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The Starscream / Live-Action TV

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Starscreams in live-action TV.


  • 24: Samir Mehran in season 8. Although, unlike most examples of the trope, he didn't plan it all along, he only decided to overthrow his boss (Farhad Hassan) when said boss proved unwilling to threaten New York with a dirty bomb to force the Americans to give up President Hassan.
  • The A-Team: In the episode "The Rabbit Who Ate Las Vegas", Hannibal's plan to rescue an innocent professor out from under a Vegas mob boss' nose goes perfectly smoothly... until, just as they're getting away, the boss' right-hand man, Martell, takes advantage of the trouble they've been causing to throw his boss out of a window and frame them for it.
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  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): Tom Zarek starts working to topple or undermine President Roslin as soon as he's introduced, stopping just short of an assassination attempt. After Roslin suffers a Heroic BSoD in "A Disquiet Follows My Soul", he partners with Gaeta to stage a mutiny and take control of the fleet, and shows signs of usurping him as well.
  • Blackadder: Rare quasi-sympathetic example with Edmund Blackadder in his first and third incarnations. It's hard to blame him given the dangerously inept powers in charge. The second, fourth, Victorian, and ''Cavalier Years'' incarnations are, arguably, just trying to stay alive. To be more specific: the first one had some ambitions but was too spineless and idiotic to do anything about it and ended up being pushed around both by his more competent father-king and the other villains once he decided to take over. The second one was an Opportunistic Bastard who tried to earn the evil Queen's favour and perhaps even marry her and rule himself, but didn't really go any further than saving his neck for a longer time than anyone would have hoped. The third one was just as self-serving though far more proud and in control of the moronic Prince George and was more of a Dragon-in-Chief for him.
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  • Blake's 7: Features computer hacker Avon on the heroes' side, who constantly attempts to abandon Blake and make off with the Liberator and the fabulous wealth it holds, and makes no secret of this. Eventually, Blake disappears on his own, and Avon wins the subsequent power struggle against Tarrant, putting him in charge; however, by then, he has become increasingly paranoid, decides to continue the resistance, and wants Blake back. When they meet again, he shoots Blake because he is afraid that Blake has betrayed the ideals of the revolution and sold out to The Federation.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Spike, in season 2, and thus well before his himification. As an unwilling minion to Angelus, Spike seemed content to stick to snarky remarks and threatening glares, until Angelus unveiled his plan to destroy the world... and seemed poised to pull it off, too. Spike, who likes the world, was not amused. He promptly betrayed Angelus to the good guys. And this wasn't the first time Spike successfully Starscreamed somebody, either. Initially he was in league with the Anointed One, the late Master's right-hand boy. This lasted all of one episode, before Spike killed the "Annoying One" and took over.
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    • Mr. Trick also became one when he grew tired of being The Dragon for the old-minded Kakistos and left him to be dusted by Buffy and Faith.
    • If one considers Adam to be Maggie Walsh's Dragon, then he also pulled a Starscream against his creator.
    • In Angel, Lilah Morgan pulls one on Linwood Murrow, the President of Wolfram & Hart Special Projects Division, but does it with the blessing of the Senior Partners.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Daleks have repeatedly turned against and overthrown their creator, Davros, only to come crawling back when they are weak, because he is smarter than them. Not smart enough to have realized that when he created a race that thinks they are superior to everyone, that would include himself, though. Subverted in "The Stolen Earth"; the Daleks don't even pretend to respect him this time, and are keeping him as a "pet".
    • This has been directed at them. In "The Daleks' Master Plan" Mavic Chen is working with the Daleks but plans to overthrow them, though the Daleks exterminate him when they don't need him any more.
    • In "The Invasion" Tobias Vaughn, playing by Kevin Stoney who also played Mavic Chen, is working with the Cybermen to invade the planet, but plans to betray them and rule the world. He ends up helping to defeat the Cybermen but is killed by them.
    • In "The War Games", the War Chief plans to overthrow the War Lord. He is Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves. (However in the tie-in novel Timewyrm: Exodus he has survived due to a botched regeneration and is working with the War Lord's son.)
    • The Master in "Frontier in Space" plans to do this to the Daleks. This was quite common with the Master. He would be working with another villain who would turn against him, then he would need the Doctor's help.
