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The Transformers franchise has both the original Starscream, and many others.


  • The Trope Namer is the most famous example, a Decepticon who is, in most versions, Number Two to Megatron. His treacherous goals could not be more obvious. And the Psychotic Smirk proves it.

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     Transformers Generation 1 
  • The character's intentions were probably first mentioned when the first version of his action figure (one of the first three Decepticons along with Skywarp and Thundercracker) was introduced in 1984. His profile on the back of the card that the figure came in mentioned his desire to lead the Decepticons, explicitly stating his desire to replace Megatron. However, he was not the only Decepticon who had leadership ambition...
  • The toy bio of Shockwave (released the following year) stated that he too seeks to overthrow Megatron because logic dictates that he would make a better leader. Both characters would have their spotlight as Megatron's usurper in two different medias: Starscream for the Sunbow cartoon, and Shockwave for the comic books published by Marvel Comics.

Sunbow cartoon

  • The Transformers: While the toy made first mention of Starscream's power-hungry ambition, it's the Sunbow cartoon series that made it legendary.
    • Starscream made his first play for power in the first episode (showing potential signs of it in the first five minutes), and succeeded when Megatron was injured in the 1986 animated movie. Before that, Status Quo Is God, so he'd failed Every. Single. Episode. If Megatron so much as sneezes, he'll start shouting "Megatron has fallen!"note  And Megatron would never punish him much for it. (Except in the movie, when he did.) Cracked's "5 Reasons Megatron Should have Fired Starscream Years Ago" list provides five examples of Starscream's ambitious behavior as well as ineptitude in a single episode (the first ever episode no less!).
    • His best effort was in the episode "Starscream's Brigade", where with the aid of the Combaticons, he came within an inch of successfully usurping Megatron. Amusingly, in the following episode "The Revenge of Bruticus", Starscream himself got a taste of his own medicine when the Combaticons grew frustrated with his incompetence and decided to usurp both Megatron and Starscream instead, forcing the two to work together.
    • In one episode, Thundercracker considers usurping Starscream's position only to be caught in the middle of planning by Starscream, who threatens to tell Megatron.
    • In "Triple Takeover", Blizwing and Astrotrain have Starscream lead Megatron into a trap so supposedly all three can take command of the Decepticons. However, the two Triple Changers opt to get rid of them both by betraying Starscream as well. They then start their own dominion with various degrees of success. Of course Megatron escapes from the trap and is none too happy with the three, reasserting his command by kicking their collective asses and coming out as the last bot standing in a huge Decepticon brawl for dominance.
  • Ironically, Shockwave's characterization was dramatically changed during the production of the show, in which he became Megatron's loyal guardian of Cybertron rather than a rival to Megatron's authority. This, combined with the cartoon's widespread recognition, is why the trope wasn't called The Shockwave.
  • In The Movie, Megs-reconfigured into-Galvatron actually kills Starscream, only to find himself as The Starscream to Unicron, with no better success than the original—less in fact, because Unicron is now the source of his power.
    • The Movie also indicates most of the other Decepticons are Not So Above It All as everyone engages in a big brawl for leadership the moment Megatron and the other wounded Decepticons are thrown out into space. Even Soundwave of all bots, the poster boy for Undying Loyalty and the person who dragged his former leader onto Astrotrain engages in this. note 
  • In the post-movie season, Starscream comes back and then proceeds to backstab Unicron. While a ghost. Oddly enough, backstabbing a Transformer Physical God works out better for him than when he was only up against Megatron—he gets a new body out of the deal, and Unicron gets nothing except a mismatched new pair of eyes that may or may not have been destroyed at the end of the episode. He then somehow ends up a disembodied spark who wandered for eons and, possibly due to running out of Megatrons and Galvatrons to backstab in his current time-frame, probably decided to follow one through a space-time fissure to keep up his old hobby. Truly the bot has Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.

