Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings


Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
re: "Feral Scream" Part 2
2/7/99

 It seems that, story-arc wise, we've hit the mid-season slump.  
Fortunately, there are enough character-related developments to 
keep the story moving.  The first three episodes had exciting, 
fast-moving plots, peaking (in my opinion) with "Changing of the 
Guard".  The three since then have each been a little less 
impressive than the one before -- and "Feral Scream" Part 2 is 
the one that brought this to my attention.

 SPOILERS on screen, Captain...








 In retrospect, not a whole lot went on in this episode to advance 
the large-scale plot, and most of what _did_ happen wasn't that 
great.  At the end, my assessment was that we essentially have 
spent one episode creating TM2 Dinobot, another creating TM2 
Cheetor, and from the looks of things we're about to spend a 
THIRD episode for a TM2 Blackarachnia.  One begins to think, 
"Okay.  This character's more powerful now, that character's 
more powerful now... so what?  Show us something that actually 
_matters_!"  And in that respect, the real meat of the episode is 
the ambiguous doings between Blackarachnia and Cheetor.

 The episode begins with a pan across a familiar form -- it's the 
Axalon, which we pull back from to reveal that it's a model in 
Cheetor's room.  Other artifacts that Cheets keeps on hand 
include a model of the Cybertronian solar system, a model of 
some sort of city, a clear goblet, some kind of egg-shaped thing 
(hah!), a snapshot of him and Optimus from Season 1, three 
cylinders that look like cigars, a potted plant, a picture of 
Blackarachnia, three extra tail/whips sticking out of the wall, and 
an image of a nebula (the Orion nebula, I think) above the bunk... 
on which Cheetor himself is asleep, face-down and still damaged 
from last episode.  Optimus opens the door, looks in on him, and 
leaves again.  Optimus checks in with Rattrap, who is on monitor 
duty; they wonder why Cheets has refused to use the CR 
chamber (something I wonder myself, since the question was 
never answered in the episode, beyond Rattrap's proposed 
"trying to prove something?") before Optimus retires for the 
night.

Cheetor, meanwhile, is having dreams again -- something we 
haven't seen since Season 1 -- but this time they're freaky, 
nightmarish, wide-angle visions that start with a familiar TM2 tail 
bursting out of his own chest -- with Megatron's Frankenstein 
set-up attached to it (we also see a quick shot of the same 
'pocket watch' that Megs used in "Coming of the Fuzors" I.)  
Rhinox, Rattrap, Silverbolt, and Blackarachnia are sadistically set 
on tossing him into this device and finding out "what makes ya 
tick", as Rattrap says while spinning his spark on fingertip like a 
basketball.  Both voice actors and animators get to have a bit of 
fun, as the Maximals react to the freakish version of him that 
emerges from the chamber -- especially amusing is Silverbolt 
sounding evil and declaring that "I'll protect you from that... 
_ugly_ creature!  Ha ha ha ha ha!!"  Cheetor emerges from the 
CR chamber looking like Transmutate, his head on a spring like a 
jack-in-the-box.  He awakens to find himself still in his quarters -- 
and suddenly he begins to mutate for real; four viscous-looking 
talons burst through his regular arm as his whole body glows and 
distorts.

Rattrap is awakened from a "rat nap" by a loud banging.  He 
hurries to Cheetor's room, where something inside is putting 
dents into the door.  Rattrap approaches with caution -- and is 
mowed down by the same cat-creature that attacked Megatron's 
forces last episode.  The creature flees when Optimus arrives; he 
and Rattrap look in Cheetor's room to see it in total disarray 
(another egg here -- there's a model airplane among all the junk!)

 At the Predacon base, Megatron hears a familiar growling 
(presumably coming in via a sensor post somewhere, since 
they're _inside_ the base.) A monitor scan reveals that the cat-
creature is approaching at Mach 2, bounding along while 
propelled by a backpack jet.  Megs rubs at his wounds from last 
time and  surmises that the "feline destroyed my system and 
improved himself in the process!"  "ImPROVE?" Waspinator says 
derisively -- prompting Dinobot 2 to snap menacingly at him.  
"Gulp!" says Waspy, hiding behind Megatron.  Megs orders 
Waspy and Dinobot to "bring him in."

