Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Rantings
Re: "Home Soil"
3/16/00

Thank the rain for this one. I was going to do other things that would have involved leaving the house, and probably would have prohibited me from getting this review done tonight -- but I'm not going out in all this drizzle and mess...

Lady -

you

just

made

a

big

SPOILER...

Content:

A cool CGI pull-back shot of Cybertron starts the episode off -- then a series of drifting asteroids floats into the frame... followed closely by a ship. A ring of orbiting satellites opens fire, vaporizing the asteroids. The ship slips past, blasing one or two of the satellites... but is hit from behind and goes down in flames, as observed by Silverbolt.

Optimus, meanwhile, observes that the techno-organic plants are dying -- "Along with all our hopes... If I can't keep these few trees alive, how can I possibly restore balance to the rest of Cybertron?" Rattrap relays Silverbolt's news just then, and the group heads topside, to see a column of smoke and fire on the horizon. "More Transformers returning to Cybertron? Well this is huge!" Cheetor says. Silverbolt recommends not jumping to conclusions, but the others speculate that one way or another they need to get there fast. Nightscream is suspicious: "How do we know they won't side with Megatron or spread some kind of virus?" he asks, directing the last words pointedly at Silverbolt. Thrust, meanwhile, recieves orders from Megatron: "If there are any survivors... they must be destroyed."

Thrust overtakes the Maximals en route and leaves a squad of drones to delay them. The Maximals finish them off, then split up at Primal's command. "You're with me," Silverbolt tells Nightscream, an order Primal doesn't question, and which causes BA to scowl. "The quickest route is clearly by air." BA and RT head underground; Cheetor and Op stay on the surface. "I can't believe I'm stuck with Typhoid Mary," Nightscream mutters to Rattrap. "I can't believe I'm not clobberin' ya one for gettin' on Flyboy's case!" RT snaps back.

NS and SB immediately attract a cloud of Aerodrones: "Do not pass go!" NS grunts. "Do NOT collect two hundred dollars," SB adds, as they lead the group in two circles and to a collision. "Nice teamwork," SB says. "Whatever," NS dismisses it.

Underground, BA is unhappy: "After everything I went through getting him back-! Snubbing me like that, oh the nerve of that bird brain!" RT's half-hearted attempt at cheering her up are interrupted by a pair of mole miners, one of which RT manages to take over ("Don't worry legs... I know the drill! ...if you'll pardon the expression.")

Op and Cheetor are surrounded by tank drones, till SB and NS arrive to help out. "Thank Silverbolt. He's the one who insisted we turn around... surprisingly enough..." NS grunts. Thrust and a squad of drones have reached the still-burning ship, meanwhile, and can't get the ship's door open -- and then his entire squad is swallowed up by the ground, as Rattrap's mole arrives on the scene (and promptly blows up.) Thrust is then batted aside by Optimus as the others arrive.

RT opens the door, and the group heads for the bridge... but it's empty, damaged and strewn with.... plants. "Looks like nobody made it," Cheetor observes. "At least, no Transformers," Optimus adds. One of them shoots up, prompting Silverbolt to wonder how -- and then something green and vicious, sporting two claws or mouths maybe, launches itself out of a roof vent at him. The group wrestles with the plant-like thing for a moment, till SB chops off a branch -- prompting the thing to enter a screaming retreat. "Since when did plants scream?" RT wonders. Op declares that they have to contain this alien life form before it infect Cybertron as it has the ship.

The Maximals stalk the thing through the ship's corridors, catching occasional glimpses of it. SB and BA have a brief tussel with it, which ends in the creature exiting the ship. OP: "If it did all this here, it could spread seeds and destroy the entire planet!" "Well aren't we trying to do the same thing with our orchard?" Cheetor asks. "No," Op replies, sounding almost flabergasted. "We're trying to achieve balance!" They hear the beast just then. SB is first on the scene... and the creature flees underground at his approach. "Nice goin', featherhead," NS says. "You were more help when you were a Vehicon!" Optimus shuts NS up and orders the group in pursuit, suspecting he knows where it's heading. Thrust, meanwhile, is in pursuit.

