Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Rambings

  Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
re: The Spark
1/15/99

 I randomly re-watched this episode the other night, and was decidedly
impressed.  For a tension-builder plot, it hangs together remarkably well
when you've seen it before and know what's going to happen.

 The opening animation sequences are simply stunning.  The fade-in, with
the stasis pod coming directly out of the sun, is an amazing shot.  A
series of clever scene transitions as the pod decends lends a strong feel
of many things happening all at once, as the various parties (Megatron,
Tigatron, Cheetor, Rhinox) all scramble to intercept the pod.  The
landscape that Rhinox jogs off into looks completely and impressively
desolate.

  Another brilliant shot (IMO) is a traveling pan that follows
the falling pod, until suddenly it zooms head-on at the camera, passing by
right overhead.  Given the later comparison with how Inferno's pod set
down (gently as a feather), it's obvious how the pod got to be in bad shape.
 
 Another visual treat was the many close-ups of Rhinox.  His model seems
to be one of the best of the first-season bunch, and getting to see the
detailing of his face, head, and hands is rather nifty.  One of the nicest
shots in the episode is him removing and gazing at the protoform's
burnt-out locking chip; the focus shifts nicely from the chip to him.

 Character-wise, a number of things stand out more in retrospect than they
did when the episode was new.  Cheetor's frequent dream sequences and
weird "chosen one" bits don't seem to have panned out to anything; at the
time we were all wondering... "hmmm... maybe he's Got the Touch!"  YTV's
character write-ups seem to refer to this episode when they characterize
Rhinox as being sort of an uncle to Airazor; just listen to him at the
end: "Airazor sure cleaned up... yup... she kicked Terrorsaur's keister...
yup yup yup..."  This also contained the first hint at what was to come in
"Other Voices", with Tarantulus overly eager to help recover that stasis
pod (one wonders what would have happened if he'd been allowed to help?
The Preds might have won!)  Terrorsaur didn't seem to be intimidated at
the thought of reprogramming a protoform into a Predacon; one wonders how
hard it really is.  Knowing Terrorsaur, he has no idea how difficult the
procedure is...

 The science of the pods and protoforms is explained nicely in this
episode, IF you're paying careful attention.  What at first sounds like a
bunch of throw-away technobabble ("it burnt out the locking chip and
damaged the DNA scanning program" or something like that) in fact guides
Rhinox's actions for the rest of the episode.  First he has to replace the
damaged locking chip, which he does by removing Cheetor's.  This causes
the previously "liquid" protoform to solidify back into its original
generic robot form.  Then he had to find a way to re-load the programming
into the pod so it will be able to scan a beast form.  We see that when it
finally locates a beast mode, the protoform re-liquifies before reforming
into Airazor.  Nifty, huh?  They only go into that liquid state in
preparation for a new beast mode.

 About the only thing to really irk me in this episode (despite a couple
of fight scenes being drawn out a bit long) was the animation of Airazor
herself.  Her movements around the screen in bird mode had absolutely no
depth; she looked like a model hung from a string.  Likewise her motions
(wing flapping, etc.) looked stiff and unnatural.  This wasn't a problem
in robot mode, but until she transforms, it's painful to watch.  Her robot
mode, of course, is beautifully done, as befits a babe of Airazor's stature.

 There were also, as I mentioned, several fight scenes that went on longer
than needed.  The worst offender was Terrorsaur chasing Airazor at the
end; how many times could he fire without actually hitting her?  Sheesh!
This came across mostly as filler, and a bit implausible since Airazor has
*just been born!*  Wouldn't it have been enough for her to simply drive
Terry away?

 Cheetor's running battle with Blackarachnia, Waspy, and Terry was, by
contrast, necessary.  With Rhinox working hard to get the pod working, he
was a distraction -- and because he got bombarded with so many Preds (as
well as energon overload), the viewer is cheering the poor guy on.  I
wonder if he lead Waspinator over that energon gusher on purpose, knowing
that Waspy's bad luck streak would set it off?  Or was it just lucky
coincidence?  Hmmm... Anyway, after seeing him get his butt royally handed
to him by BA, and nearly put down for good, I can't help but feel sorry
for him and root for him.

 So, overall, I still really like this ep, 2 years after it aired.  A
definate keeper in the short list of BW episodes.

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