    • "Evolution of the Daleks": After Dalek Sec, leader of the Cult of Skaro, turns himself into a Half-Human Hybrid and begins to develop morals, Dalek Caan overthrows him and takes over.
  • Farscape: Scorpius upstaging Crais is a rare example of it actually working. Ironic since Scorpius was originally created to be a one story villain to never be seen again. Also ironic since Scorpius technically outranks Crais.
  • Firefly:
    • Jayne frequently alludes to his willingness to betray Mal if he feels it will profit him. When Zoe is left in charge of the ship, she semi-seriously expresses concern that the "power-hungry maniac" will kill her in her sleep. However, Jayne is gentled quite a bit after Mal threatens to blow him out the airlock into space.
    • Simon got to play the reluctant crony version of this in the final episode, "Objects in Space", when the bounty hunter Jubal Early makes him help track down River. Early Lampshades it himself, saying "You're gonna help me because every second you're with me is a chance to turn the tables, get the better of me, and it's the only chance your sister has. Maybe you'll find your moment. Maybe I'll slip." This, in fact, does happen, but Simon, neither being a fighter nor having a gun, loses spectacularly.
  • The Game (2014) has Bobby Waterhouse constantly attempting to undermine 'Daddy' in order to try and take his place.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Many of the Great Houses have a lesser House hoping to undermine them. The Freys and Boltons betray their overlords the Starks and Tullys in "The Rains of Castamere". House Reyne was this to the Lannisters until Tywin wiped them out. After "Blackwater", characters like Cersei consider the Tyrells to be this to the royal family.
    • Ramsay Bolton is his father's scheming, self-advancing second-in-command until he murders his father in the sixth season and takes his place as Lord Bolton and Warden of the North.
    • Daario does this to Mero and Prendahl. Though, as he points out, it's not betrayal if they tried to kill you first.
  • Gossip Girl: A non-villainous example has Penelope constantly trying to usurp Blair's role as Alpha Bitch.
  • Heroes:
    • Arch-fiend Sylar. Every volume features a major Big Bad either directly or indirectly recruiting him as their Dragon. Because Evil Is Not a Toy, it never ends well for anyone except Sylar.
    • Emile Danko was this to Nathan Petrelli in Volume 4. When Danko took over he was much worse.
  • Holy Pearl: In this C-Drama, Kagura-expy Hu Ji despises her master and spends a large part of the series maneuvering to wrest power from him.
  • House of Cards (UK): The whole point of the first series is that the protagonist, Francis Urquhart, decides to take the prime minister out of office through trickery and bribery and become the prime minister himself.
    • In series 2, Stamper has similar designs on Francis's position - except Francis finds out about and has him killed in a car bomb, framed to look like a terrorist attack.
    • Same applies to House of Cards (US).
  • Intelligence (2006): Ted Altman spends the first season playing this role, setting in motion a number of schemes to undermine and replace his boss as head of the Vancouver Organized Crime Unit.
  • Kamen Rider Dragon Knight: Gives us Kamen Rider Torque. Fearing a You Have Failed Me, he decides to go after his boss first. It doesn't work out so well, and not for his failure, but his treachery, he winds up being among the first of oh-so-many to be taken out by his replacement as The Dragon, the smooth but sociopathic Kamen Rider Strike.
  • Kingdom Adventure: Dagger voiced a desire to take Pitts' place as Magistrate while Pitts was struggling in a life-threatening situation, though downplayed in that Dagger generally doesn't actively scheme to take Pitts' place.
  • Legend of the Seeker: Both Darken Rahl and Nicci pull a Starscream on The Keeper.
  • Lost Girl: Vex is a positive paragon of this trope, constantly looking to usurp leadership of the Dark Fae, and then proving to the Morrigan, when he fails, that he's still too valuable to kill.
  • The Man in the High Castle: Reinhard Heydrich is plotting to assassinate Hitler so he can succeed him as Fuhrer and annihilate Japan with nuclear weapons. He specifically dismisses loyalty as an "overrated virtue" when called out on his lack of honor. However, Hitler was already aware of Heydrich's intentions and arranges for him to be assassinated first. In season 2, it transpires that Heydrich was merely an agent of the real Starscream, a Minister in Hitler's cabinet who actually managed to succeed him after a more successful assassination attempt through poisoning.