The Maximals find it in the Oracle chamber. "It's going for the organic core!" Cheetor says. The thing spits seeds that entrap several of the group in insta-grow vines. Optimus orders no attacking, and steps forward -- to reformat it. "Are you out of your processors? You can't reformat a house plant!" RT says. But the creature is a Transformer... which emerges as the reformatting succeeds. "How did you know?" NS asks. "It was exhibitting symptoms of Megatron's virus. Just like when we first landed!"

"Thank the Matrix," the new arrival says, in a European-accented female voice. "My circuits are finally clear." "You're a Maximal - like us!" SB observes. A flashback ensues: "Exactly. I left Cybertron many stellar cycles ago, leading a crew on a voyage of exploration. The planet that we settled was populated by cholorophyl-based life forms." OP: "So whereas our crew assumed the form of animals...." "My crew became sentient plants." "That means 'talking trees'," RT ribs NS, getting a sarcastic "Thanks" in return. "You were on the same mission we were on! Till Megatron dragged us into the Beast Wars," Cheetor says. "Megatron? Well, that certainly explains a great deal. No doubt he had something to do with the distress call I recieved." "Yeah, not to mention the welcome wagon that ran ya over when your ship dropped into orbit." "His attacked shorted out my ship, along with my higher reasoning protocols. My self-preservation circuits must have kicked in." "Which is why you were lashing out at us!" "Fortunately your reformatting automatically rebooted my primary operating systems. Although... I am puzzled as to how organics can exist on Cybertron." Primal doesn't get a chance to explain before a horde of tank drones rolls into the chamber and attacks.

The Maximals fight as usual; at one point Silverbolt spins Nightscream around so his firing back-mounted weapon is pointed towards a tank slipping up behind him. "Hey flyboy!" NS shouts. "Thanks." But the group is finding themselves overrun by sheer numbers. "Surrender, Maximals," Thrust says, rolling in on a ramp overhead. Rattrap notes that they're trapped... and the new Maximal calmly but resolutely declares that they will have to defend their ground. With that, she morphs into... uh... a... uh... well, whatever it is, it has a head, and arms, and what looks like a cloak and collar. She unleashes some kind of energy from a pair of side-mounted flower-things, which webs from one tank to the next, and disintegrates the lot of them. She then reverts to her original form.

"Lady -- you just made a big mistake," Thrust says, departing. "Welcome home," Op says. "You command an excellent team, Optimus Primal," she responds. "Y'know, that flying feather duster's not bad in a fight. I think we'd make a good team," NS says to RT. "Huh. Looks like you made a new friend," BA says. "A-huh-mm. Whatever," SB says, immitating NS's dismissive roll of the eyes. "And given time, you may learn to forgive yourself... the way we have," BA adds.

"All of our victoris are hollow until we can make these techno-organic trees flourish," Op tells the new arrival. She glances up at the light panels the group is using and whips out a little devices. She tosses it at the light, where it shorts out the panel and emits its own light... causing an immediate growth reaction from the vines. "We plants don't just like *any* old light," she says. "We all owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude. Care to join us?" Op asks. "I'd be honored. And by the way... the name's Botanica." The two shake hands... or is it a joining of hands?

Up on the surface, the Megahead hovers over Botanica's plant-surrounded ship... then abruptly reconfigures itself to a ship-like mode. It blasts the crashed vessel to scrap and returns to head mode, as Thrust rolls up, squishing a plant and sounding peaved: "Real fair... one of me, six of them." "SEVEN, now! As we remain static, the organics grow yet stronger. Clearly this... infestation must be exterminated, once and for all," Megs says, as the fires consume the plant life surrounding the ship's remains, and we fade out.



