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Old 2011-03-12, 11:42 AM   #25
Blackjack
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Spark of Darkness
Airdate: 12 April 2000
Writen By: Nick Dubois
Japanese Title: The Terrifying Red Ball

SYNOPSIS
The Maximals celebrate Megatron's defeat inside the Grand Mal, while Nightscream mourns Noble's death. Optimus Primal assures a doubting Silverbolt that Megatron is truly dead, from their connection to the Oracle. Cheetor and Nightscream head out to recruit the Vehicon Generals, Silverbolt and Blackarachnia go to find the deactivated Transformer bodies, Optimus Primal stays in the Grand Mal while Botanica and a very disgruntled Rattrap are assigned to tend to the techno-organic orchard. Rattrap constantly gives Botanica grief that he is stuck with the least important job of all. The two argue until they inadvertently kiss each other. Embarrassed, they quickly agree to forget all about the kiss. At the shell yard, Blackarachnia tries to rekindle her romance with Silverbolt, but he is still worried that Megatron is not really dead. Blackarachnia berates Silverbolt for his obsession, but is cut short when a large lumbering corpse loom behind them. The two of them retaliate. Blackarachnia uses a power core from a nearby corpse to blow up the walking corpse. The corpse stumbles out, and a red Spark shoots away as it crumbles.

In the orchard, Rattrap tries to use parts from a Cycle Drone to see if it could be reused, but suddenly the deactivated Cycle Drone comes to life and attacks the Maximals. Botanica transforms and buries the Drone in wreckage. The red Spark shoots away from it. In the fountain chamber, Cheetor and Nightscream meet up with Obsidian and Strika and invites them over. The two debate, but Thrust arrives and tells them that he believes Megatron will soon return. Calling the other two Vehicon traitors, Thrust leaves. But a reanimated Jet Drone attacks them. The Vehicons and Nightscream manage to damage it, and as it collapses it pulls Cheetor down with it. Nightscream rescues Cheetor and the four see the red Spark flying out of it. All the Maximals sans Botanica and the two converted Vehicons rendezvous inside the Grand Mal. Obsidian and Strika are welcomed into the team and goes off to fortify the base. Rattrap detects the Spark heading towards them. The Spark knock out Obsidian and Strika, then Cheetor and Blackarachnia. It takes over a Tank Drone to battle Optimus and Botanica.

Rattrap studies the Spark with the Grand Mal's sensors and deduces a way to neutralise it. He uses a Spark Extractor to pull out the Spark, and 'repolarizes' the errant Spark. However, the Spark breaks free and flies into the Diagnostic Drone, and screams out 'I LIVE!' Rattrap, however, has the last laugh. He knows the Spark is Megatron, and has tricked him into being stuck in the useless body. The Maximals arrive, but Megatron is able to use the Grand Mal's internal defenses to attack the Maximals. The tentacles attack them, and Megatron starts to extract Optimus' spark, but Botanica destroys the control panel Megatron is accessing. Obsidian and Strika arrive, and is forced to choose, and they choose Megatron. They snatch Diagnostic Drone Megatron, and meet up with Thrust. Thrust berates the other two Vehicons for their betrayal, but an unappreciative Megatron calls Thrust useless. Obsidian stands up for Thrust, but Megatron doesn't care much, declaring that the time for action is now.

Featured Transformers: Nightscream, Rattrap, Cheetor, Silverbolt, Blackarachnia, Optimus Primal, Botanica, Noble (flashback), Megatron, Copter Drones, Obsidian, Strika, Ground Assault Drones, Thrust

REVIEW
Thing is, we've seen the exact same thing happen seven episodes before. Megatron is thought to be destroyed? Check. Megatron is placed in a body where he is at a disadvantage? Check. Mysterious thing that turns out to be Megatron attacking everybody? Check. The Maximals try to recruit the Vehicons? Check. Megatron getting a new body at the end of the ordeal? Check. Now substitute Megatron's spark and replace it with Noble, and we get the exact same thing as the 'Savage Noble' and 'Prometheus Unbound' episodes, only substituting Noble with Meggy's Spark... but anyone who has watched the last episode would know that it is Megatron's Spark, so none of us would be wondering alongside the Maximals what the hell is going on. In fact, it's a big idiot ball for the Maximals.

