up stranding Hornblower during the semaphore mission. However, he isn't portrayed as a bad person, rather a normal person who's been pressured into a profession he's not suited for.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: One poor Too Dumb to Live British Red Shirt-ed soldier likes imprisoned Spanish ladies who are taking a bath together.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Lieutenant Bush claims to particularly dislike turnips.
  • Dope Slap: Oldroyd earns a couple of smacks from Styles in "The Duchess and the Devil" when he decided to join Hunter and his group who tried to escape without Horatio's supervision, which caused Horatio's severe punishment later.
  • Dramatic Irony: Archie's cheerfully oblivious line "What do you suppose they'll do with him? You can't kill a king!" in the first episode. Referring to Louis XVI.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Horatio contemplates suicide in "The Even Chance".
    • Archie in "The Duchess and the Devil" tries to starve himself to death. Unsuccessfully, thanks to Horatio.
    • Captain Hammond shoots himself after his actions inadvertently bring about his nephew's death.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Horatio used this technique several times in Series One. He sailed under a false flag and deliberately forbade to change it, dressed himself and his men in foreign uniforms or pretended to belong to a jolly boat of the ship they were boarding. Sometimes characters call him on it, both British and the enemies, and a French captain lampshades that he plays the rules of war quite loosely. He answers that he plays them to win.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Bracegirdle in "Duty" — actually, dropped an exploding cannon ball on him... the bastards. Extremely undignified and unfair death.
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • According to Simpson, in the first episode, Clayton is a fan of this. Though considering he has to live with Simpson, this isn't at all surprising.
    • At the end of "Retribution", Buckland is getting ready to do so as well. He's seen taking a much needed freaking drink and caught sleeping with a bottle. Then later he just watches as the wine he's pouring overflows the glass and runs off the table.
  • The Drunken Sailor:
    • In "The Even Chance", Hornblower has his first midshipman command when he's supposed to take a captured French ship to England. The French sailors are drunk, and Styles somewhat envies them and wishes they were just as happy. Hornblower is not pleased and forces him to put the bottle down.
    • Played With in the second episode of series one called "The Examination for Lieutenant", also known as "The Fire Ships". One seaman is jerking around like a plague victim, and all the rest of the crew are terrified of him because they are aboard of a quarantined ship. Hornblower coolly walks up to him, grabs him by the shoulders and smells his breath. Sure enough, he's drunk.
    • In "Mutiny", Captain Sawyer grants several times double rum and a day off for the whole crew, which does not enhance the crew's morals and their loyalty but it makes them incompetent and unable to cope with their duties. Doctor Clive, the only person who might pronounce him unfit for command, is drunk as any of them.
    • In "Retribution", Acting Captain Buckland who, sadly, was not born to lead, deals with his unenviable situation by shots of alcohol and then continues to drown his sorrows.
  • Dying as Yourself: Captain Sawyer seems significantly more lucid in the moments before he and Wellard are shot by the Spanish.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Archie Kennedy, whose final act is to falsely confess to mutiny to save Horatio's life.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Nearly every male character fancies the Duchess of Wharfedale, but it's Styles who excitedly starts describing her hotness to Mr. Hornblower. Hornblower is not pleased and has to stop him from gushing.
  • Edible Ammunition: When Horatio and his crew are being taken into Spanish prison, Spaniards, mostly children and women, throw fruit at them. Hunter tries to throw some back but Horatio stops him.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch:
    • Simpson eats Horatio's mutton and drinks from his mug in his very first scene. He does it to every middie. What a jerk!
    • Randall tries to take Styles' mug in "Mutiny" but Styles makes him put it back.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Horatio's first appearance. He's huddled in a rain-soaked row-boat, and gets soaked when he almost misses the ladder when trying to get aboard. He isn't going to be your typical fearless chisel-jawed hero.
    • During the Inquisition scene he proves he's not one to go down that easily, to Simpson's great surprise.
    • Simpson, meanwhile, enters with a palpable intimidating presence, the midshipmen who were recently bullying Horatio suddenly cowed into submission by his appearance. And then he proceeds to help himself to Horatio's rations, which he claims as his right as senior midshipman of the mess.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Many members of the main cast, including Ioan Gruffudd in the title role, Jamie Bamber as Archie Kennedy, Paul McGann as Lt. Bush, and Robert Lindsay as Captain Pellew.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French:
    • From "The Frogs and the Lobsters", Mariette the school teacher. Her English (how the heck did a French peasant girl master it?) is tinged with French. Might also double as a Composite Character for Maria, the daughter of Horatio's landlady and first wife and Marie Ladon, daughter-in-law of the nobleman who sheltered Hornblower and his men when they escaped captivity, and with whom he had an affair.
    • Senora Ortega speaks English, but when she tries to seduce an unfortunate soldier who guarded the Spanish ladies, she chooses to speak Spanish, a language the soldier doesn't speak or understand.
  • Facial Dialogue: In "Mutiny" and "Retribution", many characters exchange significant looks when they cannot talk freely.It heavily overlaps with Meaningful Look, but some of the conveyed messages were rather complex.
    • Hornblower signals to 1st Lt. Buckland that he shouldn't interfere with crazy Captain Sawyer and that he should carry out his order to arrest all the other lieutenants, him including.
    • Their Spanish prisoners, Senor and Senora Ortega share a worried look after they were forced to the unconditional surrender. We later find out its meaning. He wanted her to pull The Vamp and Femme Fatale, and she obliged. She pretended she was interested in having sex and killed one stupid Red Shirt, and the Spanish prisoners took over the ship.
  • Face Death with Dignity: The final fate of Wellard and Captain Sawyer, when the Spanish try to take the Renown.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: Simpson's first appearance, and the first indication (along with well-placed ominous music) that he is an antagonist.
  • Face Palm:
    • Horatio facepalms in "The Duchess and the Devil" when he reflects on Archie's information that his friend the Duchess, whom he entrusted some super important dispatches, is not in fact a duchess but an actress. Moreover, some men of his crew plan an escape from their imprisonment and have no scruples leaving sick Archie behind.
    • Horatio rubs his face when he's exhausted during his endless continuous watch. Archie has come to him and they discuss the crazy captain situation.
  • Face Your Fears:
    • A straight example in "The Even Chance". After thoroughly establishing his terror of heights in the first part, Hornblower finds himself having to loose the sails on the Papillon in the dark with no footropes. (They find out there are no footropes because a sailor jumps out and promptly falls to his death.) After a few moments of standing there in terror, Hornblower quickly runs out along the yardarm going "damn, damn, damn!" while the music switches to the action leitmotif.
    • Later in "The Frogs and the Lobsters", he climbs atop of the mast for no particular reason other than enjoy the sail, and he smiles and looks fairly happy. In "Retribution", he volunteers himself to descend from a high cliff. However, when his friend mischievously reminds him of his former anxiety, he says that nothing has changed and that he's still frightened.
  • Falling into His Arms: When Horatio and Mariette are getting out of Muzillac, she leaps from a window and he offers to catch her — but fails, and she injures herself in landing.
  • Fearless Fool:
    • Averted. A howitzer shell lands on the deck near Hornblower and the other officers aboard Hotspur. He quickly dives down to snuff the fuse before the shell can explode. When Bush compliments him on his heroism later, Hornblower takes offense, due to the fact that he was terrified that he was about to be blown to shreds. Bush merely remarks that this only makes his heroism more noteworthy.
    • Captain Foster in "The Examination for Lieutenant"/"The Fire Ship" a slightly unusual case as he is quite high-ranking. He is genuinely courageous—it is clear at the episode's climax that he has every intention of boarding the fire ship himself—but he has little regard for anyone else he imperils with his actions.
  • First Name Basis:
    • Significant in that most of the characters are on a last name basis with each other, the naval hierarchy being what it is — Horatio and Archie are on first name terms except when referring to each other in a formal context.
