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Old 12-19-2011, 06:46 PM   #18
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Beast Wars - The Complete Series

This features SPOILERS

Beast Wars (Beasties in Canada because we're pacifists) was a show developed in the 90s to re-energise the Transformers brand after it died off in the late 80s, after they brought Optimus Prime back for no reason and turned people into Transformer heads.

The two main producers Larry DiTillio (who worked on Babylon 5) and Robert Forward (who worked on He-Man and She-Ra!) set out to take the characters they were given and make a good science fiction series. And they succeeded.

Season 1 starts out with Optimus Primal and his crew chasing Megatron and his crew because they've stolen an artifact called the Golden Disc. The battle between ships causes both to crash on an alien planet. The ships scan life forms on the planet to change their forms, and instead of vehicles, like in the original series, we get animal Transformers because the planet is apparently in a very primitive state.

The first season wasn't specifically meant to be tied to the original Transformers series, but a referrence to a "great war" got fans attention and got the two producers interested in the lore of the old series. Despite the lack of knowledge of the old series, they did manage to set up some archetypes similar to the original series with the Maximals (Autobots) and Predacons (Decepticons)

Optimus Primal is the selfless leader
Rhinox is the Ratchet type character, medic but also spiritual guru
Cheetor is the young Bumblebee type character
Rat Trap is the smart alecky character ala Powerglide
Tigatron is the pacifist, like Beachcomber
Dinobot is obviously an allusion to the Dinobots of the original series. He's not as stupid, but he is ready to fight as much as they were.
Air Razor is the only character who has no obvious parallel from the old series, other than Arcee, because she's female.

Megatron is more devious and less bombastic than his original namesake.
Terrorsaur is very much a Starscream parallel, who wants to take over leadership for himself.
Scorponok is an obedient servant, the only Decepticon to take his name from a G1 character
Waspinator is an illusion to the Insecticons, but mostly used for comedy effect
Tarantulas is a secretive, deceptive
Black Arachnia is another spider, and the only female Decepticon

This is the original, violent, American opening!

The first season, consisting of four discs does a good job of setting up mysteries, such as the stonehenge like structures, the two moons, and the aliens who created those structures. There was one callback to the original series with an appearance by Starscream's ghost.

The second season mercilessly dispatches Terrorsaur and Scorponok to introduce new characters such as Quickstrike, who is basically Sawyer from Lost, and Inferno, who is pretty hilarious because he thinks he's actually an ant, as well as the second moon, leading to certain speculations. Also, the cheese inducing Silverbolt is brought to the Maximals and Tigatron and Air Razor are sent into space by a plant and not heard from until next season. One of the best episodes of the entire series is in this season, Code Of Hero, which features the death of Dinobot. The topic of the golden disc is brought to the forefront of the story, and its importance is revealed during the amazing season finale. It turns out the Golden Disc was captured from the Voyager Space probes and included a hidden message from the original Megatron for his descendents to go back and find the Ark and destroy Optimus Prime.

The third season featured the destruction of the original Maximal ship and them moving into the Ark (The original G1 ship). New characters included Depth Charge and Rampage, two bitter enemies on Cybertron. Season 3 flounders a bit as Megatron seems to have no plan after being stopped from killing Optimus, there is an obvious focus on introducing new toys and Tigatron and AirRazor are re-introduced, somewhat unsatisfyingly as they are combined into one Transformer, introduced near the end of the season, then promptly killed in the finale pointlessly.

The special features of this set include a comic prequel, introducing the setup to Megatron stealing the Golden Disc, and various interviews with the writers, and a short one with the voice actors. Disappointingly, there are no commentaries.

Overall, the series holds up remarkably well. If I had to compare it to another series, I would say Beast Wars is the Star Trek DS9 of the Transformers series. Underappreciated, a bit dark and features complex characters which pay off in the series, due to the small number of them.

The series looks good, although it's on standard DVD, and not Blu-Ray, so I don't know how it looks on HDTV. If you like this series, you can't go wrong with picking this up.
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