Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Rantings
Re: "Spark War Part 1: The Strike"
3/23/00

Normally I set the computer to download the latest ep during the day, when I'm off at work. Come home and it's there waiting for me. But, this morning, I forgot, and had to go through the tedious process of waiting... waiting.... waiting... for it to finish up. Urrrrg, the torture!

We

must

free

the

SPOILERS...

at

any

cost!

Observe:

Cheetor is fleeing from the usual horde of Cycledrones as the episode opens. Rattrap cuts in and destroys a lot of them.... then Nightscream does the same ("Name this tune!" he shouts, firing his sonic gun.) And so on, with Thrust looking on in anger as Silverbolt blows away a batch of drones that are surrounding Blackarachnia: "You'll pay with your Spark, traitor!" But Thrust ends up getting bashed down by a flying pile of Cycledrone parts, then surrounded by Maximals, who send him packing. "Megatron's not gonna like this," he mutters to himself. "This is getting way too easy," Rattrap notes, with a touch of trepidation.

"You think you've won..." Megatron notes from not far off. "You think your mongrel animals can use my world as your playground.... you're wrong, Optimus Primal. DEAD wrong."

Rattrap has cobbled together a cart from busted Cycledrones, and hauled it back to base (apparently this was the purpose of the mission!) "Nice of old Thrustbucket to lend us some parts, eh boss monkey?" he smiles. "Uh... thanks for the save back there," BA says to Silverbolt. "You lost focus," SB says stoicly. "Lighten up! Do you have any idea what she went through to get you back?" Cheetor butts in, getting only a "hmmph!" for his troubles.

"Honey! I'm home!" Rattrap calls out, decending into the Maximals' base. "You know they had the BEST sale on used Vehicon parts! Only *slightly* damaged!" The parts are for Botanica, to help her unlock the secrets of the organic core. "You missed one awesome battle!" Nightscream tells her. "I am a scientist, not a warrior," she replies. "We were ALL scientists... till we got dragged into the Beast Wars." BA: "Well maybe it wouldn't be the worst thing if ya learned how to--" "--find my still point? Transform into robot mode and blow our enemies into atoms?" Botanica cuts her off. "We're *trying* to free a conquered people. Doesn't that mean anything to you?" SB asks. "The more we fight like Megatron, the more we become like Megatron." "Botanica is more valuable to us here than in the battlefield," Optimus says. "The six of us are more than enough to handle one Vehicon general."

Aboard the BFH, Thrust gets chewed out by Megs: "I will brook no failure -- not from anyone, not for any reason!" he says, snaring Thrust with a tentacle. "Optimus and his Maximals continue to fester like a disease! They must be held at bay until my work is complete -- a task which is clearly beyond *your* capacities! You're little better than Tankor or Jetstorm." "You never shoulda used Sparks from Optimus's pals! Least I didn't turn on you like they did."

Cheetor walks up to a moping Optimus: "Hey, why the long face? Thanks to Botanica the trees are thriving!" "Megatron stole the Spark of every Transformer on Cybertron. Until we find them we've done nothing." Nightscream, meanwhile, approaches Silverbolt: "Hey, uh, I hate to be a busy batty, but what's with you and Legs?" "Until the threat of Megatron is quelled... love is a luxury I cannot afford." SB flies off, as NS does an incredulous take for the camera: "Did he really say.... 'quelled'?"

Optimus has some kind of brief vision just then: "The Sparks... something's wrong!" And above, we see Megatron gleefully holding aloft two of the Sparks in question. A moment later, two new Vehicons roll out from a chamber, as Thrust looks on: "Very nice, boss," he says, circling around them once: one floats a la Jetstorm, but has shoulder-mounted helicopter blades; the other is a tad bigger and bulkier, and walks normally. "Very, very nice. Listen up, new guys! We're dealing with animals -- ruthless, cunning animals. So HERE is how it works!" The new guys look at Thrust, at each other... and then one of them casually bashes Thrust aside, as Megatron laughs.

NS pursues SB above the surface: "Listen, buddy, we have to talk! Blackarachnia really--" "--Grow up, SON," SB says. "We're at war." "You think I don't know that? I lost everything in--WWAAAUUGh!" NS is blasted out of the air, then caught by Silverbolt. "Don't look now, but I think there's a new sherrif in town!" NS says, spotting the new generals. "Make that two," SB adds, as the Vehicons stare ominously... then laugh and transform. The floating one becomes a sleek, twin-bladed helicopter: "Obliterate!" The other, a six-wheeled ground vehicle: "Terminate!" she says in a voice like the Baroness (female, deep, raspy, Easter Europen accented.)

