Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings


Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
re: "Optimal Situation", "Deep Metal", "Changing of the Guard", "Cutting Edge"
1/06/99

My plan for the evening: change clothes, take the dog for a walk, eat
dinner, swim for an hour, then go to the library and do some grad school research on the Web.

I was working on the changing clothes part, when the doorbell sounded
(setting the dog into a fit of crazed barking.)  After a moment of
searching I found my keys and stumbled down stairs, placated the dog, and
stepped outside to find a UPS "tried to deliver" sticker on the door.
Ack!  I knew what that meant!  He couldn't have gone far, I thought,
stepping out onto the porch in my socks -- yeah, his truck was parked just
down the street, and there he was walking towards it.  "Hey, UPS guy!" I
yelled.  He turned around, came back, and I signed for a little package
which effectively scrapped all my plans for the evening.  The first four
episodes of Beast Wars season 3 were in my hands at last...


SPOILERS FOR SEASON 3 AHEAD!!!


I MEAN IT!!!


I'D TURN BACK IF I WERE YOU!!!


Okay, that oughtta do it.


After the first watching, I must say I'm impressed.  There was a lot going
on in these episodes, almost too much to keep track of the first time
through.  The plot moved fast and in many directions, and there were
enough bits that left me saying "wait a minute" that I'm going to have to
re-watch the episodes to catch it all (for example, I'm a bit unclear on
the status of the Maximals' base -- do they have any sort of R chamber or
not?  If not, how are they effecting repairs on themselves -- if at all?)

One thing that struck me in particular was the *absence* of a lot of
gratuitous fight scenes.  Too many episodes in Season 2 seemed to start
off with the Maximals trundling along, la dee da, then suddenly the Preds
pop up out of nowhere and attack.  Most of the fights in these eps served
to move the plot along, or were holding actions while the plot advanced
elsewhere.

Thanks to the good folk of rec.toys.transformers.moderated, I've managed
to stay modestly un-spoiled.  Yeah, I'd heard that Inferno survived, I'd
heard that Rampage regenerates himself, that Blacharachnia changes sides
(probably the biggest spoiler to reach me), I'd accidentally stumbled onto
an image of the Matrix, I'd heard someone say something about getting rid
of the Axalon.  But as the recap of "The Agenda" part 3 played, it hit me
that I really had *no* idea what was about to happen... and it was great!

I have to say, there was a certain fine irony and appropriateness to some
of the episode titles.  "Optimal Situation" refers on the surface to the
new toy introduced on the show; however, the events are -- for the
Maximals -- anything but "optimal".  A third layer of meaning comes by
reference to Optimus Prime, the protection of whom is a major point of the
episode.  Likewise, the ending of "Changing of the Guard" left me
thinking, "yeah, that was a change all right!"  And "Cutting Edge" refers
to both the technology and the claws and teeth of the cyber-raptors.

I'll jot down my initial thoughts and reactions (I took notes as I
watched, for purposes of reviewing and for the quote list), then go back
and do a more detailed review later...

- Dammit!  Where are the rest of the G1 Transformers?!  I wanna see more
CGI G1 characters!!

- As the Maximals opened Optimus's chest, my thought was: Shit!!! The
animators really did their homework!  We've seen Optimus's interior
several times, but this is the first time it's been consistent with a
previous appearance -- namely, the famous scene from Transformers: the
Movie when he is dying and preparing to pass the Matrix to Ultra Magnus,
where the outer panels open to the side, then a little inner cover thing
swings upwards to reveal the Matrix.

- I was pretty surprised that Prime was still alive.  In retrospect it's a
bit of a lame "oh, that didn't *really* happen" (and I suspect that other
folks may have had a stronger reaction), but at least it's plausible.  But
we must award Megatron another Dumb Point for not checking... although,
did any of us viewers stop to think that Megs should go check?  And we had
six months to think about it!  Megs OTOH only had a moment or two, so
perhaps one can't fault him for this.

- Ooooo, one Rampage, well done, extra crispy.

- Ack.  Ack ack ack!!  Silverbolt is *WAY* over the top!