  • Nikita:
    • Plays with this trope in an interesting way, in that Percy — the Big Bad of the show— is himself The Starscream to his superiors in Oversight; he stopped being loyal to them years ago, and keeps secret documentation of all the government's dirty secrets prepped to be released upon his death, thus insuring that they can't assassinate him without bringing down the whole government (them primarily).
    • Towards the end of Season 1, Percy gained his own Starscream in Amanda, who at some point turned on him and joined with Oversight to take him down; by the time Season 2 starts, Percy is locked up, and Amanda's running Division. More recently, she's become a more classical Starscream towards Oversight, in that she's actively plotting against them, and seems intent to bring them down.
  • The Office (US): Early in the run, Dwight Schrute is enamored with Michael. As the show goes on, he decides he should be the one running the Scranton branch and becomes the Starscream to anyone who's actually running it.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Most Dragons in early seasons are loyal, but it is mentioned in a two-part episode that Divatox's mother in Power Rangers Turbo turned on her husband - patriarch of the pirate clan - and took over. In most seasons after that, starting with Power Rangers in Space, the Trope is used often. Generally, there's two Dragons - one Starscreamy, and one loyal. Which one ends up on top varies.
    • The first of these was Darkonda. Interestingly, he wasn't after the Big Bad of the season per se. Rather, he wanted to go all the way and destroy The Man Behind the Man. Interestingly, he succeeded, but failed to survive the attack.
    • Astronema herself was a Starscream after being brainwashed by Darkonda on the orders of Dark Specter. (Clearly, that worked only too well.) Using the Psycho Rangers had two purposes: fighting the true Rangers (obviously) and weakening the Dark Specter. She intentionally connected their powers to his, hoping that their frequent battles with the Rangers would weaken him enough for her to destroy him and usurp his position as leader of the alliance. Unfortunately for Astronema, the Psycho Rangers were impatient and unwilling to follow her plans, which led to them being defeated before this plan could succeed. She did succeed in usurping his position after the original starscream Darkonda destroyed Dark Specter and was destroyed in the process.
    • Following Darkonda was Deviot in Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. He was easily the successor to Darkonda, once again not after the Big Bad, but after her powers. In the end, his greed for those powers was his undoing, as he and Trakeena battled into the cocoon containing the ultimate power, causing Deviot's ruthlessness to become infused into Trakeena and destroying Deviot himself.
    • Some non-dragon villains can also qualify as Starscreams. For example, Power Rangers Wild Force brings us Mandilok, the Mouth General of the Orgs. Having been suspicious of Master Org and finally realized he was actually the human Dr. Viktor Adler, Jindrax and Toxica went to look for a replacement for Master Org, and they found Mandilok. He was more than happy to be of service to them as their new master. Later, after Viktor lost all of his Org powers in battle with Cole, Jindrax and Toxica introduced Viktor to Mandilok and, mocking him out of knowledge that the real Master Org died 3,000 years ago and claiming that Master Org is never coming back, he throws Viktor off a cliff, taking his place as the new master of the Orgs for a while until the reborn Master Org's eventual return.
    • Grizzaka, the Land Overlord in Power Rangers Jungle Fury, also qualifies as a Starscream. Naturally, he blames Dai Shi for losing the war 10,000 years ago and hates humans even more. This makes perfect sense as, after being revived by Camille, he, upon arriving at Dai Shi's temple, is surprised to see that Dai Shi is now using the human Jarrod as a vessel. Jarrod wants Grizzaka to teach him Zocato, but, naturally, Grizzaka isn't too thrilled about that and simply refuses to take orders from any human. Guess what he does next?
    • Interestingly, out of all the Starscreams in the Power Rangers series, Grizzaka, alongside Astronema and Mandilok above, is one of the few who actually succeed in overthrowing the Big Bad (not counting Darkonda, who, despite successfully destroying Dark Specter, was unable to survive his final attack), and after his success, he becomes the ruler of the other evil forces until Dai Shi returns and takes back his throne.
    • And after him come the Phantom Beasts. They are actually loyal to Dai Shi - having thought like Grizzaka back in the original war, and now believing they'd have won if they had followed Dai Shi. (Yes, villains blaming their failure on themselves. You don't see that every day.) However, they believe Dai Shi has been compromised by the will of Jarrod.
    • But before any of them, there was Naja. He made the mistake of trying to recruit Camille, and his Starscreaming career lasted two episodes before she finished him.
