Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

This film captures the magic of Patrick O’Brian’s “Aubreyad” perfectly and beyond that, it is a great historical fiction film that beats out even Gladiator as far as the feeling of immersion. Set aboard the HMS Surprise, a frigate who is in her Prime. The environment, ship, attire, and speech of the time period is recreated in painstaking fashion. From the moment the film opens to the closing scene, you are transferred to the Napoleonic Era.

This story offers rich character development and touches upon many themes in the few hours we get to spend on the deck of the HMS Surprise. The friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin is a great balance of respect, perspective, and common interests, yet is strained when promises made as friends are always “subject to the requirements of the service”. In other words, work before play. 

I highly recommend this movie and it will forever be one of my favorites.



[Dinner in the officers’ mess. The captain is inebriated, but asks apparently seriously]

Capt. Jack Aubrey: Do you see those two weevils doctor?

Dr. Stephen Maturin: I do.

Capt. Jack Aubrey: Which would you choose?

Dr. Stephen Maturin: [sighs annoyed] Neither; there is not a scrap a difference between them. They are the same species of Curculio.

Capt. Jack Aubrey: If you had to choose. If you were forced to make a choice. If there was no other response…

Dr. Stephen Maturin: [Exasperated] Well then if you are going to *push* me…

[the doctor studies the weevils briefly]

Dr. Stephen Maturin: …I would choose the right hand weevil; it has… significant advantage in both length and breadth.

[the captain thumps his fist in the table]

Capt. Jack Aubrey: There, I have you! You’re completely dished! Do you not know that in the service…


Capt. Jack Aubrey: …one must always choose the lesser of two weevils.

[the officers burst out in laughter]

The simple truth is, not all of us become the men we once hoped we might be. We are all God’s creatures. If there are those among us who thought ill of Mr Hollom, spoke ill of him, or failed him in respect of fellowship – then we ask for your forgiveness, Lord. And we ask for his.
—  Captain Jack Aubrey, eulogy for Mr Hollom, Master and Commander

Master and Commander Deleted Scenes


Aubrey - Maturin Chemistry

Most of you have probably watched ‘Master and Commander’. Some of you have likely also read the corresponding novels by Patrick O’Brian. And then, you have the rare few, myself included, who ship the hell out of Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. 

So, I’ve taken it upon myself to comprise some of the best passages illustrating the special bond between the two. It’s the closest thing to actual canon proof that I can muster, in regards to this ship. Read them if you like. They’re cute. 

“Stephen walked into the great cabin. ‘Jack,’ he said, ‘it is weeks since we played a note. What do you say to a bout this evening, if you are not too taken up with your bollards and capstan-bars?’

'Have you come aboard, my plum?’ cried Jack, looking up from the bosun’s accounts with a beaming face.”

- H.M.S Surprise

“To the infinite distress of the afterguard a huge shadow fell across the deck - the captain, stark naked and carrying a towel. ‘Good morning, Doctor,’ he said. 'What are you about?’ 

'Good morning my dear,’ said Stephen.”

- H.M.S Surprise

“Jack, wrapped in a boat-cloak, with a dark-lantern between his knees, sat in the stern-sheets, filled with pleasurable anticipation. He had not seen Stephen Maturin for a vast stretch of time, made even longer by the grinding monotony of the blockade: how lonely he had been for the want of that harsh, unpleasant voice!”

- H.M.S Surprise 

“Jack unable to eat for worry about Stephen. “Up and down the water-line of the half-moon beach, with his hands behind his back, turning over various private marks that might make Stephen smile if he missed this first rendezvous: some degrees of tension, to be sure, but none of the devouring anxiety of that first night long ago,sout of Palamós, when he had had no idea of his friend’s capabilities…In the beam of the lantern the paper showed a straggle of disconnected lines: Dear J – some words, lines of figures – the signature S, trailing away off the corner, a wavering curve. ‘This is not his writing,’ whispering still in the darkness, caution rising still over this certainty of complete disaster. 'This is not his hand.’ 'He has been tortured.’”