    • In Series 3, Hornblower and Bush occasionally address each other as Horatio and William respectively, too.
  • Foil: Although Pellew is a fighting captain, his distaste for pointless battles and concern for his men is shown in stark contrast to "Dreadnought" Foster, who is outright reckless and spendthrift with the lives under his command.
  • Foreshadowing: Archie's line about Acting Captain being a fitting title for Buckland can be viewed this way as it seems to echo Clayton's earlier line regarding Captain Keane ("If ever there was a man more wrongly named ... "). Both the phrasing and the sentiment are very similar, and the arcs concerned with the aforementioned captains both end in the deaths of the characters speaking the lines.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend:
    • Averted with Clayton's death for Horatio. His sacrifice clearly has an impact on Horatio and even threatens his reputation when he first joins the Indefatigable, as Pellew notes that he does not think much of men who let others fight their battles for them.
    • Archie, who had been serving with Clayton for far longer, looks sad for all of two seconds before getting distracted by the excitement over going to war and just briefly mentions him when Horatio looks all too sad.
    • Archie is never mentioned again after his death. Horatio seems to have forgotten how close they were, what influence he had on his life and how he shaped his character. However, it might be justifiable as considerable time appears to have passed before the beginning of Series Three.
  • French Jerk:
    • Marquiz Moncoutant is a jerk, satisfied with himself and dissatisfied with everybody else. He proved to be a monster and downright evil.
    • Major Côtard complains about his quarters, tries (and fails) to order Bush around, and is generally haughty — this on top of the plain fact that he's French and everyone else is British grates on the crew. He does, however, prove himself a worthwhile ally.
  • Gallows Humor: Frequently. One example from "The Duchess and the Devil" when Horatio's little prize ship has sailed into a fleet of Spanish warships, and he is sizing up their chances should it come to a fight:
    Horatio: (lightly) But I imagine it would be a damn close-run thing.
    Styles: Damn close, sir. It'd take them at least a minute to sink us.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Major Edrington. When he opens his mouth, it's generally only to snark, sneer or smirk. However, he never betrays his perfect gentleman-like manners.
  • Glad I Thought of It: Downplayed in "The Even Chance". Horatio has his first midshipman command. He boards a taken French ship from a food convoy to bring her to England. He orders his men to put the Frenchmen in irons and assigns them some work. Matthews politely suggests they need more hands and that they should make the Frenchies do it. Horatio agrees and says it was of course his intention. Now, of course it was. However, he smiles as he says it which indicates he gives Matthews some credit.
  • Good-Looking Privates: When Horatio is promoted to Lieutenant and gets his new Navy uniform, he's praised by his tailor (obviously) that it's a great improvement, compared to his Midshipman look. Men aboard the Indefatigable tease him and Archie jokes that there is a complete stranger among them.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Archie goes out with a smile, albeit a somewhat tearful-looking one.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted on a general basis. Surprisingly gory for something that has pretensions towards respectability — it's no wonder that multiple characters throw up, yes, on-screen. Not recommended for the squeamish. Examples of aversions include the following.
    • Maritime medical care in the 19th-century means blood is spurting everywhere.
    • A boat of men gets blown to pieces with chunks flying in all directions
    • A man shoots himself in the temple on-screen.
    • One memorable scene from "Mutiny" has Wellard trying to talk to the ship's surgeon while blood is spurting all over both of them from the unfortunate patient.
    • Played Straight with the executions. The guillotine was bloody and the person's face would be shown, but not the actual beheading. It was still pretty squeamish.
  • Got Volunteered:
    • "The Frogs and the Lobster": Captain Pellew gets his favourite pet of a lieutenant, the up-and-coming Horatio, volunteered as diplomatic force between the French royalists and the British in front of everybody. Horatio really cannot say no to his captain, can he?
    • Acting Captain Buckland uses this trick to Horatio when he needs a volunteer to blow up a Spanish fort. Buckland doesn't name Horatio but his look says it all and Horatio agrees.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The Royalist French forces and the Republican civilians in "The Frogs And The Lobsters". The plot deliberately skips back and forth on whom to sympathize with. For instance, in one scene we see the Comte to return to his old residence to find it looted and used as a storage and a ruin, as well as his priceless art collection used as firewood. The next moment he is on the town square, happily executing town officials and residents, who were all former peasants who were finally granted a social upgrade through republicanism. Mariette points it out by saying that the guillotine is the true lord and master in France, and that both the royalist and republican armies are the same.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy:
  • Guile Hero: When Hornblower and his four men are in a boat with nine French prisoners, he deliberately plots an inaccurate course on the chart just in case and keeps the real position in his head. The French eventually seize control, but Hornblower accurately judges the captain's personality and drops the compass into the sea, despite the gun pointed at him... leaving them only the false chart, which lets the Indy find them easily.
  • Hanging Judge: Hammond in the second series. He's determined to find someone guilty of mutiny and apparently settles on Horatio, spending most of his time painting his actions in the worst possible light.
  • Happily Married: It's an odd example since they're antagonists and only seen in one episode but it's clear that Colonel and Senora Ortega are a happy couple, verging on Sickeningly Sweethearts. When they're together, they tend to be seen holding hands, exchanging loving looks, or smiling at each other.
  • Haven't You Seen X Before?: Horatio uses this phrase when he wants to prevent Styles from staring at the Duchess.
    Styles: Captain Pellew's coming aboard, sir. And, uh, a lady, sir. Nice dress, sir; good-looking.
    Hornblower: Don't froth at the mouth, Styles. You've seen a woman before, man.
    Styles: Not in six bloody months, I haven't.
  • Heroic BSOD: Captain Pellew has a shortlived one when one of the French corvettes explodes after receiving a broadside from the Papillon at point blank range, setting off the ship's powder magazine. War Is Hell, ships sink, and men die, but generally not usually so... violently, given the setting.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Midshipman Clayton, who knocks Hornblower out before a duel and takes his place.
    • Archie Kennedy, who takes the blame for a mutiny so Horatio wouldn't be hanged.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Close and inseparable friendships are formed aboard ships.
    • Matthews and Styles, most prominent lower-deck characters. Complete with their bickering Like an Old Married Couple.
      Matthews: (While Styles dangles precariously off the side of the ship) Why is it I can never find you when I need you?
    • Horatio and Archie Kennedy. Their bond is as tight as if they were family. Their creators talked about it as both Ioan Gruffudd (Hornblower) and Jamie Bamber (Kennedy) mentioned it in their interviews.
    • Horatio and Bush since "Loyalty". He's his canonical best friend.
    • Bunting and Finch, though it's addressed only after Finch's death in "The Examination for Lieutenant". Bunting didn't appear in "The Even Chance", in which Finch was a member of Matthews' clique.
  • Hidden Depths: Archie apparently has a great love of theatre, particularly Shakespeare, and is able to recognise a Drury Lane actress while suffering the effects of trying to starve himself to death.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier:
    • The captain of a captured French supply ship tries this with his crew when Hornblower asks for a promise that they won't rebel. It backfires, since Hornblower is fluent in the language, and he understood very well that the Captain told his men to wait for an opportunity to take over the command.
    • Hornblower and the Duchess openly discuss the Admiralty's super important dispatches which she hides for him while they stand very close to a Spanish guard who's in hearing distance. Common soldiers probably don't speak English, but Don Massaredo does and many a conversation is conducted in English. All in all, it was very dangerous.
  • Honour Before Reason: Horatio actually tries to protest being transferred to the Indefatigable out of a sense of loyalty to Keane, who is a friend of his father's. Keene is touched, but scolds Hornblower for trying to squander such an incredible opportunity.
