Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
re: "Maximal, No More", "Other Visits", and Dinobot

The general consensus on the newsgroup seems to be that these three
episodes represent the low point of Beast Wars' second season.  I'm going
to babble for a bit about each episode, then propose a plot twist or two
that might have improved them in fans' eyes.

"Maximal No More" starts off with an interesting enough premise -- Dinobot
is captured, taken to the Predacon base, and in the face of probable
destruction, offers his allegiance to Megatron.  It's not an unexpected
plot development; indeed, it's been hinted at since the middle of the
first season.  Dinobot has always been a rouge element among the Maximals,
and in the preceding episodes he has been acting behind the backs of his
allies, breaking into the Pred base, stealing both of the golden disks,
and secreting one of them away.  (You have to wonder how he explained that
to Rhinox -- he got one of the disks from Megatron, but not the other??)
The first part of the episode shows his continued discontent with the
Maximals and doubts about their goals.  So the set-up of him pledging
himself to the Predacons is hardly an illogical turn of events.  

However, the circumstances still call his motivations into question -- is
he doing this just to escape destruction?  Or did he intend all along to
return to Megatron's group?  It's easy to envision him simply rolling with
the flow of events, letting circumstance make the choice for him --
perhaps he interprets his capture as destiny's way of saying it's time to
return to the fold.  It certainly makes sense when you consider he was
merrily blasting away at Inferno right up until his capture.  This
ambiguity is even more interesting than if he'd simply marched into the
Pred base and announced "I wish to rejoin you."  Unfortunately... the
possibility is never tapped into or explored.

Nor do we get much interaction between the Predacons and their one-time
ally.  The "chance to chat with our old comrade-in-arms" is an
intriguing one -- how does Megatron really view Dinobot?  Tarantulus makes
no bones about it -- he's "dangerous", too much so to be allowed to live;
Blackarachnia doesn't seem to have an opinion either way.  The "changing
sides" plot comes along before this interesting digression has any chance
to unfold, however.  

Then after Dinobot changes his activation code, a much worse digression
occurs: a "Predacon challenge" that is supposed to somehow prove Dinobot's
loyalty.  The logic of this escapes me; it seems that a *dis*loyal
Predacon would be only too happy to destroy one of Megatron's soldiers
(who are precious few in number to begin with), and yet this is exactly
what Megatron is encouraging.  What it *really* seems like is a
simple-minded excuse to have Dinobot and Quickstrike have a kewl fight
scene for a few minutes, using up time that could have been spent on
worthwhile character development or plot twists. In the end, Dinobot
thrashes Quickstrike to within an inch of his life but refuses to kill
him.  His actions can be interpreted either way: is he saving a worthy
soldier and asset to the Predacon cause, or his he demonstrating loyalty
to the Maximal ethos of refusing to take a life unnecessarily?  While his
hesitation can be interpreted either way, again I suspect plot convenience
instead -- they can't just kill off Quickstrike like that.  The debate of
loyalty versus moral code is never explicitly touched on.  In the end, all
the scene really does is prove just how cold-blooded Megatron is, by his
willingness to dispose of Quickstrike -- but we already know that from
other episodes (and would see it again, and much more effectively, at the
end of "Bad Spark".)  

Heck, we even get another instance of Megs' ruthlessness in *this* episode
-- having gotten the golden disk back, he's prepared to run Dinobot
through while his back is turned.  Only Rattrap's interferance saves
Dinobot, but the rouge Predacon promptly blasts him.  "Welcome home,
Dinobot," Megatron says.  At this point, I'm almost ready to believe that
Megatron -- impressed with this unprompted display of loyalty -- has
changed his mind and is willing to keep Dinobot around, at least for a
while.  His actions at the end confirm this to me -- he seems disgusted
that Dinobot won't accompany him back to the Predacon base.  But this
possibility is again wasted, in the face of the next and worst plot twist of all.

Megatron prepares to depart... and orders Dinobot to kill the helpless
Rattrap.  As expected, Dinobot is unable to kill a former comrade.  He
tells Megatron that "your ambition has made you insane", and reverts back
to the Maximal side with nothing more by way of reproach than a few
insults from Rattrap.  As others have said, this is a rather cliche
ending, which smacks of the old G1 "magic reset button" that leaves
everything the way it was in the beginning.  Sure, Dinobot's loyalty is
now no longer in question (for the viewer, at least)... but pretty much
everything's the way it was before.  As Chris Meadows suggested, a far
more interesting development would have been if Dinobot had actually
*stayed* with the Predacons past this one episode.  That would have
allowed greater time for interaction between him and the other Predacons
-- and we would seen the Maximals dealing with the harsh reality of
battling against a former comrade.  And given the events of the next two
episodes ("Other Visits" parts 1 and 2), it would open the possibility of
another interesting plot development at the end of that story, which I'll
get to in a minute. 

"Other Visits" part 1 is actually among the more popular episodes with
fans, but for me it's a bit hard to separate it from its somewhat
lackluster ending.  Again, the set-up is interesting.  Tigatron and
Airazor trigger another alien site, which zaps them into space; then
Megatron and a rouge Tarantulus work together to prepare for the aliens'
return.  The return takes the form of an organic base-thing which zaps all
the Transformers present at the alien site; thus ends Part 1.  