NS radios for help. "Code red! I got a major SOS from the fly bots!" Rattrap yells to the others. The Maximals move out; Botanica stays behind, over Cheetor's protests and with Optimus's blessing: "Whatever it is, we can handle it."

The group arrives in time to help. "Terminate. Terminate!" the tank yells out. "Hi! I'm Cheetor. Come here often?" Cheets says nastily, brandishing his swords. "Terminaaaaaaaate!" the tanks responds. BA webs the tank just then: "Oh, GET a vocabulary," she groans.

"Obliterate. Obliateraaaate!" the helicopter rasps, chasing Silverbolt. Op tackles him in mid-air and knocks him down. Rattrap rolls up as the 'copter crashes: "All new... all different... and dumber than ever." "Why would Megatron use Sparks with such limited intelligence?" SB asks. "Heh! Easier to control," RT opines. Op tries to reach the Sparks within the new Vehicons, but recieves only another round of "Obliterate. Obliterate!!" before the guy TFs and flies off. Cheetor tries the same tactic on the tank, who also retreats. Cheets orders NS and BA into pursuit: "Somewhere in there there's a Maximal we may just be able to reach." But after a short chase, they bump into the others: "Aw... you lost yours, too?" RT asks them. "Don't let them escape! If their memory chips are intact we might be able to find out where Megatron is keeping the rest of the Sparks!" Optimus says.

Botanica, meanwhile is working with her machines... when a vat of green goo that she's using begins to seath and speak her name, overwhelming her with visions of drifting Sparks....

"I don't like this, Boss Monkey," RT says, as the group races after the two Vehicons. "We're beatin' em too easy!" BA: "You're complaining?" SB: "No, he's right... why would Megatron have created such *weaklings*?" The two round a corner and turn to face their opponents, their backs to a wall. NS: "Now we've got 'em!" And a cloud of drones -- identical to the generals -- hoves into view. "...exactly where they want us," RT mutters. "It's a trap!" Cheetor says. "Ya think?" RT snipes back.

A long camera shot reveals that the Maximals are *really* surrounded, by hundreds of drones. "And this started out as such a nice day," NS sighs. Op: "Maximals, fall back!" RT: "Where?? We're completely surrounded, back and forth, up and down--!" The drones move in... and their leaders transform, and speak.

The helicopter: "Although he took his *name* from a great leader, Optimus Primal never learned the first rule of warfare: never underestimate your opponents." The tank: "'Terminate'. 'Obliterate'. Can you *believe* they fell for that?" she says with a chuckle. The drones open fire; Primal absorbs it and uses the energy to blast through the platform they're standing on, so the ground falls out from beneath his group. "I though love was a luxury you couldn't afford," BA says to SB. "We'll discuss it later," he replies.

The Maximals try to retreat to base, but at every turn they're intercepted by drones. "Whoah! Oh man! Who knew there were so many drones!" RT says. "This isn't just about numbers... it's about tactics! Whoever these new generals are, they're master strategists!" Op notes.

Back at said base, Botanica finds herself adrift: "What IS this place?" she asks. An Oracle-like voice replies: "A world, Botanica. Your world. A world living very much in pain." Botanica is then treated to various flashbacks to Megatron's invasion, his armies of drones, the Maximals' fights.... then finds herself alone again.

"At last! A nice peaceful sewer!" RT says -- till more drones pop out of said sewer. "They're still way ahead of us!" Cheetor says. "It's no use! They're anticipating our every move!... Fall back to the citadel! It's built like a fortress!" The Maximals head for Megs' old HQ.... and a plant-vine nearby shows Botanica what's going on.