  • How We Got Here: "Mutiny" starts with Sir Edward Pellew visiting Hornblower in prison, telling the audience that he's going to be tried for his life. The whole instalment is told in one long Flash Back, though not entirely from Horatio's point of view specifically. The next part "Retribution" resumes the story where it was left: the lieutenants have to face a trial and continue to give a full account what happened at their mission. It's being constantly interrupted with court testimonies and the judges' private discussion happening in the present. "Retribution" thus mixes How We Got Here with In Medias Res and Anachronic Order.
  • I Gave My Word:
    • "The Duchess And The Devil": He considers his promise, a word of an gentleman, binding. He insists on being allowed to return to the Spanish prison because he gave his parole and he promised he would not attempt escape while rescuing drowning Spanish sailors.
    • Horatio proposes to Maria out of guilt at the end of "Loyalty". In the beginning of "Duty", Bush reminds him that he still has time to change his mind, but Hornblower refuses because he had given his word.
  • I Know What You Fear: Jack Simpson finds out that Horatio is afraid of heights. Simpson sends his men to tell Hornblower that he's ordered to climb to the fighting top. It's a lie as nobody gave that order, and Simpson laughs at Hornblower and refuses to help him when he's stuck in the rigging, unable to move.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills:
    • In the Even Chance, Captain Pellew manages to expertly shoot a running man in the chest about one hundred metres away with a weapon that is accurate to thirty metres. Mr Bowles asks for permission to compliment him about it. It is granted.
    • Archie demonstrates incredible aiming skills in "Retribution", when he shoots a man off a tower at what looks like a few hundred metres with a flintlock pistol. We shouldn't be surprised though as he's a Badass Adorable after all.
  • Incurable Cough of Death:
    • Captain Keene coughs and wheezes every time he appears and it's quite clear that he's dying. However, he dies in a battle.
    • Finch in "The Fire Ships". Doesn't take him long to go from coughing to dead, but that is also because of being on half-rations, which can't have helped his health.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Horatio cries rather inelegantly, with tears and other fluids all over his face at the end of "The Wrong War".
  • In the Back: Simpson tries to stab Horatio in his back at the end of "The Even Chance". What a Dirty Coward!
  • Intimate Healing: When Hornblower rescued men from a shipwrecked Spanish ship, Kitty was travelling with them as well and she's among the rescued. She's wet and cold, and cuddles with Horatio to warm herself a bit in a boat.
  • In-Series Nickname: Quite a few.
    • Captain "Dreadnought" Foster. He indeed fears nothing. Did he tell you the story how he had saved the universe?
    • Captain Charles "Black Charlie" Hammond. His nickname was not explained in-universe.
    • The Duchess invariably calls Horatio "Mister Haitch". It's an Affectionate Nickname, and Horatio actually takes a liking to it.
    • Villainous, devilish bully Jack Simpson calls Horatio "Snotty".
    • Maria Hornblower, née Mason calls Horatio "Horry". He doesn't enjoy it but she doesn't know.
    • Indefatigable is affectionately referred to as "Indy" or "The Bloody Indy". What a ship!
    • Midshipman Archie Kennedy describes Hornblower's new home as such: "His Majesty's ship of the line Justinian, known elsewise among her intimates as the good ship Slough of Despond."
  • Insane Admiral: Captain Sawyer. He shouldn't have been allowed to command a warship in his mental state. He's shown to be slipping into madness gradually; however, it's also revealed that his friend, Dr Clive, has been aware of his mental health for quite some time, but did nothing about it, except drugging him with laudanum. This situation puts his crew and especially his officers into a horrible, unenviable position. The only way they can resolve it is essentially a mutiny.
  • Instant Death Bullet:
    • One shot from Captain Pellew's musket was truly exceptional. It was the one that killed Jack Simpson. The bastard died immediately.
    • Averted with the fatal abdominal wound sustained by Archie at the end of Series 2. It takes him days—possibly weeks—to die.
  • Instant Waking Skills: Horatio demonstrates these on a number of occasions, taking a matter of seconds in "The Duchess and the Devil" to get out of his hammock and on deck, ready to deal with the situation at hand. It's a justified case, as living on board ship would require one to be accustomed to odd sleeping hours, due to watches, and to be able to be alert upon waking.
  • Inter-Service Rivalry: Prominently used in "The Wrong War," when Horatio has to work alongside a battalion of the British Army. However, during the fighting, he does earn the respect of the British commander, the Earl of Edrington.
    Earl of Edrington: [as Horatio tries, and fails, to mount a horse] I can see why you joined the Navy.
  • Ironic Fear: Hornblower, a naval officer who has to climb atop of masts, fighting tops or in the riggings, is afraid of heights.
  • It Has Been an Honor: When Horatio and Archie part in "Retribution" just before Archie dies, each character reassures the other about their biggest insecurity. Horatio tells Archie that he's honoured to have served with him (Archie has doubts that he's a good officer), and Archie tells Horatio that he's honoured to have known him (Horatio doesn't consider himself worthy as a person).
  • It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: The producers did some research into how names were historically pronounced, and made sure that Maria's name was pronounced similar to the modern Mariah, as it would have been pronounced in that setting, rather than like the Spanish pronunciation of Maria.
  • Jerkass: There is usually one person per episode whose purpose is to make Horatio's life difficult. Some are given a reason, but some (such as Simpson and Randall) are simply jerks. Some fans refer to them as the Surly Seaman of the Week.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Hornblower himself, in the later films, due to Character Development. Most notably in his dealings with his wife Maria. This is in line with his characterization in the books, where he became a fairly cold and calculating character, who had great difficulty in relating to other people. Towards the end of "Duty", when Hornblower follows his orders to force Betsy to return to America without her husband, they have a discussion concerning how one must weigh their duty against their sense of humanity. When Hornblower stands by his orders, Betsy sharply tells him that she pities Maria. He replies that he pities her too, but that he is the man she married. He is all too aware of how unfair he is to Maria, who has no idea how one-sided the love in their relationship is.
  • Karmic Death: Moncoutant is mobbed by his "subjects" and beheaded with his own guillotine at the end of "The Frogs And The Lobsters".
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Moncoutant in "The Wrong War"/"The Frogs and the Lobsters" kicks off his return to Mouzillac by shooting the mayor and threatening a kid. Later, he acts like a chauvinist pig toward Horatio's Love Interest and states straight out that anyone who doesn't think the lower class is made up of dumb animals is an idiot.
    • In "The Duel"/"The Even Chance", Simpson's return to the midshipmen consists of him stealing Horatio's food and ordering him to dance. If the other midshipmen's reactions to him (especially Archie's) weren't enough, these are two pretty good indications of the kind of person he is.
  • Kill the Cutie:
    • Archie, an adorable, likeable and brave officer and Horatio's dearest friend, doesn't survive the course of events in "Retribution". His death was a Heroic Sacrifice and very memorable, counting as a true Dying Moment of Awesome.
    • Mr Wellard, a cute and lovely Midshipman was somewhat of a foil to Archie and Horatio from series one. He was abused horribly and questioned his courage, similarly like Archie did, and had to strive to gain his authority among crew, mirroring Horatio. His death was heroic and heart-breaking. He died way too young.
  • The Lancer:
    • Archie was Horatio's best friend, foil and complementary being in first two instalments.
    • Bush is Horatio's first lieutenant and closest friend — though not too close — in the third series.
  • Large Ham:
    • Colonel Moncoutant. So much eye-bulging. And the way he speaks! 'is French accent and 'is pronunciation! Verrry 'ammy.
    • Captain Pellew when he's angry. And it's awesome. "QUIET!"
  • Last-Second Word Swap: You can't really swear at a Captain's nephew.
    Lt. Bush: Learn your signals, you little b— gentleman.
  • Leaning on the Furniture:
    • In "The Even Chance", when midshipmen Horatio, Archie and Clayton discuss Horatio's upcoming duel, they all lean on a cannon. They are teenagers, which might explain a lot; however, they are alone and it's used to improve the composition of the scene. Doing it in front of their superiors would get them to kiss a gunner's daughter very quickly.
