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Back in the Saddle

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"Suit up boys, we're back in the saddle!"
— Peter Venkman, Extreme Ghostbusters, as The Real Ghostbusters take their first new case in almost a decade.

Not Exactly What It Says on the Tinnote : When someone who no longer fights on the front lines, perhaps because they got promoted to a desk job, or decided that they were getting too old for this and retired, returns to battle, either out of boredom or necessity. Can often apply to The Captain, a Four-Star Badass, or maybe even The President or the King.

Related to 10-Minute Retirement. In the case of Back in the Saddle, the retirement or promotion typically won't happen in the same story arc as the return to the action. This trope also applies to being Kicked Upstairs or being otherwise made into a Desk Jockey.

A sister-trope to He's Back!, where the hero is out of action because of a Heroic BSoD or otherwise loses his groove.

If a group is involved, may require Putting the Band Back Together. Often a harbinger of Still Got It.


    open/close all folders 

  • Parodied in a Tostitos commercial where several former NFL players like Dan Marino, Jerry Rice, Emmett Smith, and Randy Moss, un-retired to play in the NFL again with hilarious results, e.g. Marino gets flagged for a "delay of game" penalty due to taking too long to read the planned plays.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: Amuro Ray - the Ace Pilot from the original Mobile Suit Gundam - is retired, and living in virtual house-arrest, since the Terran Government suspects that he might have spacer sympathies. As it turns out, they're right - after an encounter with the new hero, Kamille Bidan, he decides to join up with the AEUG, and jump back into the pilot seat of a Humongous Mecha. (Though, sadly, he didn't retrieve the original Gundam from the nearby museum as many probably had hoped.)
  • Macross 7: In the final few episodes, both Max and Miria retake their positions as Valkyrie pilots and it is glorious.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hot Shots! Part Deux. After Topper Harley's I Will Fight No More Forever retirement from the military, he's called back to duty when his old boss is captured while on a rescue mission.
  • Independence Day: President Whitmore, getting back in the cockpit to rally the surviving military forces after they have been on the wrong side of a Curb-Stomp Battle in order to Save the World. Foreshadowed earlier in the film with discussion that he was elected as the youthful war hero, only to be seen as being too young to be an effective politician. Quite a few of the other pilots were long-since retired, including Russell, who hadn't flown a military jet since the Vietnam War.
  • Predator. Dillon, who at one time been one of Dutch's comrades but ended up a pencil pusher at the CIA. He went along on the mission to save his CIA friends.
  • Space Cowboys. A team of retired test pilots are called into action to repair a faulty satellite.
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Captain Admiral Kirk, who's been working a desk as Chief of Naval Operations for several years, uses the V'Ger crisis to get himself returned to the Enterprise. This is a subverted example in that Admiral Kirk is not in fact in command of the Enterprise, but rather is in command of the mission the Enterprise is on. Captain Decker has the responsibility (and arguably, the fun) of commanding the ship itself. Furthermore, it gets Deconstructed because Kirk has been behind a desk for several years, and thus his instincts are rusty, on top of the ship having been so heavily redesigned and refitted that she is no longer the ship he spent five years commanding anyways.
    • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:
      • Doctor McCoy implores Admiral Kirk to get out from behind the desk and get in another starship, "before you really do grow old."
      • Admiral Kirk initially tries to insist that Captain Spock, the ship's commander, stay in command of the ship during the mission, as Captain Decker did in the previous film, but Spock insisted that the Enterprise rightfully belonged to Kirk. Maybe because he knew what happened to the last guy.
    • In Star Trek: Generations, Kirk gives Picard a piece of cautionary advice to never let himself be put behind a desk. It's also averted at the beginning of the film when Captain Harriman offers to let Kirk take command of the Enterprise-B during a crisis, but Kirk says that Harriman's place is in the center seat.
  • Starship Troopers. Rico's teacher Mr. Rasczak retired from the Mobile Infantry and became a school teacher, probably because he lost part of his left arm. After the start of the Bug War, he rejoins the Mobile Infantry with the rank of Lieutenant, with a cybernetic replacement on the stump of his arm. There's also Drill Sergeant Zim, who is so eager to get back on the front lines that he deliberately gets himself demoted to Private to do so.
    • Happens to Rico himself in Starship Troopers: Invasion. Long since promoted in the now years-long war he returns to duty when the mission needs more help.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, two characters do this:
    • Commissioner Gordon hasn't had much to do since Gotham City became (mostly) peaceful. He gets back into the swing of things when Bane comes to town.
    • Batman has been retired for years at the beginning of the film, but he gets so antsy that he's back in the Batpod's saddle within thirty minutes.

