Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Rantings
Re: "Spark War Part 2: The Search"
3/30/00

Okay, before the usual review... a very brief rant about ATT.

Specifically: when I glanced at the whole mess centered around Neale Davidson and Deathasaurus a few days back, there were at LEAST 50 posts in the various threads. At LEAST. And virtually every bit of it was angry, screaming, derogatory personal attacks, all of which have degraded on all sides to a point that nobody's ever going to convince anybody of anything. And it has nothing at all to do with Transformers, really.

Meanwhile, last week's review got... uh, okay, 15 replies, which ain't bad, actually. Even though 8 of those weren't about TFs at all. But still... really, people, why do you come here? To flame, or to talk Transformers?

Okay, that's out of my system. Let's get down to business!

Guaranteed

to

bamboozle,

bewitch,

and

otherwise

SPOIL...

Here:

Standard recap of last episode. These things only come during the multi-parters, which makes no sense considering that the plot evolves just as much during a typical stand-alone episode... but I digress.

Megatron's facist planet is being patrolled by legions of the new drones as the Maximals, in beast mode, make their way along the lower levels of the surface. "How long before they find our underground base?" Cheetor wonders. Ahead, the BFH rises into view. "Talk about yer bad moon risin'," Rattrap observes. "Megatron is using his new generals to fortify his position. That means it's more important than ever that we find--" Optimus's words are cut off by a jolting vision of the drifting Sparks. "The Oracle. Contacting me, warning me! Megatron was shielding the Sparks, preventing the Oracle within me from finding them. But that flash... Megatron must have moved them!... we must retrieve them before Megatron destroys them... or worse."

Within the BFH, Megatron speaks to his three generals: "My enemies are going to be in locations to which I will now direct you. I want every Maximal destroyed... except for Optimus. I have other plans for him... yes."

"If only we could stay in robot mode without alerting their sensors," Blackarachnia complains, prompting Rattrap to speak up: "In that case, Webs, this is your lucky day," he says, pulling a tiny blue disk-shaped device out of his back compartment, and transforming to robot mode. He launches into saleman mode: "Iiiiiiiiintroducing the handy dandy scrambled field generator. When activated, this little marvel of electronic wizardry is guarenteed to bamboozle, bewitch, and otherwise befuddle all manner of Vehicon tracking devices. And it just so happens we're running a special today: buy one... get six free." "Why didn't you mention these before?" Silverbolt groans. "Because I, uh... heh heh have no idea if they're gonna work." Nightscream: "Guess it's better than nothing." BA: "Don't bet on it." RT: "Your confidence warms the cockles of my neuroprocessor." The group tries them out, changing to robot modes... then dives for cover as Obsidian passes by overhead. But the general doesn't notice them, instead moving to carry out his orders along with Striker [sorry, but she's Striker till I see something in print to tell us how to spell her name, whatever it is...]

Optimus tells the group that his flashes were of familiar places, and splits them up into three teams to go investigate. Rattrap and Botanica aren't too happy at being paired up, but the group deploys as ordered.

At the "Maximal shell yard just outside processing plant #57", in Optimus's words, Cheets, SB and BA move in. "No offense, kitten... but I don't take orders from children," Silverbolt says to Cheets. "Silverbolt... a lot's happened since you've been gone," BA says. "Not _that_ much," SB replies, as Cheetor growls angrily... and Obsidian, watching from concealment, prepares his strike force.

As Op and Nightscream walk below the surface, NS finds a familiar claw slash in the wall. "Noble... we gotta find him!" "One mission at a time, Nightscream," Op replies gently. They run into a cave-in around the corner; Op's eyes flash with white light, and -- glancing at a floor hatch -- says they're heading down...

"C'mon, rose hips, we ain't got all night!" RT says to Botanica, outside the Citadel. "Let's just get this over with." "Oh, yeah, like datin' you was my idea... okay, let's just case this joint, see what we got, and vamoose." RT scans the complex: "Oh man... I am picking up the mother of all positronic residual charges! C'mon!" And inside, they find piles and piles of Spark canisters: "Gone... empty. Zilch," Rattrap says, dejected. They depart... and are ambushed by Striker.