    • In "Retribution", Lieutenants Kennedy and Bush lean on a very high chair when they negotiate the conditions of a truce with Senor Ortega, a commander of the fort they captured. It's meant to show Senor Ortega who's got the upper hand, but considering that by this time they have very little respect for their Acting Captain, it could be done for Mr Buckland's benefit as well.
  • Leeroy Jenkins:
    • Captain "Dreadnought" Foster's Establishing Character Moment is ordering the supply ship on which he is a passenger to engage a French frigate. Their ship is armed with all of two railing-mounted guns, and it ends quite predictably.
    • This is Hunter's chief characteristic in "The Duchess and the Devil," culminating in him making an unauthorized escape attempt that ends with him shot in the leg and Horatio in the tiny pit.
  • Leitmotif:
    • HMS Indifatigable has her own one, played in her first appearance. Later whenever she saves the day. It's known as "The bloody Indy theme" among fans.
    • HMS Renown has her theme in the second series.
  • Lethal Chef: In "Loyalty", Styles just barely makes it aboard Hotspur. He fills the last spot as Captain's steward, claiming that he can cook. He's very hopeless in the kitchen and the captain nearly starves.
  • Living Legend: Some captains are Famed in Story. This tends to cause problems when the Admiralty and subordinates indulge them.
    • Captain "Dreadnought" Foster is very famous and lots of people aboard the "Indy" admire him immensely. He enjoys his position and loves telling stories about his daredevil operations, undoubtedly saving the country and the crown numerous times. Horatio is one of his most avid admirers. He later becomes somewhat of a Broken Pedestal for him.
    • Captain Sawyer is one of Nelson's own and a national hero who distinguished himself at the Battle of Nile. He's also completely insane. If Sawyer hadn't been a Living Legend, the court-martial could have been a mere formality or the jury wouldn't have been so hard-ass on the lieutenants. But since they felt they had to preserve Sawyer's reputation, one of the judges was looking for a scapegoat.
  • Lost at Sea: In "The Even Chance", it happened to Archie Kennedy. It was no accident, but an attempted murder. The audience doesn't know much about the period when he was Lost at Sea as the focus is always on Hornblower. The sailor was presumed dead, but he was just restin'...
  • MacGyvering: Hornblower at one point attacks and takes a heavily defended French battery with nothing but a length of rope, block, and tackle.
  • Made of Explodium: Some ships, several forts and several barrels blow up in magnificently big explosions. It is a Justified Trope and a Truth in Television as Black Powder was very unstable. It could almost be this trope's Most Triumphant Example.
    • One of the French corvettes in "The Even Chance" explodes violently due to their powder magazines going off.
    • A Spanish Fort in the Caribbean in "Retribution" blows up in several massive fireballs.
    • In "Loyalty", one French fort was destroyed in extremely huge explosion.
  • Majorly Awesome:
    • Major Edrington. A British aristocrat of The Proud Elite, smirking Gentleman Snarker and excellent soldier. He ranks as major. He wears an awesome read coat uniform and a Nice Hat. He has excellent horse-riding skills and is quite proud of his men who he believes mirror his own abilities.
    • Major Côtard, a French soldier who collaborates with the British because he strongly opposes Napoleon Bonaparte. Even though he has French Jerk vibes and is suspected of disloyalty, he proves himself a worthy ally.
  • Mama Bear: Mrs. Mason is hard on Horatio because he's not timely with his rent, but also because her husband died at sea and she doesn't want Maria to go through that. When it's clear that Maria's feelings won't change, though, she becomes a Shipper on Deck.
  • Man Hug: Horatio hugs Archie when he finds out that Archie was injured at battle.
  • Master Actor: Katherine Cobham, in her disguise as The Duchess of Wharfedale. Does such a good job acting her part that if Archie and later de Vergesse hadn't recognised her, she would have been escorted home with absolutely no one suspecting she wasn't who she seemed.
    Kitty: She exists, and exactly as I played her.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Hobbs and Horatio discover Sawyer's death, Horatio respectfully says that "he was a leader of men, and he died in battle." When Hobbs is called to testify on the question of whether or not Sawyer was pushed, he repeats those same words while looking at Horatio, signalling that he is not going to corroborate Buckland's accusation.
  • Meaningful Look: Happens a lot, especially in "Mutiny" and "Retribution". Many characters exchange significant looks when they cannot say what they would like to. Usually it's because they are in front of their superiors and they cannot talk freely.
    • Lieutenants and best pals Horatio Hornblower and Archie Kennedy exchange lots of Meaningful Looks which express their dissatisfaction with the situation on their ship, commanded by paranoid and mentally unstable captain. They understand each other without words.
    • Styles and Matthews share a worried look when Captain Sawyer assigns Hornblower to serve 36 hours of continuous watch, and reminds him that when an officer is found asleep on watch, it means a death sentence.
    • In the second part, "Retribution", Lt. Bush joins Hornblower and Kennedy in the fun. They start trading the looks which express their annoyance with Acting Captain Buckland's incompetence and his lack of commanding abilities.
    • During one scene at the court, everybody looks silently at Gunner Hobbs. They believe that his testimony will be crucial and reveal what happens on the ship and who pushed the captain down the hatchway.
  • Meaningful Name: In "Duty", the USS Liberty, as lampshaded by Commander Hornblower before he leaves Doughty alone, unrestrained, in Hornblower's cabin with a window open, after it was previously established that Doughty was a skilled swimmer. In the original book, the American ship in the harbor was the USS Constitution, which would have hardly worked for the purposes of the conversation.
  • Meet Cute: Lieutenant Hornblower and Lieutenant Bush have a Meet Cute introduction in "Mutiny" which foreshadows their Heterosexual Life-Partners status for Series Three. When Mr Bush comes aboard the Renown, he's nearly hit by a pulley block and Horatio knocks him down just in time.
  • Mentor Archetype:
    • Captain Pellew takes a special interest in Hornblower because he sees a promising officer in him. It's with the interesting twist that he sometimes pretends to be furious with Horatio just to mess with him. It takes Horatio some time to figure out when Pellew is joking.
    • Matthews is Da Man among lower deck characters. He can offer his insight even to officers who respect him, because Matthews is experienced, reasonable, respectful and concerned for the good of the ship.
  • Military Maverick:
    • Hornblower comes up with some quite novel solutions, such as stopping a fire ship by actually boarding it and steering it away and firing a half-loaded gun to intimidate the enemy, even though none of the guns are actually ready.
    • Even Bush pulls a minor stunt by the time of "Loyalty" and "Duty". He orders a midshipman to double-check a signal in the hopes that a more preferable order will have been hoisted by the time he's confirmed it.
  • Mini Series: An Emmy winning Mini-Series. Quality and outstanding television.
  • Moe Couplet:
    • Serious, reserved, unemotional Horatio is paired with cheerful (whenever he's not being put through hell), high-spirited, outgoing Archie.
    • It was a Moe Triplet when Archie, Horatio and Clayton were together on the Justinian. They were like three very cute musketeers.
  • The Mole: A plot in Series 3 involves revealing of two major characters who were not what they seemed. Both are revealed in "Loyalty", one at the half and the other by the end of the movie.
    • An ordinary Irish seaman Woolfe. He pretended to be loyal to the British King but he'a an Irish rebel collaborating with the French.
    • Captain Hammond is a mole in the Admiralty. He has been an Irish rebel his whole life, and in "Loyalty", he has been working to expedite a French invasion of Ireland.
  • More Expendable Than You:
    • Midshipman Clayton steps in in the first episode to get Hornblower out of a duel with a particularly nasty and violent bully. He thought he should do the dirty work by himself, but he also thought he could win.
    • Archie knows that his stomach wound is going to be fatal, so he walks into Hornblower's court-martial and declares that he alone pushed Captain Sawyer into the hold, removing any suspicion from his friend.
