Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Rambings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
re: "More Than Meets the Eye" Part One
1/30/01

Okay, so I'm jumping the gun a bit, and I apologize. But I don't want to pummel the newsgroup with three eps' worth of reviews all at once... and the other two aren't done yet anyway. :]

Wow, this is where it all began....

More:

We pan through deep space as the narrator speaks: "Millions of years ago, on the planet Cybertron, life existed. But not life as we know it today. Intelligent robots that could think and feel inhabited the cities. They were called Autobots, and Decepticons. But the brutal Decepticons were driven by a single goal: total domination. They set out to destroy the peace-loving Autobots. And a war between the forces of good and evil raged across Cybertron, devastating all in it's path, and draining the planet's once-rich sources of energy. The Autobots, on the verge of extinction, battled valiantly to survive." Pan across the war-torn and battered surface of Cybertron, a technological wonderland which has seen better days.

A grating in a walkway pops open, and out climbs Wheeljack. "There's not enough energy in these conductor rods to last a quartex!" he says, as Bumblebee hands him a series of glowing yellow rods from inside the tunnel. "Well at least we found these, Wheeljack!" "And when these run out?" "Can't worry about that now. Hey, let's get back to Iacon!" Wheeljack transforms into a sleek hovervan; Bumblebee loads him up and climbs in back. They move out. "I bet Optimus Prime'll be glad to see us!"

The pair are almost home when they encounter trouble: "Uh oh... a Decepticon welcoming committee." Wheeljack activates an extra layer of armor. "Autobots! Stop them!" says a Starscream look-alike with a much deeper voice. Skywarp and Thundercracker open fire; Bumblebee climbs out of Wheeljack and returns fire. "Prime told me there'd be days like this," he grouses. "And you didn't believe him?" "I do now!"

The 'cons shoot a ring of fire that surrounds the Autobots; Bumblebee transforms and the two escape. Thundercracker and Skywarp transform to pyramid-shaped craft and pursue them. Bumblebee is hit; Wheeljack extends a ramp and takes him aboard. "Hang on to your crankshaft -- I'm shifting into overdrive!" Wheeljack says, heading for a tunnel. "They've gone underground; we'll never catch 'em now!" Thundercracker grumbles a moment later. "We better report back to Megatron," Skywarp adds.

"Wheeljack to Iacon, we're comin' in!" Wheels radios in later, as he approaches a vast dome-shaped construct. A ramp retracts behind him... and an innocuous-looking street fixture of some kind transforms into Soundwave, who launches a cassette. "Laserbeak! Prepare for flight. Destination: Iacon. Operation: assimilation." An oddly-shaped Laserbeak perches on the edge of Iacon's dome, and extends some kind of sensors. Soundwave transforms again as another Autobot cruises past: "Disclosure averted. Continue observation."

"Any luck, Jazz?" Optimus Prime asks of the new arrival. "Negative. The other side o' Cybertron's blacker than the inside of a drive shaft!**" "Unless a new supply of energy is found, nobody is going to win this war." "When do we start the search mission?" Prowl asks. "Soon as you're ready to launch." Above, Laserbeak returns to Soundwave, who takes off.

"If there's a new source of energy to be found, the Decepticons must find it first," grouses Decepticon leader Megatron. Soundwave enters: "Autobots are set to launch, Megatron." "As are we... Shockwave!" A big purple gun transforms into a one-eyed, faceless robot and salutes: "What is your command, Megatron?" "You are to stay behind. I entrust Cybertron to you, Shockwave." "Fear not, Megatron. Cybertron shall remain as you leave it." "Excellent! Now it's merely a matter of time, until Optimus Prime admits defeat." "The Autobots would have lost eons ago if I'd been calling the shots!" "Starscream," Megatron almost laughs. "Only a select few ever lead." "My time will come, Megatron." "Never... NEVER! Prepare to blast off," Megs says, striking a pose for the camera.