  • In Harry Potter, Mad Eye Moody is retired but is called back to active service by Dumbledore when Voldemort comes Back from the Dead.
  • In the Deathstalker series as part of Owen's plan to overthrow Empress Lionstone they plan to recruit Jack Random, the "professional rebel". To their surprise, Random is now an old, world-weary retiree who, after one defeat too many, has taken up janitorial duties. They manage to bring him back in and he proves to still have a good bit of fight in him.
  • The Dresden Files: in Skin Game
    • Michael Carpenter (with Uriel's help) finds the strength to once more pick Amorachius and leave his home to help his friends from evil.
    • Harry invokes this to warn the Fomor that Chicago is under his protection once more.
  • Artemis Fowl: Commander Root reactivates himself as a field agent when a hostage situation goes bad. Normally this requires extensive paperwork and an interview with the commanding officer, fortunately Root happens to have quite a lot of influence with him...

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Return of the Fighting 69th". A long-retired bomber pilot and the rest of the crew from his squadron are called back to duty because they're the only ones who can navigate a treacherous asteroid belt.
  • Stargate SG-1 has had General Hammond coming to The Squad's rescue on a number of occasions. The most noteworthy case probably being when he showed up with his Big Damn Gunship in the Season 7 finale.
    • General O'Neill got to pull one of these in a later season when The Squad finds an Atlantean Puddlejumper, which he uses to save the day because he is one of the few people they know of who can operate one.
  • In Upstairs Downstairs, James Bellamy is given a staff job when his views on the battle of Mons in World War I are made public by Tory sympathisers. Later on, due to the frustrations of being away from the real fighting, and with the help of Hazel, who pulls a few strings for him, he returns to the front as a Major.
  • M*A*S*H had a subversion when an old friend of Colonel Potter's shows up wounded at the 4077th. Potter initially thinks he transferred from the rear because he wanted to be useful again, but his friend tells him he only accepted a front-line command to earn his Combat Infantry badge (which would mean a promotion and a better retirement). The men under his command tell Potter he was utterly hopeless in the field and nearly got them all killed.
    • Potter played this straight when he first appeared. He was a Desk Jockey for two years before being sent to command the 4077, and Hawkeye was worried they were given a quack for a surgeon. Potter shows he Still Got It.
  • In Power Rangers Wild Force, literally all of the retired Red Rangers return to action during the events of Forever Red. Then again, the Power Rangers have a saying, "Once a Ranger, always a Ranger."
  • The Price Is Right: For April Fools' Day 2015, announcer George Gray introduced host Drew Carey, but instead, original host Bob Barker walked in and handled the first Item Up For Bids and pricing game of the day (Lucky Seven), showing that even in his 90s, he still had the traits that made him one of the most iconic game show hosts.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Lou Thesz wrestled in seven different decades, unsuccessfully retiring several times only to be called on when it was time to save a struggling territory or launch the career of a new star like Gara Singh, El Canek, or Masahiro Chono (the latter being his student).
  • After overcoming his drug addiction, Eddie Guerrero returned to the independent circuit for the first time in five years for the Heartland Wrestling Association, picking up relatively easy wins against familiar opponents in similar situations like Jamie Noble or tagging alongside others of similar status such as D'Lo Brown and Val Venis. His first one-on-one match against an unfamiliar opponent, Impact Championship Wrestling's singles champion Low Ki, saw Guerrero lose in a shocking upset.
  • Haitian wrestler Tyree Pride had retired from in-ring competition and become a wrestler, most memorably for National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion Tokyo Monster Kahagas. But when Ring Warriors joined the NWA and was the focal point of the Alliance's attempt to re-establish itself in the Caribbean, Pride was pulled out of retirement to give the fans a familiar face to cheer.
  • Sting retired from being TNA's general manager and ended his retirement as a wrestler after coming to the conclusion he couldn't do anything about the damage Bobby Roode was doing to the company's image without coming off as biased against the champion. He decided to rise through the ranks until he could take the belt off Roode personally, although Bobby ended up losing the belt before Sting got a chance.
  • Believing he had accomplished everything he cared to accomplish as a professional wrestler, Kurt Angle voluntarily retired from in-ring competition to become the director of wrestling operations in TNA out of the belief the company needed better guidance after the abuses of Dixie Carter and MVP. His rise to the position coincided with MVP being forced to wrestle again, although part of MVP's abuses were that he continued to insert himself into matches in spite of the unfair advantage his position gave him. He had only stopped wrestling because of a knee injury and had turned his abuses to instead showing overt favoritism to Bobby Lashley.
  • Lexie Fyfe, who had retired from ring work to run SHIMMER's sister promotion SHINE, was "forced" out of retirement via an Engineered Public Confession by Allison Danger, who wasn't about to let her off the hook on the subject of sending Portia Perez out of SHIMMER with a loss. Danger also got Daizee Haze to return, while Perez herself recruited The Lovely Lacey...though Lacey got out of the saddle and went back to managing when her regular partners Radiant Rain and Jetta got back on.
  • El Hijo Del Santo, who had previously hung up his boots after getting discouraging results from his doctor's physical, returned to competing in the ring for his Todo X el Todo promotion in 2015. The next year the reason why became obvious. He was preparing to guide the career of his son, El Santo Jr, who debuted as his Tag Team partner in The Crash.