The zombies are neat, though. We've got some nice interactions as well, despite the repetitive plot. Strika and Obsidian defect to the Maximals, because they want only to defend Cybertron and the Maximals rule Cybertron now. Fickle, perhaps, but great character. Particularly like Obsidian's humble standing up for Thrust when Megatron bitches on him. Don't know why they would return to Megatron's service when he's reduced to a Diagnostic Drone, though. Thrust is great as well, being the perfect rebel without a cause, but once again Megatron treats him as the butt-monkey. Poor Thrust. Megatron himself is awesome for the few moments where he gains sentience back. 'I live! I- what kind of puny body is this?' And the irony of him ending up inside a Diagnostic Drone's body is hilarious.

Rattrap and Botanica's hate-hate-kiss relationship is a take it or leave it. While initially they bicker as much as Rattrap did with Dinobot, the kiss comes out of the blue and is kind of rubbish IMO. Must be that 'opposites attract' thing. Silverbolt also comes around to Blackarachnia, and the two are now back to where they were during Beast Wars. Nothing like vengeance to get your mate all romantic, eh? Not. The episode itself is rather solid, nothing wrong with it... except the repetition. Well, Beast Machines is only going to be around for three more episodes anyway. Love it or hate it, this kind of chapter-by-chapter, dark, somewhat-religious, and fast-paced storytelling is one of its kind in Transformers fiction. I love it. I hope you guys do too. But for now, the endgame begins.

(Seven out of Ten)

NOTES
Presumably body-hopping like this is the result of Megatron's unique Spark (which is depolarized) instead of something every Spark can do.

The Diagnostic Drone body's optics light up a la the Grand Mal when Megatron's spark enters it. Said Drone has a lighter silver-ish colour in contrast to the blue of the other Diagnostic Drones.

The shell yard was last seen in the 'Revelations' three-parter.

The corpse that attacks Silverbolt and Blackarachnia is composed of culled parts from Beast Wars characters. The head is partially based on Tigerhawk, the feet from either Rampage or Transmetal Tarantulas, while the torso and right arm are definitely from Transmetal Tarantulas.

Also, Depth Charge's head is seen among the littered corspes during that scene, when Blackarachnia says 'Whoever you are, that was a big mistake.' Likewise, Blackarachnia rips out a power core from a body that uses the CG model for Ratchet.

Lots of movie references in this one. The sequence where Optimus Primal and Botanica are first ambushed is a reference to the Alien movie.

Cheetor and Thrust's exchange, with Cheetor asking what Thrust is rebelling against without Megatron, while Thrust replies 'what've you got?', is a homage to The Wild One. A fitting and in-character one, too.

Rattrap's sarcastic dialogue to Botanica, mimicking a little girl that says 'what did you do in the war, daddy?' 'Oh, I make gardening equipment to help the troops plant petunias!' is a reference to an iconic British World War 1 propaganda poster, in which a young child asks Dad what he did in the war. The specific wording, 'What did you do in the war, Daddy' is the title of a 1966 film.

Both Rattrap and Botanica refer to the orchard as Botanica's 'Field of Dreams', the title of a 1989 movie. Rattrap uses it as a double entrende as well, though.

Strika's line 'you shall not pass' is a reference to Gandalf of the Lord of the Rings. Megatron passes her and Obsidian easily, though.

This episode's title is a play on Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness.

During the Dreamwave days, Bob Skir wrote the short story 'Singularity Ablyss' for the Transformers Anthology that takes part during the events of this episode, detailing Megatron's thoughts while as a disembodied spark, enforcing his will to become a god, to surpass the AllSpark, and the fact that he caused the dead Rhinox to become even deader.

GOOFS
What, none of the Maximals recognize that the red Spark is Megatron?

When Obsidian and Strika are welcomed to the Maximal fold, the normally textured bits of Obsidian (the shoulders, wrists et al) are rendered smooth and flat.
 
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