Iacon's dome retracts in segments to reveal a vast craft. "All systems go!" Jazz reports within, where a bunch of Autobots are manning controls. "Ignition," Prime orders; the ship lifts off. In the distance, a Decepticon ship takes off in pursuit.

The Autobots spot a drifting asteriod, and then another, which collide right in front of them and shatter into billions of fragments. Chaos ensues on both craft in the resulting meteor shower. Prime mans the helm after Jazz flies out of his seat for no apparent reason.

The Autobots blast a path clear with the ship's weaponry; the Decepticons follow. "Viewtrex report. We *are* being followed,***" Prowl says, watching a monitor. "DeCEPticons," Prime says dramatically, manning the helm again. The ship zigs and zags, but the 'cons stick with them. "Let's just blow 'em away; they've seen us!" Starscream says. "No! I want to know what they're after," Megs says. The ship locks magnetic beams onto the Autobot vessel, and releases a boarding chute; the 'cons board and attack. But after a moment of hand-to-hand fighting, during which Soundwave kicks a lot of butt, a bang rocks the entire ship. "G forces... they're dragging us down!" Prowl reports. Prime grabs the controls, but it's too late: "We're out of control!" The Autobot ship snaps free from the 'con ship, and with all aboard, plummets into the base of a mountain on Earth.

Four million years pass by, during which the ship remains still and silent, till the volcano finally erupts again. Within the shattered ship, the strewn remains of the Transformers lay in silence... but the ship's computer stirs to life, and launches a probe into the air: "Explore! Explore!" A red repair beam from the computer finds Skywarp; as the probe scans a jet fighter at a nearby air base, the computer restores Skywarp and reconfigures him into an identical jet: "Repair! Repair!" Skywarp transforms and repeats the procedure for Megatron: "Megatron, my leader... we are alive again!" "Quickly... we must revive the other Decepticons!" Soon the whole 'con army is reactivated; they fly out of the Ark and perch on a cliff nearby.

"Much time has passed," Megs says. "We are on a planet far from Cybertron. But our mission has not changed." "How do we know Cybertron still exists?" Skywarp asks. "It MUST exist. And if this land is filled with resources, we shall return home with the power to build the ultimate weapon, and conquer the universe." Starscream turns and fires at the Ark, to Megatron's annoyance: "I'm just saying goodbye!" "Save your energy! The Autobots have taken their... last flight." The others walk off; Screamer continues firing: "Thanks for the ride, Prime. Too bad you can't go the rest of the way." His bolts unleash an avalanche of rocks.... which knock Prime off of a chair and into the repair beam. In short order he's been reformed into a semi-truck; he transforms and waves to the computer: "Thanks!"

The 'cons walk out in the desert. Megs: "We'll set up here. Those rocks will serve as our base of operations. Soundwave: prepare plans for a new space cruiser. Starscream: convert the area for construction." "What about materials?" Screamer asks. "Use your imagination!" Megs rumbles. "Well? Any ideas?" "There," Soundwave points to a power plant in the distance. "Great! But I'll need some help." Soundwave ejects another cassette: "Rumble! Activate pile drivers. Operation: destruction." Starscream: "Let's do it!" The three fly off.

Prime speaks to the assembled Autobots: "This new planet is rich with sources of energy. But the Decepticons must know this too. So we must find them, and stop them. Hound...scout the area. See if you can locate the Decepticons." "Just turn me loose, Prime; I'll sniff 'em out." Cliffjumper speaks up: "I'm goin' too! I'm gonna boot some Decepticon right in his turbocharger." "Easy, Cliffjumper. Just find them. We'll deal with them later." The two transform and roll: "Good luck!"

"Some day I'll be giving the orders, Rumble. You'll do what I say," Screamer says as the three land at the power plant. "Look, Starscream. Megatron is strong. He's merciless. He can't be beaten. And you'll NEVER be our leader," Rumble says derisively. "I will find a way. Everyone has a weakness." "Yeah? Well not Megatron." "We shall see... now. Shake things up a little!" Rumble pile drives the ground and smashes the power plant. Screamer: "I'm impressed!"

