Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mike's Top Ten Favorite Beast Wars Episodes

Beast Wars is my favorite Transformers cartoon.  Most Transformers fans who have viewed it would probably agree, or at least recognize its relatively-consistent quality on all levels.  It isn't perfect, but it is certainly of a high caliber in terms of Western cartoons.

Those who actively dislike Beast Wars are probably on crack, or never gave it a proper chance.  If you are one of these people and are offended by what I just wrote, then come at me, bro (or bro-ette).

Anyhow, these are my top ten favorite episodes of Beast Wars.   As with the G1 episodes, I limited myself to only picking single episodes, and not lumping multi-parters together.


10. Spider's Game  (Season 1, Episode 18)

Another well-adjusted individual joins the Beast Wars.

Being a big Spider-Man fan, I naturally gravitated to Tarantulas as one of my favorite characters on Beast Wars very early on.   He was cool-looking, had a unique voice, and awesome weapons.  While previous episodes showcased his creepy and vicious sides, this episode was the first time that his scheming side came to the fore.

Tarantulas had been portrayed as Megatron's chief inventor/scientist up until this point, but “Spider's Game” showed that he also had a separate agenda from Megatron.  This rogue element in his nature would carry him throughout the rest of the series, and it made him even cooler to me.  The viewer didn't even have to wait that long at all to find out what Tarantulas' current agenda was, because he drops his bombshell at the end of this episode about the impending destruction of the planet.  While there had been previous underlying subplots in the show, this was the major one in the first season, and it certainly made me anxious for each and every of the following episodes.

This episode also is the debut of Inferno, who would go on to be an extremely memorable (if one-note) character.  I remember being excited to get Inferno's toy, then being let down that it didn't come with that giant cannon/flamethrower he used in the show.  Ah well...

Favorite line-

(Blackarachnia and Tarantulas go their separate ways.)



9. Other Victories  (Season 3, Episode 11)

Tommy and Jason finally have it out for leadership of the Power Rangers!

I'm not a big fan of the third season of Beast Wars.   I think it suffered greatly from “sell toys-itis”, had far too many subplots and elements introduced that went absolutely NOWHERE, and was by far the weakest season overall. 

Still, I think this episode is one of the better-balanced episodes of Season 3, insofar as closing off plot threads, selling the toy of the week (Tigerhawk), and well...being entertaining in general.  The bevy of plot threads to be addressed in this episode include the fates of Tigatron and Airazor, the Vok, Tarantulas and of course, there's the matter of the Predacon base too.   Larry DitTillio does his best and manages to do pretty well at tying these loose threads off.

The episode definitely has an epic feel to it, and you know things will never be the same after Tigerhawk destroys the Darksyde.  He then proceeds to have a pretty cool battle with Megatron, successfully hawking (haha) his toy to the audience.  I thought Tigerhawk was a neat concept and it would have been great to have gotten him into the show earlier in the season to explore his character and the implications of his “binary spark”.

The Vok also take their final bows here, and like Tigerhawk, there is a sense of “more could have been said”.  Heck, this episode is the first time we even learn their NAME.  These mysterious aliens had been observing and manipulating the Beast Wars since practically the very first episode, and we still didn't really know a whole lot about them.  Later stories in the comics would further address and elaborate on the Vok, but it would have been nice to have that in the show.  Alas, we have to settle for at least seeing their “physical” forms at last in this episode.

Finally, Tarantulas gets a pretty memorable death scene as his schemes undo him beyond repair (again, unless you count the comics).  At the very least, my favorite character in the show exited in a particularly flashy fashion.  And his legacy would be still be felt in the very next episode and series finale.

Favorite line-

TIGERHAWK:  You're insane...

TARANTULAS:  So they saaaay!  Bllll-urrrrrgh-raaaaah!

8. Dark Designs  (Season 1, Episode 13)

I bet it'd be funny if I just snapped and murdered them all in their sleep tonight.

If Tarantulas is my favorite character on the show, then Rhinox is certainly my second favorite, and this is certainly an interesting spotlight episode for him.  After being reprogrammed into a Predacon, Rhinox proves to be a better bad guy than Megatron himself!