  • Motor Mouth: Archie's first scene consists of him talking Horatio's ear off, conveniently getting in some important bits of plot exposition as well. This makes it all the more noticeable when he goes completely silent the moment Simpson arrives.
  • The Mutiny: The lieutenants of HMS Renown dance around this trope in "Mutiny". Admiralty gets to judge their actions in "Retribution".
  • Mythology Gag: In the second series, Hornblower tries feebly to pass off his sea sickness as being food poisoning due to a bad egg at breakfast. In the book the movie is based on, Hornblower and the Hotspur, Hornblower's mother-in-law evidently went cheap on him while shopping for provisions, and he received batch of eggs that were halfway to being chicks already.
  • Narrating the Obvious: The series was sometimes guilty of this trope, especially in the first instalment. For instance, in "The Even Chance" Styles thanks Mr Hornblower and salutes him. Hornblower realizes his men start to respect him and feels a sudden urge to state out loud what Styles just did: "A salute! Well, that's a start, I suppose."
  • New Meat: A couple of examples from the Navy. Sometimes the seasoned and experienced sailors were patient enough with the young ones, sometimes... not quite so.
    • The series starts with Hornblower coming aboard Justinian. Luckily for him, there's no war yet, and he has some time to adapt. However, he vomits while the ship is harboured, he's afraid of heights, and has to deal with a sadistic bully. When the war starts, he gets transferred to a frigate, where he proves himself worthy, and his men who originally had little respect for him start to nearly worship him.
    • Mr Wellard is a New Meat of a Midshipman in the second instalment. He demonstrates his being green by vomiting when he sees a sailor get splattered on deck, and by being incapable to make lower-deck seamen shut up and break up their fight. He also gets beaten and spends much of "Mutiny" being high on laudanum. In "Retribution", he gets a chance to prove himself competent and brave.
    • Jack Hammond is eager and enthusiastic to serve in the Navy, however, he's not suited for it. He can't learn naval signals, and he's squeamish and panicky. He's freaks out when he witnesses a flogging and then even more so when he gets sputtered with a little boy's blood. Even Matthews who's usually caring and fatherly and who originally tried to help him loses his patience with him. When his Captain tries to convince him that he should choose a different and less violent career, he insists that it's his dream and that his family expects him to serve in the Navy.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy:
    • The French are called the Frogs or Frenchies.
    • The Spanish are nicknamed Dons.
    • Napoleon Bonaparte is referred to as "Boney".
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • Simpson inflicts a very unfair fight and tough beating on Horatio after the Inquisition.
    • Styles gets severely beaten from Randall, and might have been killed had Horatio and Matthews not discovered it.
      Matthews: [after speaking to the barely-conscious Styles] He says he was winning, sir.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Mrs Mason has a habit of coming a little too close to people. She keeps leaning on Mr Bush at Horatio and Maria's wedding party. Poor Mr Bush just gives her a weak smile.
  • Not Worth Killing: Horatio tells Jack Simpson that he's not worth the powder it would take to shoot him. Captain Pellew disagrees.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We don't see what Simpson does to Clayton after the latter saves Hornblower from him at gunpoint, but we do see him twist his rope round his hand, so we know it ain't pretty.
  • Not So Stoic: Horatio's usual composure is shattered a couple of times over the course of the series, but the two worst are probably in "The Duchess and the Devil" when he realises that Archie's been slowly killing himself and he hadn't even noticed and in "The Wrong War" when Mariette is shot while they try to escape.
  • Oblivious to Love: Horatio in Series Three. Maria is very evidently crazy about him, but he continually refers to her as a friend and treats her as such. They do get married eventually, but it's clearly out of a sense of duty and friendship on his part.
  • Off with His Head!: Moncoutant and his personal guillotine. He beheads half the village. And the villages behead him at the end.
  • Oh, Crap:
    • Horatio realizes he and his four men are screwed when he wakes up, sudenly remembering that the prize ship he commands was hit by a cannonball when the "Indy" attacked her.
    • Archie has an Oh Crap face when Jack Simpson, rescued from the destroyed Justinian, gets aboard the "Indy" and volunteers himself to participate in the raid, and Lt. Eccleston agrees and says he will go with Archie and Horatio.
    • Horatio makes an epic face when he's sitting in a Punishment Box and suddenly finds a rat on his shoulder.
    • When Captain Sawyer is concussed and unconscious, Horatio is having a shower on deck to freshen himself after his endless continuous watch. Everybody is watching, cheering him and having fun, but then comes ominous music and Captain Sawyer makes an appearance. Horatio's face says it all.
    • When the lieutenants are in irons and the ship is under heavy fire, they plead Hobbs to release them. He seems to seriously consider it, but then says no. Cue Horatio's closing his eyes intensely.
    • Horatio has an Oh Crap face in "Loyalty" when The Mole is revealed.
    • Horatio realizes he has made a big mistake about five seconds after proposing to Maria. Fortunately she doesn't see it.
  • One-Liner, Name... One-Liner:
    • Jack Simpson has a rather weak one when he accepts one lieutenant's invitation to drink and a game of cards.
      Jack Simpson: Gladly, sir, gladly.
    • Captain Pellew likes this "speech pattern", and it is even more popular in Fan Fiction for his character. He delivers a memorable repeated one liner, lampshading his Improbable Aiming Skills when he shoots Simpson.
      Master Bowles: [enthusiastically] Exceptionally fine shot, sir! If I may say so.
      Captain Pellew: You may, Mr Bowles. You may.
    • When Horatio returns to the "Indy" after his successful capture of Papillon and saving them from French corvettes, Pellew welcomes him with this:
      Captain Pellew: Timely, Mr Hornblower, timely.
    • In "Mutiny", Mr Bush seems unable NOT to mention Mr Wellard in front of the captain. Even though every time he mentions his name, Sawyer remembers Wellard is his new whipping boy.
      Captain Sawyer: I am obliged to you, Mr Bush... Much obliged.
  • Outrun the Fireball:
    • Horatio and Archie outrun the fireball from an exploding bridge in "The Wrong War".
    • Wellard manages to escape from explosion in a tunnel of a Spanish fort in "Retribution".
    • Hornblower outruns a massive fireball in "Loyalty". This explosion was huge and frankly, it's ridiculous that anyone near the fort might survive it. But even the bad guys who were not seen outrunning the fireball apparently got better as they resurfaced at the end of the movie. The book that the third series was based on, Hornblower and the Hotspur, featured a similarly massive explosion.
  • Out with a Bang: One Red Shirt dies in the middle of sex with Senora Ortega. She knifed him, took his keys and released the Spaniards.
  • Percussive Prevention:
    • In "The Even Chance", Clayton clubs Horatio on the head to save him from fighting his duel with Simpson.
    • Horatio taps his friend Archie because his fit would disclose their covert night attack.
  • Percussive Therapy:
    • Bunting has a hard time dealing with Finch's death. When Matthews tries to sell his stuff to raise money for his widow, Buntings buys it all, puts it in a bag and throws it overboard. It doesn't help him much with his grief, though.
    • Midshipman Hunter gets furious when the Duchess brings them a basket of fruit. When Styles wants to take some, it pushes Hunter's Berserk Button and he starts trampling the fruit underfoot and then throws the battered fruit into an oubliette. Never mind that they're in Spanish prison and vitamins might come handy, because it is English beef he wants, and English beer! Hard to tell whether it made him relieve the stress.
  • Plucky Middie: There are many midshipmen in the series, and some of them are Played Straight, others are Played With as not all of them are very young or extraordinarily plucky. The youngest middies who appear on the show are teen-aged. There are also some rather old midshipmen who did not advanced in their ranks. War Is Hell, and unfortunately, a lot of them die, no matter how endearing to the audience they are.