The Maximals slam shut a pile of heavy doors behind them. "That oughta hold them," Rattrap says. "Yeah... for like ten nanoclicks," NS replies, as firepower impacts the doors from the outside. Op has a horrible realization: "We didn't escape... we were herded here!" A screen with the helicopter's face on it approaches: "Optimus Primal... you and your Maximals are hereby invited to surrender your Sparks to Megatron." OP: "Whoever you are, you're being duped into betraying your own people!" "On the contrary. I was configured to defend Cybertron, and such has always been my mission." OP: "Always?... Who ARE you?" "I am as I've always been... OBSIDIAN! And you remember my consort... Striker." "Aw man..." RT says despairingly, "We been dukin' it out with the greatest generals in Cybertronian history!" "Obsidian! This is treason! Megatron decimated Cybertron!" Op says furiously. "Megatron IS Cybertron! To defend one is to defend the other. And to betray Megatron... is to invite death," Obsidian concludes, as a horde of Striker drones burst through the doors. The group retreats again, but is soon sealed into another room with scads of drones. "We're not going down without a fight!" Op growls -- but then Botanica bursts ito the room and transforms. "Time to clear out the DEADwood!" she says menacingly. She launches a plethora of planet-vine-bomb things, disrupting the drones and causing them to randomly blast each other. "Woo hoo! Now THAT's going out on a limb!" RT enthuses. Obsidian (still watching on a screen from afar): "That *creature* is disrupting their targetting systems!" Striker: "It's the new Maximal. Our data on her is vastly incomplete." The Maximals revert to beast mode and retreat... and Botanica simply seems to melt into the floor.

The generals finally arrive at the scene. Obsidian: "Their signatures are gone! They must have reverted to beast mode." Striker: "All forces... stand down." The two later report back to Megatron. "Lord Megatron," Striker says unflinchingly. "We have failed you." "You got THAT right!" Thrust says, rolling up. "Two of you, a million drones, and not one scratch on the Ma-- huh?" he stops, as a tentacle snakes up to him. "A little silence, please?" Megs asks, testily flicking him aside. "He is correct, sir," Obsidian says, humbling himself. "We are prepared to pay the price of failure." "Your loyalty is pleasing! I commend you for keeping the Maximals occupied... allowing me to finalize the my grand design for the Sparks."

Botanica burrows her way, drill-like, into the Maximal base. "So... what changed your mind?" Cheetor asks. "I had... a vision," Botanica replies. "Eeiye... Another one with visions," Rattrap facepalms. "I was wrong to try and turn my back on the problems of this world. "And I was wrong too. What right did we have to tell you how to live your life? We've been battling Megatron so long we've forgot there was any other way!" "Until Megatron is defeated, this is just as much my fight as it is yours." "When we're done, the Matrix willing, we'll never have to fight again," Optimus says, wearily. "Assuming we're successful," a pessimistic Silverbolt adds. "Obsidian and Striker fought a thousand wars together... and won them all." "Megatron culled them from the captured Sparks! We must make sure he never violates another. We must free the Sparks... at any cost." A dancing vision of Sparks fills the screen as we fade out.




Report:

Rock and roll!!! This episode finally fulfills the promise that was shown in "The Reformatting" -- that of a grim, dark, story, with a desperate band of fugitives, constantly hunted, on the run, badly outnumbered, warey and vigillant at every turn. This was a *scary* episode -- you don't know *how* they're gonna get out of this one... that is, until you remember there's a new character around. In typical Transformers fashion, the new guy is the most powerful, and saves the day. Still, it's not particularly annoying, given the personality type -- she's not trying to be kewl or XTR33M or otherwise grating. She's just a mellow type who happens to be very powerfully armed... and doesn't actually WANT to fight. It's actually an interesting combination of traits.

The placement of Botanica's introductory episode -- a mostly self-contained story that seemingly could have gone anywhere in the season -- now makes sense. Given that she at first didn't want/was ordered not to fight, and then had a realization that changed her mind, it couldn't have gone anywhere else but right before this ep. Of course, Megs bringing in two new Vehicons could have gone anywhere, too. Frankly, he should've done this several episodes ago, instead of expecting one general to succeed where three failed before.

Oh, and speaking of Plant Lady, that IS her "beast" mode we're seeing -- the reformatted version of the Little Shop of Horrors thing that she was when she first appeared. Bizarre. She really does go from plant-thing without legs to plant-thing without legs. Freaky. Still, her abilities and form do relate thematically to the bizarre organic life that's been creeping about on Cybertron since mid-Season 1, so it's not totally out of the blue.