The beast -- which by this time we can safely figure is Cheetor -- 
is prowling about a cave and snarling.  He speaks a word or two, 
then starts to mutate again, green lines of energy flowing from a 
compartment on his left rear leg.  We come back from a 
commercial break to see Cheetor the next morning sitting in the 
cave, back to his regular Transmetal form ... fully healed, and 
unaware of how he got there.  He then suffers a jumbled 
flashback to the dream and the events of the previous night.  

At the Ark, Silverbolt lands beside Blackarachnia.  "No sign of our 
tabby?" BA asks.  "No, not so much as a whisker.  Your... 
_concern_ does you credit."  "I'm full of surprises," BA says, 
favoring him with a wink as she heads into the base, leaving 
Silverbolt to scowl and shake his head.  Inside, Rattrap laments, 
"I was up close and personal with that freak-bot, and I am tellin' 
ya... Spots is spare parts!"  Optimus disagrees, saying only that 
he's missing -- and "what that means is open to interpretation."  
"Well, if you've got a theory, I'm sure we'd all love to hear it," BA 
says.  "Not until I'm sure," Optimus says, ordering the 
unsuccessful searchers to get some rest.  

Depth Charge shows up as ordered just then.  Optimus asks 
"what happened to Cheetor on that mountain top?  And I mean 
what _really_ happened."  "You hauled me in to ask _that_?" DC 
turns to walk off, stopping only long enough to say, "Ask the cat."  
But he's not getting off so easily -- Optimus grabs him and spins 
him around.  "I'm asking _you_," he says forcefully.  "Then you're 
wasting your time!" DC spits back.  Optimus gives DC a definitely-
not-friendly shove.  "Listen, hard head.  Cheetor's gone, and I 
think you know something.  So you will talk, or I will rip open your 
core processor and extract the information personally!"  "Well, 
since you asked so nicely..." Depth Charge tells about 
Megatron's device and the alien driver; Optimus surmises that 
Cheetor was "caught in the overload" (even though DC didn't say 
anything about an overload!)  DC apologizes for having already 
destroyed the TM2 driver.

Waspinator, meanwhile, "detect stink of _unnatural_ 
Transmetal."  Dinobot again snaps at him ferociously.  
"Waspinator exclude present company!" he hastily amends.  
Dinobot prepares to snare their quarry, but Waspy stops him: 
"Wait!  Need plan!  Waspinator in charge!"  "I AM the plan," DB2 
snarls, unleashing a flurry of claws that literally slices and dices 
Waspinator -- thin pieces of him float down like the output of a 
paper shredder.  Ouch.  Turns out Cheetor has fled anyway, 
though.

The Maximals are about to leave for another search attempt, 
when the object of their hunt walks right up to them... fully 
repaired.  "Hey, Spots, heh heh!  Hey, you're looking good... for a 
dead guy," Rattrap exclaims.  Cheetor explains that he was just 
out "taking care of that creature"; Optimus calls off the search -- 
and orders Cheetor to take him to the creature's remains.

Ops and Cheets land in a jungle; Optimus transforms from jet to 
beast mode, scratches under his armpit, and lopes along, moving 
remarkably like a real gorilla.  "I don't see why we have to do this.  
Don't you trust me?" Cheetor asks.  "Normally?  Yes.  But at the 
moment, I think you're hiding something."  "I'm not hiding -- 
ANYTHING!" Cheetor shouts -- and he begins to glow again, 
turning away from Primal to hide it.  The glow fades and he turns 
back to Optimus.  "Why's everyone giving me such a hard time?"  
"Because we care.  And because I think I know the truth.  I just 
want you to trust me enough to tell me!"  "Alright, alright!... It's 
like this," Cheetor begins.  But before he can continue, a blast 
from the jungle downs Optimus.  