After this, though, the plot
quickly heads for the gutter.  In Part 2 the alien base, having knocked out all our
heroes, procedes simply to sit there and do nothing, giving Megatron all
the time in the world to revive and get into it... and acquire control of
it!  We've gone from the aliens being ready to destroy the entire planet
to get rid of the Transformers there, to sending an uninhabited base that
Megatron has almost no trouble entering and commandeering.  What happened? 

Furthermore, the "mighty" alien weapon, which Megatron seems to covet so
much, doesn't really seem so tough.  It can't even take out four attacking
Maximals; in fact, it never hits a single one of them.  What good does it
really do?  On top of that, Megatron teleports the base to another of the
alien sites for no apparent reason, then sends Waspinator and Inferno back
to the Pred base to retrieve transwarp cells for the trip to Cybertron. 
Why not just go straight to the base? 

Even the final battle is lame.  As with "The Spark", technobabble guides a
lot of the plot, but here it seems to be just drawing out the episode
until the obligatory 22 minutes are filled.  Rattrap blasts the control
chair, and unless you're watching closely, it'll seem that the problems
are solved.  They aren't, actually -- the teleport sequence is still
engaged.  You only realize this from Rattrap's line "We're going for a
ride!" and from the repeated shots of the alien disk -- each time it does
its little light-up dance, another one of the symbols stays lit, but it's
such a confusing series of shots that it's easy to miss.  Only
Tarantulus's downloaded datatracks destroy the base, right as its
teleporting into transwarp space.  A satisfactory wind-up?  Not really,
because of several things. 

First, the whole intervening time is filled with little more than Megs and
Optimus grappling in midair and grunting a lot, which gets old rather
fast.  Second, it never becomes clear just why Tarantulus decides to help
the Maximals.  His original concern was that the alien base remain in
Predacon control -- why work against Megatron now?  The obvious answer is
that, due to his (then-unknown) role in the Pred secret police, he doesn't
want Megatron to suceed.  But in that case, why help him in the first
place?  Blackarachnia answers that question, explaining that Big T hates
the aliens and wants to destroy them.  Thus, when the aliens themselves
don't show up, it puts a big damper on his plans, evidently.  But the
questions remain: WHY didn't they come?  Why'd they send this wussy-ass
Metalhunter thing instead?  Why'd it only attack once and then sit there?
Why did they go with this more localized approach instead of another
planetary-scale attack?  For that matter, why did it beam Tigatron and
Airazor into space instead of zapping them like it did the rest of the
characters?  The answers are lost behind a veil of mysteriousness
surrounding the aliens.  We don't know what they want or why they're doing
what they're doing.  Megatron and Tarantulus DO seem to know, however,
which makes it frustrating that the events of this episode are never
cleared up.  And HOW do Megs and Big T know what they do?  I will be quite
annoyed if we don't get some clarification on all this by the time the
third season winds down.  We've been promised closure on Airazor and
Tigatron, however, so perhaps some light will actually be shed on the
aliens' enigmatic actions.  For now, though, they seem very illogical.

A more satisfying resolution to these episodes might have been achieved if
Dinobot had stayed with the Predacons until the end of "Other Visits" 2.
His line, "Your ambition has made you insane, Megatron!" would have fit
much better at this point.  I can see his re-betrayal coming after long
hesitation and doubt during the preceeding three episodes, finally
climaxing in his turning the tables on Megatron at some critical moment in
this episode.  Such a turnabout would give Optimus a much better reason to
welcome him back with open arms, and would allow the finale of this
episode to at least have *some* semblance of being character-driven.  It
would also allow more interaction between Dinobot and the other Predacons,
something I was hoping to see in "Maximal No More".

Speaking of which... how much does Dinobot know about Megatron's plans?
"Your plan proceeds even without the golden disk", he surmises at the
beginning of "Maximal No More".  Which plan?  From what does Dinobot
deduce this fact?  And how much does he know of that plan?  None of this
is clarified.  Furthermore, what was the "matter of great importance" that
he spoke with Optimus about -- the Ark, or the protohumans?  If he knows
of one or the other, why does he need to interrogate Tarantulus about the
disk's information in "Code of Hero"?  The apparent gaps in Dinobot's
knowledge of Megatron's plans don't line up with what he seems to know.

Speaking of "who knows what" questions... what did Tarantulus mean in
"Tangled Web" when he observed that "Megatron means to persist in his
madness"?  He deduces this from the fact that Megatron is having the Preds
build a jamming tower and a refueling station.  The obvious answer is that
he understands the significance of the jamming tower, which later kept the
Maximals from communicating with Tigatron and Airazor till it was too
late.  But this is contradicted in "Other Visits" part 1 when the alien
signal takes Megatron completely by surprise -- implying that he *didn't*
know about the alien site that Stripes and Bird Lady walked into.  What
the heck was Tarantulus talking about?!

To sum up: despite their flaws, these episodes still managed to set the
stage for Dinobot's demise in "Code of Hero".  However, my belief is that
with some plot alterations, they could have done so in a much more
compelling and interesting manner.

Back to Rob's Pile of Ramblings