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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.
—Doctor Who, The Pirate Planet
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. There are, sadly, no surviving records of them making people walk 1.6 x 10-34 centimeters, although it is a given that most victims walking at least that far. Space Pirates have a parallel punishment with a similar dramatic role: the victims are Thrown Out the Airlock. Walking the plank is especially dangerous when Sky Pirates are forcing the hero down the wobbly board with a cutlass.
Anime and Manga
- 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.
- Oddly enough, like Eyepatch of Power, the pirate manga One Piece has so far averted this trope.
- 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 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
- Used, along with just about every other pirate trope, in the Big Finish Doctor Who audio adventure Doctor Who and the Pirates.
- 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).
- 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.
- Pirates of the Caribbean, of course.
- 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. 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.
- Hook -- Peter takes the hike.
- 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.
- Mama Fratelli makes Andi walk the plank off the pirate ship in The Goonies.
- 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, spingboarding back off the to skiff to fight while R2-D2 launches his lightsaber to him.
- J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan was probably the Trope Codifier in the public consciousness.
- Appears in George Macdonald Fraser's The Pyrates, of course. Ben Avery immediately tells his pirate crew to knock it off, though, on the grounds that (see Real Life below) it's a-historical for their 17th century setting. This is the same book that mentions a pirate radio station on Tortuga.
Live Action TV
- Old-style Batman: "By thunder, thee will walk the plank deck."
- In the appropriately named Doctor Who 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."
- The Eleventh Doctor almost does this in "The Curse of the Black Spot".
- 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.
- A "fantasy" episode of Married... with Children was a pirate epic. 3 lovely wenches were offered a choice: sleep with Bud, or walk the plank. Poor Bud can't get laid in a fantasy episode :(
- Cosmo Jarvis' Gay Pirates features this as the ultimate punishment (though in the video, at least, it seems they get better.)
- Alestorm, being a pirate metal band, features this in at least some of their songs, such as "Captain Morgan's Revenge" and "Keelhauled."
- Played with in Calvin and Hobbes.
Hobbes: Our ship IS a plank.
Calvin: And you're gonna walk it, wise guy!
- Happens in an issue of Little Nemo in Slumberland.
- Played with in The Far Side, where 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!"
- This is Growltiger's final fate in Cats, forced to walk the plank by Genghis and his crew of Siamese cats.
- 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.
- One possible death sequence in King's Quest III.
- Referenced in Warp Force, where Jayson (a Space Pirate) threatens to make the Player Character and Vogenvuld "walk the plank into the fusion coolant".
- Happens twice 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.
- In Dubious Company, after Walter takes over Barry's ship, he makes the former captain do this while the ship is beached.
- 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.
- Said in an episode of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers by a pi-rat.
- 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 Backyardigans plays this trope straight in "Pirate Treasure" and "Fly Girl", but surprisingly averts it in "Pirate Camp".
- In an episode of Rugrats has babies fantasizing as pirates and Angelica puts Tommy on the plank.
- This was constantly threatened in ScoobyDoo! Pirates Ahoy! probably because the pirates really can't do anything violent on Scooby Doo.
- In the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode "Raphael Meets His Match", the villain of the week pirate holds the yacht crew hostage and force them to walk the plank (that goes for April) unless his ransom is received.
- 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.
- 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".
- Diving boards.
- 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.
- Usually, pirates didn't do that - they usually just marooned them, instead.
- Another punishment that was much more gruesome and popular would be keelhauling.