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Well, the last episode of Beast Machines aired a few weeks ago to
mixed reactions around the Transformers
community. Like a few others, I decided to wait until this season was over before I voiced my opinion of it. The
following contains some spoilers, so read on at your own risk if you have not seen all the episodes.
That should do for spoiler space, (sigh) where to begin.
The show itself is set with somewhat darker overtones than the previous shows we have been given. The Maximals find themselves on a depopulated Cybertron, that is now under the control of Megatron and his Vehicons. Mindless drones that are under his control. Wherein lies my first problem. This show suffers from what I call "Episode one" syndrome. What this involves, is the reason George Lucas included battle droids in episode one, rather than regular troops, or the predecessors to the storm troopers. While it is never actually stated, the reason is, he didn't want the Jedi to be seen hacking the limbs and other extremities off of living beings every other scene. Unliving droids on the other hand are ok. The same thing is present in Beast Machines. Instead of the Maximals killing off countless fellow Transformers, they're destroying empty, mindless shells. This keeps the show "safe" from a more violent rating, but in my opinion detracts from the feels of the show.
In the original two series, and especially in the movie we were shown that war has it's consequences. People get hurt, and people die. If you take away this element, then all you get are mindless slugfests that leave you feeling uninvolved and empty. One of the most dramatic moments from Beast Wars, (for me at least.) was in 'Code of hero." when Dinobot died fighting to defend the human race. I had deliberately avoided reading the spoilers for this episode, and found myself almost in tears as he passed into the Matrix. It was the most emotion I'd felt in an episode since Optimus' death scene in the movie. During the entirety of Beast Machines, I have yet to feel anything approaching that level of attachment with the Characters. The sad part is, most of them are carried over from Beast Wars. If you've seen the original, but not the new show, then let me warn you that not much is left of the characters you grew to love.
1) Optimus Primal.
In the first few episodes, I actually held hope that he had made the transition intact. Unfortunately this hope dies quickly. While I can understand his being wracked with guilt over what happened to Cybertron, the Optimus I knew would have done something about it. Instead, the new Optimus spends the entire first half of the season moping around the sewers in angst, and the second half playing farmer brown with Cybertron's lost plant life. (More on that later.) He was indecisive, and in my opinion being led around by the nose by the so called 'Oracle'. At the very least the old Optimus would have found ways to subvert Megatron's control of Cybertron, and he WOULDN'T have let Rhinox stay trapped in Tankorr. (Again, more later)
While I am glad to see that Cheetor has matured quite a bit, I miss the energy he brought to the old show. What I would like to miss from the new one is the constant bickering he now does with Optimus. (Not that I can blame him with the way Optimus is leading now.) Cheetor was always Primal's biggest supporter, it's hard to believe he could take such a drastic turn, and in just one episode. I could see him losing some confidence in Primal for a while, but it seems as if he's abandoned all belief in his leader.
Did Skir even watch the first series? Some of the best elements from Rattrap are gone. He used to be a sharpshooter, except now he hasn't even got a single weapon. He's lost his signature line. "We're all gonna die." And in the absence of of Rhinox, they've made him into the teams tech. In essence they've turned him into an over glorified R2 D2. Complete with 'tail' interface. Did anyone else have a problem with the fact that he was plugged directly into the computer that Megatron uses to control Cybertron, but the only reason he got noticed is because he wasn't in beast mode?!? I mean come on. I was glad he finally learned to transform into robot mode, (over halfway through the season.) just so we wouldn't have to hear him whine about it anymore.
Again, did I miss something, or did Skir? One of the most defining characteristics about 4)Blackarachnia, was the conflict between her Maximal heroism, and her Predacon instincts. The strange part is, her character changed from Beast Wars, but in ways that bugged me the least. It actually was interesting to see the role reversal between her and Silverbolt\Thrust (or as we later found out, Jetstorm.)