Rhinox is so ridiculously good at everything that one could almost consider him a Mary Sue, but his affable and low-key nature usually prevents the viewer from doing so.  He's so humble and down on himself sometimes that you forget that he is a literal miracle worker when the chips are down.  But here, we get to see that humbleness tossed aside and his ego unleashed as he expertly pits the Predacons against one another and nearly steals Megatron's own organization out from under him.

There's a lot of great humor in this episode, especially focusing on all the creative ways Rhinox takes out the various Predacons.  Lots of good fight scenes and action as well, with the director experimenting a bit with some shaky cam and strobe effects.  The ending always amuses me, with Rhinox and the gang making fun of the Predacon mindset and laughing together while a frustrated Dinobot looks on in indignation.

I always played it in my head that Rhinox secretly didn't like Dinobot very much, but was always too pro to show it, except in times of extremely high or low tension.  The fact that he's basically demeaning the entire Predacon faction in clear earshot of Dinobot certainly speaks to this.  And if you think about it, there are several examples in the show of Rhinox openly threatening or being quite passive-aggressive with Dinobot, but I am getting off on a tangent here.

I suppose you could point to this episode as sort of a precursor to Rhinox's turn as Tankor in Beast Machines.  I do think it fits and is consistent with a mind-altered Rhinox being a dangerous adversary and all, but I'd rather not think about Beast Machines anymore than I absolutely have to.

Favorite quote-

CHEETOR:  Better dead than Pred!

DINOBOT:  Some of us have survived the experience...furball.

7. Transmutate  (Season 2, Episode 10)

"I did naht hit her!  It's naht troo, it's bowlshet!  I did naht hit her!  I did nahhht.  Oh hai, Maximals."

This is an episode that is probably on a lot of people's favorites list, but is almost never number one.  It kind of gets overshadowed by “Code of Hero” and “The Agenda” most of the time, but it is still a very solid tale.

The tragic nature of the Transmutate is explored nicely, and the contrast between Silverbolt and Rampage is also handled well.  Rampage in particular gets some nice spotlight, with the viewer seeing his sympathetic side and perhaps even empathizing with him.  Silverbolt's never really been a favorite character of mine, but he does get to display what a compassionate individual he is here and that his somewhat-daffy heroic persona is not just for show.

Other than that, there's not much to say, as this is simply a generally-excellent episode that deserves all the praise most people give it and perhaps more.

Favorite line-

(Transmutate's last words to Silverbolt and Rampage.)

TRANSMUTATE:  Friend...good.  Friend...dark.  I...am... hurt.

6. Other Voices, Part 2  (Season 1, Episode 26)

"Farewell, Bob!  Mainframe is mine now!"

As the first season's finale, this episode is appropriately high on drama.  The Maximals and Predacons struggle to avert the destruction of the planet, and things feel deservedly tense at all times.

Blackarachnia gets to strut her stuff, both physically and mentally.  She takes out Inferno on her own and proves she's no dummy by choosing to aid the Maximals in saving the planet.  Also, Tarantulas taking up residence in her mind was a nice emerging plot point and served the climax of the episode well.

Oddly, Alec Willows provides his usual talent in voicing Tarantulas for that final line, but Scott McNeil noticeably fills in for him just before the confrontation with Inferno.  Maybe the original performance was lost in editing?  Who knows.

Optimus Primal showcases his inherent self-sacrificing nature and follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, with a cliffhanger that left me worried that Beast Wars wouldn't be back.  But thankfully, it did come back and “Other Voices” is a fine closer to the first half of the series.

Favorite line-

AIRAZOR:  Cheetor and Tigatron are coming!

RATTRAP:  Aw terrific!  Now we can all get reduced to hot, burning slag together!


And also-

MEGATRON:  Brilliant!  They're causing a chain reaction which will rip this planet to atoms and destroy all traces of them...simply to deal with us!  Such sheer ruthlessness!  Such disregard for sentient life!  ...I rather like these aliens.