- H.M.S Surprise

Bonden shoved off: Jack called 'Row dry, there,’ and watched the cutter pull away towards the still-winking light. When at last it went out he turned from the rail, gave the orders that would carry the Bellona to her anchorage, and went below, deeply sad. He had seen Stephen off like this many and many a time, but his grief and anxiety never grew less.“

- The Yellow Admiral

"‘Pass the word for Dr. Maturin,’ said the Commodore, and the word passed down through the echoing decks.
'Him and the Commodore have been tie-mates this many a year,’ observed a seaman as it made its way along the orlop.
'What’s a tie-mate, guv?’ asked the landsman, newly pressed.
'Don’t you know what a tie-mate is, cully?’ asked the seaman with tolerant scorn.
The landsman shook his heavy head: there were already seventeen thousand things he did not know, and their number increased, daily.
'Well, you know what a pigtail is?’ asked the seaman, showing his own, a massive queue that reached his buttocks, and speaking loud, as to a fool or a foreigner. The landsman nodded, looking a little more intelligent. 'Which it has to be unplaited, washed on account of the lice, combed, and plaited again for muster. And can you do it yourself, behind your back? Not in time for muster, mate. Not in time for Kingdom Come, neither. So you get a friend, like me and Billy Pitt, to do yours, you sitting on a cheese of wads at your ease, or maybe a bucket turned arsy-versy; and then you do his: for fair’s fair, I say. And that is what we call tie-mates.’
'I heard of that Billy Pitt of yours,’ said the landsman, narrowing his eyes.”

- The Commodore

“‘I have served long enough in the Navy to prefer the lesser of two weevils.’
'So you have, brother,’ said Jack, looking at him affectionately.”

- The Commodore

“Stephen walked through the coach into the great cabin, smiling: but Jack sat right aft, staring out over the stern, both arms on his paper-covered desk; he sat motionless, and with such a look of stern unhappiness that Stephen’s smile faded at once. He coughed. Jack whipped round, strong displeasure masking the unhappiness for an instant before he sprang up, as lithe as a much younger man: he seized Stephen with even more than his usual force, crying ‘God’s my life, Stephen, how glad I am to see you!’”

- The Commodore 

“Jack and Stephen met again, almost on the very steps of the Crown. ‘Well met, brother,’ cried Jack from a little distance. Stephen considered the Commodore’s face and his gait: was he sober? 'You look uncommon cheerful, my dear,’ he said, leading him in the direction of the Pigtail Steps. 'I wish you may not have met with some compliant young person, overwhelmed with all the gold lace upon your person.’

'Never in life,’ said Jack. 'Aubrey the Chaste is what I am called throughout the service.’”

- The Hundred Days

“Aloud he said, ‘Hola, Jack.’
‘Stephen!’ cried Jack, shooting out backwards with surprising nimbleness in so large a man and seizing his friend by both hands. His pink face was scarlet with pleasure, and a slight answering flush appeared in Maturin’s.”

- The Mauritius Command

I have more; believe me, I do, and perhaps I’ll make a second post some day. For now, hope you enjoyed! 

Master and Commander (2003). During the Napoleonic Wars, a brash British captain pushes his ship and crew to their limits in pursuit of a formidable French war vessel around South America.

A good seafaring film about a man on a mission is a dime a dozen, but what elevates this film beyond it is the time and gravitas it devotes to building the relationship between Russell Crowe’s Captain Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany’s Doctor Stephen Maturin. It’s wonderfully told, and it gives an epic film a beating heart. 7/10.


Do you remember the British army uniform appreciation post? Well, it was time for the British Navy to show their beautiful mix of navy (duh), gold, silver and white.

There’s no way to not love this.

Images from top:

  1. “Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson”, 1799, Lemuel Francis Abbott.
  2. “Captain James Cook”, 1175-6, Nathaniel Dance-Holland.
  3. Commodore the Honourable Augustus Keppel”, 1749, Sir Joshua Reynolds.
  4. Royal Navy Post Captain uniform coat.
  5. “Edward Knowles, captain of the HMS Peregrine”, Francis Cotes.
  6. Russell Crowe as Capt. Jack Aubrey in “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”, 2003. Peter Weir (director), Wendy Stites (costume design).
  7. Ioan Gruffudd as Commander Horatio Hornblower in “Hornblower”, 2003. Andrew Grieve (director), John Mollo (costume design).
  8. “Augustus Keppel”, 1779, Sir Joshua Reynolds.
I first met him in Minorca, in the year one, in the spring of the year one. I had taken a patient there, for the Mediterranean climate - he died - and I met Jack at a concert. We took a liking to one another, and he asked me to sail with him as his surgeon. I agreed, being quite penniless at the time, and we have been together ever since.

Patrick O’Brian, Post Captain