After a commercial, Waspinator (who has one wasp leg in a sling, 
but otherwise seems none the worse for wear) moves in to 
capture Cheetor.  Cheetor begins mutating again -- completely 
this time, into a full robot-mode TM2 form, who looks about with a 
look of supreme confidence.  "Cheetor... watch out for the other 
'bot," the injured Optimus gasps.  "What bot?" Cheets says 
cooly, tossing his new gun into the air. "Oh, you mean this bot 
right here?"  Cheets catches the gun, points it over his shoulder 
and blasts Waspy without even looking.  Then Dinobot 2 attacks; 
Cheetor transforms to beast mode and the two of them tussle 
with much clanking of steel.  "This is Optimus.  We need back-
up!" Primal radios, as he watches the fight -- in which Cheetor is 
more than holding his own.  "I think," Optimus amends.  Dinobot 
flees as Rattrap and Silverbolt arrive, promising Cheetor that 
"this is not over."  Optimus stops the Maximals from blasting 
Cheetor, who is now pacing about nervously, his jaw shaking.  
"Pussycat used up his first life; now he's on his second," Rattrap 
notes.  "His beast mode is still feral," Optimus explains.  "...If I 
can just reach his spark..." The Maximals reassure Cheetor 
calmingly.  "No-one's gonna hurt ya," Rattrap says, as Cheetor 
growls and snaps.  "Us, I'm not so sure about."

Primal touches his own chest, which glows, then reaches out with 
a glowing hand towards Cheetor's leg spark compartment, which 
also glows.  Some sort of pixie-dust stuff flows between them, 
and Cheetor finally speaks again, transforming to robot mode.  
"Yes!" Optimus exclaims, picking Cheetor up enthusiastically.  
"Optimus -- back off, okay?  You're embarrassing me," Cheetor 
says through clenched teeth, not at all happy.  "Oh joy... cyber 
puberty," Rattrap observes.

 At base, BA pays a visit as Cheetor is examining the new look in 
a mirror.  "So this is the new improved Cheetor... nice features.  I 
could get used to it."  "Yeah?!" Cheetor says eagerly, before 
recovering himself.  "I mean... whatever."  "Don't let it go to your 
processors, blondie.  I'm just saying that a Transmetal 2 body 
doesn't look too bad," BA says, stepping _very_ close.  "Like I 
care what it looks like.  It shreds Preds, okay?"  "That's the spirit," 
BA says, flipping Cheetor's little goatee chin thing with one claw.  
She walks off, but pauses for another full-body appraisal, which 
Cheetor sees in his mirror.  "Oh yeah.  Think I like it," he croons 
softly.  "So do I," BA says to herself, pulling out the TM2 driver 
and examining it, as we fade to black.


 Well, it turns out the "wereCheetor" crowd was correct -- Cheets 
was morphing between one form and another.  I admit it -- I was 
flat-out fooled by Part 1 in this regard.  Now, of course, the 
change is complete and permanent, and Cheets joins Optimus in 
the ranks of BW characters on their third body.  He's gotten 
some attitude to go with the new look... though given how he 
held his own against Dinobot II, it's justified -- and basically in 
character as well, since he's _always_ been a bit overly self-
assured.  If anything, he's finally been growing _out_ of that 
since the end of Season 1, and this could actually be seen as a 
step backwards for his character.  With fewer limits on his power, 
there's no reason for him to restrain his ego or boasting. 

 On the other hand, he currently has no control over himself in 
beast mode, which will probably figure into future episodes.  It 
also makes me wonder... do the BWs use a different set of 
cerbral circuitry when in besat mode?  Perhaps a different 
section of the brain comes into play, or perhaps there's even a 
separate 'secondary' brain that comes into play.  The fact that 
both Inferno and Cheetor have had trouble with beast modes 
dominating their programming implies that some degree of beast 
programming is stored away somewhere -- Optimus's 'gorilla 
scratch' reinforces that notion, come to think of it, as does "Call 
of the Wild".

 Why didn't Cheetor use the CR chamber?  We can guess the 
obvious fact that it would stop him from morphing into a new toy -
- ahem, a new *form* -- but Cheet's motivations are a mystery.  
As for the look itself, I guess I'll get used to it.  The robot face 
looks a lot better than the toy version -- in fact, the whole robot 
mode looks better, since he can actually stand straight and 
upright.  I really like how the animators overcame the problem of 
him not having a vehicle mode -- he bounds along just above the 
ground, propelled by his back-mounted gun (which apparently is 
a jet, as well.)  Still, I'll kind of miss the image of a metal cheetah 
flying through the air, and I suspect Cheets may miss it as well.