    • Generally, The Starscream is the less sympathetic of the two, as the loyal Dragon has Noble Demon traits while the treacherous one is all about greed and power, but in Power Rangers Time Force, when you find out what Frax's beef with Ransik really is... ouch.
    • Broodwing of Power Rangers S.P.D. got the farthest. As he was the arms dealer the Big Bad and the various unaffiliated criminals got their weaponry from, he was able to easily step into the role of The Heavy and there wasn't much anyone else could do. (It helps that Broody was the main villain of Dekaranger, SPD's parent Super Sentai series, so it was a lot cheaper to have him as the villain.)
    • Arachnitor from Power Rangers Samurai is an interesting example of a Monster of the Week that actually tried his hand at becoming Starscreamy to Master Xandred. Sadly, his attempt to overthrow him and become the new leader of the Nighloks didn't end so well for him, and he ended up being mutated into a mindless beast through Cold-Blooded Torture as punishment for his betrayal.
    • Vrak from Power Rangers Megaforce, on top of already being the Dragon-in-Chief who puts most of the villains' plans into motion, claims to be this when he takes advantage of Admiral Malkor going into his cocoon state late in the season to further his schemes. That said, he never really takes any action against Malkor (though the Rangers don't give him much of a chance), and the fact that it takes so long for him to even claim to make a move ironically makes him much more loyal than his incredibly treacherous Goseiger counterpart below.
    • Moreso when we find out what his vague hints about being royalty really mean. The Goseiger and Gokaiger villains have been merged into one group in the Megaforce years; Vrak is the Emperor's younger son and thus doesn't have the authority enjoyed by his buffoonish older brother Vekar. As such, Admiral Malkor really doesn't have any authority over Vrak, though it's the same the other way around.
    • Power Rangers Ninja Steel has Madam Odius, a treacherous general who conspired behind Galvanax's back to get the Ninja Power Stars for herself. She managed to survive the Final Battle between Galvanax and the rangers, taking his place as the Big Bad, making her one of the most successful Starscreams in Power Rangers. It helps that many believed that her Super Sentai counterpart was more the main villain of Ninniger than Galvanax's.
  • Queen of Swords: Captain Grisham to Colonel Montoya.
  • The Shield: Shane Vendrell is that series' Starscream, though the writers took a great deal of time (about three seasons) to pull the trigger on his betrayal of Vic Mackey. Though Vic takes him back into the fold once Shane crashes and burns on his own during season four, the reconciliation doesn't last very long. Shane murders fellow Strike Team member Curtis "Lem" Lemansky, when Shane realizes that Vic was stalling on giving the order to kill him, due to Vic's sentimentality keeping him from realizing Lem had to be killed before IAD could break him and bring the entire Strike Team down. This in turn leads to a confrontation for seasons six and seven, between Shane (Starscream) and Vic (Megatron) and Ronnie (Soundwave).
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Ba'al who was supposedly in the service of Anubis while he was in fact trying to topple him and take his place. This led him to cooperate with SG-1 to stop Anubis from obtaining a weapon that would give him power over the entire galaxy. Notably, Ba'al betrayed Anubis in this manner twice. Ba'al also stuck around to continue playing The Starscream in the Ori story arc, scheming to undermine the Ori's Take Over the Galaxy plot so that he could be the one to Take Over the Galaxy. And despite perpetually making himself a nuisance or worse to much more powerful Big Bads, Ba'al managed to outlast them all, mostly through being incredibly self-aware.
    • Qetesh becomes Ba'al's own Starscream in Stargate Continuum.
    • On the Darker and Edgier spin-off Stargate Universe, Colonel Young has two Starscreams, Camille Wray of the IOA, and the much more dangerous Dr Nicholas Rush.
    • The Genii leader Cowen in Stargate Atlantis has Ladon Radim pretend to be planning a coup in order to lure Sheppard into an ambush. When Weir tells him that they are able to cure Radim's sister from near-terminal radiation poisoning, Cowen tells her he does not care - in Radim's hearing. Guess what happens next.
  • Star Trek:
    • It appears that this is standard operating procedure for the Mirror Universe of this franchise:
      • Sulu plots to get rid of both Kirk and Spock, but suddenly finds himself badly outnumbered when Marlena uses the Tantalus Field to wipe out his men.
