|Percentage of vote:||54.6%|
(45.4% of you were wrong. )
But seriously though, the support that Beast Wars Megatron received was fantastic. Soundwave received a handful more votes, but Megatron absolutely blew him out of the water when it comes to his average list ranking. He averaged out a full two places above Soundwave, which might not sound that impressive on the face of it. But if you took every one of the twenty-eight characters below him on the list and sorted them by average rank the biggest gap you'd find is 0.8. In fact, the only character who separated himself from the pack as effectively as Beast Wars Megatron is...well, is also the character we'll be celebrating tomorrow.
(I won't name names, but by process of elimination you can probably figure out who that is.)
No, it's not you Wildfly. Seriously, stop following me already.
With the numbers basically deadlocked the placements easily could have gone either way, but what broke the tie, for me, was how important they are to the Transformers franchise as a whole. On the surface you'd think that would favour Soundwave, because he's appeared in much more fiction and far more continuities. But you'd be mistaken.
Now, don't get me wrong. I like Soundwave. In fact, scratch that -- I love Soundwave. And if this was a list of the coolest Transformers characters, he would deserve to be number one with a bullet. But Soundwave isn't a person so much as he's an archetype -- static, unchanging, flat. He's near the top of the list for being awesome, and I don't begrudge him that at all: he's a pillar of the franchise and one of its most important building blocks.
"The first Megatron was supposed to exude both fun and menace. This one ACTUALLY DID."
--Patrick Anguirus Stinson
But Beast Wars Megatron wasn't a pillar. He was a wrecking ball. He walked into a franchise that had until then been dominated by stereotypical 80s bad guys with no real motivations or long term plans, a franchise that could have provided an image for the dictionary definition of "stereotypical cartoon villain", and he absolutely demolished our expectations. Suddenly the magnificently stupid 80s Megatron, the raving madman Galvatron and the screechy, treacherous Starscream began to look tired and dated in the face of a villain who posed a legitimate, credible threat to the protagonists but was at the same time highly entertaining, even likeable. He redefined what it meant to be Megatron for all of the Western media that followed. The ripples that Beast Wars Megatron created even caused the original to be reinterpreted in modern comics as a three-dimensional, sympathetic monster, evolving him far beyond the fusion cannon and angry eyebrows that defined the character in the 80s.
So while the transcendent popularity of Beast Wars Megatron was heartening to see, but it wasn't really a surprise. The character has been beloved basically every single person in the fandom bar Raksha since the moment he showed up on screen, and a solid argument could be made that he was actually the biggest reason for that show's success to begin with. But in spite of that, in spite of the show's enduring popularity and in spite of the fact that Hasbro has happily embraced the lead characters as a major part of their character roster over the last few years, my fellow Beast Wars fans tend to be very...defensive about our show. And though the old G1/BW fan rivalries have faded a lot they haven't been forgotten. And because of that, nearly half of the quotes that we got for this character compared him to the original in some way, shape or form. It's almost as if we put more weight on the fact that he is greater than the original the the reasons why he's greater.
"In many respects, I actually prefer the BW Megatron character to his G1 character. This guy knew how to hatch a plan!"
Most of those quotes, like Sciflyer's to the left of this paragraph or Patrick's above, were well thought out, eloquent and respectful. A few others were a tad more...blunt, let's say. And a lot were flat-out dismissive of the G1 character. But while the comparisons are valid and I agree with the sentiment, I can't help but feel that it takes something way from the character when we spend so much time and energy defining him by who he's not. Yes, Beast Wars Megatron is (objectively -- we now have the votes to prove it!) better than his G1 namesake, and yes, he did redefine the villain's role in Transformers fiction...but those are the result of him being awesome, not the cause. And honestly, while this Megatron is a great character to be sure, Generation 1 Megatron has grown into one as well over the years. I think there is room for both of them, and while it's very difficult not to compare the two I think the time has come for fans to define Beast Wars Megatron on his own terms instead of getting into a "my Megatron could beat up your Megatron" pissing contest. They both deserve a spot in our top five, in my opinion, and I do hope that fans can come to embrace both instead of competing over which one is better. So for the rest of this article I'm going to try and avoid those comparisons.
Besides, being a Megatron isn't what makes him so great. What he said, what he did, his personality and mannerisms...that's what makes him so great. You could have called the guy Dinoarm or Scalybad and he would have been just as fantastic. The fact that he set the bar for all the Megatrons that followed? That's just gravy.
