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The Inquisitor General

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"You may not love the fucking IG, but the IG loves fucking you."
— Old military saying

Ask anybody in the military, what's the most nerve-wracking experience they will ever face? Enemy tanks? Air strikes? Being shot to death?

No, you may find they most lament having to deal with The Inquisitor General.

This is a character whose job it is to go over everything you do with a fine-toothed comb and an electron microscope, making sure to catalog each of your transgressions, big and small. He could be a Drill Sergeant Nasty, The Neidermeyer, or even Colonel Badass. Assuming that he is a benevolent form of this trope, his goal is to help you become as flawless at what you do as possible, so you'll be less likely to make any mistakes when it counts for real. Of course, it's also possible that he's a Jerkass whose only goal is to make you look like an incompetent fool or get you angry enough to do something you'll regret.

Given his role, the Inquisitor General will tend to be Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, or Lawful Evil. This is, of course, very much Truth in Television for many organizations, who use these guys as checks against complacency and corruption.

Sub-Trope to The Inspector Is Coming and a Sister Trope to Internal Affairs, which is more commonly found in works about the police. Compare and contrast with The Political Officer.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Fan Works 
  • In Equestria Divided, Trixie is one of these working for House Moon and Star.
  • Platinum Pirate: After Lucas reminds Sengoku about his autonomy and moral compass, the Fleet Admiral opts to turn him into this and have him root out corruption within the Marines and Seven Warlords.

  • The Danny Kaye film The Inspector General has a man arrested for vagrancy mistaken for an Inspector General in disguise.
  • In C.K. dezerterzy, the disastrous inspection by The Loony General Grabenau is what triggers the protagonists' desertion.
  • In Star Wars, Colonel Wullf Yularen is a colonel in the Imperial Security Bureau (the Empire's state and military police) and is frequently shown to be the point of call for military internal problems. A specific example is in Star Wars Rebels Season Four episode "Through Imperial Eyes", in which he is called in by Grand Admiral Thrawn to root out a spy. Thanks to his investigation, Thrawn deduces the spy to be his protege and ISB Agent Kallus.