Marvel's The Transformers Comics

  • The Transformers (Marvel Comics): Shockwave usurped command of the Decepticons (stepping in by taking advantage of the opportunity that arose when Megatron and the Decepticons had been defeated by the Autobots and human sabotage) and was an effective leader during one arc; taking over not because he was greedy or power-hungry, but because Megatron failed and Shockwave honestly felt "logic dictated" that he, as Decepticon Military Operations Commander, could lead the Decepticon faction more effectively. Notably, when Megatron eventually recovers his full power and returns, he and Shockwave agree to share leadership, at least for a short period.
  • Starscream has a few memorable moments, opting for big power grabs that still fail, but not as blatantly or stupidly as his animated counterpart. Except in the Underbase Saga, where Starscream manages to trick two factions of Decepticons and the Autobots into fighting each other then gains control of the Underbase and kills virtually every Transformer in existence before blowing up. After that, you wonder why any Decepticon commander would recruit him: Megatron made sure he brainwashed him first and Shockwave couldn't afford to be choosy but Scorponok had no excuses.
    • In the Marvel UK Earthforce stories, Starscream is surprisingly successful, managing to blackmail Soundwave into helping him depose both Megatron and Shockwave so the two of them can take over as joint leaders.
  • And, in the Generation 2 comics, we finally get an explanation for why Megatron keeps Starscream around.
  • In Regeneration One, Starscream was lobotomized by Megatron to prevent any further betrayals. It still didn't work, thanks to Shockwave's intervention. (Apparently Megatron either forgot to, or couldn't, lobotomize him.) Later, Starscream was able to backstab Galvatron, which itself was risky considering the time-traveler was already restraining himself from killing Starscream yet again.

Transformers Takara Trilogy

  • The characters that fulfill the archetype of Starscream would be Dauros and Mindwipe, respectively. Except Dauros is too dim to be deceptive and often openly challenges Blood's leadership of the Decepticon Pretenders, while Mindwipe's ulterior motives are wholly unrelated to usurping leadership of the Decepticon Headmasters in the first place.
  • Leozack of Transformers Victory also qualifies as a member of the Starscream club. Deathsaurus/Dezaras eventually wised up and threatened to kill him if he continued his treacherous ways. Then there's Hellbat, whom the Transformers Wiki even describes as "a member of the Ambitious Screwups club". Thing about Hellbat is, his ambition lies in overthrowing Leozack as the leader of the Beastforce—making him the Starscream to the Starscream.