And also again (this episode has tons of great lines!)-

(After the rest of the Maximals offer to take Optimus Primal's place in the stasis pod, he looks to Rattrap expectantly.)

OPTIMUS:  What about you, Rattrap?

RATTRAP:  (Shrugs)  Eh, suicide ain't in my job description.

OPTIMUS:  (Resignedly)  Hm.  Or mine.

5. Victory  (Season 1, Episode 12) 

Great, that's gonna smudge.

This episode always seemed something like a “mid-season” finale to me, what with the Predacons apparently vanquished and the Maximals possibly on their way home.  There is definitely a more epic tone to this episode than many others in Season 1, and much higher stakes.

Sure, there is a bit of a plothole in that Megatron and the Predacons could have very well missed the launch of the Axalon had they not discovered Dinobot spying on them, but I find it pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.

Some nice characterization for Dinobot as he mourns the loss of his former comrades and struggles with returning to a planet where he's not welcome.  There's also some great fight scenes and action, and yet another opportunity for Rhinox to show why he's the man when he literally boots Megatron off the ship at the end.

One of my favorite comedic scenes in Beast Wars is also in this episode- that being when the Predacons are hiding out in the narrow canyon after faking their deaths.  Tarantulas and Waspinator arguing in the claustrophobic space and Terrorsaur completely losing his wits always makes me laugh.  The whole “Optimus as Superman” bit at the end is also quite amusing.

Favorite line-

(After Dinobot declares he will remain on Earth.)

OPTIMUS:  I understand.  Nonetheless, let the record show that I advise against this action.  It will eventually lead to your destruction.

DINOBOT:  Eventually...eventually can be a long time, Optimus Primal!

4. The Agenda, Part 3  (Season 2, Episode 13)

If this were Sunbow Megatron, he'd probably miss.

Here's another season-ending crowd-pleaser.  Above and beyond the G1 references, you have a solidly-written episode with all the right ingredients.  The battle that opens the show is one of the series' best, and that's only the first seven minutes.  Our guest-star Ravage gets to exit in epic fashion, although it is a shame that beyond a cameo, he played no part in Season 3.

The reveal of the Ark and Megatron's journey inside is probably what most people fondly recall from this episode.  I certainly remember being excited, although the fact that it and its occupants would be a presence in this episode was spoiled for me because the accursed Internet had recently entered my life.

The last five episodes of Season 2 aired on Cartoon Network, a channel that I did not get at the time, long before they aired in the usual syndicated spot I watched Beast Wars in.  So of course, information about these episodes was readily available for some time before I could actually view them.  I managed to resist a little, but the concept of SPOILERS was still a little new to me, and once I saw a screenshot of Megatron hovering over Soundwave's body, I had to read and see what that was about.

Even after being spoiled, this episode was a thrill to watch, and I think the best of the three season finales.

Favorite line-

(The Axalon's shields are about to collapse.)

COMPUTER:  Shield power critical.  Failure imminent.

RHINOX:  Well, that's just DAN-DY.

3. The Web  (Season 1, Episode 3) 

Life goes up, life goes down, life goes up, life goes down...

I had seen the opening two-parter of Beast Wars about four or five months beforehand when it aired as a “preview” special and thought it was pretty decent, but I was still a little apprehensive about the series.  “The Web” eliminated these apprehensions and made it a priority for me to wake up and watch Beast Wars every morning.

The fact that Cheetor, the “kid identification character”, nearly gets slagged before the first commercial break, seemed pretty hardcore to 12-year old me.  My appreciation of Tarantulas also began with this episode, as he gives lip to Scorponok early on and then ditches him.  Oh, and then later, he tries to EAT Cheetor.  I don't have anything against Cheetor, but let's face it; I wasn't really in the right age range for such a character to appeal to me at the time.  

However, Rattrap and Tarantulas certainly appealed to me, and their fight in this episode was a pretty memorable one.  I dug Tarantulas' “Predator” thermo-scan vision and Rattrap's gadgets and sneaky way of fighting.