  • In The Spectre General by Theodore Cogswell, the last Imperial Marine unit of a fallen Empire is trapped on a forgotten planet, and has regressed in some ways. The commander invokes the Inspector General to keep the troops in line; what they don't know is that he's the IG in disguise, using what little tech still works to carry off the deception.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • Miles Vorkosigan pulls off faking this in The Warrior's Apprentice as part of an Indy Ploy — or rather, the latest in a long string of Indy Ploys.
    • In Memory, the reader is introduced to the position of Imperial Auditor, a troubleshooter answerable only to the Emperor with vast powers to investigate situations beyond what's addressed by normal channels, in a combination of this trope and its sister trope Internal Affairs. Miles is assigned the position to investigate an unusual attack on ImpSec's security chief, and thinks he's killing time waiting for field agents to report on off-planet leads. As it happens, after a few days of snooping, he finds what he needs to crack the case in the basement of ImpSec HQ.
  • In the Honor Harrington short story Fanatic, a State Sec Political Officer is sweating bullets after the suspected murder of his superior, whilst the government he works for, the People's Republic of Haven, is undergoing considerable political turmoil and purges. Things quickly get worse when he finds that the Inspector General being sent to investigate the death is none other than Victor Cachat, holder of many nicknames with terrifying implications. It doesn't help him much that he doesn't know what the readers know, that Victor is a good guy, just a terrifyingly cold-blooded one, and recognizes that the protagonist is also obviously a good guy, despite who he worked for.
  • In the novel Warbirds, centered around an Air Force F-4 squadron before and during a fictional Middle East war, the egotistical, incompetent, and ambitious General Blevins forces the inspectorate to give the squadron (which is in fact a model of Air Force regulations) terrible report to destroy the career of the commanding officer, who made Blevins look like an idiot at the beginning of the book.
  • Mercilessly parodied (as was everything else) with the "Latrines General" in The Good Soldier Švejk — a bumbling, dimwitted general whose only passion in life was inspecting and regulating military latrines.
  • Hilariously invoked in George MacDonald Fraser's story The General Danced At Dawn; the Scottish General finds plenty of things to criticize but is really more interested in the officers' standard of Highland dancing.
  • In Carnifex, The Marchioness of Amnesty is sent to the United Earth Peace Fleet due to its difficulties in subduing the local population of Terra Nova, as well as for issues back on Earth.
  • In the Animorphs book "The Weakness", The Council of Thirteen sends an agent called the Inspector to evaluate Visser Three's campaign in trying to conquer Earth. The Inspector judges Visser Three incompetent, but before he can report to their superiors, Visser Three goads him into fighting the Animorphs himself. The Inspector is rather powerful, but the heroes manage to kill him, just as Visser Three wanted.
  • Ciaphas Cain:
    • While Imperial commissars are better known for enforcing battlefield discipline at gunpoint, regimental discipline falls under their purview as well, and the news of a new commissar coming tends to result in, as Cain puts it, "The card games broke up, the moonshine stills were dismantled, and the stores tallied with inventory for the first time in living memory". Cain takes pains not to be that type, however, and the men all love him for it. Much of their exemplary performance is attributed not to fear of Cain (as he thinks) but fear of letting him down.
    • In "The Smallest Detail", Jurgen is targeted by several corrupt soldiers who think he's looking for proof of their embezzlement due to his status as a commissar's aide. When caught, Jurgen outright tells him neither he nor the commissar care in the slightest about inventory discrepancies.
  • In the Dragon Age, this has, for the longest time, been the function of the Lord-Seeker, the leader of the Seekers of Truth, in regards to the Templar Order and the Circle of Magi. In Asunder, Lord-Seeker Lambert van Reeves removes the Templar Knight-Commander of Val Royeaux from office and assumes direct command of the Order in response to a Circle mage attempting to assassinate the Divine—and things only go downhill from there. Depending on your influence on Cassandra Pentaghast in Dragon Age: Inquisition, Lord-Seeker's role may be reformed after 9:41 Dragon, however.
  • In the Marine Corps novels by W.E.B. Griffin, the Marines have come to the conclusion that people of this type will never go away until they find something to complain about. So whenever they suspect that an Inspector is coming, they make sure there are no major problems, and then deliberately leave a handful of obvious minor problems for the Inspector to find so that he will find them, report the insignificant infractions, and then leave so they can get back to work.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 had several different kinds of examples:
    • The first-season episode "Eyes" has an officer named Colonel Ari Ben Zayn arrive on the station to inquire into the details of recent events aboard the station, going all the way back to the series pilot episode. He also brings along Harriman Gray, a telepath, who is to scan each of the officers aboard the station to ensure that they are loyal to EarthGov. Ivanova refuses, ostensibly because she is offended that her superiors would even suggest her loyalty could be in question, but in actuality, it is because she is a rogue telepath. In addition, it turned out that the Colonel was really trying to destroy the station commander's reputation. He had been seeking that posting and had been high on the list for consideration, but the Minbari (who had secured veto power in this regard in exchange for the funds necessary to finish the station) rejected him (and many others) in favor of Commander Sinclair.
    • Alfred Bester, being a PsiCop, is in a way this trope for the rest of the PsiCorps. He also uses his talents and authority to generally fuck with the mundanes when it serves his purposes.
    • In A Call to Arms, it is evident that the foreman at the shipyard for the new destroyers considers Micheal Garibaldi to be a most unwelcome version of this, but for the inverse of the normal reason: The foreman wants to get everything perfect, and Garibaldi is insisting that he accept things as "Good Enough" and move on so they can actually complete the project. Of course, it's also possible that he was delaying over every little problem because he was actually The Mole.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation features Inspector General officers in several episodes.
    • In "Coming of Age", two officers are inspecting the Enterprise and her crew, second-guessing every decision and action they've taken thus far. In the end, it is revealed that they suspected that an alien force was infiltrating Starfleet, and that at the end of their investigation, they found the Enterprise to be the finest ship in the fleet.
    • Later in the same season, "Conspiracy" reveals that both officers have been taken over by the infiltrating aliens, along with many of Starfleet's key senior officers. Several starship captains became suspicious of their seniors' suspicious behavior, including trying to bluff their way out of conversations about topics they should be familiar and comfortable with, such as mutual friends or past encounters.
    • A later episode, "The Drumhead", features Admiral Norah Satie. After a near-catastrophic failure of the engines, she investigates the ship's crew in belief that the failure was caused by sabotage. While an investigation of the incident itself points toward equipment failure, she still pursues her case, destroying the career of crewman Simon Tarses, who happens to have Romulan ancestry, but there is absolutely no evidence otherwise that he is a Romulan spy. She then turns her investigative "guns" against Captain Picard. Her investigation (and career) flames out spectacularly.

    Tabletop Games 
  • IntSec (Internal Security) has this function in Paranoia. They have a quota of traitors to uncover, and they couldn't care less if they falsely accuse innocent clones.
  • Inquisitors in Warhammer 40,000 are more concerned with rooting out heretics, xenos-sympathizers, and other undesirables, so usually it's Administratum drones that look for this kind of misuse. The Imperial Guardsman's Uplifting Primer suggests that they have the power to execute soldiers found lacking in maintaining equipment perfectly clean. If an actual Inquisitor takes interest it means that there is widespread corruption issues in the backline to such an extent that Daemonic, Alien, or Heretical activity is suspected. If it turns out that it is just mundane corruption left to fester by local military and civilian bureaucrats then the inspectors are in trouble for wasting the Inquisitor's time through incompetence.

    Video Games 
  • Cassandra plays this role in Dragon Age II, causing Varric to narrate the story in response to her questioning.
  • The player character theoretically becomes one of these in the appropriately named Dragon Age: Inquisition, although this involves very little actual inquisitioning. Cassandra gives you this treatment at the start but ends up working for you.

    Web Comics 
  • Air Force Blues has a mild example in the form of Barbie's ex-girlfriend, Captain Dhart. She appears from time to time to inspect the 809th, though nothing ever seems to come of it.
  • A Running Gag in Crew Dogs was that the Inspector General was a malicious Jerkass who seemed to have almost supernatural powers to catch the officers making mistakes.
    • One strip had the squadron commander assuring his daughter that there was no monster in the closet. When he opened the door to show her, the Inspector General was standing in the closet, asking the father "How's it feel to lie to your kid?"
    • In fact, the very first time the Inspector General is mentioned in the comic, one of the characters is trying to equate the Inspector General to a Mad Scientist. The logic behind his conclusion is a bit weak, to say the least.