"These devices of yours worked brilliantly, Rattrap," Botanica chides. "I don't see you contributing anything, leaf lady!" Botanica zaps a round of Striker drones with her waist-zapper-things, as Rattrap advices that "This calls for a strategic advance to the rear." "Meaning?" "Run away!!"

Obsidian observes from high above as the Maximals explore the shell complex: "I'm not even sure what we're supposed to be looking for," BA says. SB: "Why don't you ask our leader?" Cheets: "Optimus sent us here based on a vision." SB: "I wish I had your faith in his visions, kid." Cheets: "You wanna stop calling me that?" But the Vehicon general attacks just then. "Looks like we've been spotted. Thank you very much, Rattrap!" BA snarls, tossing her disk away. Drones appear from the shadows. "Surrounded! As leader, I'm open to ideas!" Cheetor notes. "Fine. Here's the plan." And SB lauches maniacly skyward, hurling feather missiles like mad...

Op and NS, meanwhile, have found a stunning ruin. "This city was lost eons ago after the great war between the Autobots and the Decepticons," NS speculates. "Not lost," Optimus tells him as they fly down into the city, "merely replaced. During the great upgrade from Autobot to Maximal! Welcome to Iacon." "So this is where our ancestors, the Autobots lived!" "Lived... and battled." The two apparently trigger a ghostly spector: "A holographic tribute to my ancestor... the original Optimus Prime."

RT and Botanica get out of robot mode to escape detection, and duck into a convenient building; Striker drives by without finding them. RT taps his scrambler disk uncertainly, only to get snapped at by Botanica: "Is it not a little late for that?!" But RT's attention is suddenly distracted by the contents of the building they're in: "Helllloooo... holographic pleasure chips! Complete with alternative vistas, premiere vacation spots -- virtual, but not virtuous, if you catch my drift..." he says, loading several of said chips into his backpack. "Everyone else gets a partner; I get a flea-ridden travel agent," Botanica moans. RT spots some sort of player for the chips just then, and plugs into it, becoming enthralled with a vision of a peaceful metallic world (pre-war Cybertron?) "Is this really the time to be focussing on a cyber-cranial getaway?" Botanica asks, but just then Striker enters and attacks.

At the shell plant, Silverbolt finally gets blasted back to the ground. "Are you alright?" BA asks. "I am... un... damaged," he says, almost sounding pleased somehow. "You won't be when I get through with you!" Cheetor snarls, till a blast knocks them all down. "If you're through venting now, have YOU got any ideas?" SB asks him.

Op and NS are about to move on... when the virtual Prime reaches down and scoops Optimus up, bringing him up to face level. From NS's point of view, the hologram disappears, though Op continues to float in mid-air. Thrust arrives just then and attacks, but Op is seemingly in a trance.

RT is still lost in his fantasy world, till Botanica pulls the machine's plug. A blast scatters the Maximals... and RT's precious chips, which he scrambles to scoop up. "This place is about to come down around our audio receptors, and you're worried about holo-chips?!" "Just keep her occupied, okay?" "I am not risking limb and limb just so you can --" but Botanic is hit and downed just then. "What a pretty little plant," Striker says, looming over her, "although she does need some pruning."

"Well, kid, you're the leader," SB tells Cheets, elsewhere. Cheets: "I'm working on it!" SB: "Work faster..." Cheetor briefly trys confronting the drones, swords ready, but when their weapons come up he opts for the better part of valor, and leads a hasty retreat.

NS is dodging cycledrone shots, while Optimus talks with Optimus on some other plane: "Are you really my ancestor, Optimus Prime?" "Yes, and no," the figure says. "I am his essence, stored here these many years after the final battle." "I... I need guidance. The Oracle is no more, and without it --" "The Oracle lies within you, Optimus Primal. It will grant you the insight to defeat Megatron, if only you have the courage to summon it." "Of course... now everything makes sense! The solution has been within me the entire time." Primal is surrounded by a white, Oracle-style hoola-hoop, and Prime's figure chuckles... then laughs -- a laugh which quickly deepens into that of Megatron, whose face suddenly replaces the figure of Prime.