      • Garak repeatedly tried to get rid of Intendant Kira, with little success. Kira kept him on because he was good at his job (but not nearly as good at interrogation as Garak-prime).
      • Archer was The Starscream to Captain Forrest, and in a way to the Imperial Starfleet once he had his hands on the prime universe's Defiant (the one from "The Tholian Web", not the Deep Space Nine battleship), only for Hoshi to betray him and take over.
    • In the regular universe, Damar wound up as the Starscream to Dukat by killing his daughter, therefore driving him insane. However, this was a subversion. Damar did this because he saw Ziyal as a traitor to Cardassia and killing her in Dukat's best interest, not because he disdained Dukat or wanted his job. Nonetheless, this all put Dukat out of the leadership and second-in-command Damar in his stead.
      • Damar (who has a very idealistic and naive view of the Cardassian Union and what they did on Bajor) ends up trying to pull one of these on the entire Dominion once they start turning on the Cardassians. All he manages to accomplish is driving the Founders into one more atrocity.
  • Supernatural:
    • Season 6 gives us Castiel, the local Sixth Ranger Traitor. He and Crowley hatch a plan to set themselves up as the new God and Lucifer, respectively. Their alliance hits a few snags, and ultimately Cas becomes God, but Crowley does not become Lucifer.
    • Cas had more power than Crowley for most of their working relationship, rather than working under him, and prior to that had joined La Résistance for moral reasons at great personal cost, even leaving aside that he'd already died twice saving the world by this point. He was also becoming God to end a war that he'd started to prevent the apocalypse beginning again. His qualifications as Starscream are slim, but The Dark Side Will Make You Forget is prominent.
    • Technically, the demon Crowley is also a Starscream, as far as season 5 of the show is concerned. While a servant of Lucifer, he knows that he and the rest of his kind are merely tools of Lucifer and that they may end up being killed by him so he forges an alliance with the brothers so they can defeat him.
    • Even Sam Winchester qualifies as a starscream for the most part of seasons 1-5, most prominently in season 4. Frustrated by the constant belittling of his older brother, Sam is made to believe by the demon Ruby that he is mankind's salvation and has him rebel against his older brother by the end of season 4.
  • Super Sentai:
    • Similar deal in the series Power Rangers gets its footage from. They vary in how successful they are. Notably, in Choujin Sentai Jetman, Radiguet, the villain that is ultimately the series Big Bad gets reduced to a Starscream ... for only two episodes.
    • Tensou Sentai Goseiger has the one who takes the cake. At first Buredoran simply knows things the others don't and keeps the real deal to himself, but in the end he's actually using the strengths of all three villain organizations to further his own plan. He's a fallen Gosei Angel who wants to use the power that will resurrect everyone for the final judgment at the end of the world to instead erase all life. His supposed bosses were actually so far beneath him it's not funny.
  • The Thick of It: Defied with Jamie: Malcolm specifically chose a Bastard Understudy too batshit to pull off a successful betrayal. Eventually he does make a rather pathetic attempt, which fails horribly.
  • V: The Final Battle: Diana reveals herself to be one of these towards the end. And in the followup TV series, she got one of her own in Lydia.
  • The Walking Dead: Simon was this in Season 8, growing increasingly frustrated with Negan's leadership decisions and disobeying his orders. His leadership bid didn't work out.
  • The Wire:
    • Stringer Bell fits this trope perfectly, killing D'Angelo behind Avon's back, and taking advantage of Avon's imprisonment to restructure the Barksdale Organization under his own model. His model is smarter and more professional, and might lead to less violence, but he doesn't get the extent to which Avon only cares about playing The Game. Stringer goes down because he thought it was about making the most money.
    • Bill Rawls once he's promoted to Deputy Ops. While he and Burrell are thick as thieves at first, the moment Burrell's job security becomes threatened, Rawls immediately looks ready to find something to get Burrell ousted so that he can take his place.
  • The X-Files: Alex Krycek has had a few sneaky attempts at clawing his way to power, including his stint in charge at a Russian gulag, his recurring threats (and eventual attempt) to kill the Cigarette Smoking Man (and when that failed, attempting to ensure his place as CSM's successor) and manipulating Jeffrey Spender. You can practically see him waiting in the shadows, ready to seize power with both hands. Well, one hand anyway.


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