I'm fairly certain I said that Obsidian wouldn't be featured in the show, due to the timing of the toy's release (my logic being that there are Season *1* toys that still haven't hit the shelves.) Well, I was way, way, very, very, muy mucho wrong on that one -- mayorly wrong, even. ;] Surprise! I guess the role of the two new Vehicons could be filled by any old toys, so they chose two slated for timely release. Though this too is confusing... Obsidian is out *now*. These episodes won't be airing State-side until September! Seems odd to have your product on the shelves for 6 months before marketing it. Of course, it seems equally weird to put the ad out over half a year before the toy itself arrives in stores. Maybe Obsidian is aimed at the Canadian market, while Striker is for USA folks who'll be getting her closer to when these episodes air here? It's odd... so far the show has introduced characters whose toys we've not even *heard* of; now we get two that are from this year's line (Striker is, if I'm not mistaken, the soon-to-be-released tank we've previously known as Blastrax/Blastcharge. And isn't Striker also the name of one of the new Dinobot toys? Man, this is confusing...) Speaking of names, Obsidian's now makes sense -- the toy is a bland green.... but the show model is a sleek black color. A great improvement over the toy.

But anyway -- on the other hand, I was right about Thrust. Poor guy is little more than a punching bag with a cool attitude now. Sheesh. He got bashed, beaten, and crushed at least 3 times total in this episode, about once for every scene he was in. With the two strikingly intelligent generals now on the scene, he comes across as a joke of a commander. Poor, poor Thrust.

The new characters are serious, ominous, and positively threatening. I can't recall the Maximals facing such a competent-sounding opponent since... well... ever, really. Tarantulas, maybe, but he was more of a schemer than a battlefield genius. Our Heroes certainly have their work cut out for them now. On the other hand... so far there's little to distinguish between the two generals -- their personalities seem very similar. I had to re-watch and take notes before I could remember which one was which. Speculating from what little we saw, Obsidian seems to be more of the spokesperson for the pair, while Striker stays more in the background, observing and plotting.

And hey, did I hear that right? "Consort"? Hmmm, all *sorts* of possible implications there. Double checking Webster's, it can mean "associate" or "spouse". Heh -- a very nice ambiguity from the writers that's sure to lead to all sorts of fan speculation. We'll have to watch the interactions of these two closely in the future.

Oh, and did I mention how happy I am that they're NEW CHARACTERS?? THIS is how the "recycled Spark" plot should've been handled -- figures from Cybertron's past, that Op and company are familiar with perhaps, but that WE have never met before. This episode gained a VERY nice touch of real-life continuity, and of political charge, in the one or two lines following the Generals' introductions. Giving the characters past experience -- a history that pre-dates our first encounter with them -- makes them seem MUCH more real. And it's much better than rehashing for the umpteenth time things that we already know. Heck, this season is doing a number of things right that Season 1 got wrong. Another one in this ep: when *these* generals make their debut, they use the full horde-o'-drones resources at their disposal. When Tankor, Jetstorm, and Thrust first made the scene, everyone was wondering: where are their drones?

So who *were* these two in their past life? Personality-wise, I mean? "They fought a thousand wars together," Silverbolt says (guess he's been reading up on history? Maybe hanging out with BA does that to a guy.) Wars against who? Obsidian says he was configured to defend Cybertron... but who's been attacking? Were they Predacons, Maximals, or members of the older factions? Were their wars fought on Cybertron or elsewhere? Before or after the Pax Cybertronia? Things on Cybertron might not have been as peaceful as we were lead to believe... on the other hand, it takes *time* to fight "a thousand wars" -- at least several hundred years, I'd wager... so the pair's exploits would seem to pre-date the timeframe of Beast Wars, and go back possibly as far as the G1 era. At any rate, Primal's comments make it appear that these two have also had their personalities twisted a bit to suit Megatron's needs.

The general's deception was brilliant. It sure had me going... and it made sense, given the Maximals' past experience with Tankor. However... shouldn't the Maximals have figured out what was going on? Both Rattrap and Silverbolt note that something's amiss... then totally fail to take the next little step and think about what that might possibly *be*. Even when the generals stop to face them, they still don't get it. I was grateful when Obsidian spoke and revealed his true self... I really didn't want to deal with *two* more Tankors. Oh, and in a nice bit of reverse foreshadowing, Cheetor automatically assumes that there are Maximals inside the new Generals... never assume, buddy. You'll create a donkey out of yourself and myself. Or something like that.