- Ouch.  Prime's face looks painful.  Somebody get a still of that and
email it to Raksha. :]

- Man, Blackarachnia's "death" actually had me going for a couple of
seconds.  Too bad I'd already learned that she changes sides.

- Another "Shit!!!" escaped me as Rampage and the robo-spiders tugged and
tugged on their cables.  "They're really gonna trash the Axalon!"  And
they did.  Did anyone else think of the sinking of SS Titanic as the front
end of the Maximal base split off?  Whether an homage or not, this was an
incredibly well animated sequence.

- Tarantulus!!  Where'd he come from?!  Okay, so there were some pieces,
and the robo-spiders were gathering them up, but... first off, he should
be *vapor* right now.  Second, wasn't that his *head* that got knocked off
the cliff and into the water?!  Third, if Tarantulus -- at ground zero for
both the bombs and the engines exploding on the BAX5000 -- is still
salvagable, shouldn't Ravage be, as well?  I sense fanfic fodder here...
OH NO!!  After the second watching, I realized -- that was Ravage's head
that fell in the water!  :[

- Cute.  They actually managed to find a use for Optimal Optimus's cockpit
(to hold Prime's spark.)

- Rampage sure makes a lot of incoherent noises when he fights!

- All the dark backgrounds around the Ark make it hard to tell what's
going on, at least on my TV.  I thought Megatron escaped to outside the
cave, and suddenly they're back in it...

- Why are Maximal ships so darkly lit? :]

- Hey, a reference to a sector being "forbidden" by the Maximal High
Council.  Larry DiTillio mentioned this to me by e-mail (that certain
sectors are off-limits), but it's nice to see it become a canon part ofthe show.

- The sea shore where Depth Charge's ship went down looks AWESOME, one of
the best scenery animations ever.

- The interior cockpit view of the crash was cool as well, once I figured
out what it was (at first I thought it was mountains and sky!  Ah, the
joys of CG animation...)

- "Deep Metal" is a Rampage episode!  Finally!  And we learn a bit about
Protoform X's sordid past... I wonder if Megatron knew what he was getting
into, or did the Maximals manage to keep their little problem a secret?

- I like the way Rampage bounces when he rolls!  And finally, we get to
see him in crab mode for a bit -- it's not a mode he uses frequently, and
this ep gives some idea of how a mode which might seem useless at first
can in fact come in handy.

- Boy, they sure make DC's transformation to aircraft mode look a lot more
complex than it really is.  OTOH, they also make the mode itself look a
lot cooler than it really is.

- Considering the circumstances of DC's arrival (ship crashed, nearly
killed two or three times by Rampage), he's a fine one to be telling
Primal that he screwed up!

- Dang, DC's back shields are TOUGH.  He looks like Batman when he wraps
himself up in them... a subtle homage, perhaps?

- Cheetor's thought bubble was cute... especially the fact that they used
his old pre-Transmetal form.

- Quickstrike, Waspy, and Inferno playing cards was a nice touch.  FINALLY
we get to see the Preds having some leisure time.

- What was Rampage doing in the lake during "Changing"?  He jumped in at
the end of "Optimal Situation" but then left again (or so I thought)
during the next episode.  Is he just living in the Axalon now?

- Whoa!  Tarantulus is back on Megatron's side!  Just like that, too...
guess with the coming and passing of Ravage, he's got no more reason to
work against Megs.

- Anyone else notice Big T's special modified gun?  It's based on his
pre-Transmetal gun.

- Where did Depth Charge come from at the end of "Cutting Edge"?  What was
he doing all that while?  How did he know anything was going on at the
Ark?  Considering how important his last-minute appearance is, I'd expect
that to be a little more well-explained.

- Dude!  What's up with Cheetor?!  All of a sudden he's startin' to feel
the power of the RAGE!  Man, I tell ya -- women are just bad news.   BUT
I'M NOT BITTER!!!