"Sure is a lot different from Cybertron!" Hound comments, as he and Cliffjumper drive through the desert. "Don't fall in love with it, Hound. We won't be stayin' that long." "You smell something, Cliffjumper?" "No." "I do... I think we just found the Decepticons! Follow me!" Hound is right; they transform and observe the 'cons hard at work erecting some kind of cylindrical structure. "Let's get down there and bend some metal!" "Ease off your throttle, Cliffjumper. Remember Prime's orders: just find 'em." "What're they doing?!" Cliffy wonders. "Let's find out," Hound says, raising a little sonar dish from his wrist. Megatron's voice is heard: "I will plunder Earth, and steal it's precious resources, because I am EVIL!!!" [okay, he doesn't REALLY say "I am evil", but he might as well...] Soundwave: "We can concentrate the energy into energon cubes, and store them in the new space cruiser." Megatron: "How ironic. By leading us to this planet, the Autobots have sealed their own doom!"

"Cliffjumper! What're ya doin'?!" Hound asks, as Cliffy takes aim at the distant Decepticons with a big ol' gun. "I've got Megatron dead center in my viewfinder!" He fires, striking the base. Megs: "Who could be firing on us?!" Thundercracker: "Who even knows we're here?" "The Autobots," Starscream says. "Impossible!" Megs answers. "They're the only ones!" Screamer replies. "Soundwave! Send Laserbeak to investigate!" "Laserbeak: prepare for flight. Course heading: northeast."

"Now you've done it," Hound snaps. The two transform and roll, pursued by a radically reconfigured Laserbeak. They split up; Laserbeak fires a single laser cannon to pursue Cliffy and goes after Hound himself. Cliffy blasts the cannon to dust, but Laserbeak gets Hound in the dashboard, sending him tumbling over a cliff edge.

Some time later, Ratchet, Cliffjumper, and a Grapple-like crane arrive at the cliff. "I'm sorry, Hound," Cliffy says, as they prepare to get Hound back to base. "It's my fault. I shouldn't have fired on Megatron." "Ha ha, you shouldn't have missed, you mean!" "Huh? Hey, yeah, right! Hauler -- pull 'em up!"

"I can't believe the Autobot survived," says Reflector, standing on a bluff. "Huh. Neither can Megatron. I thought he'd blow a fuse when he found out," Thundercracker replies. Just then he spots something in the distance; to give them a better look, Reflector transforms to camera mode and snaps a shot of it. "Thundercracker to Soundwave... alien vehicle approaching. Possible Autobot!" Megatron orders Soundwave: "Release Ravage!"

The vehicle arrives at the shattered remains of the power plant, and two humans get out. "I don't understand, Joe. Looks like a tornado hit this place!" "I don't like it. Something's wrong... real wrong." Just then, the prowling Ravage leaps out of the shadows and tackles first one man, then the other. The two escape in their van.

"And that's all we heard, Prime. They're gonna put the energy in some kind of cube then haul it back to Cybertron!" Hound reports later, as he's being repaired. "Jazz, organize a battle unit. We're going after them," Prime orders. Later, Jazz lists off a roll-call of about a dozen Autobots, who tranform and roll out.

Laserbeak returns to the 'con base; Soundwave reports that "he has found a source of energy." "Excellent," Megs says, as we fade to an ocean drilling oil rig. "Excellent!"

