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Walk the Plank
aka: Walking The Plank

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The Doctor: A plank?
The Captain: The theory is very simple. You walk along it. At the end, you fall off.
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Standard Pirate punishment: extending a wooden board or similar object over the side of a ship, and forcing the intended victim to step off the far end and presumably drown or be eaten by sharks or crocodiles.

This is a good scene for building suspense, if taken slowly. It is also an excellent opportunity for last-ditch-bravado and summing up antagonistic relationships. The plankee often tells the villain exactly what he thinks of him, and vice versa.

The victim is usually bound. An occasional twist is for an unbound victim to grab the plank on the way down or otherwise use it as a springboard into combat.

Real Life pirates executed people this way, but only rarely, as it was usually much more expedient to simply toss the victim overboard.

A related punishment is Keelhauling, where the victim is thrown overboard with a rope tied to them, then hauled across (or if they're really unlucky, along) the ship's keel and pulled up the other side. This wasn't necessarily fatal, but the barnacles that are usually found attached to the bottom of any ship made this a painfully unpleasant experience.

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Since Space Is an Ocean, Space Pirates have a parallel punishment with a similar dramatic role: the victims are Thrown Out the Airlock. Sky Pirates seem to prefer the more old-fashioned plank—not surprising, since the airship's altitude would make it especially dangerous to the hero.

See Ordered to Die for other forms of, well, ordering people to die.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Amagi Brilliant Park, when real pirates show up and take over the theme park, they force a few people to walk the swimming pool's high dive board... after filling the pool with some tentacle monsters. The monsters molest but don't harm the victims; it's just for the pirates' amusement. Moffle has an Indulgent Fantasy Segue where he epically breaks free and defeats the pirates, but when he actually tries it he slips and falls into the water.
    • Also, one of the other, less scrupulous mascots, Tiramie, temporarily pulls a Face–Heel Turn, forcing some of the heroes onto the plank. He tries to do this to his Sitcom Archnemesis Isuzu Sento...but the Death Glare and killing aura scares him and HE takes steps back on the plank.
  • In Hayao Miyazaki's Future Boy Conan, Plucky Girl Lana has to go through it. She actually manages to stand on said plank for quite a while and NOT fall off. The Smug Snake grabs her and takes her away, then Conan has to fight him to free Lana
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!, Chapter 268. This was how Queen Arika was supposed to be executed, walking off a plank settled over a huge canyon full of monsters. Luckily for her, Ala Alba (commanded by Nagi, who is able to catch her and drag her out without his powers) is there to save her.
  • In the anime movie of The Magic Tree House Annie has her hands tied behind her back and blindfolded and forced to go through this classic execution after being captured by pirates while going through a pirate book. Doesn’t stop her from tackling the pirates to prevent them from shooting her brother
  • Surprisingly averted in the pirate manga One Piece. It is especially noteworthy with how One Piece has a lot of so-called "Devil Fruit users" - people who have been granted superpowers by eating magical fruits but paid for the powers by losing their ability to swim - so making them walk the plank would be quite the effective tactic against them.

    Audio Plays 
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    Comic Books 
  • In the Elseworlds story in Detective Comics Annual #7, the Laughing Man (The Joker) has Capitana Felina (Catwoman) walk the plank as part of their plan to trap Leatherwing (Batman).
  • In The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #2, Indy and Girl of the Week Edith Dunne are forced to walk the plank by the treacherous Mr. Black. This saves their lives when Black's freighter is torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat: Indy and Edith are flung into the ocean rather than going down with the ship.
  • In Kid Colt, Outlaw#109, pirate captain Barracuda attempts to make Colt walk the plank after he catches him stowing away on his ship.
  • In Sonic the Comic Captain Plunder makes Tails Walk the Plank into a pit in issue 23; however, Sonic reminds Tails he can fly. In another story, Captain Plunder makes Proctor Speckle Walk The Plank for eating his Old Caribbean chocolate bars; however, Speckle changes into Mr Fry.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): Capt. Storm and his pirate crew are shown forcing an injured prisoner to walk the plank in #48.