Another small bit that sealed the deal for me was the cameo of G1 Starscream in the dream that Cheetor had.  I couldn't really tell from the initial two-parter if Beast Wars was connected to the original cartoon, but I remember being excited to see just this two second cameo of Starscream.  Little did I know that the guy himself would show up later in the season, but by that time, Beast Wars would have clearly established that it WAS connected to G1.

Favorite line-

(Tarantulas is preparing to drain Cheetor.)

CHEETOR:  This is a dumb plan, web-face!  I don’t have any real blood, just mech fluid!

TARANTULAS:  Oh, my filters will adjust.  It is the act I enjoy more than the nourishment!

2. Code of Hero  (Season 2, Episode 9) 

"F**k you, Carl Sagan!!!"

What is there to say about this episode that hasn't already been said?  Well, I would personally say that not only is it generally the best episode of Beast Wars, but a case could be made for it being the best episode of Transformers altogether.  Just well-constructed on all levels, and one of the most touching half-hours of animation I've ever seen.

Yes, like with The Agenda, I knew going in that Dinobot was going to die, but it really didn't diminish the impact of the episode.  To top it off, my grandfather passed away a very short time before I got to see “Code”, so I guess I was really in the right state of mind for it (or possibly the wrong state of mind, because I really wept my eyes out at the end of the episode).

Aside from the tragedy and drama, it's also got one of the best fight scenes of the series, as Dinobot plows his way through the entire Predacon team, gets a one-on-one rematch with Quickstrike (and trounces him again), and finally sacrifices his life against Megatron.  It's all very epic and violent and tragic and so very well done.

So basically, you've got a heart of stone if this episode didn't affect you in some way.

Favorite line- 

(Megatron admires Dinobot's last stand from afar.)

MEGATRON:  One lonely turncoat, battling on against impossible odds.  I'm almost touched! ...Fortunately, such moments pass quickly.  Quickstrike, scrap him.

And also-

OPTIMUS:  Well fought, my friend.  You saved the valley.  You saved the lives of those who live here...and of those who are still to come.

DINOBOT:  Then...there is nothing to regret.

1. The Agenda, Part 2  (Season 2, Episode 12) 

"I'll say this once, Silverbolt.  Bots before slots."

If you've read any of my lists before, you might notice that I tend to favor the “penultimate” part of a story over its conclusion, and this is no different.  It seems like more often than not, the next-to-last part of serialized stories is always the most dramatic and jam-packed full of cool things for me.

The second part of “The Agenda” starts off with one of my favorite scenes in the series as Optimus Primal confronts Silverbolt over his relationship with Blackarachnia.  Great acting from both Garry Chalk and Scott McNeil, and what I felt was a rare scene amongst the good guys.  Primal's reprimanding of Silverbolt felt like something that would have never shown up in the original G1 cartoon.

Every scene with Megatron and Ravage chatting is pretty riveting as well, and Inferno's death scene (and don't deny it, it was clearly supposed to be his death scene) is wonderfully-staged.  The bit when Silverbolt addresses Blackarachnia as “citizen” always makes me smile, and of course, this is one of the best cliffhangers of the series.

It is a shame that they couldn't get Frank Welker to voice G1 Megatron again, and also that Ravage didn't play the original cartoon's theme song when he transforms at the end of the episode, as the creators intended.  However, just hearing the classic transformation sound as he turns into a cassette was a fanboy squee moment, and I can't fault the creators for trying their best.

So yeah, this is definitely my favorite episode of Beast Wars, and that's not to take away from “The Agenda, Part 3”, or even the first part.  I simply feel like I enjoyed this episode the best out of all three parts.

Favorite line-

(After Silverbolt catches a falling Blackarachnia.)

BLACKARACHNIA:  Oh no, you're not saving my life again!  Even after I shot you?

SILVERBOLT:  It's my duty, ma'am.  As a Maximal...and as a heroic character.

And also-

RAVAGE:  So, it was a trap.

MEGATRON: (The most dickish delivery imaginable)  Oh, nooo!  Really??


And that's that. I will accept your judgment now.

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