The Reverend's review: Ratchet
First Cartoon Appearance
: "More Than Meets The Eye, Pt 1"
"You break it, I'll remake it."
Ratchet was the best tool-and-die man on Cybertron. In his workbay on Earth he can make anything from a pin to a missile. Repairs injured Autobots, given the right parts. Likes to party, give backtalk, but does any job as well as anyone. Has laser scalpels, arc-welders, electron microscopes, circuit sensors, fluid dispensers at his disposal. Sometimes his having a good time interferes with his effectiveness.
It seems funny now, among the "war toys" controversy of the 1980's, that one of its most succesful toy lines would feature a character in a full-fledged "medic" role. Injury may be one of the main products of warfare (much less a war raging across galaxies", but it usually wasn't acknowledged in such an overt manner in the toy lines (even GI Joe didn't have a designated "medic" in its initial release - only Stalker's "secondary military specialty"!). Then again, it was probably easier on the conscience to have a "medic" operating in a team of robots, who theoretically can get injured and injured again without all the bloody mess and scarring of human warfare, right?
Ratchet appeared from the beginning in the Transformers animation and comics, finally meeting his end in the cartoon early in Transformers: The Movie.
While his Tech Specs portray him as a partier, the cartoon tended to paint him in more of a "country doctor" role, and the comics seem to have depicted him in a more cerebral, self-doubting manner, almost akin to Rodimus Prime. As a toy, though, G1 Ratchet (and his mould twin, Ironhide) was almost infamous for the difference between his toy form and his media depictions. Many kids seem to have looked at the toy catalogs and wondered "THAT'S Ratchet??"
Ratchet is meant to be an ambulance, although if you want to get uber-picky he looks like a cargo van (similar to models Toyota and Nissan produced in that time period) with ambulance markings and red emergency lights on top. Then again, Mr. Uber-Picky, that's basically what ambulances are, even now. Dimensionally, he's a tad small (compare w/ Bluestreak's Datsun mode) but not massively out of scale. His primary colour is white with a red stripe running down each side and he has a transparent windshield and windows down the side, although his rear window (and part of the rear side windows) is just moulded into the white plastic. He also features rubber tires and chrome hubcaps, bumpers and headlight grills. Some versions also have a red cross on their roofs, towards the rear of the vehicle. He's supposed to bear an Autobot symbol (sticker) in the center of his front section, below the windshield, but a raised design in the plastic right in that locale made application difficult and many are found with the symbol placed off to one side. (This was annoying enough with Optimus Prime's shoulder symbols, you'd think Hasbro would have shaved those irritating reliefs off or something!) All in all, he really is a nice representation of an ambulance for his size, especially when you factor in what the designers could have gotten away with. He's quite sturdy, without any loose parts flopping when you pick him up, and he's also rather heavy compared to some of the other Autobot cars.
Heh, heh, heh. Here's where the squabbling begins. If you have G1 Rodimus Prime, this may seem passingly familiar, although whether that figure's design was directly influenced by Ratchet/Ironhide or the similarity is coincidence is up for debate. Ratchet's vehicle mode is comprised of two parts - the front section and underside is detachable from the cargo section. Gently separate the pieces - the cargo section connects between the rear wheels. Removing this leaves you with a piece o' ambulance looking like Rodimus Prime's "cab" or Kup's vehicle mode. Set the cargo section aside for the moment, and don't leave it too long because it's cold outside and bums will try to take shelter in it. Now, swinging out the door sections (and front wheels) of the cab will form Ratchet's arms. Doing so allows you to tilt down the front section of the cab. The arms will be facing backwards at this point, so rotate them into position at the shoulder. Ratchet's fists are upside down at the moment (the inside of each fist is flat and forms part of the ambulance's side sections), so rotate his wrists so that his hands aren't in a freakish position. Folding up the feet at the rear of the cab assembly completes Ratchet's basic robot mode.