     Transformers: Beast Era 

Beast Wars

  • Terrorsaur was an Expy of Starscream with the exact same M.O. However, the series does a bit of a better job handling it.
    • On two occasions Terrorsaur did succeed in usurping control, but it didn't last due to his incompetence. One such occasion had him defeat Megatron after supercharging himself on unstable energon, but the power boost was temporary and he had to go back to the site recharge, and once other transformers found out and the site was destroyed, Terrorsaur was put in his place by a repaired Megatron. On the other occasion, Terrorsaur used Rattrap to capture Megatron (It Makes Sense in Context), but then the Maximals attack the base and Terrorsaur proves what a Dirty Coward he truly is when he initially panics and then hastily orders a counterattack with no real plan. Megatron, watching this unfold and even acquiesing to his orders, mocks him for his ineptitude afterward. Both of these episodes were very early in Season 1, which suffered some Early Installment Weirdness on its premise and characters; it's plausible he just realized the whole treachery thing wasn't going to work out and gave up on it.
    • While Terrorsaur regularly got his ass kicked by Megatron for his treachery, he, like Starscream himself, never suffered serious or permanent consequences. However, this could be excusable for Fridge Brilliance — unlike the Generation 1 show, there is a set number of characters on either side and the addition of a new comrade via recovering a protoform in a stasis pod is very rare. Before Terrorsaur was Killed Off for Real, besides him and Megatron there were, at max count, five other Predacons — it's reasonable to give Megatron the benefit of the doubt, that he considered Terrorsaur's treachery not worth giving rid of him for against losing a soldier he can't replace.
  • Tarantulas took over this role after Terrorsaur's death at the beginning of season 2, but the character is very mysterious and much more sinister and ambitious, with his plans and origins being infamously Shrouded in Myth on a meta-level. Megatron kept him around because Tartantulas was an extremely intelligent Mad Scientist who often provided invaluable aid, and while he was treacherous and deceitful, Tarantulas never attempted to kill Megatron or usurp control of the Predacons from him — he just tended to go off and do his own thing not caring if Megatron was upset with him. Appropriately, the one time he does try to kill Megatron and take over the Predacons, near the end of the series, all it does is make Megatron Come Back Strong and set Tarantalus on fire with his new Beast Mode.
  • Blackarachnia was out for herself since the beginning. This was partly a plan by Tarantulas who hoped to gain a loyal servant if she had a spider beast mode like him, butit backfired on him, too. From then on it's always a Gambit Pileup between the three, of the "Tarantulas spies on Megatron who spies on Blackarachnia who's scheming against one or both of them" sort.
    Megatron: (watching a live feed of Blackarachnia) Spiders spin their webs, yeees... But I spin them larger. (camera reveals Tarantulas' probe spying on him)
  • In Possession, the actual Starscream showed up when his spark, tumbling through space-time, possessed Waspinator. Starscream immediately got up to his usual tricks, ingratiating himself to Megatron and leading an attack so he can be put in control of the Maximal base, and then plotting to take over the Predacons with Blackarachnia. Amusingly, Dinobot knew Starscream's history and fully expected him to turn on Megatron. Together with the other Maximals, they came up with a plan to use his predictability to trick him, and Blackarachnia also knew his ways and double-crossed him once it became clear 'Screamer was screwed. For that matter, Megatron never fully trusted him either. Apparently the "Great Upgrade" that turned the Autobots and Decepticons into Maximals and Predacons made them smarter as well as more energy efficient.
    Starscream: You betrayed me!
    Blackarachnia: I studied with the master.
  • Dinobot played a heroic version of the trope. He joined the Maximals only after an unsuccessful attempt to take over, but whenever Optimus was injured or unable to lead, Dinobot would be quick to try and assume command. That said, he would back down if Optimus would declare Rattrap in charge or if Rhinox makes a sufficiently compelling argument in the form of grabbing him by the throat and telling him that he's in a bad mood.
  • Rhinox was once forcibly turned into a Predacon. Like all good Predacons, he immediately starting plotting a takeover. Unfortunately for Megatron, Rhinox retained his intelligence meaning he was very good at it. Megatron only survives because Rhinox gets too caught up in Evil Gloating (another Predacon trait) to finish the job, allowing Megatron to turn him back into a Maximal. Optimus realizes all of this will happen and waits until it does before launching his attack that allows him to retrieve Rhinox now that he's taken care of the Predacons for him.
  • Rampage never was loyal to Megatron and was only kept obedient because Megatron had half his spark to torture at the press of a button. Despite this, the crab would often just abandon his objective on missions to do his own thing, that is, vendetta against Depth Charge. It finally cost Megatron when Rampage snuck off to duel his enemy one last time, and upon his death Dinobot II's spark was freed from his influence, allowing his memories to resurface and cause him to oppose Megatron, losing him the war.
  • All There in the Manual states that Megatron himself was this to his former boss, Cryotek. Considering examples above and below, the only fully loyal Predacons were Scorponok, Inferno, and the Rubber Ducky (best summed up in this Lil' Formers strip: "I managed to keep at least two of my troops from betraying me! Two!") It appears that Megatron actually encourages treachery in some of his more competent troops. He's studied them so well that he's able to guess their schemes and incorporate them his own while letting the traitor think they're still in control. Megs only seems to really get pissed when a betrayer executes their plan poorly. Best shown in "Master Blaster", when Tarantulas and Quickstrike betray him as he takes the spark of G1 Megatron into himself, is tossed into a lava pit, emerges with his new dragon beast mode, and proceeds to punish Tarantulas. Then he tells the scheming spider "I can suffer your treachery, Lieutenant, but not your INCOMPETENCE!", and tosses Tarantulas into the lava, remarking "Treachery requires no mistakes".
  • Pretty much every one of Megatron's Predacons turned on him at one point. The only ones who never did were Scorponok (who was actually reliable, but cowed) and Inferno (who was utterly insane, believing that he genuinely was an ant and that Megatron was his queen.).
    • If the Air Strike Patrol (see below) is the best collection of Starscream-types in one place, the Beast Wars Predacons are a very close second.
  • The Maximal Elders at one point had the astonishingly bright idea to recreate the original Starscream's indestructible spark with a Maximal's, presumably hoping to create an indestructible super-soldier. The result was a Genius Bruiser Implacable Man ...but was also a cannibalistic Omnicidal Maniac and he was "hopelessly treacherous."