Striker is posed to deliver a killing blow to Botanica, when RT notices that one of her feet is on the activation pad of the holo-player he was using earlier. He leaps, landing on her shoulders: "Congratulations, gorgeous... you just won an all-expenses paid... head trip." And with that he plugs one of the chips into her head, ensnaring her with the same vision that he was having before. "It's so... beautiful," Striker murmers, "...beautiful." "Well, what do you think of your 'flea-ridden travel agent' now, hmmmmm?" RT asks. "That chip won't last forever!" Botanica says, literally dragging him off. "Heh, pretty clever, huh? C'mon, admit it, you're impressed, I won't tell anyone..."

"If you want to follow this _kid_ to the scrapheap, that's your business," SB tells BA as they face heavy fire. "Cheetor's not a kid anymore. He'll get us through this." A blast sends the group flying into a pile of spare body parts. "So we can end up like this?" SB says, briefly holding aloft a stray piece. "Hey. I thought we were going easy on the grim and gruesome," BA replies. "A power core?" Cheets says, seeing SB's bit of bot. "Silverbolt, you're a genius." "I am?" SB says, befuddled, as Cheetor snatches it away, arms it, and tosses it at their foes. Obsidian recognizes it, but doesn't have enough time to clear out before the thing blows up in their faces. A moment later the Maximals dig out from under more robot parts, finding the Vehicons gone. "Not bad for a kid," Cheetor says to SB, offering him a hand up and a smile. "Thanks... for not... getting us killed," SB manages to say.

Megatron speaks to Op: "I sent you that flash about the Sparks to trick you into sending your Maximals on fools' errands, all to gull you into accessing the Oracle for my benefit." "How? Why?!" the incredulous Optimus asks. Megs laughs. "I don't suppose you recall me downloading most of the Oracle from you during one of your previous visits?" he says, as we briefly flash back to "In Darkest Knight". "You think I would have let you escape without taking it from you? I've spent a great deal of time deciphering the Oracle. I've mastered most of its secrets. And yet the most important data remained encrypted, beyond my reach! That is... until now. And a fast, forceful download commences. "Every important element is falling into place," Megs says when it's over. "I have captured all of the Sparks. I have freed myself from my of my _disgustingly_ organic beast mode, and now -- thanks to you -- I have acquired all of the information I need in order to complete my ultimate plan for the Sparks. Farewell Optimus... your usefulness to me is at an end." Megs fades away, and Op finds himself in the middle of Nightscream's cycledrone battle.

NS, meanwhile, has been downed by numbers... when a bolt out of the blue hits his attacker. It's Savage, lumbering onto the scene and prompting the cycledrones into a frantic retreat. Savage morphs to Noble and jogs after them, out of sight... but a second later we see the drones go flying in a way they definately weren't meant to. Optimus recovers... and immediately orders NS to follow him to a rendevous with the others.

"So it was all a trick by Megatron," NS says to the group later. "And now he's got the power of the Oracle behind him?" BA almost wimpers. "Right. Which means it's time to liberate the Sparks," Op says matter-of-factly. "Oh!" RT mocks. "That just means it's time to liberate the Sparks!... have you blown a circuit, boss monkey?? We don't have a clue where they are!" "Actually, I know exactly where they are. While Megatron was downloading data from me, I was accessing information from him." "You gave him access to the Oracle on purpose?!" BA asks. "A desperate ploy, but it worked! Which leaves us only a tiny window of opportunity to act. We have to get to the Sparks, and fast!" "So don't keep us in suspense; where are they?" NS asks. And so Op turns dramatically, and they follow his gaze to... the Big Floating Head of Megatron.