    Comic Strips 
  • Played with in Calvin and Hobbes.
    Calvin: Run up the skull and crossbones! Prepare the plank!
    Hobbes: Our ship IS a plank.
    Calvin: And you're going to walk it, wise guy!
  • The Far Side:
    • A pirate seems to be whistling and dancing off the plank, only for the captain to grab him by the ear and say "Oh no, you'll walk the plank like everyone else!"
    • After a victim takes the plunge, a line of pirates holds up number ratings as with a diving competition.

    Films — Animation 
  • In How to Train Your Dragon 2, Drago Bludvist orders his failed minion Eret and Hiccup's friends to do this. Since the water is icy, this would undoubtedly kill them. Eret overpowers his guards and frees everybody.
  • The pirates in Ice Age 4: Continental Drift intend to get rid of Sid and his granny this way. However they don't succeed.
  • In the Disney Peter Pan movie, after capturing the Darling kids and the Lost Boys, Captain Hook offers them a choice — join his crew and become pirates, or walk the plank. Wendy, the oldest of the Darlings, chooses the plank. Peter is able to rescue her before the big splash, confusing Hook and his crew.
    • One of the prequels, Disney Fairies The Pirate Fairy averts this. The pirates want to have Zarina walk 'a tiny little plank', but Captain James Hook gives this remark.
    Captain James Hook: [dryly] She can fly, you cretins.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Anne makes the British crew she captures at the start of Anne of the Indies walk the plank.
  • Douglas Fairbanks infiltrates the evil pirates in The Black Pirate, in order to get his revenge after they killed his father. Unfortunately they catch him betraying them, specifically by letting the beautiful lady hostage go. After a brief court-martial they make him walk the plank. A pirate loyal to Fairbanks surreptitiously cuts the ropes binding his hands, allowing him to survive.
  • In Carry On Jack, this is Roger's punishment for Albert, Fearless and Walter. In classic Carry On style, slapstick ensues.
  • In Down Periscope, Dodge makes Pascal walk the plank — into a net suspended above a helpful fishing boat. The fishermen and most of the crew of the Stingray have a lot of fun with this, playing up the pirate theme. Pascal not so much, as he's blindfolded and unaware of the fishing boat's presence. So's the audience until the camera angle changes to watch his fall, and reveals the net.
  • Mama Fratelli makes Andi walk the plank off the pirate ship in The Goonies.
  • Hook — Peter takes the hike.
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. In the The Crimson Permanent Assurance sketch, clerical workers force a captured executive to Walk The Plank. See it on YouTube here, starting at 3:10.
  • In The Pirate Movie, Frederic is forced to walk the plank when he leaves the pirates.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Elizabeth and Jack are marooned in this way.
  • Star Trek: Generations. While on a sailing ship holodeck program, Lt. Worf has to leap from the tip of the plank and grab his commander's cap (suspended overhead) as part of the ceremony marking his promotion. When he does this without falling off, Riker decides to make things more interesting by making the plank disappear. Evidently that was an error. Picard: "Number One, it's retract the plank, not remove the plank." (or, judging from Riker's grin, it wasn't.)
    • Data immediately wonders why everybody else thinks Worf's impromptu dive is hilarious. Beverly Crusher makes the mistake of telling him that humans find the misfortune of others to be hilarious. Data immediately figures that if one is funny, two must be even better-and tosses the advice-giver overboard. Instead of more laughter, Data is met with horrified expressions, and Geordi must tell him that he has instead invoked an entirely different trope by applying it to the The Chick instead of the resident Klingon.
