Midshipman Horatio Hornblower joins the British fleet just as the French Revolution is about to change European history. But he has worries closer to home as he incurs the wrath of a shipmate named Simpson, a bully who everyone else avoids and placates. Events lead to a duel, but one of Hornblower’s mates takes his place and is killed. At war with France, Hornblower and Simpson are assigned different ships, but are reunited when Simpson’s ship is sunk. Events lead to another duel with different results.