Beast Machines

Beast Wars II

  • Meanwhile, the Beast Wars II version of Starscream wasn't like this at all (instead being Ambiguously Gay)... instead, the Megatron counterpart Megastorm was the ambitious screwup constantly trying to subvert Galvatron's leadership, with Galvatron looking the other way because Megastorm was also his brother. However, BW2 Screamer wasn't above trying to backstab his co-minions in an attempt to move up the food chain, and he even tried dunking Megastorm into a pit of Unicron-mojo to get rid of him. (Megastorm got better. Much better.)

    Unicron Trilogy 
  • In the first two parts of the Unicron Trilogy, Starscream is 1) desperately in need of Megatron's approval, and when he doesn't get it he defects (following a little prompting from Sideways), and, later, 2) a zombie. In the third part, however, Transformers Cybertron, he's both a truly scheming The Starscream, and surprisingly successful. It comes to a head in "Showdown", where Galvatron is stunned, bordering on horrified, at the prospect that he might actually lose to Starscream. Basically take the original Starscream, remove all 80s cartoon villain stupidity, and add three levels in Badass (Only three?).
  • In Transformers Armada, if Starscream isn't living up to his name, the role is usually being filled by Thrust.
    • While the aforementioned 'bot was more like G1 Starscream, the local version was a Noble Demon and starts out loyal, truly believing in him at first. Whenever he gets a particularly strong power-up and starts to act more high-and-mighty you start to think "ah, now is when he'll decide "I can overthrow Megatron!"" but it doesn't happen. However, Megatron's Bad Boss tendencies push him towards Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal. Megatron ditching him on the battlefield and leaving him to his fate is what finally makes Starscream decide Megatron has got to go.
  • Finally, Sideways. He even has swappable Autobot and Decepticon symbols so he can Starscream everybody. He proves himself Armada's top Starscream type, outlasting and having more success than all the others, though he turns out to be a herald of Unicron manipulating both sides, so he really is loyal to his true leader.
  • In Transformers Energon, Megatron was first challenged by Shockblast, an egomaniacal psychopath who wanted to claim control of Unicron for himself. This ultimately ended in an Epic Fail and Megatron eventually used Unicron to swat him like a bug. Shockblast's brother Sixshot, falsely informed Optimus Prime was responsible instead, enlisted to avenge his sibling, though ended up on very bad terms with Galvatron due to constantly inferring with his own rivalry with Prime. Ironically Galvatron's discipline became so severe that Sixshot arguably ended up hating him as much as he would have knowing the truth, and began deliberately endangering and blackmailing Galvatron before finally deciding to wipe him out so he could use his leadership to deal with Prime alone. After barely escaping Sixshot's assassination attempt, Galvatron powered up and promptly crushed him the same basic way he had his brother.
  • Thunderblast of Transformers Cybertron ironically betrayed Starscream to defect to Megatron, finding him hunkier. Due to her self preserving streak, she repeatedly considers defecting back and forth whenever either starts gaining the upper hand. As for Starscream himself, this may be the one who comes closest to success, siphoning off the power of Primus himself to temporarily reach god-level power.
    —Galvatron: "How... can this be? Am I to be defeated... by Starscream?!"
    Transformers IDW Comics 
  • The IDW version is a mix of G1 and a bit of Armada, a deadly and powerful warrior who used to see Megatron as a great hero (and cried with joy when he first met Megatron, really) and helps him by assassinating the senate, a few million years later and now he thinks Megatron has lost sight of the end goal and purpose.