There:

I'm starting to notice a trend.... when the Maximals split up, you get a good episode. It breaks that habit they have of acting as one character with seven bodies. It also allows stronger focus on individual relationships: whereas in the whole group you might have, say, Silverbolt speaking to four or five characters, when he's alone with one or two others, his words are exclusively focused on them, and vice versa.

Take this ep for example. We learned that Rattrap and Botanica are NOT fond of each other... SB is not impressed with Cheetor's "maturity"... and we saw Op and NS share a moment of reverential awe at history. All this piled in with three, four, maybe five temporary and/or on-going plot lines. Give the Maximals a chance to wander on their own for most of the episode, and it seems to produce more interesting results.

That said, this ep wasn't necessarily the strongest in the world. Something about it I just can't put my finger on... it felt more like a bridge than a self-contained episode. The heightened sense of drama from "The Strike" just wasn't there this time. Still, I give full credit for an interesting plot, and yet another typically clever deception by Megatron -- and, for once, a nice (and daring) counter-move by Optimus. It will be interesting to see where this leads... though as the ep faded out, I found myself thinking: "If time is so short, WHY are you just sitting there?? Can't you explain it along the way?"

On a minute-to-minute basis, this ep was great. Some interesting fights, constant plot turns and scene changes, and tons of great lines, the majority of them delivered by Scott McNeil's two characters -- Silverbolt, especially, could have come across as a REAL jerk in this ep, if his delivery was only slightly different. Just reading many of his lines ("Thanks for not getting us killed", to name one), he *would* seem like a jerk. But McNeil finds just the right tone and emphasis to make him seem simply exhasperated most of the time. Ditto for Blackarachnia's "Don't bet on it!" -- an ordinary line, but an exceptional delivery. Rattrap's latest pop-culture schpiel (about the scramblers) was a riot as well. Rattrap is indeed comin' back in style.

The plot seems to be building up to a final, climactic battle (well, obviously, since any good series is gonna end with a bang -- but I mean that the climactic battle seems ready to start right now!) Yet, if I'm not mistaken, we still have a full five episodes to go. If this really is coming down to the conclusive finale, it could be a gut-wrenching series of cliffhangers, or a tediously slow-moving clunker of a plot. Of course, given the nature of multi-part episodes, it seems more likely that the plot will take a breather at the end of next episode before launching into the true series finale. Based on that, I expect Megs to succeed in whatever his "grand design for the Sparks" is. I mean, if the Maximals actually managed to *free* them at this point, what would they *do* with them for the next four episodes?? We can't have thousands of CGI robots running about in need of animation...

Megatron shone in this episode, coming across as a truly frightening madman, heedy with his own power, in possession of untold dark secrets, and on the virge of solidifying his power forever, while casually using untold lives like playthings. It was also pleasing to see that he WAS getting information out of Op back in "Darkest Knight", and not just holding them while doing nothing, as it seemed at the time.

So, did Rattrap's gadget work or not? Seems to me it did: nowhere did we get any indication that the Vehicons found their prey by any means other than being where Megatron told them to be.

Anyone else notice all the innuendo in this episode? Check out Rattrap and Botanica approaching the Citadel: they sound like a young couple about to have sex, when the girl doesn't want to. Then we've got Rattrap going on about illicit pleasure chips... shades of torso plates and dirty mech fluid, huh? Then of course there's Primal's statement that they're headed down... or am I stretching it a bit to much? :]

Before anyone says that Rattrap was being out of character by ignorning Striker while in the holo-machine... judging by Striker's reaction to the chip, it's apparently a very compelling experience for a Transformer, perhaps numbing one's judgement somehow. Striker going all gah-gah over it was rather amusing. But it was really dumb of RT to plug in in the first place....

A quick thought about Obsidian... he strikes me as the kind of guy that, even in peace time, would make a worrisome ally. I can easily envision him situated in some kind of political scene on Cybertron, delivering a speech to some assembled body, urging them onto a path of warfare and conquest with subtle deviousness, while more down-to-earth guys like Primal worry what to do about him, their hands tied by laws of the land....

