Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Rantings
Re: "Spark of Darkness"

Off-topic news: I'm goin' to grad school! I got into three of the four Masters of Architecture programs I applied to. At this point the competition is between University of Maryland at College Park, and University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. I'm favoring Milwaukee, but still have to do some thinking and reading...








Aboard the BFH, the Maximals are exhultant -- they've won! "WHO'S the baddest fo the bad? WE are!" RT enthuses. Nightscream is still glum about Noble's passing; Op and Rattrap offer condolences. "But the two of you together -- you took Megatron right out of the picture!" RT says. Silverbolt asks the logical question: "Can we even be certain he's actually gone? So many times we thought we were rid of him, yet he -- he always reappears!" "Don't forget that Megatron and I were linked through the Oracle. I sensed his Spark evaporating. If he were still around, I'd know it." Cheetor reminds the others that the Generals are still running loose; Botanica adds that "I am sensing... a great evil." Said evil is Meg's Spark, seen flitting through Cybertron's tunnels.

Cheetor and Nightscream are sent to scout out the Generals; Op sends BA and SB to "assess the Transformer bodies in the shell yard, see if any of them are in any shape to hold a Spark." "So what ya got for me and Ms. Twiggy?" Rattrap asks. "An 'eak' and destroy mission? Or maybe some 'oak' and dagger work?" Botanica points out her place is with the orchard; Op agrees and sends her there with RT "to reconfigure some new equipment."

"We got Vehicons runnin' around and Sparks to free and you're puttin' me out to pasture?" RT moans. He's still at it when he and Botanica reach the orchard: "Everybody else gets to save the world, and here I am picking leads." Botanica speaks up: "No offense... but you don't really strike me as the knight-in-shining-armor type." Rattrap picks up a cycledrone head and speaks to it as though it were a child: "'And what did you do in the war, daddy?' 'Well, honey, I made GARDENING EQUIPMENT to help the troops plant ptunias!!' 'Really, daddy?!'" Botanica cuts him off angrilly; RT responds that "I was only thinkin' about myself instead of all the homeless termites!" An argument ensues. Botanica: "I think it's high time you dialed back on the attitude!" RT: "Your bark as bad as my bite??" The two are inching closer, apparently about to come to blows... but instead end up having a sudden smooch. Yes, that's right, a kiss. And it takes them both completely aback. They both react in disgust, then denial. Botanica: "I.. I can't imagine where that came from." RT: "Yeah, um-uh, must've been... somekindaglitch." Botanica: "We must delete it from memory!" RT: "Yeah, uh... yeah. Done!"

BA, elsewhere, is reiminiscing about the good old days: "It was amid shells like these that I first sensed you might be alive! And now we're finally back together, without Megatron to divide us." Silverbolt is still pensive: "I wish I could be so sure." "Oh, how many excuses can you create to keep us apart! I mean, THIS is a chance at happiness!" But further happiness is scuttled by one of the inert shells rising from the ruins and, growling incoherently, attacking them. SB chops one of its arms off, but the beast keeps coming, downing him with a laser blast. "Whoever you are, THAT was a big mistake!" BA says, doing her ground attack... which STILL doesn't stop the thing.

Obsidian and Striker confer. Ob: "With our master gone, we have no standing directive, nor serve any higher purpose." "Indeed, we --" But the conversation is cut short by the Maximals' arrival. "Whoah, whoah, whoah! We're not looking for a fight!" Cheetor says. "Then why did you track us down?" Obsidian challenges. "You were designed to protect Cybertron. Now that Megatron's gone, we ARE Cybertron. Why not join us?"

BA and SB have their hands full with their stray robot. "What is powering this behemoth??" SB wonders, impressed. BA locates a power pack inside one of the defunct shells, and uses it to blast the undead robot. A huge explosion consumes it; BA and SB stare at one another a moment... till the shell lurches forward yet again. Just when it seems it can't be stopped, however, it's leg comes loose and the thing pitches forward. A familiar glowing red presence bursts out of it and streaks away, to the Maximals' surprise and confusion.

"Listen, about before," Rattrap says to Botanica. "Deleted, purged, and forgotten!" she answers. "Exactly! Me too. And it's a good thing, too, cause we got lots of work to do! Plowin' and pickin' and whatnot--" "Which leaves no time for distractions." "My point exactly." Their denials are interupted when the Megaspark enters one of the nonfunctional cycledrones. Botanica: "Is that thing on-line?" RT: "It's definately on something!" RT tries to use another drone arm against their attacker, only to have it drawn away from him and used against him. Botanica brings down some ceiling onto the drone; the Spark leaves it and zips away.