"Optimal Situation"
I was impressed overall with "Optimal Situation".  It was a satisfying
resolution to "The Agenda"'s cliffhanger -- not earth-shattering, but
satisfying.  Those who wanted something more action-oriented were probably
let down, but I thought this wasn't such a bad way for the Maximals to be
written out of their predicament.  And many of our concerns about messing
with the time stream -- BA and Silverbolt's possible disapearance, the
state of flux of things -- were in fact addressed (though many weren't,
also, like Megs himself being cancelled out.)  Furthermore, the heroes are
FAR from out of the woods -- by repairing Optimus Prime, they've basically
put a big band-aid on things, but that doesn't make the problem of the
Ark's existance go away.  The weight on these characters' shoulders is now
far greater than ever before, and they have fewer resources than ever to
deal with it.  One problem is solved, but another bigger one now looms --
the lack of a proper base, and defending the Ark.  Incidentally,
eliminating the Axalon makes things easier in a sense on both the writers
and the Maximals -- they don't have to worry about splitting their forces
between two locations.  Convenient.

Another satisfying aspect was that the episode didn't come off as an
advertisent for the Optimal Optimus toy, which it easily could have. 
Compare that with Season 2's "Aftermath", which is largely a big ad for
the Transmetals.  Slightly less satisfying were the G1 references that
came fast and furious as the characters left the cave: Megatron referring
to his predecessor was okay, but Primal quoting Prime's tech spec, and
commanding the Maximals to "roll out", was a bit much. 

This episode shakes up the status quo quite a bit.  The odds have gone
from 5:7 in favor of the Preds, to 7:6 favoring the Maximals.  And of
course, losing the Axalon is a _huge_ change.  Honestly, I'm a bit
surprised by that; I never really thought the writers would sacrifice one
of the bases.  It's impressive that they'd make such a gutsy move.  Still,
it's not so bad, with the Ark to serve as a makeshift replacement.  I
wonder if they'll suffer from "Voyager" syndrome, where despite a supposed
lack of resources and supplies, they generally seem to have whatever they
need as the plot requires (heck, they sure got those autoguns running
nicely in "Cutting Edge".)

Primal faces a classic Autobot delima when Rampage fires on him.  He must
protect Optimus Prime's spark; to do so, he deflects the missile -- which
sends the Maximal base tumbling to its destruction.  He's sacrificed
long-term security to deal with a more pressing and immediate problem -- a
plot theme that crops up numerous times in the writing of Simon Furman.

So... Blackarachnia, for whatever reasons, has thrown in with the
Maximals.  Why?  Let me count the ways.  Megatron blasted her... his plan
will negate her existance... she's turned on *him* numerous times... and
Silverbolt encouraged it.  Honestly, with all those other reasons, I'm
still not convinced of her feelings for him -- or rather, I'm not
convinced they're of great importance to her.  She doesn't show much
affection toward Silverbolt or anything later on, just when it's
convenient... reminds me of my ex-girlfriend, come to think of it.  BUT I'M NOT BITTER!!!

"Deep Metal"
Much of the episode happened before we knew exactly what was going on
among the various characters -- DC knew Rampage, Rampage and Optimus both
knew DC, and we had no idea why; we also got several references to the
colony ("our little party on Omicron", "This is for colony Omicron!")
before it was explained.  Nor did we know how DC got there, even though we
saw it happen... and, really, we still don't know.  The episode did a
great job for whetting our appitite for the back story behind it, and
delivered on most points.  I really hope that DC's arrival will be more
adequately explained... perhaps it ties in with the time storm, or the
aliens perhaps.  I dunno.  If this had happened in a fanfic, I'd have
rolled my eyes in exhasperation.  This being the official show, I trust a
worth explanation will be forthcoming.

We learn a bit more about Protoform X's history; we also see that Rattrap
was just as in-the-dark as Cheetor about the project.  Optimus and Rhinox
come across as some sort of long-standing team in this episode -- they say
the Maximal Council turned X over to "us".  I'm beginning to wonder if
perhaps Primal is in fact of some relative importance among the Maximals.
Well, I guess he *is* a ship captain, which is no slouch (even if he only
had a crew of three.)