The humans on the rig -- including Sparkplug and his son Spike -- are going about their business when the 'cons arrive and land on the platform. "Look!" "What is it?" "What are they?" "Everybody, come on!" The humans try attacking with wrenches and tools to repel the invaders, but Megatron casually knocks them aside with a large pipe. Rumble pins Sparkplug against a wall; when Spike tries to help him, he gets batted into the water. Sparkplug kicks Rumble away and goes after him. The 'cons, meanwhile, set about making energon cubes. When they've accumlated a small cache, Starscream gloats: "We did it, we did it, Megatron! The energy is ours. We can go back to Cybertron!" "You FOOL Starscream... this is but a small fraction of the energy we need. We must suck this Earth dry!" Starscream gasps in horror and points skyward: "It's the AUTOBOTS!!"

"Decepticons, transform. Transform!" Megs changes to his new gun mode; Starscream fires him as the Autobots fly down from the heavens. The 'bots dodge the shots and land, attacking. "Don't interfere, Prime," Megatron tells Optimus. Prime: "Give it up, Megatron!" Megs: "The universe is mine!" The two forces fight for a bit, then the Decepticons take off with their energon cubes. "So long, Prime. Have a nice swim!" Megatron blasts the supports of the oil rig, dumping Autobots and humans into the drink. "Here's something to keep you warm!" he adds, shooting a storage tank, which erupts in flames. The 'cons depart; Optimus answers Spike and Sparkplug's call for help -- they're trapped inside a collapsed derrik. "I can't lift it... too heavy!" Prime grunts, as the flames get closer. "Grab on to me... keep your heads above water..." Fade out -- to be continued....

Less:

I dunno... I just can't find a whole huge amount of stuff to say about this one. The episode isn't BAD; it's just... not all that interesting in its own right. It's mostly just setting up the plot for the series. The Cybertronian bits are visually neat -- Cybertron of old is a cool, cool place. But after that -- like most of the first season -- it's just.... stuff happening. The entire oil rig attack is dull; the battle is remarkably sub-par -- at one point, a half-dozen pairs of Autobots and Decepticons are basically standing around like they're slow dancing. This kind of plot -- the Decepticons stealing energy -- would later become just a background plot for more interesting doings; here it's the whole plot in its entirety. Not to mention the whole procedure is rather hokily done, with Starscream shooting the oil rig, and the cubes slowly being filled one by one before being compressed (a habit which would later be dropped.)

And then, some parts are just dumb -- most notably the asteroid collision. Even as a 4th grader I knew that the odds of two asteroids meeting up like that in deep space was just about nill; the chances of them colliding right in front of a passing vessel is beyond infinitesimal. And I love how the 'bot craft has only ONE gun -- "The Laser!" Heck, I'm not even sure what the POINT of this scene was -- is it supposed to explain why the Autobots don't shoot back at the Decepticon craft later on? Or is the "asteroids" bit supposed to give it a tangential tie-in with the comics? (In a similar way, Prime and Prowl are the last to speak before the Ark crashes in the comics, too.) Or is it supposed to just be cool and sci fi-esque?

There's not a whole lot to say about the basic plot -- it's sound enough, insofar as it goes. TFs fight on Cybertron; TFs leave to look for energy; TFs crash; 4 million years later they reawaken; the 'cons gather energy and the 'bots try to stop them. It's not really complex enough to have any internal contradictions.

Why the four million year gap? This question has been posed before, and never satisfactorily answered. It *sounds* neat: "Four million years ago, they CAME from CYBERTRON!!" the comics intro reads. But it raises some sticky credibility issues. Shockwave *really* kept Cybertron utterly and totally unchanged for that long? The ship can be revived by some vibrations after THAT long? Why not just have the 'bots and 'cons crash on present-day Earth and survive the landing in okay shape?

It's a nice touch that the first Transformer we see is the oddly-designed Wheeljack, with his unearthly flashing "ears" instead of a mouth. Kinda brings home that, humanoid or not, these guys really are aliens.

Hey, I never knew that... 'Warp and 'Cracker take their guns off their arms to fire them. I *knew* I'd seen them do that before "Golden Lagoon".

What the heck is Bumblebee shooting at when he first gets out of Wheeljack? Is he warming up his gun before pointing it at the Decepticons?