"You won't believe this, boss monkey, but Treehugger and I almost got junked by a pile of junk!" RT radios in to Optimus, who orders him to return to the BFH. More nervous assurances that oh, they'll be fine, as RT and Botanica part ways.

On the surface, Thrust is motoring along, when he happens upon the other Generals. "How can we join the Maximals?" Striker is saying as he arrives. "How can we continue to function without an objective?" Obsidian replies. Thrust jumps in immediately: "Megatron isn't gone a millicycle and you're switching teams?! You retreads are not better than -- SilverJetStormBird or whatever he is." Nightscream: "Sounds like somebody needs a new muffler!" Thrust: "Every time the Big M disappears, you guys come sniffin' around for turncoats!" Obsidian: "Without our leader we must re-evaluate -- weigh our options!" Thrust: "Yeah, weigh this, flyboy. If you're loyal to everybody, can you really be loyal to ANYbody?" Cheetor: "Megatron's gone, biker bot. So what are you rebelling against?" Thrust is ready to take Cheets on: "Whadda you got?" But Obsidian speaks up: "Our decision is made. We will join the Maxmimals." Thrust: "Whatever! Next time we cross paths I'm smokin' you traitors." Thrust speeds away as lightening crashes through the skies... and a battered Aerodrone attacks the group. Knocked down, the drone nearly manages to drag Cheets and Nightscream off a cliff... till some kind of green energy zaps through the drone, and the MegaSpark departs again.

Later: "On behalf of the Maximals, I welcome you," Op tells the Generals. "Speak for yourself," NS mutters. Obsidian: "Joining forces was the only logical option, given the mysterious intruder that attacked both our factions." "Be that as it may, may our new alliance build a new Cybertron." RT maps out the spots where they fought the MegaSpark and wonders if it's some kind of Spark. Primal: "The Oracle would alert me if it were. Yet, I'm not sensing anything!" The attacks are centered around the BFH; Op concludes it's being drawn there. The Generals offer to secure the station's perimeter; Op agrees, to NS's displeasure. Just then, Rattrap detects the MegaSpark's approach.

The Spark mows down Nightscream and Silverbolt, then the Generals. As Cheetor and BA scout the corridors, we see a mechanical form lurking in the shadows. Cheetor stops to look at... SOMETHING, which isn't clear at all.... then turns just in time to repel the laser attack of some kind of combat sphere (maybe the same thing that Blackarachnia and Silverbolt got away from in "In Darkest Knight"?) The thing pins Cheetor beneath some debris, till BA arrives and blasts it away. The Spark heads away.

Op and Botanica encounter it next in a large chamber, where another mechanical shape attacks. RT, relaying info between the various parties, is not sanguine about being stuck in a non-combat job: "Aw, jeez! I can't believe I'm stuck here while a really honked-off ball of electrons is makin' mince meat out of my buddies! Oh, if only I had enough positrons to neutralize it, but... but, the only source of positrons is in a Transformer Spark. And that would mean.... oh -- of course!"

Op and Botanica, meanwhile, are battling a possessed Tankor drone, which rolls off after downing them both. Rattrap follows it from above.. then heads it off. He whips out a Spark extractor, and yanks the MegaSpark into a canister. "We'll see how tough you are when I re-polarize your little-- whaa ha!!" Rattrap finds himself being drug along by the MegaSpark, which escapes by slamming him into a colomn, then entering its next body: the Diagnostic Drone.

"I live... I live!" Megatron exhaults. "I -- What kind of puny body is THIS??" he wonders, as he sees his diminutive shadow on the wall. "I don't believe it! I was... right!" RT notes. "Heh, gotcha!" "No! I'm trapped! Why can't I get out!" "I de-polarized yer Spark! AND bonded it to that body! Hope ya like your new home." "Trapped like a rat! BY a rat!" The others arrive just then. Op: "Megatron! We thought you were destroyed!" "Not destroyed... merely lost! And consumed by my hatred for YOU." "Not so tough now, are you big guy?" "Underpowered perhaps... but tough enough for the likes of you!" Megs says, activating a control panel which unleashes ensnaring tentacles on the Maximals. Op, seeing the horror that's being unleashed, fights back.. but is quickly subdued. "And now, Optimus Primal, prepare to be torn from YOUR body." But at RT's urging, Botanica blasts the control panel and the group is freed. Cheets is ready to finish Megs for good, and Megs is resigned to a final fight -- when the two Generals arrive. "We detected your Spark upon repolarization!" Obsidian explains. The two then have a long, nasty stare-down with Primal... then snatch Megatron and escape.