Cinematicly speaking, the trap and the pursuit was very intimidating. These new drones seem far less clunky and stupid compared to the ones they replace. Obsidian especially is sleek and ominous-looking in vehicle mode (it's also interesting that these new drones get their very own new theme music, a tuneless, thrumming pulsing thing -- like a percussionistic vacuum cleaner. Does this mean we'll never hear Tankor's "Onslaught of Technology" theme again?) It was an especially nice touch that the extent of the trap wasn't immediately obvious... at first it simply seemed that the Maximals had been lead into a plain old drone-style ambush, no big deal. But as the scene continues, their plight becomes more and more desperate, culimating in their slamming the citadel doors shut behind them. And for a split second the viewer thinks they've finally gotten a moment's rest... only to find they've walked into yet another trap. This is the sort of edge-of-the-seat pacing that made the fight scenes in "Proving Grounds" so good... and it works even better here, with the fate of (nearly) the entire team riding on the outcome, and a pervasive sense of there being nowhere left to run.

Cinematic confusion: when Striker roars past the camera once, twice, three times a Vehicon during the chase sequence. I thought she'd acquired some drones along the way -- maybe she did? Maybe it was an anime thing? Foreshadowing of the attack? Beats me.

Another visual note: is that white stuff the generals keep spewing out supposed to be *smoke*?

Despite the initial grimness, this ep had a couple of very funny moments: Nightscream's take to the camera, and Rattrap's housewife impression. The latter especially is proof positive that Scott McNeil is simply brilliant. :] Nightscream's delivery is actually pleasing for once... he sounds downright socialble as he tries to talk to Silverbolt, and when he despairs that "this started off as such a nice day..."

Botanica's flashback was... not useless, as it gave motivation to the character, but... come on! Couldn't they at LEAST animate some new scenes for the pre-series flashbacks? I mean, we've seen the same footage of the fleeing, backshadowed robot being overtaken by the virus three times now. Come on, Mainframe! We're hankerin' for more scenes of pre-Megatron Cybertron... not a repeat of the same old ones!

And what was UP with the flashback, anyway? Was this the Oracle at work? I lay odds Primal will have something to say about this in the future. Rattrap's comment on this was quite amusing.

Still no Noble/Savage this week. I'm cool with that. When he returns, expect him to be an important plot point. I'd rather he disappear for long stretches than pop up repeatedly and be useless.

Sub-plot number 2: SB and BA. Silverbolt's too war-obsessed to bother with BA at the moment, it seems. Huh. BA should take warning -- true love generally won't wait. Or is SB afraid of the tactical vunerabilities of being in love? If BA gets taken hostage by Megs, SB could be compelled to walk right into his clutches -- is that it? We don't get to find out, since NS and SB's would-be conversation is cut short by the main plot point. Poor Nightscream (did I just say that??) -- he just wants to help his new-found flying partner, and gets shrugged off, dismissed, and told to "grow up, *son*". Jeez, how fresh out of the stasis pod does Silverbolt think NS is?

Okay, I'm stumped: what in the world is Blackarachnia referring to when she says "I thought you didn't have *time* for love"? There had been no actions, no gestures, no words, no looks, no ANYTHING between the two in the preceding scenes that I could see. It was just totally out of the blue. In the words of Rattrap, "Did I... miss something?"

Maximal: Cheetor
Function: Stating the Obvious
Quote: "They're still way ahead of us!"
Another quote: "Do you have any idea what she went through to get you back?"
Still another: "Thanks to Botanica, the trees are thriving!"
And one more: "It's a trap!"

I seem to recall him having this problem in the previous couple of episodes, too. Why not just rename him Narrator?

Worst quote: "Now THAT's going out on a limb!" Urrrrg, I hate when a cliche sentence is inserted into the dialogue purely for its superficial topical relevance. In other words: just because "going out on a limb" refers to a tree doesn't mean it makes sense to say it just 'cause Plant Lady showed up...

And the future: finally, forward movement on the captured Sparks plot! Though Primal seems to randomly flip-flop between this and the organic theme as a priority, we seem to be getting to a point where the problem will be at least addressed, instead of simply being delayed (as it was in "Prometheus Unbound".) As for the "multi-part episode" format... it's not so much a multi-parter in plot as it is in theme, as soon we'll learn what Megatron's "grand design for the Sparks" is. Hope it doesn't involve snuffing out a bunch of them... :[

Overall: this is how it oughtta be!! A fast-moving, gripping, believable plot, intriguing new characters, advancement of the character-based plot points, kick-butt action -- more, please!

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