The truth is, in spite of being one of the most irredeemably evil characters in the history of the franchise Beast Wars Megatron was so bloody charismatic and entertaining that it was impossible to hate the guy. In a show where the CGI animation was frankly primitive and the characters' movements could sometimes be awkward or unnatural, Megatron's mannerisms and body language were always perfect. Whether he was twiddling his tiny tyrannosaur-mode fingers in evil glee, playing with his rubber ducky, stroking his beast mode head like a pet cat, striking an intimidating pose while facing down the Maximals or skewering one of his own minions with a look of utter contempt, Megatron always demanded your attention. Without even opening his mouth, the character was able to turn the viewers into putty in his tiny dinosaur hands.
"Sooo smooth, the perfect villain voice. Like poison wrapped in smooth dark chocolate."
But when his mouth did open and he had something to say? That's when the magic happened. Because Megatron was voiced by David Kaye, and David Kaye absolutely owned this role. I could go on and on for several pages about how good a job Kaye did, but that's not necessary. All you need to know is this: out of all the myriad brilliant speeches and rants the character had over the course of three seasons, his most recognizable quote is one single word. And when you saw that one word up at the top of this page, in spite of yourselves every single one of you read it in David Kaye's unique hammy-yet-threatening baritone while the image of a smug purple dinosaur flashed through your head. You didn't need to read one of his towering, villainous end-of-season near-victory speeches, his rage-filled acknowledgements of defeat or the smug, dismissive barbs he heaped on his own troops. That one word says everything you need to hear.
Of course, we still need to get into what Megatron actually did! Although he was nominally the leader of the Predacons according to the toyline, in the TV show Megatron was a renegade, in command of a small band of loveable losers who'd seized a Transwarp cruiser and gone on a mission to carry out a terrorist attack across space and time. Although this mission was handwaved in early episodes as a quest for Energon (which he certainly found in spades!), as the series wore on the truth was slowly revealed -- Megatron had led his crew and their Maximal pursuers to prehistoric Earth with an ancient relic in hand, hoping to change the past and rewrite the history of the great war!
Megatron began timidly at first, unsure of the wisdom of his scheme and hoping he could find a better, safer way to achieve his ends. Because of that he spent most of the first season and a half trying to kill the Maximals at the same time as he stockpiled energy and looked for ways to take advantage of the mysterious alien technology scattered around the planet. But when those plans proved to be for naught he moved on to riskier schemes. After first trying (and thanks to Dinobot, failing) to obliterate the human race's forebearers, he had no choice but to enact his master plan.
"Isn't it obvious? He destroyed the entire Maximal race, just by shooting Optimus Prime in the head!"
And enact it he did. But before the plan could come to fruition, Megatron was interrupted by a most unwelcome guest -- the former Decepticon Ravage, sent from the Cybertron of his own time to put a stop to his mad schemes. But something happened then that nobody had predicted -- the Megatron of the Beast Wars was able to use the words of the original Megatron to turn Ravage to his side, and the ancient Transformer was able to hold off the Maximals long enough for Megatron to travel to the site of the crashed Ark, gain entry (by brilliantly and callously coercing Blackarachnia's assistance) and shoot the original Optimus Prime in the head.
The ensuing time storm nearly wiped out everyone, Maximal and Predacon alike, in the process of rewriting several hundred years of history. And you have to hand it to Megatron -- the fact that he was willing to nullify his own existence to ensure his ancestors' victory shows a kind of selfless dedication not usually seen in cartoon villains. If he'd succeeded nobody would have ever known, proving that all his grand talk about the greater good of the Predacon race wasn't mere hyperbole. And that serves to highlight a layer of depth that this conflict has that G1 lacked -- the Decepticons fought for greed or power or glory, but the Predacons? Those were definitely motivators for some of the troops, but the main driving force behind their quest was outrage over being classified as second-class citizens by the Maximal government. The balance between good and evil wasn't as clear-cut in Beast Wars as it was in the 80s fiction and there were plenty of hints strewn throughout the show's backstory that suggest Megatron was right to rebel against the Maximal government. His brutal methods were clearly in the wrong, but it becomes frighteningly easy to sympathize with his cause when you realize that the Maximal government edited the history books to cover up information they found inconvenient, performed horrific science experiments on newborns and treated the conquered Predacons like hostile aliens on their own homeworld.
