?A lot of die-hard Generation 1 Transformers fans had a hard time accepting Beast Wars when it debuted in 1996 (we’ve all heard about the nerd arguments got so heated that fans of Beast Wars began derisively summing up those G1 diehards’ views with the Cro-magnon-esque “TRUKK NOT MUNKY!!!”). But if you look past its primitive mid-’90s CGI, Beast Wars has the most sophisticated storytelling to date of any Transformers TV series, and was single-handedly responsible for relaunching the Transformers brand after Generation 1 had disappeared from toy shelves and television screens a few years prior. Beast Wars was rich in character, continuity, suspenseful sci-fi and humor, and it even threw in enough connections to the original Transformers to entice those surly, older fans. All three seasons are recommended viewing, but here are 10 episode no Transformers fan should miss.
10) Other Voices
Mysterious aliens that had been orbiting the Beast Wars planet decided the Transformers had contaminated their experiments and attempted to wipe them out with a weapon called the Planet Buster. Optimus Primal valiantly flew a one-man ship up to destroy the weapon, but Megatron suddenly appeared on the ship’s viewscreen and announced that the ship was under his control. Proving he was a more ruthless bastard than his namesake, he locked the ship so Optimus couldn’t escape and Primal went kablooey with the alien weapon. It was a shocking moment! Also entertaining in this episode was the ongoing rivalry between the two Decepticon spiders, Tarantulus and Blackarachnia, and the crazy, pyromaniac Inferno, who really believed he was an ant and always vowed to protect “the colony” and his “queen,” Megatron (much to Megatron’s chagrin).
9) A Better Mousetrap
Rattrap wasn’t just the Maximals’ resident sarcastic joke machine; he was an ace mechanic, and proved his mettle in this episode by staying inside the Maximal base when its security system went haywire, dodging its attempts to smite him as he worked to deactivate it. Thinking Rattrap didn’t survive the adventure (which he of course did), his friends eulogized him, but couldn’t help waxing about his negative qualities, as well.
Beast Wars wasn’t afraid to tackle the subject of euthanasia in a thinly veiled metaphor by introducing Transmutate, a new character who basically suffered from the Transformers equivalent of severe birth defects. The genderless creature was a mishmash of parts, unable to transform, lacked intelligence and was ruled by basic emotions. But it was also dangerously powerful, and neither the Predacons nor the Maximals wanted to chance having it on their team. Their solutions were slightly different, though, as Megatron wanted to put Transmutate down and Optimus wanted to put it in stasis until they could figure out what to do with the creature. But one member from each side, the Maximal Silverbolt and the Predacon Rampage, saw value in Transmutate and stood up for its continued existence; Rampage because he sensed a fellow tortured soul and Silverbolt because he believed in defending the rights of all life. When the two began to fight over Transmutate, the creature nobly sacrificed its life to prevent the opposing warriors from killing each other. Heady stuff for a cartoon, eh?
7) Bad Spark
The dark secret of the Maximals was revealed – the whole purpose of the trip that ended with them crash-landing and becoming marooned on a primitive world was to dispose of a genetic experiment gone wrong. And that experiment, a gigantic crab-beast named Protoform X (a.k.a. Rampage) with an indestructible spark (soul), had woken up and begun hunting down his former tormentors, as well as the Predacons that wanted to retrieve and recruit him. Maximal goody two-shoes Silverbolt and Predacon bad girl Blackarachnia developed an unlikely attraction (which is a bit creepy when you think about it) as they were forced to work together. Protoform X ended up in the horrifying position of having Megatron carve out and keep part of Rampage’s spark in order to control the beast.
6) Gorilla Warfare
Optimus Primal got ambushed by the Predacon Scorponok, who implanted a Cyber Bee in the Maximal leader’s chest. The implant was intended to alter Primal’s personality so that he was too cowardly to lead, but instead it turned him into a berseker madman who gavethe entire Predacon team a legendary ass-kicking they’d never forget. Despite the fact that removing the implant would cause it to self-destruct, Optimus ripped it out of his chest and chucked it at Megatron. AWESOME.
