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Old 2010-11-30, 11:37 AM   #1
Blackjack
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Default Cartoon Episode Reviews: Beast Machines [completed]

The Reformatting
Airdate: 18 September 1999
Written By: Marty Isenberg & Bob Skir
Japanese Title: Resurrection of the Legend

Synopsis: On the surface of Cybertron, Optimus Primal leaps pass a tiny bizarre flower. An army of tank drones pursue him, crushing the flower. Optimus Primal has somehow lost his Transmetal properties and is back in his original gorilla body. After evading his attackers, he tries to Transform but is unable to do so, and is beset by electrical shocks. Suddenly his eyes glow and he sees a vision of a spark moving. He follows the vision to a monorail and finds Rattrap, also having the same problems as Primal and without any memory of anything after Beast Wars. The tank drones pursue them relentlessly, and the two keep trying to transform without success. Primal follows the strange visions, and soon meet up with Cheetor and then Blackarachnia. They decide that the best course of action is to hide deeper underground. With Blackarachnia's webs, they pass layers and layers of cities as they descend into the bowels of Cybertron. Finally, they fall and find themselves in complete darkness, which soon burst into flames. However, this is apparently a hologram, and they reveal the ancient supercomputer called the Oracle. The Oracle takes Optimus Primal into the bowels of the Matrix, the afterlife of the Transformers.

The Oracle shows Optimus Primal several cryptic vision of an Earth-like planet transformed into a purely mechanical world. The Oracle says 'the seeds of the future lie buried in the past', and tells Optimus Primal to be reformatted. The Oracle converts Optimus Primal into a new body, a perfect blend of mechanical and organic. The other three Maximals likewise gets themselves reformatted after seeing Optimus Primal.

Suddenly the Oracle winks out, and the Maximals are attacked by a squad of Vehicons, this time motorcycles. The Maximals prepare to transform, but nothing happens. Optimus theorizes that they must relearn the art to transform, like the way their ancestors did. The Maximals spread out through the tunnels, and began to defeat the Cycle Drones with their individual beast mode's powers. During their battle, however, Optimus Primal falls into a pit. The Oracle tells Primal to 'tame the beast without to release the warrior within'.

Optimus Primal finds his inner balance and manages to transform. A blue light spreads throughout his body and converts him into robot mode. He flies up with the jets on his back, and tears the Cycle Drones apart. He tries to interrogate one of the drones, but when he loses his temper he reverts back into beast mode. Optimus Primal then tells the Maximals that they must relearn the art of transformation and their new bodies.

Meanwhile, a shadowed figure watches the battle from the citadel and vows to destroy the impure organics. It is Megatron, new ruler of Cybertron.

Featured Transformers: Optimus Primal, Tank Drones (several destroyed), Rattrap, Cheetor, Blackarachnia, the Oracle, Cycle Drones (several destroyed), Megatron

Review:
I've watched Beast Machines from the beginning to end right after Beast Wars, and I was shocked to see that there are so much bad blood in the fandom towards this series. Until very recently, it has been parred by some as the 'thing that would destroy Transformers forever'. Not true. Get all misconceptions about hippie munkys out of your head. Beast Machines is a great series, with an overreaching plot, great CGI (although not as great as Beast Wars), well-rounded characters, a great set-up and a healthy dose of mystery and intrigue. The debut episode, for one, tries to be as spectacular as possible, not revealing everything about the situation. The fact that the Maximals are stranded on a planet filled with brainless enemies, with no clue what happened is well-done. The Maximals' frustration at not being able to transform and fight back is fantastic; it is refreshing to see transformation being part of the plot, and that the Maximals need to work to be able to transform.

The Vehicon drones are cool as well, giving the Maximals a chance to excute violent attacks on them. Plus, they give a sense of being outnumbered. Also, designed with inhuman, mechanical bodies, the Vehicons give us a break from the constant bestial aesthetics. Personally, I don't really like the designs for the BM Maximals compared to those from Beast Wars — the multiple-coloured veins on their bodies, in particular, is irritating, so are the funky eyes in robot mode. I also find it hard to like the bright-light transformation thing. However, these are minor issues and you could get used to it easily.

Overall, this is a great set up to Beast Machines. The Oracle is nicely cryptic, making it an almost religious guide. It gives a feel of gorilla- sorry, guerrilla- warfare, which is executed well. The tone is noticeably darker than the more light-hearted tone of early Beast Wars. There are multiple elements that caught my attention immediately — the Vehicons, the layers deep in Cybertron, Megatron being the new ruler, the Maximal's semi-organic bodies — that made me want to continue to the next episode. Beast Machines, or at least this episode at least, is a worthy successor for Beast Wars.

(Nine out of ten)

Notes:
The first appearance of the Vehicons, the Oracle and the Techno-organic bodies of the Maximals.

The Oracle is a massive supercomputer deep within Cybertron. Later, it would be stated that the Oracle is the same with Vector Sigma from G1. Later sources that try to merge everything into one big continuity would state that both Vector Sigma and the Oracle are part of the light god Primus' consciousness, albeit altered/diluted, depending on the source.

Cybertron has layers upon layers underneath its surface, with rocks and soil in the deeper layers. This soily Cybertron is briefly seen in the G1 cartoon episode 'Desertion of the Dinobots'.

The whole thing about Transformers having to learn to transform is most likely inspired by the backstory in G1, during 'Five Faces of Darkness', where it is revealed that the Transformers were not initially able to transform, and that it was the Autobots who developed the ability to combat the Decepticons. If memory serves right, the comic book also made mentions to the first Transformers not being able to transform.

This episode is the first usage of the term
'reformat', which soon became popular among the fandom to describe Transformers changing bodies.

Rattrap's line, 'Ground control to major Optimus', is a reference to the David Bowie song 'Space Oddity'.

During Optimus Primal's vision, a bunch of black monoliths are briefly seen, a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Goofs:
While the Maximals use their original (first season) beast modes from Beast Wars, there are some errors:
-Cheetor's eyes are black instead of green, and he has two black streaks running down his face.
-Rattrap's feet are dark orange instead of pink.
-Blackarachnia's skin is a lighter tone of blue-black.

Optimus Primal couldn't have regressed to his first body, since it was destroyed at the end of season one. The body he had at the end of Beast Wars started out immediately as a Transmetal. It's best not to think about it.
 

Last edited by Blackjack; 2011-01-23 at 09:04 AM.
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