Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting re: "Feral Scream" Part 1 1/31/99 This morning was a first for me: I actually got to see and tape a new episode of BW as it aired. Kinda cool. Too bad it had to be what was, for me, a rather lackluster episode... "Feral Scream" Part 1 SPOILERS below! (Or I could rip off Chris Meadow's trademark spoiler warning style, and say "From the tempest's fury, the SPOILERS ignite!" But I won't. Or... ah... wait...) The opening scene is nicely ominous, with creepy canyons and and lightening that sets the stage for the rather dark tone of the whole episode as Waspinator and Megatron carry a stasis pod through the canyons. Cheetor and Optimus (who apparently likes his blow-away armor better on his arms than on his shoulders, since that's where it is now) bump into them; Optimus and Megatron trade shots for a while -- in the open, at very close range, both with their troops standing by doing nothing, and both missing an awful lot. This made the fight scene seem like mostly filler, though it did serve to establish the minor plot point of Cheetor messing up and injuring Optimus (you'd think a $30 toy would be pretty tough, but Primal still gets beat to hell at the drop of a hat -- or a rock...) By the way, where'd Cheetor get that big horking gun he uses to accidentally blast Primal? Things pick up a bit with Depth Charge's arrival as Cheetor is digging Optimus out. Apparently DC is still a free agent, despite him and Optimus's handslap or whatever it was at the end of "Changing of the Guard". He mostly comes and goes as he pleases, and is still mainly interested in nailing Rampage (who showed an equal interest in nailing him once the Preds had him tied up.) After freeing Optimus, DC senses Rampage's spark nearby and takes off in pursuit, ignoring Optimus'sprotests. Speaking of Depth Charge, I can't resist doing some Smug Gloating: I'd like to remind everyone that yours truly was the first newsgrouper to say the word "pizza" in conjunction with Depth Charge, thank you, thank you... :] Unfortunately, I'd bet this episode was already written by the time DC's toy came out. Still, it's a cool coincidence. For me, anyway. So, Megatron's set up a mad scientist outfit in the middle of all these wildlands, complete with Waspinator playing the role of Egor... why didn't he just put this thing in the safety of the Pred base, instead of the middle of nowhere? A lot of time is spent showing various technobabble bits of Waspy and Megs throwing switches and installing sinister devices, to the ultimate end of creating... Transmetal II Dinobot. I don't mind a story taking its time to unfold, but this one really wasn't all that interesting to watch, beyond the cool flashes of lightening, and Waspinator's Egor act -- both of which could have been compressed. Dinobot II upholds the long-standing tradition of characters not getting much development in their debut shows. He speaks all of about two lines, which came just as I was beginning to wonder if he could speak at all. After all, he doesn't seem too bright; the first time he transforms -- to take on Depth Charge and Cheetor, who have tracked down Megs' mad scientist station -- he shoots off his own finger with his eye laser. It's odd to hear Dinobot's voice all flanged like that, but it adds to the "undead" aspect of his character. As I expected, he's a whole mass of slashing, clicking, clanking blades and metal edges -- creepy, and very Borg-like, especially when he's shining that little eye-light around (a nice take on the original Dinobot's eyebeams, BTW.) He also demonstrates a nifty attack against Depth Charge -- he bounces along on his tail, leaving his feet free to slash and tear. Optimus finally finds a use for his ground mode as he heads back to base -- he's too beat up to fly. Handy. Meanwhile, Depth Charge attacks the Preds, followed by Cheetor. Cheetor's attack is pretty hard core -- he hits Waspy, Megs, and Dinobot II (who seems unaffected by it), and tosses the "Transmetal driver" to Depth Charge as well, before Megs blasts him into the energy field of his device. Cheetor emits some rather painful-sounding screams as he thrashed around in the energy field, then the whole device goes BOOM... Easy-to-catch Easter egg as we pan across the Predacon base -- Megatron has a rubber ducky in his spa. Guess he *does* have a sense of humor... or maybe just a soft spot for children. Apparently Megatron trusts his new Dinobot enough to give him hold of Rampage's spark fragment -- though presumably if Rampage gets it back, that's the end for Dinobot II. And what if Dinobot and Rampage teamed up against Megs? Hmmmm... Whatever the case, Rampage makes it clear that he is NOT happy about this new arrangement -- and Dinobot seems to smile as he squeezes Rampage's spark fragment (though shouldn't it cause *him* pain, too, since he's depending on it for life?) Back at the Ark, Depth Charge gives a pretty terse surmisal that Cheetor is dead. How cold was that, just tossing that fragment of Cheetor's