  • The first time we see Starscream in IDW's continuity, in Infiltration, Megatron makes mention that for the last few thousand years Starscream has actually been loyal, and that such blatant acts of treachery were "behind them". Considering the quick Curb-Stomp Battle that ensues when they fight, it's not hard to see why. (And for the record, Starscream was using a MacGuffin to boost his strength, and he still lost.) Starscream is taken out of action for a time, but when he recovers, he behaves himself (mostly).
  • In The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Starscream has convinced Bumblebee to let him join the new Cybertronian government, proving helpful in stopping renegade Decepticons still operating with their own agenda in the post-war world. He genuinely seemed invested in making this new arrangement work, and even befriended political rival Metalhawk. When the Decepticons rise up under Megatron he helps stop them, then he kills Metalhawk, blames his death on one of Megatron's Decepticons, sways public opinion to him, and becomes the ruler of new Cybertron, exiling those who wouldn't renounce their old allegiances- Bumblebee and other Autobots in major positions included, and no exceptions made for any of his former allies from the Decepticons, either.
    • It's around this time that Starscream picks up his own treacherous lackey: IDW's version of Rattrap. Starscream is not blind to Rattrap's ambition, recruiting him due to Rattrap's skill at plotting, and in fact seems at times to openly challenge Rattrap to try something. Starscream has his own Starscream, aw!
  • In an interesting inversion of the 1986 movie, in IDW's "Dead Universe Arc" (Spotlight: Galvatron, parts of Devastation and all of Revelation) the Starscream to Nova Prime/Nemesis Prime is a version of Galvatron who had more success than his original animated counterpart; that said Galvatron turning on him was a fault of the Darkness messing with him, when Galvatron and Nova Prime don't have the Heart of Darkness messing with them, and they really have a type 1 Villainous Friendship.
  • Also in IDW, Ramjet tries his hardest to be the next Starcream during his Spotlight issue, but fails miserably (or rather, succeeds in the Starscream's failure department). And unlike Starscream, who only got a survivable wound for his treachery and was eventually allowed back into the Decepticon ranks again, Megatron gives Ramjet a permanent retirement.
  • The Transformers: Monstrosity has Scorponok take this role. Of course instead of killing Megatron he exiles him to Junkion in an attempt to make himself seem more fearsome. Of course Megatron survives and feeds Scroponok to the Terrorcons for it. When Scorponok was next seen chronologically, he'd quit the Decepticons altogether and was off conning other species to build new weapons for him, at which point he'd promptly destroy them.
  • In Spotlight: Megatron, Megatron explains to Starscream exactly why he has put up with him all this time. Megatron believes that Starscream is a vital part of the Decepticon war machine because he keeps Megatron from becoming complacent. Starscream is a constant reminder to Megatron that he needs to watch his back.
  • The rebooted IDW comics continue Starscream's usual antics, but reconstruct them by portraying him as a Littlefinger-esque Magnificent Bastard who is Playing Both Sides to the extreme. At the start of the story, he's the Autobot Spymaster and while just about everyone thinks he's a sleazy politician out for his own gain, that's about all they think he is; nobody really considers that a snooty nobody like him might actually be leaking information to all the factions in the growing conflict, planting spies everywhere, and harboring aspirations much higher than a mundane public office. Just to drive home that this is not your average Harmless Villain Starscream, he's already succeeded in one usurpation before the plot begins, as he got that Spymaster position by ousting Soundwave, the previous holder of the title.