 I liked the pan around Cheetor's room, especially the framed 
snapshot of him and Optimus in their first-season bodies.  I can 
see the WWFF crew having a field day with that shot of 
Blackarachnia -- it was right by his bed... hmm...  It sure isn't 
there because him and BA are buddies like him and Optimus are 
(despite what certain folks might say to the contrary. :]  And that 
leads us to our next topic...

 Sparks continue to fly between Cheetor and Blackarachnia.  I'm 
positive this is leading somewhere; remember how unlikely a 
relationship between Silverbolt and BA seemed back around the 
time of "Bad Spark"?  And with this conflict of interests, a 
showdown between Silverbolt and Cheetor, and probably 
Silverbolt and Blackarachnia, is eminent.  But what's 
Blackarachnia up to?  I think that one part is obvious: she 
intends to turn herself into a Transmetal II.  The endings of the 
last _three_ episodes have demonstrated that she has the tools 
and the talent, as well as the desire.  Swinging back into Real 
Life for just a second, we also have repeated and (semi-
confirmed?) rumors of an upcoming TM2 Blackarachnia toy; 
since BA is probably among the show's most popular characters 
and has no toy currently being made, it makes perfect sense to 
produce for her a new toy and portray her thus on the show.  
Perhaps next week she'll make the change and we'll get a look at 
what we can expect from the toy.  And I wonder if Megatron will 
find a way to create a second TM2, to keep the odds even?  The 
obvious candidate for such a conversion would be himself, which 
promises another sneak preview of a yet-to-be-released toy.

 But looking at the show itself again, the question remains: 
what's going on between BA and Cheetor?  Just a passing 
series of incidents?  A tension that's leading somewhere?  To 
what degree does BA "like" Cheetor's new form -- simply as 
something she'd like to emulate herself, or... something that 
makes up for what Cheets clearly _didn't_ have at the end of 
"Cutting Edge"?  Certainly she's after the power that such a form 
would bring -- I don't think she ever gave up that goal.  
Remember, the whole reason she went to the Ark in "The 
Agenda" was to seize control of its power.  It's pretty much 
guaranteed she won't turn on the Maximals; Megatron's plan 
assures that she'll be against him as long as they're stranded on 
Earth.  But does her apparent interest in Cheetor imply 
something beyond her desire for a more powerful form?  Their 
conversation at the end is wonderfully written, especially since it 
can be interpreted either way, and leaves the viewer wondering 
which version is correct.  BA _knows_ how easily she can lead 
him on and drop him again, if she needs him for anything.  In 
"Cutting Edge", she flatly denied any interest, several times.  At 
the end of "Feral Scream" 2, that denial is... not so certain.  
Looking at her past history, she seems somewhat attracted to 
the freakish and ghoulish -- Tarantulas first, and then Silverbolt, 
who -- despite his noble personality -- is physically a bizarrely 
mismatched beast.  Cheetor is now rather bent out of shape... 
and BA seems to like it.

 Optimus shines as a leader -- he takes his time letting Cheetor 
come around, allows him to deal with the change at his own 
pace, and makes sure that Cheetor understands he can trust 
him -- and he's firm when he needs to be.  But Primal's not all 
hugs and warm fuzzies; he's tough as nails with the obstinate 
Depth Charge, who really seems to regard himself as too good 
for Primal's bunch of 'amateurs' -- why else would he refuse to 
answer the simple questions Primal posed to him?  We also get a 
nice long look at Primal's beast face... it's not nearly as ugly as it 
seemed last time; in fact, it almost looks like his Season 1 face 
painted blue.  Apparently that beast form still comes in handy for 
traveling through rough terrain on foot.