But even after his master stroke was defeated, Megatron was far from done. He managed to master the aliens' tech enough to create the massively powerful Transmetal IIs, brought his old friend Dinobot back from the grave and nearly destroyed the Ark or its' dormant Autobot passengers at least three more times over the course of the third season until finally gaining control of the Decepticon warship Nemesis in the series finale.
By that point, though, he was clearly unhinged. After merging his spark with that of the original Megatron half-way through the season and then immediately being betrayed by Tarantulas and set upon by the Vok, it's hard to blame him. But his goals had clearly transitioned from "rewrite the future to make the Decepticons win" to "kill everyone and sort it out later". And with that goal in mind he turned the Nemesis on the Ark, perfectly willing to kill not just Optimus Prime but every Autobot and Decepticon on the ship and let the chips fall where they may.
Well, naturally that particular scheme failed, and in grand fashion to boot. It led to the end of the Beast Wars and a Maximal victory, but of course the story didn't end there. Along with the rest of the survivors of the Beast Wars, Megatron transitioned over to Beast Machines as one of the show's lead characters. But while his role as main antagonist was unchanged, Megatron's attitude and behaviour changed quite a lot.
Gone was the affable, almost playful Megatron of old. In his place was a ruthless, hate-filled dictator who gained in effectiveness what he lost in charm -- and considering how effective he'd been the first time around, that's a truly terrifying prospect. Megatron manages to go from being strung up as a prisoner on the hull of Optimus Primal's shuttle, with no weapons, equipment, followers or resources, to the absolute ruler of a conquered Cybertron off screen, which does make you wonder why he didn't get serious and stomp on Optimus Primal's followers years ago. But the abrupt change in character makes perfect sense when you factor in the crushing defeat he's just suffered and the increasingly unstable behaviour he showcased even before that.
"Probably the greatest transformers villain ever conceived. He managed to be dark, scary, competent, yet also managed to be vaudevillian, a ham, and a genre savvy villain. Even when Megatron is going to lose he figures out how to make a sympathy for the devil argument. Loved Beast Machines for how well played Megatron was."
Megatron had become obsessed with stamping out weakness wherever he found it, be that in himself -- which he tried to remedy by purging his beast mode -- or in Cybertron itself -- which he tried to cure by turning the population into sparkless drones. His obsessions would be the end of him, of course, but not before he committed near-total genocide on his own race and reduced the Maximal resistance to four scared, lonely rebels and a renegade computer system. Though Beast Wars suggested that there were off-world Transformer colonies we never heard from them, which implied that he'd either conquered them as well or cowed them so totally that they were too terrified to challenge him. Either way, it means that Megatron and Megatron alone was the sole embodiment of Cybertron's authority and power -- a new Primus, in a way. And indeed, he very nearly became a god himself by forcibly merging with the disembodied sparks he'd torn out of the planet's population.
Though he was defeated in the end, Megatron's reign of terror tore out the roots of Cybertronian society, and even though he was unable to stamp out world's organic element or become a deity, he did completely and utterly obliterate the civilization and power structures that allowed his fellow Predacons to be oppressed by their Maximal overlords. His younger self would have been quite happy to call that a victory, yes...
"I love how he went to such great lengths to hide his animal form. He had a really cool look, too. The harness, the hands, being wired in to Cybertron. A really awesome villain."
The change in personality and priorities was extreme, though...too extreme for many. Though I was surprised by the positive reception to Beast Machines in general from our voters -- Rattrap was the only reinvention that was roundly denounced, often with obscenities -- in the end it was pretty clear that it is Megatron's earlier, more charismatic self who attracted most of the votes. Though Beast Machines Megatron was ruthless, effective and frankly terrifying at times, a humourless extremist simply isn't going to attract as many fans as a lovable giant ham.
(Though since he'd probably tear those fans' souls out and use their bodies as fodder for his drone army, that's probably for the best.)
I'm sure that the gushing two thousand word essay I've dropped on you has made it pretty obvious that I adore this character and everything about him, so I won't belabour the point too much more. Beast Wars Megatron landed at #2 because he's the closest thing this franchise has to a perfect villain -- fantastically written, wonderfully acted and lovingly animated. Not only is he the golden standard by which every other Transformers villain is judged, he has made every subsequent Megatron more interesting as other writers try to match the threat he posed. And that more than anything is a testament to how important he has been to the franchise as a whole.
When you're on top of the bad guy heap, everyone is gunning for you. When you stay there for as long as Beast Wars Megatron has, you know you're doing something right.