Where the heck does Wheeljack find room to STORE all the gadgets we see him use in his vehicle mode? He's got a ramp, a full-body shield, fans that allow him to drive right through minor plot points....

The Cybertronian modes, of course, are almost universally cool, except for Soundwave the Lamppost and Laserbeak the Amazing Flying Hunk of Blob. I'd LOVE a transforming pyramid-ship toy. It's a bit annoying, however, that none of the character designs for robot modes were altered to match their Cybetronian transforms. Are we expected to believe that Jazz just happened to have a Porche's front bumper on his chest millions of years before the Porche was invented?

Soundwave's voice is "off" in these episodes... I think they finally got it "right" in "Transport to Oblivion". Here it's like it has an extra layer of muffling that shouldn't be there. I do love the way it descends through his bit about storing the energon cubes on the ship.

I like how Prime is hanging out with Prowl and Trailbreaker when we first see him. That's almost the only hint of Trailbreaker's defensive strategist function throughout the entire series (the other being in "The Ultimate Doom" Part 2 as Skyfire approaches Cybertron.) Going by the 'specs, Prowl, Trailbreaker, and Jazz should really be Prime's braintrust, when later in the series it basically turned into Ironhide, Bumblebee, and Spike. Ironhide, in fact, doesn't play a leadership role at all in MTMTE; he's just a grouchy old tough guy. I see a parallel between him and BW's Rattrap -- neither is really second in command (that'd be Jazz or Prowl); however, they are the one who steps up to take command when the leader is out of commission.

Shockwave's brief appearance is puzzling. My understanding is that MTMTE was originally a one-shot deal -- there weren't going to be any followup episodes. And Shockwave, while released earlier than the other Series 2 toys, was definately NOT in the first batch released. So how'd he make it into the show? Maybe Hasbro was hedging their bets; maybe they DID have plans to release him regardless of how the show or comic went (his existance is also hinted at in the very first issue of the comics.)

One hopes the Decepticon ship is actually *really* well-cloaked, or else Autobot backward-looking sensor technology is severely sub-par. How close did the 'cons get before Prowl finally detects them? I do like how Prowl's tone indicates that they fully expected to be tracked: "We *are* being followed!"

What does Megatron hope to find out from boarding the Autobot ship that he doesn't already know? "I want to know what they're after!" he says. Didn't Soundwave already report that they were after energy? It's not like they had a specific destination in mind.

Here's one of #wiigii!'s favorite animation flubs: Ventriloquist Megatron. The scene of Prime pointing as the 'cons prepare to board the ship plays two times in a row, but the second time, it's Megatron speaking, ordering "Attack, attack!!" How ironic! The order to destroy the Autobots came from their OWN LEADER'S MOUTH! MUWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!

Waaaaaaaaa, I'm Starscream. Waaaaaah. What about materials? Wahhhhhhhhhh!!!

When I was a kid, I really dug Cliffjumper. In retrospect, though, I think that's largely 'cause he was one of the first toys I had. These days I find myself liking him less and less. He's a hot head; he's insubordinate; he's not too bright; he's overly aggressive. He kinda gets on my nerves. He's not even very interesting or pleasing visually. At least he had the moxy to apologize to Hound for getting him shot up.

Hound, that's your dashboard, not your drivetrain. Oh well. After a fall like that, he's probably not thinking too clearly.

Heh. I never realized it till now, but the humans' first meeting with the Decepticons is NOT at the oil rig. It's when Ravage attacks (totally without provocation, I might add) the two power plant workers. Who's the aggressor now, 'con fans?

Starscream gets a helping of Stupid Points equalled in size only by that which I doled out to BW/BM Megatron for the finale of Beast Machines. I mean, dude! You had WON! Your enemies were ALL DEAD! Every last one of them! And only you knew where the the bodies were! You would have been totally unchallenged! But no, you have to go and "say goodbye" -- by shooting at the ship! You couldn't just give Prime a good swift kick in the pants while you were in the ship; you couldn't just blow up the computer, no... you have to start a frikkin' avalanche. Why? WHY???? (Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I *like* a lot of the Autobots.)