Before I go on, this is the closest Ratchet gets to his animation/comics appearance. While the near-iconic chestpiece looks almost like the cartoon, he also features the near-infamous "seat behind the windshield with a crappy face sticker on it" that disappointed so many kids. I'm actually curious as to why Hasbro/Takara has never redesigned a version of Ratchet or Ironhide more in line with their comics portrayals (and not just a recolour of some later toy). If it really bugs you, Reprolabels is offering a replacement face sticker that looks more like the cartoon portrayal. Regardless, Ratchet's basic robot mode is relatively short for the 1984 Autobots, but features three points of shoulder articulation for each arm and fully rotating wrists. He has a chrome waistpiece and blocky legs with relatively big feet, but it does make him pretty stable when standing. He also features stickered kneecaps - which, since the stickers are identical in shape and appearance, you might find one or both upside down on a secondhand Ratchet. Also, for the variant-conscious, the stickers that allow his red fists to blend in with his vehicle mode might be pure white, or they might have red crosses. He doesn't have any hand weapons, though. Why is that? Well...
Shoo the roosting bums away from the cargo piece (Tell those Headmasters to quit laying around and get a job, dadgummit). A close inspection of this piece will reveal that there's a set of three chrome treads folded up in there - the rear one folds down from a niche in the underside, the front two are connected and will swing down as one piece. Be careful doing this, it's a snug fit in the van - and try not to put your fingers on the side windows for leverage, as they can pop out with wear. Anyhow, swing these into position and arrange the front treads to allow the cargo section to stand on them. This allows you to open the rear of the van (it folds down) and then split it down the middle to create a mini "base mode". The inside is detailed with a couple of pretty stickers, and you'll also find a missile launcher folded up in there that can be extended. A chrome "static laser gun" came with Ratchet, which (combined with a red sleeve that it attaches to - make sure this is included if buying loose versions of Ratchet) fits neatly into the rear section.
So why is a medic like Ratchet toting around a battle-base? Well, in an early Marvel TF comic (#4, I think - the one with Spider-Man), the base was actually depicted as a sentient repair bay, with the missile launcher announcing "I've managed to revive him to minimum operating level" (regarding the fallen Gears) while the stylized, typical portrayal of Ratchet reacted in the background! I kid you not. The base also appeared very briefly in "More Than Meets The Eye" when Ratchet transformed at the edge of a cliff to retrieve the cliff-diving (ha ha) Cliffjumper (HA HA!), also next to Ratchet's stylized robot mode. Well, with a little imagination, you can lay minibots on it to repair or torture with the missile launcher as you please. The base itself has a red interior and a little raised bumper in the front. It also allows Ratchet to be mounted behind the missile launcher so he can ride on it - this is the form depicted in the toy catalogs and the first one or two Marvel issues. Now, if you prefer mechanical-looking bots to Disney-esque anthromorphized ones, this is a pretty sweet looking piece in the combined mode. I suppose it'll always be up for opinion, though, and there's a lot of those out there. The obvious downside is that the robot mode is rather more fragile than its vehicle form - with a couple of spindly parts (Ratchet's arms, the sides of the base, etc) jutting out here or there, you're going to want to be more careful with this one.
: 4 - It's not *excessively* difficult to perform or figure out, but due to the unusual (and thin!) shoulder joints and the tight space in the van's cargo section, you need to be a little more careful here than with some others. The parts do tend to fit together "just so", which might be a hallmark of good design, but also tends to frustrate new owners.
: 7 - It's hard to say anything bad about die-cast metal, and Ratchet is much more durable than he looks - though he does have weak points.
: 6 - I *LIKE* the weird appearance and the battle station. It doesn't jibe 100% with his medic role, but I think it's cooler than yet another blocky humanoid figure with a handgun. It also fits in well with the 1984 Autobots, most of whom had variously distinctive robot modes. You might feel differently though.
: I got Ratchet with all parts loose on Ebay for about $60. Ironhide seems to go for more.
: Try before you buy. Is that fair? If you have a fondness for the early G1 Autobot cars, Ratchet is pretty cool. If you're more into the later all-plastic, simpler-transforming ones, you may not like this one.