    Video Games 
  • In Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, Dietrich Kellerman, the legendary Belkan Ace Pilot-turned-Veteran Instructor (and you have to be really good to become a legend of the Belkan Air Force), is sent back to the frontlines during the Belkan War to boost the troops' morale.
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: Chief Surveyor Tonin will retire near the end of the second year, giving command of the surveyors to his second-in-command, Utopia. However, second-in-command positions are informal for most of the game, resulting in newly minted official second-in-command positions getting filled via election near the end of it. Some choices can result in Utopia's elected second-in-command being Tonin, who has come out of retirement.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Solid Snake gets back to business is kidnapped and forcibly recruited after retiring to raise sled dogs in Alaska.
  • This gets Lt. General Raul of Radiant Historia killed in one of many false bad endings.
  • An odd example in Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm — Kerrigan has spent several years not being human, so she's understandably been sidelined during her recovery process (and while the heroes find out how much they can trust her). When the Dominion shows up at the remote facility where she's hiding, though, she is forced to defend herself and then fight her way out of the base in a mission that is actually called "Back in the Saddle".

    Web Original 
  • A backstory element of Noob includes the retirement Spectre, the UltimateGamer386 of the time and Amaras' mentor. One of the twists of the story includes Spectre coming back after a new faction was added to the game in which the story is set.

    Western Animation 
  • In Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne has long since retired from being Batman due to old age and a crippling heart condition. He now mentors and acts as the Voice with an Internet Connection to the new Batman. However, on two occasions he's taken up the fight again. On the first, he did it with the aid of Powered Armor. On the second, he was returned to a younger age through the use of a Lazarus Pit. Both times, his heroic theme from Batman: The Animated Series plays for him. Both can be conveniently watched here.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: In "The Dog and Piggy Show", Jackie tells Jade that the crotchety old Uncle was a kickass martial artist when he was his age. Meanwhile, Uncle discovers that the Dog Talisman possesses the powers of immortality and rejuvenation, which he secretly uses to help Jackie fight the Dark Hand's newest enforcer, the freelancer Hak Foo.
  • King of the Hill: Deconstructed in "Bills Are Made To Be Broken". After Bill's record for most touchdowns at Arlen High is unfairly broken, Hank finds out that Bill is technically eligible to play and tie the record (even though Bill was okay with it being broken). However, in the 20+ years since Bill last played football, the fact that he's a fat, out-of-shape man in his 40s makes him not as energetic as he used to be and tires out quickly, saying that he can train or play the game; he can't do both. And when he plays the game, he keeps on going and scores, but the younger players piling on him quickly takes a toll on his body, managing to break his legs. And while he gets that touchdown, he's unable to move and is presumably carted off and has to rehab.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls (1998), the decrepitly old Captain Righteous and Lefty are brought out of retirement because of their reputation in the past of being the only ones able to stop the Ministry of Pain. The Ministry themselves are also decrepitly old and have gone senile. They could have easily been stopped by the Powerpuffs, though Blossom insists that Righteous and Lefty be allowed to do it because the girls needed to respect their elders.
  • Star Wars Rebels: The first arc of season 2 revolves around finding a surviving clone commander, CT-7567 "Captain Rex". While at first he is reluctant to get back into a war after so many years, the Jedi sent to recruit him accidentally brought the Empire with them. The ensuing fight between the clones and the Empire resparks Rex's Blood Knight heritage and he officially joins the rebellion.
  • Wing Commander Academy: In one episode, the Tiger's Claw is attacked while most of her fighter wing is away. Because his remaining pilots are badly outnumbered, Commodore Tolwyn decides to climb into a fighter to personally take part in the fighting.
  • Extreme Ghostbusters: Egon Spengler reunites with the rest of the original Ghostbusters (Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Winston Zeddemore) in the series' final episode. Venkman even quotes the trope name verbatum.
    Venkman: Suit up boys, we're back in the saddle!

    Real Life 
  • In November of 1915, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill resigned from the government to take a commission as an Army officer on the Western Front. Churchill had previously served in the British Army from 1895-1900.


Video Example(s):


Yu Cures Sambos' Blindness

Having heard about Commander Sambo being blinded by Scarecrow Venom, Kunai has Yu administer some eyedrops that restores his eyesight.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

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Main / BackInTheSaddle

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