Another edition of “Who wore it better?” is here. Today we are looking at the Wolverine face mask. Contenders are Revenge of the Fallen Knockout, Beast Wars Transmetal Ramulus, and the original wearer: Marvel Comics Wolverine.
The battle of the big yellow mustaches in Transformers Animated: Captain Fanzone vs. Decepticon Blackout. Who wore it better?
True Story: I remember this advertisement coming out (or rather the German version of it) and soon after I had my first G1 Ultra Magnus toy. This was long before the Internet, the 1986 movie would not be shown on German TV for many years yet, and all we had was a few English TF episodes from Sky Channel, which we barely understood.
So a school buddy of mine and I sat down and played with the Ultra Magnus toy, which I fully believed to be Optimus Prime wearing a suit of armor. Starting from that (false) premise, my buddy asked me whether that meant that this Galvatron guy was actually Megatron in a new body, too. I thought about it for a minute and then said: yeah, of course he is.
So bottom line: without ever having seen the 1986 movie, we correctly figured out that Galvatron and Megatron were the same guy. All because we falsely believed Optimus Prime and Ultra Magnus to be the same guy. Funny how that goes sometimes.
In the second season of the original Transformers cartoon we were introduced to the Decepticon Triple-Changers Blitzwing and Astrotrain, the first Transformers with two different alternate modes. Pretty much the first thing they did was try and ursurp Megatron’s command in the episode “Triple Takeover”, but Megatron was at that point pretty used to that, I guess, so he obviously forgave them. Blitzwing was portrayed here as the typical bad guy brute, all strength and very little brains. He even recruited a human football coach to help him with stragety (which, surprisingly, worked pretty well for a while there).
Fast forward twenty in-story years, though, and we meet a very different Blitzwing. The Decepticons have fallen upon hard times, their leader Galvatron is missing, and out of nowhere there are these strange alien creatures called Quintessons, who offer a deal that seems to good to be true: get all the Energon the Decepticons want in return for doing what they like doing best: destroy some Autobots. All the Decepticons are gung-ho for this with one noteable exception: Blitzwing. The former brute seems to be the only thinker left among the troops and distrusts the Quintessons. Why? Because he seems to remember meeting them before somewhere.
Sadly the cartoon offers no further details on this, even as it goes on to put Blitzwing through a great character arc that culminates in him switching sides and going against his leader in order to help Rodimus Prime save all of Cybertron in the final episode of the 5-parter Five Faces of Darkness. Sadly we never see Blitzwing again after this episode apart from being in some crowd scenes, where he was likely added simply to fill out the ranks. He was supposed to star in the subsequent episode “Starscream’s Ghost”, but the script writers had to replace him with a new Decepticon Triple Changer toy which was available in stores at the time, Octane.
So the cartoon leaves us with two big questions: what exactly happened to Blitzwing that made him remember and distrust the Quintessons and what happened to him after the finale of Five Faces of Darkness? While the latter is wide open, there are actually some hints as to the former. Enter Overcharge, an E-Hobby exclusive repaint of the G1 Blitzwing toy, and a text story from Transformers: Timelines, the continuity established by the Transformers Collectors Club. Here Overcharge is a type of Quintesson battle robot, based on Decepticon technology (because the Quintesson-built Cybertronians couldn’t transform originally, they developed that skill / technology later on their own) and looking very much like Blitzwing.
So there are two possible stories here: one, Blitzwing remembers the Quintessons because at some point between the second season of G1 and the beginning of season 3 he was kidnapped by the Quintessons in order for them to reverse-engineer his triple-changer technology, leading to the development of the Overcharge drones (possibly briefly seen in the season 3 opening sequence, though in Blitzwing colors). Blitzwing then either escaped or was released, possibly having his memory damaged or erased by the Quintesson experiments.
Second possible story: the Quintessons actually created the triple-changing technology (probably still based on stolen technology from the Transformers) and Blitzwing began life as just another Overcharge drone himself. It wouldn’t be the first time that a Quintesson-created robot developed a mind of its own (remember, all the Transformers in the cartoon started out that way). Maybe he escaped from them and joined up with the Decepticons, who then based fellow triple-changer Astrotrain on his technology without knowing where it came from.
Either way, the final fate of G1 cartoon Blitzwing remains undisclosed. Which is sad, because after Five Faces of Darkness there was loads of potential to turn him into one of the most interesting characters in the G1 cartoon world.
Sometimes all you need is a badass quote. Here are some favorites of mine, featuring Razorclaw (from 3H Productions Transformers Universe comics), Straxus (from Marvel Transformers comics), Megatron, Optimus Primal, and Rampage (from Beast Wars TV series), and Overlord (from IDW Transformers comics).
It was the year 1986 and after two seasons of watching the adventures of Optimus Prime and his Autobots taking on Megatron for control of the Earth’s resources, there came the animated movie. And let’s be honest: while the movie was beautifully animated, had a kick-ass soundtrack, and featured several iconic scenes such as Optimus’ final battle against Megatron, Unicron devouring a planet, or the rise of Rodimus Prime, from a story-telling perspective it was a mixed bag at best. A huge villain turns up out of nowhere, only to be defeated by a bunch of characters fresh of the assembly line, using a McGuffin no one ever heard of before. Not to mention killing off a whole bunch of beloved characters so that new toys could be sold.
The third season of the cartoon might as well have been a whole new series. Certainly a follow-up to the old one, but with a different cast, a different setting, and a different tone. And in order to kick off this new series / season, we get what I consider the best G1 cartoon story of them all: Five Faces of Darkness. Not only the only five-parter in the cartoon’s 98-episode run, but also by far the best effort in terms of handling multiple story threads, a pretty large cast, and introducing tons of new characters.
And yes, I am fully aware that Five Faces of Darkness suffers greatly from sub-par animation and production. AKOM, the studio that handled it, had serious problems when it came to scale and coloring, frequently filled out crowd scenes with guys who were either supposed to be dead or elsewhere (for example that infamous scene on Char where Galvatron is among the Decepticons cheering for the imminent return of Galvatron), and frequently had characters mouthing lines actually belonging to others. It’s really too bad that this brilliant story wasn’t animated by the guys who did “Call of the Primitives” or “Ultimate Doom”.
But let’s get to the story itself. Five Faces of Darkness sets up the new status quo after the disastrous events of the movie. The Autobots have retaken Cybertron, now once again a populated planet (though still sparsely due to the limits of the animation budget), and you get the sense of a larger-scale galaxy with humans, Transformers, and aliens competing in an Olympics type event. At the same time the Decepticons are in shambles, having retreated to a backwater planet called Char. Autobots Wheelie and Blurr are on a secret mission carrying Metroplex’ new transforming cog to Earth. And then there are the mysterious new villains, who are observing this new world and make their own plans.
Cue the start of several parallel story threads: even as Cyclonus and the Sweeps search for the missing Galvatron, the Olympics are attacked by the new villains, who capture Ultra Magnus, Kup, and Spike (whose annoying son Daniel is, thankfully, barely in these episodes). Springer and Arcee pursue the kidnappers, while Rodimus Prime and Grimlock check on the Decepticons, thinking them responsible for the kidnapping. As it turns out, though, it’s actually the Quintessons (who first appeared in the movie, but only as a side show), mysterious aliens who seem to have a connection to the Transformers. It was all a trap to lure Rodimus Prime, wielder of the Autobot Matrix, into a trap. When Rodimus and company narrowly escape, the Quintessons switch over to plan B: recruiting the desperate Decepticons.
Speaking of the Matrix, we finally learn a bit more about it. Not only can it destroy planet-sized Transformers and turn medium-sized Autobots into Leader-sized ones, it also holds memories. Rodimus briefly experiences this as he recovers from damages, but can’t make sense of them yet. In the meantime Cyclonus and the Sweeps have made a brief stop at Unicron (who is established to still be alive despite only his head being left) and found Galvatron, who is more powerful and crazier than ever. They run into Wheelie and Blurr, stranding them on Jupiter’s moon Io, before heading home to find Char abandoned. Everyone converges on the planet Goo and we have a big skirmish that ends up with Galvatron accidentally saving Rodimus and company (who are rescued by Wreck-Gar) and ending up in an alliance with the Quintessons.
Needing to learn more about the Quintessons, Rodimus Prime accesses the memories stored in the Matrix of Leadership and we get nearly half an episode of establishing the history of the Transformers. It was the Quintessons who created them, as Cybertron used to be a robotics factory. The robots eventually developed awareness and emotions, kicking out their creators and establishing their own civilization. Tensions between the military models and consumer goods turned violent, though, and the Cybertronian wars between Autobots and Decepticons began. The final scenes are narrated by none other than Optimus Prime, who advises his young successor to prepare, as the Quintessons seek to reclaim the world that was originally theirs.
Enter the final battle as the Quintesson-Decepticon alliance stages simultaneous attacks on Earth and Cybertron. The giant city-Transformer Trypticon is awakened and destroys the old Autobot headquarters, then heads off to smash Autobot City. At the same time scores of Decepticons invade Cybertron. Meanwhile human space pilot Marissa Fairborn is off to Io to rescue Wheelie and Blurr with some help from newcomer Sky Lynx, who gleefully smashes past the new Decepticon combiner Predaking. Tensions mount. Can Sky Lynx bring the transformation cog to Metroplex before Trypticon arrives? And what are the Quintessons’ true plans, as their promise to Galvatron, a Decepticon Matrix, doesn’t exist?
In the end, it comes down to a Decepticon: Blitzwing. Suspicious of the Quintessons’ motives from the start, he overhears them talking about their deceit. When Galvatron doesn’t believe him, Blitzwing instead goes to the Autobots. And even as the battle on Earth is won with an activated Metroplex defeating Trypticon, Blitzwing and Rodimus Prime manage to stop the Quintessons from activating a failsafe deep in the bowels of Cybertron. Sadly a crazed Galvatron interferes and the failsafe is activated nevertheless, freezing all Transformers in place.
Triumphant, the Quintessons arrive on Cybertron to reclaim their new home. But they forgot one tiny detail: Spike Witwicky, unaffected by the failsafe, who manages to destroy it and reactivate the Transformers. Hostilities between Autobots and Decepticons are briefly forgotten in the face of a common enemy, but the Quintessons manage to escape. And as hostilities seem about to resume, it’s Blitzwing again who ends the battle, forcing Galvatron to call off the attacks and retreat.
The epic story ends much as the movie did with a speech by Rodimus Prime, though a more somber one this time. It is an uneasy victory they have won. The Autobots now know that the Decepticons are not their only foes. Because the Transformers have looked into the face of their creators and seen the face of an enemy.
Of course Five Faces of Darkness is far from a perfect story. Many new characters (read: new toys) appear out of nowhere as if they’d always been there. Some plot threads are left dangling, such as why Blitzwing seems to remember the Quintessons from before (the reason for his suspicions about them), where the Matrix actually came from, or why the Quintessons waited so long before attempting to regain their planet. But overall Five Faces of Darkness is, to me, a great success. We are shown a much bigger universe as the story unfolds across multiple worlds and learn about the history of the Transformers. Rodimus Prime and Galvatron are established as the new leaders of their respective factions. We get a great new enemy in the Quintessons.
Side note: the Quintessons’ being the Transformers’ creators has largely been sidelined in favor of the more popular creation story from Simon Furman featuring cosmic entities Primus and Unicron. Personally, though, I always preferred the Quintesson version, simply because it has a more realistic feeling to it and doesn’t blur the lines between magic and technology. It’s a matter of taste, of course.
In closing I must say that I enjoy the Five Faces of Darkness “movie” far more, at least in terms of the story, than the actual animated movie. It might be because I saw it first, several years before I actually got to see the movie, and really came to like the characters of Rodimus Prime, Kup, Cyclonus, Marissa Fairborn, Sky Lynx and others. The animation is terrible, yes, but I still enjoy those five episodes to this day. For me, it’s the definite Transformers movie.
To this very day I consider Cheetor from Beast Wars the best-developed character in the history of the entire franchise. Across three seasons of Beast Wars and two seasons of Beast Machines we saw him go from wide-eyed youngster to seasoned veteran and leader in a natural and believable process. Let’s take a look at his various developmental stages:
When we first meet Cheetor, he’s the wide-eyed kid caught up in a big adventure. He loves exploring the new planet, he revels in the speed of his new beast mode, and the danger of facing the Predacons isn’t quite real to him yet. It’s all still fun and games. Even when he gets captured and almost eaten by Tarantulas, he is only scared very briefly before being rescued by Rattrap, whom he considers a great friend despite the fact that Rattrap is pretty much annoyed with him 24-7. Cheetor is clearly the kid-relatable character here, maybe not quite as obnoxious as your average human-friend-of-the-Autobots, but still clearly a kid.
After spending the first few episodes of Beast Wars basically having to be rescued every other week, mostly from trouble spots he got himself into, Cheetor’s first opportunity to shine came with the great episode “The Spark”. Deep in enemy territory, Cheetor and Rhinox must save the protoform inside a damaged stasis pod even as the enemy is quickly closing in. Cheetor not just donates parts – including the vitally important locking chip that allows Transformers to go into a life-preserving stasis – but then heads off to buy Rhinox the time he needs to repair the stasis pod. Cheetor takes on Waspinator, Blackarachnia, and Terrorsaur by himself and manages to take out two of them before being taken down himself by Terrorsaur (from behind). And more importantly, he bought his friend enough time so he could finish the job and bring Airazor online.
Not only does this episode portray Cheetor as a capable warrior, it also shows him use tactical thinking (he leads the Predacons on a merry chase) and displays his willingness to give everything for his team (donating parts to a dying comrade despite the danger it puts himself in). This is where the little cat really started to grow up.
With his new Transmetal body (as in: new toy) and the ability to fly, Cheetor literally begins to spread his wings. He becomes a better warrior, he takes on more responsibility, and he begins to display signs of maturity, such as knowing when he’s outmatched and calling for help rather than just wading in. Toy-wise this was my favorite version of Cheetor
In the double episode “Feral Scream” that was mostly an overly long toy advertisement disguised as a puberty tale disguised as a horror story, Cheetor starts getting pimples. Said pimples being the result of being exposed to Megatron’s experimental Transmetal II driver and slowly becoming a Transmetal II robot (aka a new toy) himself. While the double episode itself is rather boring and predictable, it starts another phase in Cheetor’s development. He has become bigger and more powerful, while at the same time becoming somewhat moody and aggressive. He also starts looking at girls. Well, one girl, seeing as there is just one girl in the cast at this time, Blackarachnia. This also gets him into stand-offs with Blackarachnia’s boy toy Silverbolt, to the point where you really just want to shout at the two to just whip it out and measure whose is bigger. Yep, the little cat is a teenager now.
Over the length of the Beast Wars Cheetor changed a lot, but one thing remained the same: his utter confidence and faith in his team leader Optimus Primal. It was only after returning to Cybertron and finding it overrun by Megatron’s Vehicons that Cheetor’s faith began to waver. Optimus, it seemed to him, was too caught up with the spiritual and philosophical ramifications of their techno-organic nature instead of dealing with the important things, namely taking out Megatron. It’s part of the growing-up process to realize that one’s parents are not perfect and all-knowing and Cheetor has reached this important point in Beast Machines.
Near the end of Beast Machines, Cheetor has finished growing up. This shows both in his willingness to take over command of the team when he feels Optimus is in the wrong, as well as admitting his own faults and deferring to Optimus when he realizes that the other is right. While Cheetor was not directly involved in the final battle for the fate of Cybertron, he did play an instrumental part in taking out Megatron’s last remaining Vehicon generals and he did so by using guile and experience instead of just rushing in as he would have done at the beginning of Beast Wars. Yes, the little cat is all grown up now. And it was great watching him do it.
Sadly we are still waiting for another character to grow through a similar journey.
Every once in a while you wonder what might have been. What great story-telling or character-development opportunities briefly teased at your imagination, but then failed to materialize. Today we are looking at one such opportunity.
Punch was an Autobot undercover agent infiltrating the Decepticon ranks under the name “Counterpunch”. He briefly appeared in the 1987 cartoon episode “The Rebirth, Part 1” were he did little but advertise his then-current toy. He played a slightly bigger role in the Japanese Headmasters cartoon, where he regularly reported on the activities of the Destrons and Scorponok to Cybertron leader Fortress Maximus. But apart from being a spy with a second robot mode we still learned very little about Punch / Counterpunch.
Finally the More than Meets the Eye profile series by Dreamwave hinted at a much more interesting version of Punch. It described him as being a cool and competent guy on the surface, but a nervous wreck on the inside, always in terror that his cover could be blown. It also described him as being so paranoid that he developed an entire full-blown personality for his “Counterpunch” cover, to the point where his behavior changed completely the moment he assumed his other robot mode. Finally, it hinted at a deep-seated psychological problem where the Counterpunch persona slowly begins to develop a life of its own, a way for Punch to indulge his darker urges while keeping himself utterly separate from them.
Sadly neither Dreamwave nor the current IDW comics ever picked up on that. Imagine a story set in the current IDW comics universe, where the war is pretty much over, and amidst a horde of other characters already struggling what to do now you have Punch, basically James Bond with multiple personality disorder, looking to rid himself of the now-unnecessary Counterpunch persona. Counterpunch doesn’t want to go, though, setting the stage for a full-on Fight-Club-esque sequence of events where the two personalities strive for dominance. I don’t know about you, but I would certainly buy a Spotlight issue or mini-series featuring that.
To this day, though, Punch / Counterpunch remains one of the most underutilized Transformers characters of them all.
The first season of the new Robots in Disguise series is history, so it’s time to take a look back. Despite being a sort-of sequel to Transformers: Prime, this new series differs a lot from it, both in tone and target audience. Where Prime was dark, broody and full of doom and gloom, RID goes the opposite route, being a brighter, funnier, more upbeat series for a younger audience. As a result many people who liked Prime can’t stand the silliness of RID, while many other people – like myself – who think Prime was trying way too hard to be awesome and badass, consider RID a breath of fresh air.
The following is full of spoilers for RID season 1, so continue reading at your own peril if you haven’t seen it yet. Also, I’m not going to give a play-by-play of the episodes, just looking at the overarching plot and characters.
Like most of the recent Transformers series RID starts of with the traditional five man band as the main good guy cast. You have Bumblebee, the leader, thrust into a position of command he is not really sure he is ready for when the spirit of Optimus Prime warns him of a grave threat on Earth. Then there is Grimlock, the big guy, a former prisoner looking for probation. Fixit fulfills the part of the funny little smart guy, providing technical support and knowledge of the bad guys. And then you have Strongarm and Sideswipe, basically two siblings who are running their adult guardian (Bumblebee) ragged with their constant arguments.
As the season progresses we see this more or less accidental team come together. Bumblebee finds he doesn’t need to do everything like Optimus Prime did, he can lead in his own style. Strongarm, the walking rule book, learns that sometimes it’s okay to bend or break the rules. Sideswipe, the rebellious teenager stereotype, begins to respect the others. Grimlock, a Dinobot who loves smashing things, becomes a valuable member of the team as well. And Fixit, the damaged little Minicon, finds a trusted friend in human sidekick Denny and enjoys being part of a team instead of being stuck alone guarding a prison ship.
Additional characters appearing are Drift (a somewhat humorous take on the stereotype of the Japanese Samurai master) and his two Minicons Jetstorm and Slipstream, Transformers mainstay Jazz (who is Jazz as always) and newcomer Windblade, who is on a mission from Primus himself. Drift and Windblade end up jointing Team Bumblebee in time for the big finale.
The season begins with the crash of the prison ship Alchemor and over a hundred of Decepticon prisoners being released on planet Earth, most of them animal-themed for no in-story reason. While many episodes feature the standard hunt for the con-of-the-week, a core cast of bad guys slowly begins to coalesce around leader Steeljaw (which is actually the first time a Western Transformers series had a main bad guy not called Megatron or Galvatron).
Personally I very much enjoy the smooth-talking Steeljaw, especially when he looses his cool and gets really pissed. Of course late in the season we learn that there is a (supposed) bigger threat behind the crash of the Alchemore, the powerful Megatronus (aka The Fallen, though this name is never mentioned in the series). This is the threat Optimus Prime has foreseen and is training to go against. In the season finale, though, Megatronus is quickly overcome by Team Bumblebee and Optimus Prime, while Steeljaw, the supposed minor threat, escapes to scheme again. It’s a nice swerve, I think, that the ominous, supposedly all-powerful super threat everyone spouts omens of doom about is dealt with so quickly, while the side effect (Steeljaw being freed from the prison ship) will apparently turn out to be a bigger threat in the long run.
No Transformers series without human sidekicks, of course (at least not since Beast Machines). In this case we have scrap yard owner Denny (who considers his scrap yard a “vintage salvage depot for the discriminating nostalgist” a la American Pickers) and his son Russel, who is staying with his dad over the holidays. True to form they encounter the Autobots early on and offer them a place to set up shop. Over the course of the series Denny forms a close friendship with Fixit, to the point where he is the only one Fixit trusts to perform repairs on him, while Russel…, well he’s the kid sidekick of the Autobots. There is (almost) always one, I guess. Personally I like Denny and am kind of neutral on Russel so far.
Other human characters have appeared only very sporadically so far, including generic citizens of Crown City (the only city on planet Earth, apparently) and a couple of kids Russel plays Football with now and then. A good thing, mind you, as the focus of the series is fully on the Transformers and their two human friends instead of too many human characters pushing the Transformers into the background (I’m looking at you, live-action movies).
While a lot of the episodes, as mentioned above, center on hunting down the escaped con of the week, there is also a message of some kind involved in most of these. Remember, this is a series for kids. So while hunting down the Decepticons, the Autobots learn about things like team work, dealing with your worst fears, the values of growing up, or other valuable life lessons. For the most part it’s about helping Team Bumblebee come together properly (and teaching the viewing kids a lesson or two as well, of course).
The overarching plot, the threat of Megatronus, barely matters until the very end of the season, whose main purpose it is to establish the characters and their teamwork. This is somewhat similar to how Transformers: Prime brought out Unicron for the season one finale and basically destroyed him right away, then continuing with less cosmic, more down-to-Earth threats. I like it, considering that the Megatronus threat really didn’t fit well with the tone of the series, thus ending him quickly and having it turn out that the whole big threat thing was basically just the prelude for the far messier, long-term mission of recapturing over one hundred Decepticon criminals on Earth.
The potentially most interesting group dynamic is hinted at in the finale, with the big threat defeated and a resurrected Optimus Prime joining Bumblebee’s team, not as a leader, but rather as an equal. Seeing how Bumblebee will handle being leader in the presence of his mentor could turn out quite interesting for season 2. Also, I hope we’ll see a more laid-back, less serious Optimus Prime now that he is no longer Autobot leader and thus contractually obligated to be all gloomy and angsty.
As for the rest, we will probably see the return of Steeljaw, putting together a new Decepticon army to give more trouble to the assembled Autobots. Also, it has been hinted by the creators that some of the Transformers: Prime cast will return in season 2. Personally I hope to see Arcee again, my number one favorite character from Prime. Also worth a mention: a lot of the RID toys announced for 2016 have an arctic redeco, so maybe a prolonged polar mission will be part of season 2 as well. We’ll see.
I know I am probably in a minority here, but I have enjoyed Robots in Disguise far more than I did Transformers: Prime. RID is definitely targeted at a younger audience than its predecessor and places far more emphasis on fun and characters than big epicness, G1 callbacks, and formulaic wow moments. It’s not for everyone, certainly not for those who want their Transformers to be all about how bad ass everyone is. But for kids and adult fans who have retained their inner kid, RID is a lot of fun to watch. I personally am looking forward to season 2.
Beast Wars was, in my opinion, the best Transformers series when it comes to the quality of the plot and characterization. And here are my very own top 10 moments from the three seasons of the series:
(Season 1, Possession) A terrible Energon storm surges over the Beast Wars planet. Lightning flashes, thunder rumbles, and suddenly Waspinator is struck down and taken over by a foreign presence. In the glare of the lightning bolts a ghostly image is superimposed over him: it’s Starscream. The disembodied spark of the Decepticon has been thrown through time and space and has finally found a new body. The rest of the episode is only so-so, but that moment when Starscream appears sends goosebumps down the backs of every G1 fan.
(Season 2, The Agenda Part 2) For quite some time the Maximal flying wolf and the Predacon spider have danced around each other. When the Maximals conquer the headquarters of the Predacons, it is Silverbolt that allows Blackarachnia to get away. Being put under house arrest, he escapes and tracks her down. But instead of fighting something entirely different happens between them.
Silverbolt: “I know what you’re thinking. You don’t know whether to kiss me or kill me.”
Blackarachnia: “I’m a black widow spider, you moron. I can do both!”
And then they do it. The kissing, at least.
(Season 1, A Better Mousetrap) A malfunction of the Maximals’ security system Sentinel causes the heroes to be locked out of their own ship. Only Rattrap remains inside and has to work his furry little butt off, trying to deactivate the computer while evading dozens of traps. He is almost at the off button when a final trap activates. Outside the ship the Maximals only hear an ominous boom and the security system shuts down, making them believe that their comrade has perished. They mourn their lost friend and the screen slowly turns black…
… only to light up again as Rattrap exits the ship, crying fake tears as he admires the metaphorical flowers on his grave.
(Season 3, Nemesis Part I) Megatron has found the Nemesis, the giant warship of his Decepticon ancestor. Depth Charge wants to destroy it before it can launch, but is caught in a battle against his archenemy Rampage, which carries them into a Energon field. A huge explosion kills both combatants and seems to destroy the ship as well. Optimus Primal mourns his fallen comrade, but is relieved as well. But then a huge shadow appears beneath the waves, the water breaks, and a mountain rises from below. It’s the Nemesis, undamaged and ready for combat. Majestically the ship rises into the air and the final battle of the Beast Wars begins.
(Season 1, The Spark) Rhinox, the Maximals’ engineer, is on a solo reconnaisance mission when he sees a stasis pod come down in enemy territory. It crashes in a field of unstable Energon and the Maximal inside is in mortal danger. With help from Cheetor Rhinox does everything in his power to save the unknown comrade, including risking his own life. And when everything seems lost the stasis pod finally activates, scanning the form of an eagle. The new Maximal Airazor comes online, just in time to return the favor and save Rhinox from an attack by Terrorsaur. Rhinox’ iron-clad principles and readiness to do whatever it takes was never put on display any better than in this episode.
(Season 1, Other Voices) The Beast Wars planet stands on the edge of extinction. The second moon is a weapon of ultimate sanction. There is only one hope left, a stasis pod refurbishes as a space craft by Tarantulas. Optimus Primal steers it towards the moon weapon, intending to detonate the pod’s transwarp drive to destroy it. Primal intends to safely eject beforehand, but finds that he is sealed in. Megatron has rigged the pod, the hatch is sealed. Primal is helplessly locked in as Megatron cackles in triumph. The pod explodes, the weapon is destroyed, and Optimus Primal is dead (well, briefly).
(Season 3, Nemesis, Part 2) More than any other Predacon – or Maximal for that matter – Waspinator has been the Beast Wars’ whipping boy. He has been blown apart over and over again, nobody respects him, no one cares about what he wants. And as the series finale approaches Waspinator has had enough and tells Inferno and Quickstrike exactly what’s on his mind.
“Waspinator is sick of being evil! Sick of being Predacon! And Waspinator is more than sick of being blown to scrap all the time! So Commander suck-up and Two-Leg can pucker their mandibles and plant big, wet, dooky one on Waspinator’s big, fat, stripey…” and then they blow him to pieces. But Waspinator has the last laugh, because once the Beast Wars are over and all the other Predacons are either dead or captured, he remains behind, being worshipped as a god by the primitive humans. He is finally happy (well, for a time anyway)
(Season 2, Transmutate) Rampage aka Protoform X is a failed experiment, a clone of Starscream’s immortal spark. Rampage is a killer, who only feels joy when he can cause others pain. But in the crippled, mentally handicapped Transmutate he finds a kindred spirit. He considers Transmutate a friend and tries to save him from the other Predacons. This brings him into conflict with Silverbolt, who also intends to save Transmutate, and the crippled Transformer is caught in the crossfire. As Rampage mourns, the other Maximals see a chance to taken down the powerful monster, but Silverbolt, who also mourns, stops them.
“Tomorrow we shall fight again. But today… today we are brothers.”
(Season 2, Code of Hero) Dinobot was never quite sure where he belonged. He is a Predacon, but he has honor. He defects to the Maximals, but doesn’t really fit in with them. He knows of the Golden Disk, which holds a record of the future, and he ponders whether or not he is but a puppet of fate, his choices predetermined. As Megatron tries to change the future by annihilating humanity’s primitive ancestors, though, he finally comes to a decision.
“My question has been answered. The future is not fixed. My choices are my own. How ironic, for now I find, I have no choice at all. I’m a warrior! Let the battle be joined!”
In order to save the future Dinobot takes on six Predacons all by his lonesome. He beats them all, but is mortally wounded. As the other Maximals find him, the beaten Megatron flees and Dinbot is content. His honor has finally been restored.
“And the rest… is silence!”
(Season 2, The Agenda, Part 2) Megatron stands with his back to the wall. His plans have failed, his troops are beaten, his capture just a matter of time. But the Predacon leader always has an ace left in the hole. He has found the Ark, the crashed ship of the Generation 1 Autobots. The Maximals try to stop him, but Megatron is first to reach the inside of the downed ship. And after a Shakespear-like monologue, which always manages to give me goosebumps, he confronts the stasis-locked Optimus Prime and shoots him in the head. History is changed. A terrible time storm is loosened, encompassing all the universe, and Megatron laughs, triumphant.
“History has changed! The Autobots lose! Evil triumphs! And you… YOU! NO! LONGER! EXIST!”
And scene, season two is over. Possibly the best cliffhanger ever in the history of Transformers on TV.
Transformers Prime, the main Transformers cartoon series that ran three seasons from 2011 through 2013, was a bit of a mixed blessing. On one hand it looked gorgeous, if a bit dark, and had possibly the best CGI animation I’ve ever seen in a Transformers series. The battles were cool, the directing was superb, and the character animation looked brilliant.
Sadly the same could not be said for the plot. Transformers Prime was mostly a cover band, rehashing old songs. Sure, many of those songs were great and still are, but you can’t quite shake that feeling that you’ve heard all that before.
The few times Transformers Prime appeared to break new ground or actually try to steer established characters in a new direction, they immediately back-pedaled and either killed things off or took it right back to status quo. Add in the fact that more than two thirds of the episodes basically featured scavenger hunts of some kind with Autobots and Decepticons searching for the latest McGuffin (Iacon artefacts, magical Cybertronian super weapons, Predacon bones, etc.) and you had a series that stayed far below where it could have been in terms of stories.
Here are a few examples of where I felt Prime might go in a really exciting direction, only to back-pedal immediately, and how I might have plotted it:
Season 2 Pilot: Amnesiac Optimus Prime becomes a Decepticon… for a minute anyway
Using the Matrix to destroy Unicron in the season 1 finale causes Optimus Prime to lose most of his memory and he reverts to Orion Pax, who still believes that Megatron is his friend and fellow revolutionary. Megatron makes use of this by… making Optimus decode some files for him. And when Optimus regains his memories two episodes later, he loses all recollection of his time among the Decepticons.
How I would have handled it:
This was a truly massive opportunity for character development. We could have seen how young Optimus / Orion Pax saw the world. We could have had tons of interaction between Orion and Megatron with the latter trying to influence the former, but also being reminded of his own beginnings, before whatever noble ideas he once had were lost amidst the corruption of war and power. Of course Optimus would regain his memories sooner or later, but I would have drawn that out at least half a season and featured at least one battle where Decepticon Orion Pax faces off against the Autobots, wondering why they hesitate to shoot him. And I would have left him with those memories and some lingering hope that Megatron, with whom he grew closer again during that time, might yet see the light.
Season 2: Breakdown threatens to become a complex character. Quickly, kill him!
After debuting as a big bruiser with a rivalry with Bulkhead, Breakdown was captured by humans and experimented on… and it was the Autobots who saved him. Breakdown was angry that his fellow Decepticons abandoned him. It was hinted at that he might even switch sides… and then Airachnid kills him off-screen in the episode Crossfire. His remains are found by MECH, who use him as a new body for their injured leader Silas. Which leads to Sylas killing them all, joining the Cons, and being killed himself.
How I would have handled it:
Let’s start by not killing Breakdown. Instead Airachnid could have left him behind, greatly injured, and MECH captures him again. When Megatron again refuses to invest effort into rescuing him, this leads to Knockout storming off in a huff and going to the Autobots, whom he knows helped Breakdown before. Together they find MECH headquarters and liberate Breakdown. Faced with the choice of what to do now, Knockout wants to break out on his own, but Breakdown, feeling indebted, instead asks to join the Autobots. This leads to some interesting character scenes between former enemies Bulkhead and Breakdown, as well as more conflict down the road when Breakdown faces his former allies in battle.
Season 3 Pilot: Optimus Prime dies… almost
After the events of the season 2 finale Optimus Prime lies beneath the ruins of the Autobots’ base, near death. He is found by Smokescreen, who tries to repair him. Optimus sees a vision of Alpha Trion, who tells him to let go and pass the Matrix to Smokescreen. Smoke will have none of it, though, and uses the Forge of Solus Prime to repair Optimus, upgrading him into a new, more powerful form in the process.
How I would have handled it:
Optimus Prime dies and returns in pretty much every series and comic, that’s nothing new. The one time he stayed dead and was replaced by Rodimus Prime is widely regarded as a low point in Transformers history (though I personally like Rodimus a lot better than Optimus). So how about a bit of a swerve here? The episode progresses exactly as we’ve seen it with bigger, badder Optimus returning from the dead and kicking Decepticon skidplate. Optimus reveals to the others that Smokescreen sacrificed his own life to save him.
But later on, in the privacy of his quarters, Optimus slides down his mouthplate… and he is Smokescreen. Smoke isn’t exactly sure what happened, but somehow him using the Forge of Solus Prime replaced Optimus’ dying spark with his own. He has all of Optimus’ memories and his body, but his mind and spark are those of Smokescreen. How will he handle being Optimus now? How will the other Autobots react once they find out?
Season 3 Finale: Ratchet switches sides… nah, not really!
Ratchet was consistently portrayed in Prime as a cranky old bot with little time for Earth and a deep desire to return to Cybertron one day. When the Decepticons need his aid to complete the Omega Lock, which can revitalize Cybertron, they capture him and try to convince him to switch sides. After initially refusing, Ratchet finally agrees to working with Shockwave for the good of Cybertron. Of course the cliffhanger of the episode was somewhat ruined, seeing as the preview for the next episode already showed Ratchet fleeing from the Cons and being rescued by the other Autobots.
How I would have handled it:
Ratchet switches sides and sticks to it. He wants to heal Cybertron, no matter what. He holds a deep anger with Optimus Prime for destroying the Omega Lock the first time around (season 2 finale). While he would never call himself a Decepticon, he does think they have their priorities in order. In the finale, with Megatron about to kill Optimus, Ratchet will only help his former leader after an ironclad promise that, no matter what, they will use the Decepticons’ tech to restore Cybertron. This leads to lasting tension between Ratchet and the other Autobots and no such nonsense as Ratchet remaining behind on Earth of his own free will.
These are just some of the ideas I had for Prime, which could have been one of the greatest Transformers series ever. Instead, though, it was just mediocre.