    • Horatio is a midshipman in the first two episodes. He has hard time adjusting to life at sea and people comment that he's quite old to start his naval career, but he proves himself a fine officer. Sealing a French frigate and commanding it in a battle to rescue the Indefatigable? Boarding a freaking fire ship? Pretty damn plucky.
    • Clayton is a young Midshipman and he is rather brave, trying to deal with their tormentor as well as he can. However, we never see him in war. Archie says it was always a dream for Clayton to serve aboard a ship like the Indefatigable.
    • Archie is very young and very go-hung in "The Even Chance", anxious to be in war and fight the enemy. He has some doubts about himself and questions if he's commanding material, but he's too hard on himself and proves himself a competent officer.
    • Wellard is a very young and fairly capable young middie. He has some good action scenes in "Retribution". However, he is put through hell in "Mutiny" and he also has to fight his inner demons.
    • Orrock appears in Series 3. He is competent, brave, knows his signals, and generally has it together.
    • Jack Hammond is inept and panicky and only seems to be there because his uncle is influential enough and because his family wishes it. However, he claims it is his dream to serve in the Navy, and even his failures do not break him or make him reconsider his decision.
  • Power Trio: Horatio (ego), Bush (superego), and Kennedy (id) form Freudian Trio in "Retribution".
    Buckland: You three! You're so full of yourselves... and of each other.
  • Pretty Boy:
    • Archie Kennedy has innocent blue eyes, fluffy ginger hair and fine facial features. He's very young and his friend Horatio is taller.
    • Midshipman Wellard is a teenager, has delicate, soft features and very fair complexion, dark eyes and dark hair. He|s a male version of Raven Hair, Ivory Skin beauty, and he doesn't get tanned, even though he's aboard the ship and they sail in the Caribbean. He's not very tall and has a slim figure. Plus he looks quite dashing in his middie uniform and with his Nice Hat.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Punishment Box: "The Duchess and the Devil", a Punishment Box is Don Massaredo's favourite method of torture in the Spanish jail. The prisoner who is being punished is put in a small oubliette where he cannot lie or stand and where he is exposed to hot weather, cold air or rain.
    • Archie discussed the effects it had on him with Hoaratio. After he got out, he couldn't walk for a month and it completely broke his spirits.
    • Horatio is tortured the way Archie was. He suffers terribly, and in addition, he's freaked out by a rat that comes to give him company.
  • Put on a Bus: Oldroyd was a rather prominent lower deck character in the first series. However, he did not serve aboard the Renown or aboard the Hotspur in later series.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Captain Pellew is a hard captain, but with a strong sense of justice and concern for the lives under his command.
  • Red Alert:
    • Very often, nearly once an episode: "Beat to quarters! Beat to quarters!"
    • From "Retribution": Bush wakes the crew by roaring "RENOWNS! WE'RE TAKEN!"
  • Red Shirts: Many, many sailors die. It's war, and it's cruel.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Midshipman Hammond redeems himself of his cowardice by volunteering to be in the shore party at the end of "Loyalty", and gets shot as soon as Orrock acknowledges his bravery.
  • Reverse Arm-Fold:
    • Captain Pellew folds his arms behind his back many times during the first installment when he commands HMS Indefatigable.
    • Horatio Hornblower holds his arms with joined hands behind his back quite often. He does it especially when he's in command, contemplating on the deck. The first time he does that it looks as if he's imitating Pellew's stance.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What happened in "Mutiny" when Captain Sawyer fell down the hatchway? Was it an accident? Or was he pushed? If he was pushed, who pushed him?
  • Rousing Speech:
    • Pellew gives a very effective rousing speech to the crew of the Indefatigable in the first episode.
    • The French Royalist troops receives an encouraging speech from General Charette in "The Frogs and the Lobsters". His men are enthused.
  • Rule of Drama: A number of matters from the second series were made far more dramatic than what happened in the book Lieutenant Hornblower.
    • Sawyer's incapacitation was permanent from the time he fell. (So Hornblower showered uninterrupted.)
    • Rather than crashing, the ship ran aground so smoothly that nobody even knew until Bush noticed that they weren't rocking with the firing of the cannons.
    • The destruction of the fort was not a Suicide Mission—it was conducted properly and with very little fuss, with the sole purpose of making really sure that nobody could use it against the British again.
    • The court-martial never occurred. The brass was actually trying to hush up anything related to Sawyer's insanity and so were content to settle it as "the mission was a success and Saywer died honorably in battle"; the lieutenants actually profited by way of prize money. Buckland's career remained ruined by his ignominious capture, however.
  • Running Gag: In the second and third series, Bush continually being irritated (and sometimes irate) at Styles' sloppiness.
  • Sailor's Ponytail: Vast majority of officers wear ponytails. Some lower-deck characters sport this hairstyle as well, but some of them have short hair.
  • Sanity Slippage: Captain Sawyer's case of this is what sets the plot of "Mutiny" and "Retribution" in motion. He starts off as viciously critical and soon falls into outright paranoia and genuine madness.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Mariette is given very little personality. She is there just so Hornblower can fall in love with her and she reciprocates.
  • Say My Name:
    • One site kept track of the number of times Horatio said "Archie" per episode. "The Duchess and the Devil" has a total of 21 — most of them in the scene in which Archie tries to starve himself to death.
    • Archie keeps saying "H'ratio" a lot as well, especially in "Mutiny" and "Retribution". Even when Horatio and he are alone. It's kind of possessive and very sweet.
    • Hornblower screams BUUN-TIIING when said surly seaman of the week tries to desert for the umpteenth time. Complete with Slo Mo treatment.
  • Secret Stab Wound: Archie hides his serious wound under his coat in "Retribution".
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Captain Sawyer is erratic, violent, paranoid, and believes his lieutenants are conspiring against him. Because of this behavior, his lieutenants... begin conspiring against him.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Many sailors on this show manage to get wet, either when someone spills a bucket of water on them (Styles does it to Oldroyd in "The Frogs and the Lobsters") or when they have to dive and swim. There is nothing like eye-candy officers in wet uniforms or wet shirts. Especially series 1 and 2 are full of this trope.
  • Silent Scapegoat: Archie at the end of "Retribution", when he confesses in front of a court to pushing Captain Sawyer down the hold. It's debatable whether he's ever really believed, but as he's legally pronounced guilty it still counts.
  • Shout-Out: Captain Sawyer's order to flog the last topman to reach the deck during a squall, resulting in one sailor falling to his death whom Sawyer orders thrown over, and calls a lubber, is exactly what Captain Pigot of the Hermione did in 1797 which incited the famous mutiny.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare:
    Clayton: Damned unsporting of the Everlasting to have fixed his canon 'gainst self-slaughter, if you ask me.
    • Midshipman Kennedy's line "we few, we fortunate few! Keene has recommended our transfer to the... Indefatigable" very much resembles King Henry's line "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" from Henry V.
    • In "The Duchess and the Devil", delirious Archie quotes an extract from Antony and Cleopatra.
    • In "Retribution", Lieutenant Kennedy reports the result of Mr Bush's shot on a Spanish ship by shouting "A hit, a hit, a palpable hit!" paraphrasing Osric's "a hit, a very palpable hit" from Hamlet.
  • Shower Scene: Hornblower decides that he needs to freshen himself a bit after serving an endless continuous watch assigned to him by mad Sawyer. He gets a shower on deck and other sailors cheer him up.
  • Soft Water: "It's only water, you won't break anything!" This as our heroes are about to jump off a very tall cliff. Justified, as staying up on the cliff means they'll break everything when the Spanish Fort explodes.
  • El Spanish O:
    • In "The Even Chance": Oldroyd, a British sailor, instructs some French prisoners to "come along-ie this-a way-a", putting emphasis on the added syllable at the end, which is characteristic for French. They do actually understand his instructions, but presumably because he was gesturing heavily, rather than because of anything he was saying.