  • Star Wars: Episode VI -- Return of the Jedi - Jabba the Hutt's minions force Luke Skywalker to walk the plank extended from a hover skiff over the Sarlaac pit. Luke spins and grabs the plank as he falls, springboarding back to the skiff to fight while R2-D2 launches his lightsaber to him.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Old-style Batman (1966): "By thunder, thee will walk the plank deck."
  • The "Enigma" challenge in Boyard Land. Here, Captain Fouras asks a riddle while the candidates are on slowly retreating planks above water... with a few crocodiles in it.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the appropriately named story "The Pirate Planet", the Captain gives this description: "The theory is very simple. You walk along it. At the end, you fall off. Drop one thousand feet. Dead." Atypically, the plank is over a cliff, not the ocean (the Captain's ship is the entire planet of Zanak, and his base is in a mountain).
    • Also seen in "Enlightenment", with the Eternals vanishing the moment they go over the side (the human bodies they inhabit, of course, would not be so unaffected).
    • "The Vampires of Venice": The House of Calvierri, who are not pirates but Fish People masquerading as Venetian nobles, execute people this way. In this case, the threat isn't from the short drop into the water but the creatures in the water.
    • The Eleventh Doctor almost does this in "The Curse of the Black Spot".
  • Krypton opens with Val-El being forced to leave the protection of Kandor due to his heretic belief in life beyond Krypton. He's made to walk a plank at the edge of the dome, which is then dropped from beneath him to send him plummeting to the icy depths.
  • A "fantasy" episode of Married... with Children was a pirate epic. Three lovely wenches were offered a choice: sleep with Bud, or walk the plank. Poor Bud can't get laid in a fantasy episode.
  • On Once Upon a Time, when Captain Hook retakes the Jolly Roger from Blackbeard, he forces Blackbeard to walk the plank and offers the rest of the crew two choices: accept him as the new captain or follow the old one. Ariel also walks the plank, but voluntarily. (She re-assumes her natural mermaid form upon entering the water, so she's alright.)
  • In Only Fools and Horses episode "May the Force Be With You", Del's school rival and police officer Roy Slater complains that he was always the one who had to walk the plank when they played pirates in the local park pond as kids. Del points out that they did let him play Bluebeard once. Slater responds that was the day that Bluebeard had to walk the plank.
    • This was referenced in the pilot episode of the Rock And Chips trilogy when after being told by the school gym teacher to buzz off, Del and his gang suggest heading to the park, and Slater protests that he doesn't want to walk the plank again. Del assures him that grown-ups don't play pirates. However, when the gang are seen hanging out in the Ritz Cinema (where Del's mother Joan works), Slater is soaking wet.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Barge of the Dead", B'Elanna Torres finds herself on the Afterlife Express to the Klingon hell. As the road to Hell is paved with hot coals, B'Elanna is shoved off a plank lowered from the Barge.
  • In an episode of The Wiggles, Captain Feathersword tries to teach Wags the Dog how to do this. Wags claims he already knows how, and shows him by tying a rope to the plank and walking it like a dog. Captain Feathersword is not amused.
  • Batwoman (2019). In the pilot episode, Alice has Sophie Moore Bound and Gagged on the end of a plank sticking out from a construction site building, balanced by a barrel of water on the other end. When Batwoman turns up she throws a knife into the barrel, causing the plank to flip once enough water has leaked out.