"So much for the new recruits," Nightscream notes. "But I still don't get--" "When you used your sonic scream on Megatron his Spark became depolarized.... he would have succeeded, too, if it wasn't for Rattrap." Botanica: "I guess I was wrong about you." Rattrap just waves it off modestly.

Megatron isn't a happy camper: "Unhand me at once! Why did you remove me from battle?" Striker: "We were unprepared and outnumbered." Megs: "I will brook no failure! Not from anyone, not for any reason!" Striker: "The only logical strategy was a tactical retreat!" Megs: "Silence!!" Thrust arrives just then, batting aside the drone. "Listen up! Here is how it works --" but then the drone bats him back. "Megatron?" he asks, amazed. Megs, to the pair: "At least you weren't utterly useless, like him!" Obsidian: "It was he who reminded us where our true loyalties lay." Megs: "I cannot allow Optimus to retain control of the Sparks. If I am to succeed, the time for action is now."


Ah... that's more like it!

This episode did a great job of flowing from one plot point to the next. At the beginning, we get the feeling that we're picking up immediately from the last episode, with NS mourning Noble, and the group celebrating their victory. But that only lasts a moment before the plot is off and running, through the encounters with the Generals, the Botanica-RT subplot, the various battles, Rattrap's schemes, and Megatron's escape. It felt like a LOT happened in this ep. The situation at the end is VERY different from that at the beginning, and didn't follow the straightest path to get there.

It also contained what, IMO, is one of the best conversations we've had in this series. I'm referring to Thrust arguing with the 2 Generals on the subject of their loyalties. This is probably the deepest we've ever delved into Thrust's character, which apparently is based on a "ya gotta stand for something" philosophy. It's easy to feel sorry for him in this ep: he's almost loyal to his boss to a fault, angry and bitter now that he's gone. His outrage at the other generals is almost palpable. And his question about being loyal to everybody is a nicely summated moral conflict, calling into question Primal's "peace, harmony, unity" philosophy that wants everyone to get along and be friends.

The main plot was largely a retread of the Noble/Savage/Megatron plotline from earlier in the season, and for that reason I can't give this episode highest marks. But minute-to-minute, the writing was second to none. Tons of great lines, a bit of clarification on Silverbolt's problems, a very unexpected plot twist with Botanica and Rattrap, and answers to virtually all the questions left hanging from last time. Not just answers -- GOOD answers. To name one example, the Generals' debate over their loyalties was interesting in its own right, and gave us great insight into their personalities: they weren't being figurative when they said they were configured to defend Cybertron. It's apparently built into their very nature... whatever form Cybertron may be in at the time. Thrust and/or Megatron, however, apparently overcame some of that on some emotional level, invoking some personal fealty to Megatron. This almost comes across as a cheap way out, an easy way to get Megs back on his feet again with loyal followers, but it can also be interpretted as an interesting bit of character delima for the generals: logic vs. emotion.

We also get some clarification on what Nightscream did to Megatron (and withOUT us being hit over the head with bad explication -- in Season One, it would have been "Remember when you blasted Megatron's exposed Spark right as he was about to absorb all the captive Sparks that he's had since before we crashed on the planet and were infected with that virus that made us lose our memories and forget that Silverbolt and Rhinox were with us?" Here it's simply "When you blasted Megatron...")

As I said, great dialogue in this ep. Thrust expounding on loyalty takes the cake, but Rattrap mocking the garden-planting is a very close runner-up. Other great bits -- Silverbolt's uncertainty and BA's line about "excuses"; RT and Botanica's mutual "that didn't happen"; Megatron wondering what the hell just happened to him; RT's "It's definately on something!"; Thrust's take on Jetstorm/Silverbolt... I could do without Primal's various "peace and harmony" speeches, though.

When, oh WHEN are the Maximals going to learn to start SHOOTING at enemies instead of TALKING to them? Why does the group even CARE how Megatron ended up inside the Diagnostic Drone? Just hack his limbs off, lock his spark away in a deep-freeze cell and feed the key to the Sharkticons! But noooooooo, they gotta stand around and gape -- while Megatron could easily fly the coop, or -- as happened -- initiate some kind of attack on them. Sheesh.