     Transformers Film Series 
  • Some fans have theorized that during the big battle royale, Starscream subtly does this by transforming into one of the good guys' Air Force jets and firing a few shots off at Megatron before flying away. Not really confirmed by Word of God, but was more of Ascended Fanon. "It makes sense with the character, but would only really affect the sequel." This has appeared in the IDW Sequel/Prequel comic, which makes it at least mostly canon, though another version has him considering this but ultimately deciding against it. Revenge of the Fallen, actually confirms this incarnation of Starscream's treachery where it is revealed Starscream deliberately left Megatron to die just so that he could take over. Naturally, Megatron comes Back from the Dead and is pissed off to know this, so Starscream attempts a half-assed explanation.
    • What's different is not only is this Starscream a pretty good leader, but the reason he's a Decepticon (you can change sides if you want) is because he's trying to keep the Psychos For Hire in check and wants to kill Megatron for the good of all Cybertronians. (For the uninitiated, this Megatron is about as sane as Galvatron. And Galvatron is not even remotely sane.)
  • In IDW's The Reign of Starscream comic movie tie-in, Dreadwing is The Starscream... to Starscream himself. Starscream's method of dealing with him is about as pragmatic as Animated Megatron's method of dealing with his Starscream, except with less of "Death Montage" and more of "throwing one of the guy's allies into his spaceship". (READ: Starscream kills Dreadwing. By ripping out his spark.)
  • The Decepticon version of the game adaptation for Revenge of the Fallen (The DS version of that version, more specifically) has an interesting twist to the usual Starscream methods: After defeating Optimus Prime (the final boss), The Fallen will essentially relieve Megatron from command, and Starscream then informs the player (after snubbing Megatron) that he'll constantly attempt to attack him when he least expects it, strongly implying that his methods are actually his way to ensure whether the De Jure head of the Decepticons remains fit for command.
  • In the DS game of the first movie, Starscream is surprisingly successful; he takes the player in as a protege to defeat Megatron and is more of a threat to the rest of the Decepticons than the Autobots. Although he failed in preventing Megatron's revival, he did manage to kill Bumblebee, Barricade, Blackout(and presumably Brawl) and take control of the Allspark. Megatron finally took him out in the final boss battle..Which also made him the last surviving Transformer, as he killed the player afterwards.
  • Early drafts of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen would of had Megatron do this to the title character after Optimus reveals The Fallen couldn't make him a Prime (the entire reason he chose to work for him.). It was abandoned in the final film but the tie-in comics and video games kept this plot point.note 
  • Starscream himself has a Starscream in the tie-in prequel novel The Ghost Of Yesterday in the form of Blackout who leads an attack on the Autobots against his leader's orders, and later challenges Screamer for leadership.. Surprising Starscream manages to win the duel. Unlike other examples however, Blackout does not want the new leader, he instead has Undying Loyalty to Megatron and can't stand anyone else leading the Decepticons. Barricade from the same novel is also revealed to harbor a grudge against Starscream but unlike Blackout is smart enough to not take any direct action against him.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon has Sentinel Prime, who not only betrayed the Autobots, but also attempts to become this as well. Alternately, as Sentinel is pretty obviously in charge of the Decepticons by the end, Megatron could be considered The Starscream instead.
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    Transformers Animated 
  • Starscream was shockingly proactive, almost succeeding in assassinating Megatron in the first episode. The keyword, unfortunately for him, is "almost". Unlike most of his other incarnations, Megatron has essentially no tolerance for Starscream in this setting; once he's back to full power, he immediately makes an example of Screamer. When Starscream is revived by an Allspark fragment, Megs gets to kill him several times over. Starscream did get the last laugh on Megatron in the grand finale. Posthumously.
  • In the season two finale, Starscream's clones do this to him. Oh, the irony.