    Music 
  • Alestorm, being a pirate metal band, features this in at least some of their songs, such as "Captain Morgan's Revenge" and "Keelhauled."
  • Cosmo Jarvis' Gay Pirates features this as the ultimate punishment (though in the video, at least, it seems they get better.)

    Pinballs 

    Theatre 
  • This is Growltiger's final fate in Cats, forced to walk the plank by Genghis and his crew of Siamese cats.

    Video Games 
  • Among Us: Whenever The Imposter or a Crew member is voted off on the Polus stage, they're forced to walk a metal board into a lava pool and drop in.
  • Bubble Dizzy begins with Dizzy being forced to walk the plank off a pirate ship. He catches the edge of the plank, but falls in after a pirate jumps on his hand a few times.
  • In Five Nights at Fuckboy's this is one of Foxy's attacks. Its low damage is compensated for by its high chance to inflict paralysis, making it a Game-Breaker and a life-saver against most bosses (since Contractual Boss Immunity is rare in this series). The absurdity of making someone walk the plank in a Suck E. Cheese's is lampshaded in the move's description.
  • At the start of the Toppat Civil War route in Henry Stickmin - Completing The Mission, Ellie snuck aboard the airship and exposed how Henry left her after helping him escape from the prison complex, this causes the other Toppats to turn on Henry and force him to walk the plank for his denouncement.
  • In Kingdom Hearts, Captain Hook and his crew force Sora and his friends to do this. Fortunately, Sora discovers his happy thought and flies, turning the tables on them.
  • One possible death sequence in King's Quest III. If Alexander gets caught by the pirates while trying to explore the ship, they’ll make him walk the plank, where he will he attacked by a shark (the description claims the pirates are rooting for it). A twist on this trope is that the pirates make him walk from the aft end of the ship rather than from the sides as in most depictions.
  • In The Curse of Monkey Island, Guybrush is forced to walk the plank, but there's a dinghy directly underneath it, which he jumps into. When the pirates complain that they didn't hear a splash, Guybrush shouts "Splash!" to satisfy them. Later you have to saw off the plank in order to force the pirates to find an alternate means of torture. They promptly tar and feather you.
  • In Puzzle Pirates, you can use the /plank command to eject other players from your ship (or any ship that you are, by virtue of your rank in a crew, authorized to command). If the pirate made to walk the plank is a jobber (that is, hired help rather than a member of the crew) then their employment with the crew is also automatically terminated so they can't just hop back on. Hilariously, a captain can inflict this on himself.
  • In Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, Captain LeFwee and his crew force Sly to walk the plank during the "Operation: Reverse Double-Cross". Sly even chews out LeFwee for making him walk the plank. Fortunately, Murray was waiting for him right underneath.
  • Referenced in WarpForce, where Jayson (a Space Pirate) threatens to make the Player Character and Vogenvuld "walk the plank into the fusion coolant".

    Web Comics 
  • Dubious Company:
    • After Walter takes over Barry's ship, he makes the former captain do this while the ship is beached.
    • Walter also has a policy of keelhauling enemies until he looks up the word in the dictionary. Once Mary becomes the mole, the crew asks him to reinstitute the policy.
  • In Homestuck, fitting with her Pirate Girl theme Vriska Serket forced trolls via Mind Control she captured to walk the plank... Into the mouth of her spider lusus to make sure she stayed sated.
  • After Greenbeard captures Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle while they are vacationing on a yacht in Li'l Gotham, he makes Bruce walk the plank.
  • Happens three times in Sluggy Freelance.
    • The first time is in an early arc where Bun-Bun decides to "play" pirate in North Virginia. He makes a rich, elderly couple walk the plank off their own yacht. Fortunately for them they were in the shallows, and for that bit of bad navigation Bun-Bun makes Kiki walk the plank as well, telling her to "roll those two lardasses into the deep end" when she gets down there.
    • The second time is during the "Oceans Unmoving" story arc, where Calix and Honest Stu are forced to walk the plank by the pirates and leaf people combined. This is considered the worst fate possible in Timeless Space.
    • The third time is during the sea voyage to Africa. The captain agrees to allow Riff to build one on his ship, after he learns that all the carrot cakes have been stolen. Of course, Riff adds explosives, which go off when a seagull lands on the plank, damaging the ship. The captain quickly creates a plank out of a folding deck chair and makes Riff walk it.