 Dinobot 2 gets a few more speaking lines, fleshing out his 
character a bit.  We see he's completely arrogant: "I AM the 
plan."  He's merciless, turning his weapons on Waspinator 
without a second thought.  He's humorless: witness his snapping 
response to Waspinator's barbs [and he passes up a chance for 
a nifty rejoinder when Cheetor tells him, "You hurt my friend, 
freakbot", to which DB2 responds "Yes.  And now, I shall 
neutralize you."  Any other character would probably have said 
"And now I'm going to hurt _you_!"]  And he's capable of holding 
a grudge: "This isn't over," he tells Cheetor as he leaves at the 
end.  All in all, a thoroughly unpleasant specimen.
  
 The rest of the Predacons were absent from the episode; even 
Megatron did little besides order his troops to capture Cheetor.  
Thus, many of the questions raised over the last couple of 
episodes remain unanswered.  I'm still waiting to see what the 
heck is going on with Tarantulas -- has he abandoned his 
scheming completely?  How will Rampage take to having to co-
exist with Dinobot 2?  What does Dinobot make of his "big 
brother"?  Waspinator as Dinobot's punching bag seems to be 
the show's latest on-going gag.

 Nitpick: what the hell is Cheetor's Spark doing in his LEG?!  
Obviously this is done to match the toy -- but everything thus far 
has indicated that Sparks are kept in the chest (and logically so).  
Furthermore, in an even larger breach of logic, Optimus seems to 
_know_ that it's there.  And what's all that crazy floating hazy 
stuff between Optimus and Cheetor?  The whole "use your 
spark, you can do it!" scene had me cringing.  Thank goodness 
Rattrap was there to bring it down to earth, slightly.  And then, of 
course, there's the obligatory "bad guys interrupt before the 
youngster can explain what he's been hiding" bit.  Still, at least 
Optimus seemed to have figured it out himself -- yet another 
example of him really having his act together this episode (he 
seemed to know as far back as the end of Part 1, in fact.)  Also, 
they DID avoid one of the usual pitfalls of this type of story -- 
Optimus warned Rattrap and Silverbolt that the creature was 
Cheetor straight off the bat, instead of subjecting us to the type 
of scene where friends are fighting friends, and the viewer is 
saying in disgust, "just TELL them what's going on and all this will 
stop!"

 Come to think of it, to the episode's credit, there was relatively 
little needless fighting.  In fact the episode's only battle was the 
wrestling match between the two beast-mode TM2s; we didn't 
have to sit through Cheetor escaping the hunting Preds earlier 
on or anything like that.  Not too shabby.  And even the one fight 
was over not long after the second commercial break, leaving 
plenty of time for more interesting stuff.  Shows that an episode 
doesn't have to be one big fight scene after the next.

 There were precious few one-liners in the episode -- Optimus's "I 
think" was probably the best -- but several conversations were 
great: Optimus telling off Depth Charge, Optimus and Cheetor in 
the forest, Cheetor and Blackarachnia at the end.  And it's all 
building to a head with Cheets, Silver, and BA.  I cannot _wait_ 
for the climax of this on-going plot.  Speaking of which, 
Blackarachnia is quite the butterfly.  This makes... what, at least 
four of the show's cast members she's come on to?  Tarantulas, 
Quickstrike, Silverbolt, and now Cheetor... See, guys, this is why 
Airazor's better than Blackarachnia.  You won't see _her_ 
leading on some hapless gurgling male just to get more power 
and stuff... :]

 Overall... I initially was let down by this episode, but upon 
reflection there's a surprising lot going on in the character 
department in this episode, for those few characters that were 
lucky enough to appear.  Not much has advanced in the on-
going story, though; characters getting new forms doesn't really 
count for me -- no-one is going to win the Beast Wars through 
getting a more powerful body.  The Transmetals, Rampage, 
Optimal Optimus, and now the TM2s have all proved that.  What 
I'm hoping for is some change in _situation_ in the next couple of 
episodes... and some further development of the very intriguing 
love triangle between BA, Silverbolt, and Cheetor.  Well, we'll 
know in a week....

Saw 'Voltron: The Third Dimension' right before BW.  Why the 
heck are they wasting all that wonderful animation on such a 
crappy show?