"Changing of the Guard" 
My overall reaction to this episode is something like Chris Meadow's rave
review of "Bad Spark": I was captivated by it.  Nowhere has BW done a
better job of setting a mood than as Rattrap navigated through the sunken
corridors of the former Maximal base.  The bits of debris floating in the
water, the spotlights providing the only illumination, the shots of
Rattrap hunched over in the little sub -- the visual impact of this
episode was incredible.

There were several nice visual transitions in this episode: Rattrap's face
starts to fade out, but instead of fading to a new scene entirely, the
camera pulls back to reveal that the half-faded face is now a reflection
in glass.  Very nice.  The sub dropping into the water was masterfully
done as well.  A different sort of transition comes just as the viewer is
thinking that the circus-like music has gone on a bit too long -- and we
cut to surface and see that, rather than it being incidental music, it's
an actual broadcast from Rattrap to Silverbolt!

 From Rattrap's comment, this episode is set some time after "Deep Metal"
-- several days at least, perhaps several weeks.  We quickly get a sense
of desperation, of the Maximals being constantly under seige while the
Preds attack at their leisure.  The sense is carried to its height at the
end of the next episode, with only two Maximals left to defend the Ark
from several of the most powerful Predacons.

"Cutting Edge"
I was very confused by the cyber-raptors at first; I had heard that TM2
Dinobot hadn't appeared yet, but I didn't really know what else those
things could be!  They are rather creepy, and in fact look and move more
like we expect 'raptors to than Dinobot ever did.  Megatron's little
schpiel at the end gives a good explanation of why we probably won't see
them again.  Obviously, the stage is set for the debut of the Transmetal
II characters, particularly Dinobot, and probably Cheetor as well.  It
seems that the tech specs may indeed be accurate, regarding the use of
Rampage's spark.  It's interesting to note that, during Season 2, the
Transmetals were originally going to be a technology discovered by
Megatron, applied to himself, and eventually emulated by the Maximals.
That idea was scrapped by Hasbro, who wanted the TMs introduced all at
once, right away; now however, it looks like we're seeing that plot
development happen after all.  And with it, the Transmetals begin that
inevitable decent into obsolecence, the fate of every Transformer toy that
is more than a year old, ever since the Dinobots effortlessly defeated the
first-year Decepticons.

Well, more protohumans.  I hope all the "Code of Hero" critics are
satisfied; we see clearly now that there were more than three protohumans
(btw, in response to those complaints: if you watch a movie set in a city,
and you only see three people on-camera in the few parts of the city that
are shown, do you automatically assume the entire city is empty?)  The
protohuman children were not very well animated, at least not compared to
the stunningly done Transformers.  Whether this is because less effort is
spared for non-toy computer models, or simply because it's harder to make
good skin and hair in CGI, I don't know.  Their behavior seemed quite a
bit more advanced than what we've seen in the past; they were able to
recognize the Maximals as allies -- which is more than many present-day
humans were able to do in the G1 comics and cartoons.  The kids weren't
annoying the way many kids are on cartoons; in fact I found myself kind of
liking them.  On the other hand, they made the plot feel a bit absurd,
especially when we cut from the innocent helpless child to the brutal
mechanistic Predacon attack -- it was a bit too obvious a transition.

Maximal sensors aren't very good at picking up organic matter?  Excuse me?
You're MADE of it (in part, at least), and you don't know how to scan for
it?  Hello?

I still can't get over Tarantulus being back in the fray like nothing
happened!  We really didn't see much of him at all till this episode; all
we know is that he's had time to develop an anti-Transmetal venom.  At
least with Inferno we had one episode where he was walking around all
trashed (and his early appeance in the next ep, all shiney and new,
indicated that some time had passed between episodes.)  Tarantulus
seemingly jumped from being in itty-bitty pieces to being all shiney and
new in no time at all, then just disapeared again.  I wonder what
transpired between him and Megatron after "Optimal Solution"...

Well, that's my thoughts.  No more spoiler-dodging for me!  At last, I can
go back to reading ATT -- for a little while, anyway.  Watch for a Season
3 quote list and an update to the list at my page as well.


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