     Transformers: Shattered Glass 
  • Rodimus is The Starscream to Optimus Prime. SG Starscream, naturally, is Megatron's most loyal follower.
    • And once Rodimus mutinies on the Ark (getting rid of anyone loyal to Optimus in the process) and comes to Earth, Goldbug takes over the role of The Starscream. Of course! You're a genius, Starscream!
    • In "Blitzwing Bop" prose story, after Rodimus and almost every other Autobot ended up suffering from Blitzwing's musical assault, Blaster, who was immune, decided to use this moment to usurp Autobot leadership. Rodimus, however, despite the assault, quickly puts him back on his place...with his buzzsaw hand.
    • Ultra Magnus long ago attempted to stage a coup against his brother Optimus Prime, but failed and gave him his face, and got sent into a prison world of Paradron. However, he eventually broke free and attempted to take over his own universe by destroying others and collecting energy that appeared as a result of universes being destroyed.
    • In "Coalescence" prose story, Jetfire tried to undermine leadership of Rodimus when they were sent to investigate Side Burn's lab. However, he ended up setting off a booby trap and got himself killed, much to Rodimus's amusement.

    Transformers Aligned Universe 

War for Cybertron

Transformers Prime

  • Transformers: Prime puts another twist on the character, putting him on a journey from the usual treacherous usurper, to a rogue, to a second-in-command who has made a compromise between the security of his high position and not having to deal with situations where he's out of his depth. To the end, however, Starscream still retains his ambition and would seize power the moment an opportunity arises, he just won't resort to any treachery to that end because he learned the price of failure.
  • At the beginning, Starscream wants to be in command and often IS in command while Megatron goes off on his own. He tends to lack Megatron's grand vision of restoring Cybertron, being more content with just stomping out Autobot resistance. While he enjoys power he does little to actively take over; he would rather wait for opportunities to present themselves. Mostly he assists Megatron and warns him against dangerous risks, but it's as much out of fear or to maintain a loyal front as it is out of concern for his leader.
  • When the opportunity arises, Starscream leaves Megatron for dead and then would make an effort to keep him dead so he can seize leadership and hold on to it. It is at this point that he slowly begins to realize that he doesn't have what it takes, since either he can't keep his soldiers in line, isn't competent enough to fight the Autobots beyond day-to-day plans, and has to deal with loyal and competent followers of Megatron, such as Soundwave or Skyquake.
  • After Megatron's return, Starscream accepts his position and is nominally loyal, although he still tries to secure deals behind Megatron's back with anyone (like Breakdown) who feels abandoned or betrayed. Megatron, for his part, has realized that Starscream is far too valuable to lose, but demotes him, which gets on Starscream's nerves and he leaves.
  • While he is a Dirty Coward who would rat his former team out, Starscream can't keep his big mouth shut and ends up a rogue, unwanted by either side. Without an army at his back to clean up his messes, he spends a fair amount of time trying to squeeze deals out of every faction (including Airachnid, who has become a more successful example of The Starscream than him). It's enough to severely hinder his opponents at times and make him a valuable Knowledge Broker, but not enough for him to amass the power base necessary to conquer Cybertron by himself and rule supreme.
  • Eventually after barely surviving alone several times, Starscream decides he needs a faction to belong to and would make a compromise to have a supreme commander above him if it means he has a comfortable high position and at the same time avoid dealing with things out of his depth. He gathers some invaluable relics and uses them to buy his way back to the Decepticons. While he initially appears content to just be back, no quetions asked, he later makes clear he would settle for nothing less than second-in-command. Fortunately for him, Megatron has weighed the advantages and disadvantages of having Starscream or Dreadwing as his second-in-command (Starscream is cowardly and unpredictable when pressed, but ruthless and opportunistic, so he'll stick by Megatron's side as long as he receives enough privileges, whereas Dreadwing is a loyal and competent soldier, but his sense of honor would inevitably cause him to betray Megatron) and ruled out in Starscream's favor once Starscream shows he's smartened up not to try to usurp Megatron because he'd bite off more than he can chew. He appears loyal, which didn't prevent fans from suspecting it all of being a ruse. In "Deadlock", his rage upon seeing Bumblebee kill Megatron indicates that his new loyalty was genuine after all.