Cheetor, master of the ancient Cybertronian art of stating the blindingly obvious, makes his strike: "Megatron's up to something, and we're talking big" -- then fades into the night....

A couple of plot holes: What does Cheets mean, "find" their base? The Vehicons already found it, just two episodes back! What, Thrust doesn't count?... You mean all Rattrap had to do was *scan* for the Sparks --- like say during the last THREE times he was in the Citadel -- and he coulda found them? Oh GAWD, say it ain't so...

Guh. I knew it was too cheap for them to resist, I just *knew* it. People who've been hoping Noble/Savage would return, I hope you're satisfied... he finally showed up, and just as I figured, he was a convenient plot device to save the day. At least it was quick and relatively inconsequential to the main plot. And hey, what's with those drones? Aren't they supposed to be non-sentient? They were waving their arms as if in terror when they fled... hard to believe that a big, lumbering ogre like Noble could catch up with them, but the scene with them popping up and NS's wince was cute.

Tributes: today's classic rock ref is Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Risin'". We also get a Star Wars tribute when Cheetor tries to psyche out the drones... think Han Solo vs. a horde of stormtroopers aboard the Death Star. And we get Blackarachnia speaking to the Fox censors: "I thought we were going easy on the grim and gruesome!" I also can't help noticing that Megs sounds a lot like Paul Harvey as he delivers his final speech to Primal: "And now -- thanks to you -- Megatron? In command OF the sparks? PLANNING.... some, unseen, UNKNOWN plan? What could it be?... Tune in --- next week, when we bring you... the REST of the story."

There were also G1 references aplenty, with Iacon and Optimus Prime putting in major appearances. Iacon, for those who're just turning in, is one of the few constants between Transformer universes: in both the G1 cartoon and comic, it was a headquarters city for the Autobots. We finally learn why it's not been mentioned... it's a relic of the past, abandoned and buried beneath a new surface. This should resolve any questions about why Cybertron looks different from its appearance in the G1 cartoon -- it actually has had a new skin put on it. Since Optimus says the city was abandoned during the "upgrade from Autobot to Maximal", one may conjecture that this was done to accomodate the generally smaller body size of the Maximals.

And Primal -- so, he's not just a tribute to the original Prime, but he's a *decendant*... does he mean that in a literal or figurative manner? Who know Op Prime ever had any offspring? Guh, just saying that brings to mind a certain breed of fanfics that I try to ignore the existance of...

Visual notes: Nice to see that at least ONE Vehicon doesn't have anything woobering or looking around in vehicle form: Obsidian has no face. Striker, unfortunately, has a very animated vehicle head. Bleh... We got several nice robo-vision shots: from Cheetor, Obsidian, and Rattrap. We've had virtually none till now, and suddenly, three in one episode. Odd.... Botanica has no visible means of locomotion; she simply slides along. What else can she do, given that she has only one leg?... And I never before noticed that Savage has only 2 legs. Odd; he looks very four-legged, riding so low to the ground... Overall, this episode's nices shots were all distant images that showed clouds of hovering, patrolling Vehicon drones surrounding the BFH -- very, very facist...

The oracle is INSIDE of Optimus? Whoah... bizarre. No wonder the dude's personality has changed. How the heck did Megatron figure THIS out? And why didn't somebody tell Primal? At least Megs had to tip his hand to get the rest. Primal should have access to all the info that Megatron does -- though he hasn't had time to digest it like Megs has.

Today's "is anyone reading this?" question: Rattrap says, in reference to Botanica, "How come I get stuck with shrinking violet here?" Is this some pop culture reference? I've never heard the phrase before.

Like everyone else, I'm sure, I was a bit disconcerted (and disappointed) that they had to have Gary Chalk doing Optimus Prime's voice. But we can certainly dismiss that, in light of the fact that it wasn't *really* Optimus Prime in the first place. As for Primal not realizing it was a fake, well, how many historic figures would *you* recognize the voice of? :]

Overall: Not as exciting as last week's episode, but still pretty darn good. Next week: Spark! Spark! Spark! Spark!!!

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