It is a nice touch, however, that Starscream is the first one to think that it might be the Autobots firing on them. Maybe he knew exactly what he was doing? Maybe that was his first attempt to throw a wrench into Megatron's plans?

I still say that's supposed to be Starscream in the opening scenes with the other Seeker jets, and they just hadn't settled on a voice for him. I would like Starscream SO MUCH MORE -- or hate him less -- if that was his "real" voice. He'd also be a far more credible threat -- it's just hard to take his whiney, girly, sissy voice seriously (especially later in Season 2). However, I do grant that his evil cackle would be a lot less memorable that way.

I love how Thundercracker sounds almost.... absent-minded when he replies to Reflector. Or bored. That tone of voice does a LOT to make the character seem more real, somehow. Very nice voice acting there (and compare it to how pissed off he sounded when the Autobots on Cybertron escaped into the tunnels.)

Jazz doesn't just transform... he transforms with *style*. Ya gotta love it. It'd be nice if the camera man had managed to keep up with his Robot Roll Call, however, and actually show us all the 'bots who he was naming *as* he named them.

Apparently all the Autobots can fly in robot mode just as effortlessly as the Decepticons, but that's been wrangled over so much that I'm not even going to go into it. This talent would persist through "More Than Meets the Eye", and show up a little bit in the two episodes following it before going away entirely.

The nature and presence of "Hauler" is another one of those bizarre mysteries that has been done to death, and again, I'm not gonna touch it. Basically, he's Grapple, but about a year too early; he's never seen again after this episode. Wierd.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!! We did it! We did it! The energy is ours! Whaaaaaaaahhhh!!! I'm Starscream!

Why does Megatron order the 'cons to transform? Wouldn't that leave Soundwave and Reflector rather vunerable? It's a moot point, I guess, since nobody actually obeys the order.

Speaking of Reflector... he's the coolest gimmick character EVER! Watching his three components move and speak in sych is fascinatingly eerie. It's a shame he got phased out of the series so early on. But what the hell... the best that Decepticon technology can produce is Polaroids?

Soundwave the Emperor says: "Vehwy well. I shall.... welease Wavage!" And the crowd titters.

Re: the oil rig attack. Boy, Transformer-human relations are really off to a smashing start here, eh?

MTMTE always confused me. What the heck was a "Nole Ray", I wondered, and why did every power plant seem to have one? And why was it always Starscream's job to activate it?

Say, if Teletraan One is so handy at repairing busted 'bots, why don't they use it for that purpose ever again?

Flying Autobots look really dumb.

My favorite bit of useless filler dialogue: "An asteroid!" "There's another one!" "They're going to collide!" Didn't anyone ever inform the writers about "show, don't tell"?

Less Than Meets the Ear: what does Megs say after Soundwave reports the meteor shower? It sounds like "We'd been losing our power!" Also, the lines above with astericks at the end are a bit unclear to my ears.

The artwork in this ep is decent, though the character designs are a bit sub-par in my opinion, with very rounded surfaces and indistinct edges marking many of the Transformers. The animation, however... whoah. There are a couple of superb moments -- for my money, the best is Laserbeak flying past and circling the base before reporting to Soundwave near the end. Megatron's transformation back to robot mode on the oil rig is also very nice. Other decent bits include the pan across the Autobot ship's bridge as it prepares for launch, the brief shot of the Autobot ship blasting through the meteors as seen from the Decepticon ship, the ship crashing on Earth, the dust flying out from under Ratchet's feet as he steps up to the cliff edge, and Megatron leering satanically through the flames as he prepares to depart the burning rig.

Overall: It has Cybertron, and Cybertronian alt.modes -- and that's it's main selling point. But as they say in the first Bill and Ted movie... they do get better.

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