Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings


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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