    Western Animation 
  • The Backyardigans plays this trope straight in "Pirate Treasure" and "Fly Girl", but surprisingly averts it in "Pirate Camp".
  • The Bugs Bunny cartoon High Diving Hare. It's really a diving board but it's treated as if it's a "walk the plank" plank several times.
  • Camp Lakebottom: Ghost Pirate Captain Spitbeard tries to make McGee walk the plank (off a flying ship) in "Pirates of Ickygloomy". He ends up going off the plank himself.
  • Said in an episode of Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers by a pi-rat.
  • Danger Mouse and Penfold find themselves aboard a pirate ship in "The Hickory Dickory Dock Dilemma." The pirate king ("Cor...last time I picks up a crew in Penzance!") makes them walk the plank.
  • Like the Woody Woodpecker example below, the Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines "Magnificent Muttley" segment "Muttley On The Bounty" has the snickering canine forced to walk the plank of the H.M.S. Bounty after biting Captain Bligh's (Dastardly's) hand when attempting to take a medal from him. Muttley walks to the edge then under the plank. When Blight wonders what went wrong and run onto the plank's edge, Muttley is on the deck sawing the plank off.
  • Captain Skurvy's Villain Song in Donkey Kong Country references this:
    "I'll make you swab the deck, and then I'll throw you in the brig! / I swear I'll make you walk the plank to right the wrong you did!..."
  • Featured in an episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy where the Kanker Sisters dressed as pirates force Jimmy and Johnny to walk the Plank. Yes, that Plank.
  • The Fairly OddParents: In one of the Oh Yeah! Cartoons shorts, Cosmo does this to Timmy while they're playing pirate.
  • Futz!: This happens to Futz in "High Seas Futz". He gets out of it by jumping up over the pirate's head, and hitting the mask face-first.
  • In Billy and Mandy's Big Boogey Adventure, Billy is forced to do this by (undead) pirates at one point. Then, he launches into his "Scary-O" number.
  • This is the result of a "Plankable Offense" in the Grojband episode "On the Air and Out to Sea".
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: In "Liar, Liar, You For Hire?", Captain Johnny makes K'nuckles walk the plank into a Shark Pool.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: In "Guitar Villain", the eponymous villain attempts to make an annoying pop star walk the plank...off the top of the Eiffel Tower!
  • The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. The Hooded Claw attempts to force Penelope to walk the plank in the episode "Arabian Desert Danger". And, yes, the incongruity of forcing someone to walk the plank in the desert was Lampshaded. The cannonballs were an interesting addition, though.
  • In the Darker and Edgier Peter Pan & the Pirates, Hook is Genre Savvy enough to strap a weight to Wendy's foot before trying this on her to ensure she drowns (she's still rescued).
  • In Pocket Dragons a group of sky pirates make the dragons walk the plank — but don't know they're supposed to walk off it, so they end up walking up and down it.
  • In an episode of Rugrats has babies fantasizing as pirates and Angelica puts Tommy on the plank.
  • This was constantly threatened in Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! probably because the pirates really can't do anything violent on Scooby Doo.
    • Original series episode "Go Away, Ghost Ship" had Shaggy and Scooby aboard Redbeard's ship, hiding under a wooden washtub. They slide around the deck, actually unable to see ahead of them. They wander onto the plank and eventually tumble off.
  • A pirate captain does this to Gargamel when he chases after a group of Smurfs sailing the seas in The Smurfs episode "The Last Smurfberry."
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) episode "Raphael Meets His Match", piratical villain Captain Filch holds the yacht crew hostage and force them to walk the plank (that goes for April) unless his ransom is received.
  • Played with in Time Warp Trio. Some pirates hear them mention it and think it's a good idea. Later on, some British guy hears this and tells another British guy to write it down, as it's "a splendid idea".
  • A Woody Woodpecker cartoon had Woody being forced to walk the plank several times by a pirate dog. Each time he did it, Woody would walk over the edge of the plank, upside-down along the underside of it and would then somehow come up behind the dog and jab him in the rear, causing him to jump into the water.

    Real Life 
  • Older Than Radio example from That Other Wiki: "The earliest known use of the phrase is the latter half of the 18th century... the phrase 'walking the plank' is recorded in Francis Grose's 'Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue', which was published in 1788... In 1769, mutineer George Wood confessed to his chaplain at Newgate Prison that he and his fellow mutineers had sent their officers to walk the plank."
  • In 1822, William Smith, captain of the sloop Blessing, was forced to walk the plank by the pirate crew of the schooner Emanuel.
  • In 1829, pirates intercepted the Dutch brig Vhan Fredericka in the Leeward Passage between the Virgin Islands, and murdered most of the crew by making them walk the plank with cannonballs tied to their feet.
  • Averted in the actual Golden Age of Piracy, when superfluous captives who got dropped in the drink would simply be tossed overboard bodily, often with a slit throat. Fridge Logic supports this, as wooden planks on shipboard have better uses than cheap drama, and rigging up an impromptu diving board risks breakage to valuable hull-mending materials. Stede Bonnet the Gentleman Pirate in particular is one of the few pirates of the time said to do this, but even then there's no definitive evidence.
    • Usually, pirates didn't do that - they usually just marooned them, instead.
    • Another punishment that was much more gruesome and popular would be keelhauling.
    Other 
  • This fan-art of Brawl of the Objects has the characters as pirates on a ship, and Shieldy is forcing Controlly to walk the plank. Avast me hearty, ye need to walk th' plank! Arrrrrg!

Alternative Title(s): Walking The Plank

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