Signal Noise:

Well, I've taken an initial liking to Botanica, even if her form is bizarre and her accent a tad grating. She's a character type which is almost archetypal in Star Trek, but has no precedent in Transformers: in human terms, a scientist who's graceful, intelligent, middle-aged, and female, self-sufficient and competent. Her apparent level-headedness could be a welcome relief from all the bickering among the older Maximals. I can see her having a great deal in common with Primal, even disregarding all that's happened to his character in Beast Machines. The chemistry between these two seemed instant -- here's someone who seems to be on Primal's own level of maturity and intellect. Anybody think Primal's gotta girlfriend now? :]

Her form, on the other hand... whoah. It's so freaky I can't even call it ugly. It's just unearthly. Vines going every which way; purely human-esque lips with an eerie green tint. Are they actually going to make a toy out of this?! Whoah. And what's she supposed to turn into? She goes from humanoid plant creature to, near as I could see, humanoid plant creature with a robe. Her transformed state looked a lot like the Regis from Robotech, incidentally. A transforming plant. What a weird idea. Actually, I think I like her pre-reformatting form better than whatever it was she became to fight the tank drones... but that's par for the course with Beast Machines Maximals.

I like the confirmation that there are other exploration teams like Primal's out there -- it's one of those things we were told by the Beast Wars writers but never by the show itself. But... why is Botanica's the first ship we've seen arrive from off-world? Surely there must be other Transformers off-planet. The only explanation would seem to be that ordinary space traffic came to a halt after Megatron's invasion and takeover; any Transformers off-world would either be shot down on their return, or warned off by any survivors and escapees. By this point, only those on distant, protracted missions like Botanica's would not have been warned. Megatron has apparently sent out a "distress call" to lure in any stray Transformers remaining out there. Still, one has to wonder... how many TFs are still off-world? Surely they must be planning some sort of countermeasures. I think it would be interesting -- and more realistic -- if the war were finally won not by Primal's rag-tag band but by a sizable military invasion force, equipped perhaps with an antidote to Megatron's Magical Mystery Virus.

There are seven Maximals now. Uh-oh... isn't that the magic number of CGI characters which, when reached, starts to trigger the kill-'em-off systems at Hasbro?

On a related note -- if Megatron wanted to end the war, he missed a perfect chance to do so -- all six Maximals strolled blithely into the ship. Why didn't Megs stroll up *then* and make it go kaboom? Whatever the case, the process of his transformation was VERY cool -- the best mechanical transform sequence in the whole series, IMO, and approached only by one or two of Jetstorm's early sequences. The end result, on the other hand... what was it? A ship? A weapon? Hard to tell, since we didn't get a good look at the finished form, and it didn't look like much of *anything* recognizable -- the closest thing I can think of is a Romulan ship from Star Trek: TNG.

Something seemed lacking to me about this episode overall -- like not a whole lot happened. This might be because there was a sequence that was a virtual duplicate of those seen in Noble's first two episodes, with the Maximals stalking a creature through shadowy corridors. Thankfully, these didn't last long; nor was the mystery of the creature's identity made into a huge fuss. But then we got a scene where the new character solves all the unsolvable problems and demonstrates what huge great powers they have, saving the old, out-dated characters who've been hanging around for ages (or a few episodes, same thing) from a problem that they could have taken care of in any other episode (a problem that should have come up long before now -- why doesn't Megs just overwhelm the Maximals with sheer numbers?) But although the old characters are wowed by this, the new character doesn't come off as overbearing or overconfident -- instead she's utterly likeable.

Oh, and by the way, this episode shows some of how "The Reformatting" could have been done to spare us half a season of pointless mysteries. Start with the arrival at Cybertron, instead of ten minutes later. Sheesh. Kudos to this episode's straightforward plot structure.

