Toonzone Transformers Week – BEST. EPISODE. EVER! – G1 Transformers
With a boy’s toy brand, success means you’ll inevitably introduce new characters/toys to the roster. The thing is, even when there’s a supporting fiction present, there’s often very little presented to give the new characters a valid motive to join the fight and instead these characters just suddenly appear with a fiery devotion to their cause. With Transformers, this problem was kind of negated by having the conflict span centuries even before the show started and saying in general that any new characters had arrived as reinforcements from Cybertron. However, both sides also showed the capability to newly build reinforcements using Earth technology. These new creations were wound up, pointed at their creator’s enemies and left to waddle off. But isn’t that kind of questionable behaviour, especially from the Autobots?
‘War Dawn’ attempts to explore this issue. In a previous two part story, both sides had created new teams to directly address their uncovered terrains- the Stunticon cars and Aerialbot jets. As the story opens, the Aerialbots are attempting to save kidnapped world leaders from Starscream and co. Well, Silverbolt is anyway. The other Aerialbots are annoyed at having to fight in a war they didn’t choose and awed at the Seeker’s skills. This behaviour annoys the veteran Autobots, who can’t understand why the Aerialbots don’t hold their same desire to defeat the Deceptions or even manage to see them as a threat. It takes a certain unplanned trip into Cybertron’s past via Megatron’s latest scheme for the rookies to really understand the conflict.
The episode is penned by David Wise who by his own admission tried to make his scripts for the show illustrate the reality of war. Handing someone a gun and saying ‘These people are your enemy, go kill them’ is generally not going to motivate them to do it, so the Aerialbots lack of hatred for the Decepticons is understandable as is them questioning if the Autobots aren’t just spinning propaganda. You need a reason to fight, something to oppose and something to protect. It takes this accidental encounter to provide them such a motivation, though thankfully the sequences are ambiguous enough to suggest that the story isn’t celebrating war giving young people the more negative side of these emotions.
Aside from that, the episode also has the distinction of providing us with the origin of Optimus Prime and rather cleverly ties his own motivation into that of the Aerialbots. Indeed, the moral is very effectively summed up by the newly born Prime: “I admired Megatron merely because he was powerful. I failed to see how he used that power”.
It’s stories like this which go to show just why Transformers succeeded. Sure the toys were cool and unique, but those same toys were propped up by an inventive backstory and characterisation. Though they might be thirty feet tall and made of metal, they were given hearts that were so very human.
Juu-kuchi’s Choice: “Heavy Metal War”
Ah, “Heavy Metal War”. If there is any episode in G1 Transformersthat showcases how memorably silly the show can get, then it is this Season 1 episode. It is a rather tried and true formula for plot, yet as per usual the show manages to imbue its own poignant absurdity while introducing us to some new toys– erm… friends.
This episode is the debut of the popular combiner team, The Constructicons and their gestalt mode, Devastator. After raiding a construction site in the middle of nowhere, they return to Megatron and proceed to build a machine which would be part of the Decepticon leader’s master plan for the episode. Megatron, instead of engaging in another Doomsday project, proposes a duel with Optimus Prime for the fate of the Earth. Two ‘bots enter as they are, and if defeated one ‘bot has to leave as per an arbitrary stipulation of mentioned Cybertronian Law. Of course being Megatron, he finds a way to cheat through using the machine to augment himself with the powers of other Decepticons. Thus, an ignorant Optimus faces off against an all-powerful Megatron. Who will be the true victor after all this is done!?
Well the answer’s obvious, but the journey to that predictable conclusion is more than amusing. The main battle is relatively entertaining. The Decepticons manage to provide some amusingly smug commentary about how effective their powers are (especially Starscream), and Optimus fighting as hard and as honorably as he can is rather endearing. His nobility in this episode is exactly that yet sooooo rigid. Even when Spike gives him a rather skeptical view of the scenario based on actual logic, Optimus is ever so adamant that Megatron will at least adhere to the rules. Granted he does note how Teletraan-1 will find out if Megatron is cheating, the darn thing never does alert such until after the battle. He is such a stickler that even when the Autobots notice the Constructicons battling the Dinobots back at their base, Optimus orders his troops to just leave them there for the sake of the law. Thankfully he easily comes around when the truth is revealed, although he is kind of a jerk when that happens. I mean Optimus shoots Devastator in the junk and drops Megatron and friends into a river of lava at the end. He probably must have been engaging in some passive aggressive revenge for Megs breaking such a magnanimous law. Ah, only in the 1980s can we ever have such writing.
And ever so amusing, this finale of season 1 (where it was unsure at the time if the series would ever have a second season) ends with this rather perplexing discourse between Spike and Optimus.
Optimus: It is ended.
Spike: Is it really over, Optimus? I mean we have seen the end of this war? Forever?
Optimus: Who can say, Spike? In this vast universe, is anything truly forever?
Well… odd flip-flop between certainty and uncertainty aside, the answers are of course: Death, taxes, and the perpetual absurdity of G1 Transformers.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to have at it with regards to YOUR Best Episode Ever of G1 Transformers.