    • Hunter, aka the surly seaman of the week from "The Duchess and the Devil", tries to speak Spanish to guards when they attempt to escape from prison. "Help us! Por favor, help us, qui-eeck! Por favor, he's si-eeck!"
    • When a French royalist soldier aboard the Indefatigable tries to take an officers' chicken, Oldroyd is violently protective and offers his most sincere advice: "No steal-ie, savvy! You steal-ie, get chop! plenty!! damn!! vite!!!"
  • Subtext/Rape as Backstory: It's implied, though not explicitly stated, that Jack Simpson sexually abused Archie Kennedy before Horatio ever came on board. It is explicitly stated that Simpson is the cause of Kennedy's epilepsy.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Midshipman Simpson lords over the other midshipmen aboard Justinian claiming himself to be "Senior Midshipman", a distinction he only bears because of his repeated failures to pass the examination for Lieutenant.
  • So Proud of You: Pellew gives a subtle one to Horatio in Series Three.
    Pellew: You know, Hornblower, it's very hard for a father to see his children grow up.
  • Sugar and Ice Personality: Horatio is reserved and formal with most people, even beyond the point required by naval hierarchy. However, there are a handful of people with whom he shows a warmer side, including Archie and occasionally Bush, but with the latter he switches between the two. The scene where he asks Bush to be his first lieutenant is a good example of his more open side.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Horatio expresses sympathy towards Captain Sawyer, even while acknowledging that if he stayed in command of the ship, the result would be bad for everyone concerned. He says as much in "Retribution".
    Horatio (about Sawyer): I believe he has paid the price for that bravery... and is paying for it right now.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Happens a lot due to black powder, but there's a lot in Series 3, from a semaphore tower to a shore battery to a longboat.
  • Tactful Translation: Hornblower acts as interpreter between a seething Pellew and a Spanish officer who has just told them that Spain is now neutral, which is as good as a declaration of alliance with France. Hornblower takes Pellew's statement of "you know the kind of thing I want to say" to make an extraordinarily gracious statement of regret, so impressing the officer that he doffs his hat and bows. This is actually the kind of thing Pellew wants him to say, as his pride won't allow him to be rude, but it's still pretty funny.
  • Tap on the Head:
    • "The Even Chance": Mr Midshipman Clayton does this to Mr Midshipman Hornblower just before Hornblower is due to go fight a duel with Mr Midshipman Simpson, knocking him out with a belaying pin and taking his place as his second. Simpson is wounded, Clayton is gutshot, living just long enough for Hornblower to come round, reach the shore and listen to his Last Words.
    • "The Even Chance": When Mr. Midshipman Kennedy is suffering a seizure while they attempt to sneak up on a French warship, Mr. Midshipmen Hornblower gives him a Tap on the Head with the tiller, before leaving the unconscious man in the boat while they board the shipnote . Mr. Midshipman Simpson casts the boat adrift during the ensuing battle and we don't see the man again until two movies later.
    • Randall clonks Hobbs and one or two marines in the head with an oar to stop them informing anyone of his desertion, though he didn't care if the blows would be fatal.
  • A Taste of the Lash:
    • Bunting gets the gauntlet in "The Examination for Lieutenant" for stealing food when the crew was on half rations.
    • Wellard is caned twice in "Mutiny". Unjustly. The second beating renders him unconscious.
    • Styles gets a flogging in "Loyalty". He was in charge of the ship's kitchen and there was a fire. (However, this turns out to have been a set-up.)
  • Temporary Love Interest: Mariette, who exists solely to have a brief romance with Horatio and then die.
  • The Laws and Customs of War: Horatio and his boarding team capture a heavy French frigate in "The Even Chance", and use it to sail back to their mother ship, who is currently under attack by three French corvettes with only half of their crew on board to fight back (the other half being part of Hornblower's boarding team). They notice that, as they advance, they are not taken under fire by the corvettes. They wonder why, but then notice that they forgot to take down the French Colours after taking the ship. Horatio orders the flags to stay up, seeing what a great strategic advantage they have, although he knows what a blatant offence it is against the standard customs of fighting of the time (That depends. Sailing under false colours was a legitimate ruse de guerre The correct colours had to be run up before opening fire.). Yet his plan works, and they infiltrate the small French fleet unhindered. How the French sailors of the corvettes run onto the open decks to celebrate the arrival of an alleged heavily-armed ally to finish off the British flagship. A wink of an eye later the jubilant French are blown apart by grapeshot.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Woolfe is finally killed at the end of "Duty" when he tries to draw on Horatio after being defeated. Bush and about a dozen marines promptly fill him with lead.
  • The Reliable One:
    • Bush's job description in Series Three. As the First Lieutenant, he keeps the ship running smoothly so that Horatio only has to worry about the broader strategy.
    • Matthews is the most reliable one of the lower deck characters. He's an experienced sailor and very caring to his fellow crewmen, and he actually has some naval and fatherly advice up his sleeve, even for young and competent officers. And he's never smug about it.
  • Snow Means Death: It's snowing when Clayton and Simpson fight their duel. All the blood stands out on the white background.
  • Sorry That I'm Dying: The scene at Clayton's deathbed is truly heart-wrenching. He's sorry he's dying so very young and feels that much younger Horatio shamed him, being more courageous when dealing with their nemesis. He explicitly says he's sorry he didn't kill Simpson.
  • Storming the Castle:
    • In "Retribution", HMS Renown's crew attack a Spanish fort in the Caribbean. They manage to get in and take over because Hornblower figures out there is an underground tunnel.
    • In "Loyalty", Hornblower and men from the Hotspur have to storm a French battery and a French fort.
  • Stress Vomit:
    • "Mutiny": A sailor from Hornblower's division falls down from a mast and gets smashed on the deck. His blood splatters on Midshipman Wellard, who promptly throws up.
    • Horatio is known to suffer from seasickness when he comes aboard any ship before a cruise after being ashore. In "Duty", he's heard vomiting in his cabin; however, it happened just before his wedding and he was having cold feet, so his stomach might have been unsettled by being nervous.
  • Sword over Head: Simpson fires early in the duel with Horatio and causes him only superficial injury before begging for his life, and Hornblower points his pistol up into the air and fires, deciding not to kill Simpson. Simpson tries to stab Hornblower in his back but he gets killed by Captain Pellew, their commanding officer.
  • Thinker Pose: Horatio sits and rubs his chin before his first duel with Simpson. He looks rather gloomy and troubled.
  • Those Two Guys: Matthews and Styles by the time of "Mutiny".
  • Thousand-Yard Stare:
    • Blank unfocused staring is Archie's speciality in series 1. For instance, he looks troubled and just keeps staring in the briefing when Simpson describes the destruction of the Justinian. He also has this look just moments before he goes into a fit.
    • Hornblower himself can get an empty look when he's disturbed.
  • 'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain: Jack Simpson shot Horatio in the head during their boarding of the Papillon. Luckily, it was from a rather big distance and it's not too deep a wound. Horatio fell from a mast to the water, and good, faithful Finch jumped for him and saved his life. Finch lampshades the Bullet in the Brain by saying that wounds in the head bleed terribly bad and that it must hurt like the devil, but he's sure he'll mend.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Styles between series two and three. In "Loyalty" and "Duty", he is the main source of conflict on the lower deck and is bitterly jealous of Doughty taking over his job as steward until they get into a fight and Doughty accidentally strikes Orrock, which would have condemned him if Hornblower didn't arrange his escape.
  • Too Dumb to Live: An English soldier who is guarding Spanish prisoners lets himself to be seduced by Spaniards' leader's wife. She has a knife with her... It couldn't end well for him.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Poor, poor Clayton. A very likeable midshipman who was friends with Archie and Horatio, and died way too young, saving Horatio.