A new character I know, but he deserves a mention anyway. So let me just come out and say, GOD I HATE THIS CHARACTER!!!!! I've always hated the smart alec punk kid type of characters that the TV execs seem to think we want to see. I hated him from the moment he first opened his mouth, to the satisfaction I got from seeing his shot out of the sky by a key to Vector Sigma blast. He's so annoying that I actually miss the precariously balanced rocks from Beast wars, because they couldn't fall enough times on this waste of space punk.
Megatron is the most out of character of the carry over Transformers. One of the most defining traits about him, was his patriotism to the Predacon cause. Yet he slaughtered them along with the Maximals, without so much as a single regret. He still at least does his over elaborate plans. A virus to eliminate the entire planet of transformers, capturing the sparks of the survivors, not to mention Rhinox, Silverbolt, and Waspinator's (?!?!?) sparks for his generals. His plans for eliminating the Maximals themselves simply seems to be sending his troops out at random in the hopes of stumbling across the Maximals. In classic Borg fashion however, he never sends enough to do the job, despite the fact that he seems to have an unlimited supply of drones.
Perhaps my biggest gripe of the season, was Rhinox's supposed willing defection to Megatron's side. Despite Optimus' claim that it was his own choice, part of me still wants to believe that this is due to Megatron tampering with his programing. As Cheetor put it, " Rhinox wasn't just one of us, he was the best of us." I just can't see it, even now. Rhinox believed as much, if not more than Optimus did, about protecting the rights of all life. I don't see him agreeing with Megatron's policy of yanking sparks from their bodies just to bring technological perfection to the planet.
While I'm glad that Waspinator made it back to Cybertron, even if he isn't quite himself. The way it was handled, without any explanation, doesn't sit well with me.
I liked the Jetstorm character, and while I hope they do free Silverbolt from inside him, I hope they find a way to do it that allows Jetstorm to stay around. Also, Waspinator can partially regain his memories enough to remember that he has a crush on 4)Blackarachnia, and save her a few times. But Silverbolt who was madly in love with her can't?
Just a couple of quick points involving Megatron's take over of the planet. Didn't the Maximals have a fleet? One that the Axalon, the ship they had in Beast Wars, was a member of? Where are they? What happened to that giant space station we saw in orbit over the planet? What about the Maximal and Predacon colonies that we heard mentioned several times. Would they just willingly let Megatron take over their home world? Skir should at least acknowledge this somehow, or at least mention it somewhere.
Lastly, I guess we should mention the topic of Skir's attitude towards guns. Before anyone fires up the email to flame me, read his faqs. He states several times that it was HIS decision, and not Fox's (thought they did agree with him) to de-arm the Maximals. His stated reason is that 'His' good guys don't need guns. That they can find more creative ways to defeat their enemies. Well Mr Skir, after a full season of watching, these more creative ways seem to involve bouts of unbelievable good luck, (example: a nearby building tumbles on a crowd of Tankorr drones that are inexplicably gathered in one place, and make no move to get out of the way.) to shooting well concealed guns. (example: Optimus' hadoken style arm blasts, his chest 'energy' stars, and Nightscream's back mounted sonic cannon.) Even if you discount these, answer me this. How is it more clever to stab someone in the chest with a sword like Cheetor's rather than shooting him in the chest with a gun like the one he used to have? They're still just as dead, and the person with the sword is just as responsible for it. If they're just drones anyway, who cares? I know it falls under the 'imitatable acts' that most networks try to avoid in kids shows, but does that mean that Fox is saying it's bad to play with guns, but big sharp swords are ok?
I think Skir needs to sit down and actually watch some of the old series, to see why they worked. He might come across the one element that a I missed the most. In all of the old series, but especially in Beast Wars, the Good guys were good, the bad guys were bad, and although their was a gray line in-between, it never interfered with this distinction. He needs to remember that some shows are for entertainment, and not always to teach the unwashed masses that he tends to think of us as, his important moral values. Several years down the road, people will probably look back on him as the 'Rick Berman' of the transformer's line. (Star Trek fans will understand that one.) Where he considers the lesson learned more valuable than the entertainment value of the show he's in charge of.
To quote Dennis Miller: "But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.."