And WHEN are they going to figure out that Megatron's never, EVER dead? Only Silverbolt had the sense to even consider that Megs might still be around; the rest are apparently content to trust the voices in Optimus's head. How many times has the Oracle let him down now? And then, not a one of them (Rattrap excluded) had the sense to put one and one together and conclude that Megs was still alive. I mean, every one of them SAW his mutated discolored Spark just last episode! Are they suffering from short-term memory loss or something? Do they not remember what it LOOKS like? What ELSE could a glowing orange-red round thing be?! Don't they remember what happened the LAST time Megatron disappeared and they subsequently encountered an unknown entity? Sheesh!

I REALLY like that Megatron didn't just pop up and totally turn the tables on his enemies. There was a great sense of forboding and unstoppability as he rushed towards the BFH; it was nice to see he didn't just pop back in and return to the status quo. There were lots of ups and downs -- Rattrap got him... but he was too powerful to hold. But RT still got the better of him. But he still managed to turn the tables on the Maximals. But they still managed to smack him down. But he still managed to get away. Now he's free... but at a distinct disadvantage, trapped in a weak body and cast out from the seat of his power. Who knows what plot devices he'll have to pull out to wage a sucessful campaign against Primal's crew? Not I...

Rattrap and Botanica?? Whoah. That's... weird. You KNOW this is going to lead somewhere; the writers wouldn't just include it and then drop it. Which begs the question: what on Primus's grey Cybertron could these two see in each other, besides a handy antagonist? Ah well, opposites attract and all that.... at least we can now write off the Primal-and-Botanica theories as bogus (mine included. :] But hey, anyone else getting tired of the cliche "Looks like you're not so bad after all!" character sub-plots? We've now had Nightscream and Silverbolt, Silverbolt and Cheetor, Botanica and Rattrap, all within the last 4 or 5 episodes. Maybe this is supposed to be building up to a revelation that, hey, they can overcome the inherent disharmony that Optimus noted at the end of "A Wolf In the Fold". Wow-wee, what a shocker that'll be.

I wasn't sure WHAT to make of Megatron's first temporary body, the empty shell mish-mash. I thought it was going to be some sort of Dinobot clone revival! Certainly the face was a very similar model to TM2 Dinobot -- just remove the "cyborg" parts -- thought the body also had Transmetal Tarantulas's lower legs and feet, and what might have been Tarantulas's original chest. The other bodies, due to their greyed-out coloration, had an eerie un-dead appearance to them that was kinda creepy. The tank drone especially had a nicely massive look as it rolled through the corridors, with a few oddball panels still lit up.

Hooray! That cool music from "The Reformatting"'s opening scenes returns at last! Listen for it just after Silverbolt asks his "behemoth" question in the shell yard. It didn't sound as industrial and desperate this time, but it's still good to hear what I thought was the most attention-getting bit of that first episode's background music.

What the heck happened to save Cheets and Nightscream from the aerodrone? Some kind of green lightening hit the drone -- but I couldn't tell what, if anything, was its source.

I though Botanica was going to stay at the garden. When did she change her mind and report to the BFH?

Does Megatron's Spark create its own lightening or something? That random weather seemed to be a harbinger of his arrival....

Did Nightscream's voice actor get hit in the nads as he was shouting "Cheetor"? He sounded like a stereotypical Japanese tourist.

Primal's little slo-mo shot near the end seemed kinda... pointless. Don't such things usually preceed a rage that leads to victory, rather than one-shot rally that's quickly suppressed?

Nice shot: Botanica watching Primal's battle with the tank drone entirely through the shadows cast by that flickering... uh... the flickering whatever it was that was casting that flickering light. This MUST be an homage of some sort... it's too stylistic not to be. But I don't know what to -- perhaps the horror genre in general? I also kinda liked the transition of Rattrap bemoaning his fate near the beginning -- the background changes, along with the time frame and setting, but he's still complaining away...

Freaky! Botanica doesn't have two large fingers at the end of each hand, as I'd orginally thought, but two complete HANDS! She also has a bunch of weird, transparent parts, including something that looks like her Spark in her chest.

Overall: Not bad! A number of weaknesses, but all of them relatively minor. Definately good -- and a huge step up from last episode.

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