The side plot -- nice to say that we're getting one every week now -- was NS's distrust and dislike of Silverbolt. What happened to his disdain for being hard on the new guy, huh? Maybe he's jealous or angry because of the instant acceptance Silverbolt gained from the others, despite his history as a Vehicon. And I guess he *did* give him a chance; the result was SB infecting them all with the Hate Plague. But still... once NS has made up his mind, he jumps on anything he can to back up his opinion. "Oh, you looked at the creature funny and made it go away! Way to go, moron!" The resolution of this sub-plot is... SB spinning NS around to shoot a tank. Seriously. Nothing else happens between them to prompt NS to go from deriding Bolt to saying they make a good team. There *was* the earlier handling of the Aerodrones, but that didn't seem to make any impression upon NS (maybe it did, and he just didn't want to admit it?) Incidentally, I *loved* Silverbolt's mocking of "whatever". Heh heh.

What's up with BA? Starved for attention, ain't she? She should realize that it makes sense to send the fliers on ahead, given the mission at hand...

Plot holes: Botanica was "exhibiting symptoms of Megatron's virus"? What, pray tell, would those be? The Maximals lost their memories and reverted to their purely organic beast modes. Botanica lost all sapience and went wild. And how would Primal recognize her alt.mode as such? Those "symptoms" don't seem very diagnostic to me... Boy, nothing's hard anymore, is it? Nobody had to even *tell* Botanica how to transform -- she got it right out of the gate. What happened to finding the still point and all that? Likewise, Primal's got the reformatting down to a routine -- he didn't even have to come into contact with Botanica, and the procedure itself was nothing at all to him, very unlike the circuit-draining effort it took with Nightscream... Okay, kudos to Botanica for a clever plan to get past the planet's defenses -- letting those asteroids drift in, and hiding her ship behind them -- but how did she know she'd be attacked in the first place?... Why did RT and BA's mole miner blow up? More to the point, why did only the half that they weren't riding on blow up? How convenient for them to pick the non-explosive half...

What about the rest of Botanica's crew? Were they killed in the crash, and therefore the various plants we saw scattered around the bridge? Unless Ms. B was alone in that ship, it would seem that her companions are now dead. Given that she's shown not an iota of concern, she's either very detached (which doesn't fit with the glimpses we got in the episode), or she was indeed flying solo.

Cheetor sees the Maximals' mission as "trying to destroy Cybertron"? Huh? Op seemed rather taken aback by this. The sprouting seeds of the doubts planted by Megatron in the previous episode?

Do Megatron's words herald the coming of more Vehicons? I hope so. I don't care much for any of the unreleased new ones we've seen so far; it'd be nice to have something besides Thrust to look forward to. Though depending on how her toy looks and her character evolves, I might just end up getting Botanica...

Botanica has heard of Megatron? Apparently he's been a Cybertronian troublemaker for a long time... and how does Cheetor expect her to know what the "Beast Wars" are, anyway? It's not like Botanica gets to watch FoxKids....

Nice shots: The Cycledrones zipping past the Maximals, including under BA's legs... Cheetor finishing off the last tank drone: he uses its shots to chop off both its arms, turns around, and non-chalantly deflects its last shot without looking, putting it out of commission... SB and NS skimming over the surface of Cybertron... Megatron speaking to a back-lit Thrust across a wall of fire...

Typhoid Mary? Anybody wanna clarify that reference for me? I've heard the name before, but don't know its significance.

No mention of Noble this week. Thank the matrix.

Silverbolt has no ability to emote in his beast mode. He's stuck with nothing but the Sam the Eagle scowl that makes him look perpetually serious and unhappy. Of course, that's most of what he's shown anyway so far... :]

Worst quote: "Oh, were you using that energon?" Maybe it'd be funnier if the visuals had managed to relay the idea that some flow of energon was occurring. Or maybe not...

Most pointless quote: the Monopoly reference. Isn't "Do not pass go; do not collect 200 dollars" something you generally say to someone *after* you've put them in their place, not before?

Overall: about 75% character introduction episode. Passable, but not outstanding in any regard.

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