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Time to Step Up, Commander

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Guinan: There can only be one captain.
Riker: It's not that simple. This was his crew, he wrote the book on this ship!
Guinan: If the Borg know everything he knows, it's time to throw that book away. You must let him go, Riker. It's the only way to beat him...the only way to save him. And that, is now your chair... Captain.

The Team leader has been temporarily or permanently taken out of commission, and Number Two has suddenly found his group declaring him The Leader. The problem is he's genuinely reluctant to take up the role. He may feel guilty for usurping the position or afraid he's Unfit for Greatness. One or more of his new subordinates will say "Get ahold of yourself, you're our leader now," in a Dare to Be Badass for the chain of command. If the Decoy Protagonist has met his untimely end, this can be the unveiling of the real hero.

Alternately, this can occur when a former subordinate is pressganged or voted into leadership after a Heroic Team Revolt or The Mutiny, whether or not the previous leader is left alive to complain.

See also You Are in Command Now, where the subordinate finds himself in charge more or less by accident, Field Promotion, where a senior character promotes the subordinate as opposed to just one of his peers, and Take Up My Sword, which which it may overlap. If Commander is the character's actual rank, its Commanding Coolness.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men: In the aftermath of The Dark Phoenix Saga, Cyclops quit the X-Men and Storm became the de-facto team leader, in part because no-one else on the team was willing or able to do so. Almost immediately on the job she had to deal with preventing a dystopian future. Suffice to say, she more than stepped up to the plate, and when Cyclops came back Ororo was a little unwilling to give up being in charge.

    Fan Works 
  • A Brief History of Equestria: During the Winter War, Princess Platinum suffered Sanity Slippage due to her plans for Unicornia falling apart. Because of this, Clover the Clever had to lock her up in her chambers and take over the war effort, something she was never trained for. She did surprisingly well, all things considered.
  • Brockton's Celestial Forge: Both Alec and Dennis are forced to step up after having responsibilities thrust upon them, mirroring Taylor's circumstances in Worm.
  • Eagle's Fall: The highest-ranking senior officers of Frank Company were Sergeants; most were Privates. Phillip Dante steps up the most, going from Staff Sergeant to acting captain after all the other officers in his company were killed in the turians' initial bombardment.

    Film — Animation 
  • Brave: With only a modicum of sign coaching from her mother, Merida manages to pacify the tribes about to declare war on one another over her unwillingness to go through with the Arranged Marriage. It helps that the heirs of the tribes aren't keen on the union either, as clearly stated by Young MacGuffin.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In K-19: The Widowmaker, the young reactor engineering chief at first chickens out when it is his turn to do some welding in the highly radioactive reactor core. Getting ignored for his cowardice, he mans up, sneaks into the core, and not only does his job, but does ignore orders to come out unless the job is done, and does a Heroic Sacrifice in the process.
  • In Run Silent, Run Deep, Lt. Bledsoe objects to Cmdr. Richardson's obsessive hunt for a seemingly unbeatable and undetectable Japanese submarine. But, when Richardson is injured, Bledsoe carries on with Richardson's hunt.
  • In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Admiral Kirk is ordered to take the Enterprise to Regula I, as communications with the station has failed. He is willing to allow Captain Spock to maintain command, but Spock insists that as senior officer, Kirk must assume command.

  • In Ender's Game, Bean has to step up to be in charge of Ender's toon, causing some resentment.
  • In Star Trek Seekers, Priestess Ysan of the Tomol is killed unexpectedly, forcing her young(er) disciple Seta into the role ahead of schedule.

    Live Action TV 
  • Happens to Colonel Tigh in Battlestar Galactica (2003). After Adama is shot, Tigh's wife is telling him that he is in charge now, even though he does not have the character or charisma for being in charge. Then, let's just say things go downhill...
  • Several times when Buffy the Vampire Slayer is out of commission for whatever reason, Shrinking Violet Willow steps up as replacement leader. This can be seen as early as the third season episode "Earshot", where she organizes the rest of team into canvassing the school in order to catch a murderer - she has to raise her voice to get them in line. It becomes even more obvious at the end of the fifth season and beginning of the sixth, even leading the rest of the team to elect her the "Boss of Us".
  • Happens all the time in Star Trek. One notable example was in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Best of Both Worlds: Part II", where Riker is faced with this from Guinan.

    Video Games 
  • Digimon Survive has this when Takuma is temporarily displaced, spurring Aoi to step into the role until their return.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, after Cloud goes missing and Tifa leaves, Barret talks about taking (back) leadership... but realizes he's not cut out for it (plus everyone present came to The Team after Barret's stint as AVALANCHE's leader), so he nominates Cid, who replies "No way. Pain in the ass!" Barret talks him into it.
  • in Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders One of your soldiers you can talk to in the pub may tell you that "Its time to step up, Gerald."
  • In Mass Effect, after Captain Anderson is forcibly Kicked Upstairs by the Alliance brass, Shepard can admit to Joker that they feel guilty about being given command of the Normandy, feeling like they've "stolen" the ship from their mentor.
  • In Transformers: War for Cybertron Optimus finds himself constantly being praised as leadership material after Zeta Prime bites it. Not that it was too difficult, as Zeta had a We Have Reserves mentality while Optimus doesn't.

  • Girl Genius: Gilgamesh questions his father's alleged death because they Never Found the Body; Boris agrees, but says he has direct orders to immediately acknowledge Gil's leadership anyway, just to keep the Empire running smoothly.
  • The Order of the Stick: When Roy is killed during the battle for Azure City, Haley is distraught and unable to take action. Durkon reminds her that she's second-in-command, reminds her that Roy can be resurrected, and tells her to take action on the situation. This kicks the rogue into action.