  • Tragic Bromance: Horatio and Archie's friendship was extremely deep. They were together in purgatory (HMS Justinian where they both got tormented by a sadistic midshipman), got separated and met again in hell (a Spanish prison where they were tortured and Archie tried to starve himself). Horatio saved Archie's life when he nursed him back into health, and Archie saved Horatio's when he came back for him and dragged him from an exploding bridge during the doomed Muzillac mission. In "Retribution", Horatio is shattered by Archie's slow and painful death and his Heroic Sacrifice. However, the emotional fallout after Archie's death isn't explored overtly in the subsequent series. Quite possibly due to Executive Meddling because Forester's estate wanted Horatio paired with Lt. Bush whose friendship is less tight, and turned Hornblower into "a hero alone", which is who he is in the books.
  • The Uriah Gambit: Buckland is accused of this over ordering Hornblower to set off the powder charges in the fort alone.
  • Undying Loyalty: Hobbs towards Captain Sawyer.
  • The Unreveal: Much of the drama in the second series revolves around the question of how Captain Sawyer fell, and who pushed him if anyone did. There are a number of suspicions, accusations, and cryptic silhouettes, but all the audience ever knows for sure is that Sawyer remembered who did it and told Hobbs, and it wasn't Wellard. That leaves Hornblower, who was accused by Buckland in court, and Kennedy, who confessed before Hornblower could answer the charge.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: "The Even Chance" has a minor example from the script (not in flashback as is usual for the trope). Archie Kennedy is constantly shown as Horatio's particular friend among the midshipmen. When Horatio and Simpson duel to death, Simpson boasts that he's going to kill him, just as he killed his little pal Archie. Horatio just wrinkles his forehead, asking: "Kennedy?" Instead of being angry or demanding that they arrest him for confessing to murder. Hey, writers, we remember Archie!
  • Villainous Breakdown: Simpson positively throws a fit when Horatio challenges him for command of the Papillon. Which, of course, convinces the others that Horatio is the one who ought to be in charge.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot:
    • "The Duchess and the Devil": The Duchess does not take well the sailing at first, and when Horatio asks her to give him company at dinner, she just prefers her bucket and sends him away.
    • In "Duty", Hornblower is heard throwing up in his cabin before his wedding. Bush just stands there, waiting for him and smiling.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot:
    • When Horatio first comes aboard the Justinian, he's very seasick. As Archie introduces him to the other midshipmen, he cannot hold it any longer, runs away from their table, and throws up aside.
    • At the start of "Mutiny". A sailor's fatal fall splatters blood on Midshipman Wellard, who promptly chucks.
  • War Was Beginning: The titlecards inform us that a revolution is breaking out in France, while the British are still asleep at their anchorage in Spithead. Archie and Hornblower (well, mostly Archie) discuss this revolution and the implications of them arresting King Louis XVI.
  • White Shirt of Death:
    • When Clayton and Simpson duel to the death with pistols, they both take off their uniforms and both wear white shirts. The place is also covered in snow. Both are wounded, one of them fatally.
    • In "Retribution", Archie Kennedy hides his wound under his uniform. Horatio rips it open and sees the blood all over his belly.
  • With Due Respect: Sometimes it's really meant sincerely (when addressing Pellew or similar good figure), but at other times the implications are clear, especially in "Mutiny" and "Retribution" when the lieutenants had to deal with their crazy Captain and weak First Lieutenant.
    • Mr Bush tried it quite politely when Captain Sawyer was unjustly berating Hornblower, when he should have been praised. However, when Sawyer barked at him, Bush tried to take it back as well as he could.
    • Hornblower wanted to settle an issue with his seaman Styles who was beaten nearly to death by Randall. By that time, Captain Sawyer was paranoid and unable to judge clearly. He told Hornblower that he was to squeamish and that he would not press charges. When Hornblower pulls respect on him, Sawyer gets super-angry and even more suspicious.
      Hornblower: With respect, Sir, I find...
      Sawyer: Respect? What do you know of respect?
    • When they defeated Spaniards and tried to establish conditions, Buckland was all to eager to accept their safe passage to Kingston and letting them have their ships.
      Hornblower: With respect, Sir, I think we're selling ourselves short.
      Buckland: What do you have in mind? Make off with their women?
      Hornblower: I suggest we demand unconditional surrender.
    • When Acting Captain Buckland insists they blow up the fort, sending one of them to a suicide mission, Archie Kennedy asks him absolutely bluntly: "With respect, Sir, what's to be gained?"
    • Captain Hammond uses this respect Stock Phrase to challenge Commodore Pellew's accusations of Buckland. Hammond's plan is to get down Horatio, not Buckland.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: A notable example and a variant with officers of the Navy in the War. Action and adventure abound, and you will think that pirates are lame after watching Hornblower.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Colonel le Marquis de Moncoutant would shoot a child for singing the Marseillaise, if Horatio wasn't there to stop him.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Bush is unable to shoot an unarmed Woolfe. (This is one of the few direct contradictions to book characterization; Horatio wouldn't even have needed to open his mouth for Bush to kill a traitor to England and the ship.) He doesn't have a problem when the man tries to pull an I Surrender, Suckers, though.
  • World of Snark: Let us count the ways: Captain Keene, Captain Pellew, the Duchess, Archie has his moments, Gentleman Snarker Major Edrington, Tall, Dark and Snarky Mr Bush, and Captain Collins. Unusually for the trope, they do not exchange snarks with each other, but they are paired with poor Sarcasm-Blind Horatio, who is a genius at every other thing but irony, jokes and snarks sometimes just escape him. And occasionally, even Hornblower shows a possession of a very dry observational wit.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Don Masserado considers Hornblower to be a worthy adversary.
    • Colonel Ortega shows little respect to Acting Captain Buckland, especially after it's all too clear to him that he's not very respected by his own men. Horatio's bold actions, however, he admires.
    • The Mole from "Loyalty" respects Hornblower considerably as an individual, but despises every single thing that Hornblower stands and fights for.
  • You Are in Command Now: Eccleston, fatally wounded by a falling yardarm, orders Horatio to take command of the Papillon over Simpson. Of course, it's about sixty seconds after Hornblower's accused Simpson of trying to kill him, so it's not unreasonable.
  • You Did Everything You Could: When Horatio has troubles with leadership and participating in "the wrong war".
    • Matthews, a reliable, dependable lower-deck sailor tries to assure Acting Lieutenant Hornblower who was in command that he did all he could to save Bunting who tried to desert several times and finally went with choosing an equivalent of Suicide by Cop, forcing Hornblower to shoot him. Matthews says that Bunting was beyond saving, but Hornblower gets depressed and says that Captain Pellew would know what to do and that he would find a way.
    • Archie says this almost word-for-word to Horatio after Mariette's death and the failure of the Muzillac mission. Horatio beats himself up for failing to save her because he persuaded her to go with him. The military operation was doomed from the start. Horatio feels it deeply and goes into Heroic BSOD mode, and Major Edrington asks Archie to take care of him.
  • You Would Do the Same for Me: When Horatio notices that Archie is starving himself, he desperately wants to help him. However, Archie refuses to get helped. It's a very poignant scene when Horatio insists that Archie would do the same for him, but Archie tells him that he would never be in his position, feeling that Horatio never screws up.
    Horatio: You'd do the same for me if I were in your shoes.
    Archie: But you're not. And you never would be.
  • Zipping Up the Bodybag: Given the setting of Wooden Ships and Iron Men, it's no surprise that this is done by sewing the deceased sailors' up in their hammocks with needle and thread.

The Legend of KorraLog FicThe Next Frontier
Fall Of EaglesHistorical SeriesThe House Of Eliott
Hogan's HeroesMilitary and Warfare TelevisionIt Ain't Half Hot Mum
Homicide: Life on the StreetSeries of the 1990sHuman Target
Hope And FaithTurnOfTheMillennium/Live-Action TVHorrible Histories
The HoobsBritish SeriesHorrible Histories
The 4400Mini SeriesPride and Prejudice

alternative title(s): Hornblower
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy