Hey Trans-fans, the celebration continues with a review of Transformers: Beast Wars. With the original series ending in 1988, the Transformers line was headed in a new direction. Beast Wars: Transformers is a Canadian CG animated television series that debuted in 1996, serving as the flagship of the Transformers: Beast Wars franchise. The series was set in the future of the “original” Transformers universe as a sequel to the first Transformers series. The two main factions of “Transformers” in Beast Wars are descendants of the two main factions in the original cartoon: the Maximals are the descendants of the Autobots and the Predacons are the descendants of the Decepticons. The leader of the Predacon team is Megatron. He and his forces are a splinter group on the hunt for powerful crystals known as Energon to be used in a ploy for power and dominance. They do this with the aid of an artifact known as the Golden Disk and Megatron’s stolen ship, the Darksyde, which is equipped with a transwarp drive. A Maximal exploration ship, the Axalon, led by Optimus Primal, is sent to stop them. Together the ships plunge through a time/space phenomenon created by the transwarp device during their battle in space, and crash-land on a mysterious planet.
The planet is found to be rich in deposits of raw Energon, in such extreme amounts that it proves to be poisonous to both factions’ robot forms, forcing them to take on alternate organic forms for protection until their robot forms are needed. Thus the robots take on the beast forms of recognizable animals including mammals, birds, dinosaurs, arachnids, and insects.
Before crashing, the Axalon deploys its cargo of “stasis pods” containing Maximal protoforms — Transformer robots with vulnerable and undeveloped physical forms, which are left to orbit the planet as an alternative to possible destruction in the initial crash landing. This plays a larger part in the IDW series, The Gathering. Throughout the series, stasis pods lose altitude and crash-land on the planet, and the Maximals and Predacons race and fight to acquire them, as protoforms acquired by Megatron’s forces can be reprogrammed to become Predacons. The stasis pods are used as a plot device to introduce new characters.
The teams are divided between the “good” Maximals and the “evil” Predacons. Dinobot changes sides, starting as a Predacon and becoming a Maximal. Additionally certain “Predacons” like Inferno and Blackarachnia were created from Maximal protoforms, but were fitted with Predacon shell programs, fighting instead for the Predacons. For the Maximals, the emphasis is on team spirit and good-natured arguing, especially from Rattrap, but the Predacons argue and battle for leadership, which impairs their effectiveness against the Maximals.
Beast Wars helped keep the original series popular even after its end in 1988. References to key characters from that series were presented in several episodes. Starscream paid a visit to the Predacons towards the end of the first season when his spark took over the body of Waspinator, putting an updated twist on the classic G1 episode “Ghost in the Machine”. It is explained later in the series why the Decepticon Seeker Leader is seemingly “unkillable”. And the names Inferno and Silverbolt also are used. In the original series, both Silverbolt and Inferno were Autobots—Aerialbot commercial airliner and fire engine, respectively. In Beast Wars, Inferno is a Predacon ant and Silverbolt is a Maximal wolf/eagle hybrid. Other references point to Unicron, who is seen when Optimus Primal is taken by the Vok; Ravage, who has been upgraded to a bounty hunter by the Predacon Council and Megatron, who is referred to by the titular Predacon leader and a golden disk which he left behind. It was cool seeing Ravage drop in on the series. He was just as sleek and awesome as he was in the original series. The highlight for me was not only was he given a voice (in the comics, he is able to speak) but for the climax, Ravage still transformed into a cassette with the original transformation sound effect. What hooked me was the third season of the series when the Autobot exploration ship, the Ark and the Decepticon warship, the Nemesis appeared in the series along with the G1 characters we grew up with. What sets Beast Wars a part from the G1 series is that good didn’t always win and tensions between teammates were on both sides. It was interesting that the Maximals were not a perfect team. Rattrap argued regularly with Predacon turned Maximal Dinobot. Their fights sometimes went further than friendly bickering. Furthermore, the Maximals have lost their fair share of battles to the Predacons, contrast to the Autobots who won every battle against the Decepticons. Another key point is that the Megatron of this series has had plans that worked whereas the original Megatron concocted overelaborate plots that have oftentimes backfired.
It is these references and a well written script that have made Beast Wars: Transformers popular. Though it lasted a full season shorter than the original, it has remained one of the most amazing stories told in the Transformers Universe.