chest plate to Optimus like that? I found that rather disturbing. And he doesn't even say what happened, just "Cat's tough. He went down fighting." How does he even know for sure that Cheets is dead? I guess that chest fragment was just a (mis)representative sample. As it happens, he's mislead Optimus and Rhinox -- who, fortunately, decide to try and see for themselves if Cheetor is still around. Depth Charge goes to analyze Megatron's McGuffin, and finds its "Transmetal qualities enhanced beyond measurable parameters" or something. What the heck are Transmetal qualities? For me, the coolest-looking scene in this episode occurs right after this, as Blackarachnia dives after the driver and catches it a few inches before it hits the lava... I wonder if Venus Terzo got paid to come in and say nothing but "hmmm"? I wonder -- are Transformer sensors so passive that DC didn't detect BA just a few inches behind him? Sheesh! Fresh from the CR chamber, Depth Charge is lured by Rampage's spark, and captured by Dinobot II. The Preds interrorgate him (including Dinobot II's only spoken lines), and then a mysterious shadowy cat-like mechanoid arrives and drives all the Preds off in a quasi-comical scene. Quickstrike gets the "unseen fight" treatment as he leaps behind a rock where the cat creature is waiting for him; nothing but sparks and a few pieces of Quickstrike fly out from behind it, while the other Preds wince. The cat-thing charges; Rampage and Dinobot apparently blast each other trying to hit it (though if you slow-frame it, Rampage doesn't actually fire or anything -- Dinobot flies up in the air for no reason). Megs is sent spinning around like the Tazmanian Devil of Warner Brothers fame, before falling off a cliff with a Wile E. Coyote-style pause and look of dismay. Megs' Taz bit was way too much for me. I don't mind little touches, but this went on for several long, painful seconds. Megatron sounds a painful retreat as a muted 'Taps' plays. Optimus arrives and drives off the creature as it's examining the still-bound Depth Charge; it glares at him, he glares at it, and we cut to the Ark. Alright, show of hands -- how many people out there were fooled by the arrival of the cat thing? I spent the last chunk of the show thinking: "Uh huh... uh huh... yeah, yeah, okay, so Cheetor's been mutated into this thing, and he's all bad-@$$ now, yup, big deal..." This impression is reinforced by Optimus (in his beast mode for the first time clearly on camera!), who wonders if the cat-thing was not a 'what' but a 'who'. I was taken 100% by surprise when, at the end of the episode, Cheetor himself -- still in his normal Transmetal guise -- stumbles into the Maximal base. So, what's the creature? Maybe it's a clone, the same as Dinobot? Would it be too confusing for the kiddies if we have TWO Cheetors running about? Heck, I just had the far-out thought that maybe this thing is a regenerated Tigatron; after all, they do call it an *alien* device... When we got a decent look at the cat-thing, I did notice that it didn't quite look right for the Transmetal II Cheetor toy, but still... talk about turning an old cliche on its head. My compliments to episode writer Greg Johnson for pulling one over on us. Still, this episode didn't have the feel of a two-part cliffhanger. At the end there's no immediate or long-term problems waiting to be solved, just vague possibilities for the future, kind of like at the end of "Coming of the Fuzors". We're left wondering about Cheetor's condition -- though normally, he could just be tossed in the CR chamber and made all better. Only Optimus and Rhinox's exchange of looks indicates otherwise, and I have to wonder about the significance of that glance they share. Is Cheetor damaged beyond repair? Elsewhere, we've got the mysterious cat thing (which has retreated), Megatron's abilities to make TM II warriors (which is useless to him with no more sparks or the alien device), and Blackarachnia having the device (really no more of a cliffhanger than the chip she got at the end of "Cutting Edge".) There's not much justification for making this a two-parter, near as I can tell. Perhaps next week's episode will change my mind. The other big plot question left hanging is: what the heck is that alien ball thingy that Megatron has? Where'd he get it? Why have we never seen it before now? What does it do, how does it work? Will it tie in with the aliens themselves somehow? What the heck is "Transmetal II technology" -- stronger armor, or... something *more*? And why do the characters have to keep saying the phrase "Transmetal II"? Overall... this episode falls into the category of slightly-below-average for me. There wasn't a lot of witty dialogue, nor much character good interaction. And almost everything it does -- setting up a cliffhanger, changing the characters, having an ominous mood, having fun Loony Toons-style, even the homage to mad scientist scifi movies -- has been done better in previous episodes.
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