  • Starscream's loyalty, however, is revealed to only extend to Megatron's position, but not his person, or ideology. When Megatron abdicates and declares the Decepticons disbanded, Starscream refuses to recognize that and immediately claims leadership, because he enjoys being a warlord.
  • Starscream did utter the line "Even if it pains me, I do try to be team player" in a flashback.
  • Credit should also go to Megatron for doing a Cortical Psychic Patch on Starsream before allowing him to rejoin the Decepticons.
  • Knock Out was also an accomplice to Starscream's plan to cut off Megs' life support in season 1. He later betrays Starscream during an attempted mutiny in Predacons Rising and changes sides to the Autobots, citing joining the "winning team" as his reason.
  • While not a very enthusiastic member of the 'Cons to begin with, Airachnid took on this role after Starscream left. When Megatron was acting so irrationally even the generic troops were getting antsy she stepped in as a leader, though Soundwave effortlessly shut down her power play. After this, Megatron decides it's time to cut losses and orders Airachnid's termination, though she escapes and kills Breakdown in the process. She then decides to go full-rogue and kill Megatron with an Insecticon, and then expands that to killing both the Autobots and Decepticons with an entire hive of Insecticons after that plan is foiled.
  • Megatron seems to have avoided at this at first when he appointed Dreadwing as his second-in-command after above instances with Starscream and Airachnid as he stays fiercely loyal to Megatron for most of the second season. However when he learns from above-mentioned Cortical Psychic Patch that Screamer revived his brother Skyquake as a Terrorcon, he betrays Megatron in a different manner: By giving the Forge of Solus Prime to the Autobots when they need it the most, and then partake in a suicidal mission to kill Starscream.
  • When Predaking revealed his sapience, Megatron feared he had another treacherous underling on his hands, one who is an actual threat. Ironically it is Megatron's betrayal of Predaking that pushes the Predacon to turn against him.
  • Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015), Prime's sequel series, finally has Starscream subvert this trope entirely, but not out of loyalty but because he wants to kill Megatron for disbanding the Decepticons, leaving him at the mercy of the Predacons (though it was his own mistakes that led to that encounter), and for all the physical abuse he's suffered throughout the years. Galactic conquest is still on the table, just not directly related to Megatron anymore. He's just having trouble finding out where Megatron went after Predacons Rising.

    Transformers Cyberverse 

     Extra 
  • The excellent Transformers spoof Incredible Change-Bots has Wheeee, the expy for Starscream, do this when Shootertron falls... only for Shootertron to get back up and berate him. ("Shootertron, you haven't fallen!" "No, I just fell. That laser blast put me off balance.")
  • Trying to catalogue all the Starscreams (trope examples that is, not actual characters by that name) in the Transformers multiverse might take all day. The best collection of them in one place is probably the Air Strike Patrol, a Decepticon Micromaster faction which consists of one dangerously competent leader (Whisper) with three subordinates, every single one of which wanting to usurp his position. Of the three, one (Nightflight)'s a Dirty Coward schemer who hopes to gain the position by impressing people further up on the chain of command, another (Storm Cloud) is an impulsive and unsubtle moron who announces his takeover plans in front of his target, while the third's a taciturn Chessmaster (Tailwind) who might actually succeed in his goal because he actually has patience and a willingness to accept short-term losses in the name of long-term gain, but his smugness and lack of initiative may be his undoing.
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