The finale of Beast Wars wasn’t perfect, but it contained many classic moments, such as: Waspinator finally snapping after years of abuse and telling off his comrades, then having the last laugh as he was the last among them standing and stayed behind on Earth to be worshipped as a god by protohumans; the battle to the mutual death between mortal enemies Depth Charge and Rampage; Megatron’s salvaging of the Decepticon warship Nemesis, his namesake’s vessel; the second (sort of) death of Dinobot; and the capture of Megatron, who got to spend the trip back to Cybertron strapped to the hull of the Maxmial ship like a prized deer. It was a pretty satisfying conclusion… until Beast Machines, but that’s another list!
Poor Waspinator never got any respect; he was pretty much the Rodney Dangerfield of Transformers. The immortal, somewhat dim Predacon wasp was constantly getting swatted into a zillion pieces and having to pull himself back together. He briefly got his due in this episode when the spark (soul) of the Generattion 1 character Starscream possessed Waspinator and made him a force to be reckoned with. True to form, though, Starscream began betraying anyone within an 80-mile radius, although that was his undoing. Orgasmic moment: a cameo from Unicron!
3) Coming of the Fuzors
This two-part episode was influenced by spaghetti westerns, pitting the Maximals against the Predacons in a High Noon-style shootout. It also marked the debut of one of the series’ most entertaining characters, the chivalrous-to-a-fault wolf-eagle hybrid Silverbolt. He didn’t realize he was a Maximal at first and was taken in by the Predacons, who, he quickly realized, were not playing fair. Silverbolt submitted his resignation by shoving Megatron off a cliff and was promptly accepted by the Maximals. Optimus Primal also made his grand return in this episode in a new body, this time as an ape with a hoverboard, proving that Prime (or Primals) never stay dead.
2) Code of Hero
If you watched any of the Transformers programming that came after the Beast Wars era (Animated aside), it might be hard to remember that Transformers cartoons care capable of having brains and heart. “Code of Hero” maturely dealt with heroism and death in a way that is rare in children’s television. The episode began with Dinobot, the conflicted and unhappy Predacon warrior who had joined the Maximals, contemplating suicide. He decided against it and went off to try and recover a golden disc from Megatron that would allow the Predacon leader to alter the future.
Dinobot ended up facing down the entire Predacon force alone, defeating them all and using his last ounce of strength to destroy the disc. Dinobot also saved early humans in the process, who Megatron had been planning to murder to prevent them form allying with the Autobots in the future. And the early humans, witnessing Dinobot’s battle, learned how to defend themselves.
After this noble sacrifice, Dinobot’s fellow Maximals held a funeral in which they disintegrated his remains and flew in a missing man formation. It was one of those times when it was perfectly acceptable for grown nerds to cry.
1) The Agenda/Optimal Situation
All those G1-loving, “TRUKK NOT MUNKY”-screaming fans we mentioned in the intro? If “The Agenda” and its follow-up “Optimal Situation” didn’t win over any hesitant G1 fans, nothing would. Basically, it confirmed without a doubt that Beast Wars was a true sequel to G1 (and probably the cartoon universe).
The G1 love in this four-part story was non-stop. First, former Decepticon Ravage arrived and, despite having a new body, still transformed into a cassette tape. When he yelled his battlecry of “Decepticons forever!” it was a moment of glory. Furthermore, Beast Wars Megatron revealed he had a golden disk that contained a recording of the original Megatron. And then came the coup de grace; it had previously been revealed that the Beast Wars were actually taking place on prehistoric Earth, but in this story the characters found the crashed Ark spaceship containing the deactivated and very large bodies of their ancestors, just as they were in the beginning of the G1 storyline. Granted, fandom almost had a heart attack when Beast Wars Megatron blew up the original Optimus Prime’s head and almost killed him, destroying the timeline in which the Autobots won the war, but the Maximals saw to it that everything was fine and history was restored.
This story was non-stop in its references to the original Transformers but, more importantly, it was also a pulse-pounding adventure that was the absolute highlight and defining moment of the Beast Wars series. It wasn’t just an homage; it helped proved Beast Wars had an identity of its own and even, dare we say it, surpassed the greatness of its forbearer, at least in storytelling.