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Western Animation: Beast Machines
The Next Evolution of the Beast Wars

Cheetor: So what are we? Robots or animals?
Optimus: Both...and neither.
Blackarachnia: Well, that sure clears it up.

Beast Machines was the followup cartoon and toyline to Beast Wars; like its predecessor, it was animated entirely in CGI by Mainframe Entertainment but featured a massive change to the production and writing staff. It begins a new story with the characters of Beast Wars but in general is not considered a continuous storyline.

The story opens with Optimus Primal in his original Beast Wars body, awakening on Cybertron to find the planet deserted and himself being pursued by Vehicons, a strange race of sparkless Transformers under the control of Megatron, who, as it's further revealed, has somehow managed to conquer Cybertron. Unable to transform, Optimus runs, and manages to find some of his fellow surviving Maximals. Deep beneath the surface of Cybertron, they manage to find the Oracle supercomputer, which reformats them into 'technorganic' beings, a perfect blend of biological and technological parts. From then on, they embark on a mission to restore organic life to Cybertron and bring down Megatron.

The tone and feel of the story were substantially different to Beast Wars. Where Wars followed small groups of Maximals and Predacons through a sometimes serious, sometimes tongue-in-cheek (and sometimes both) battle on prehistoric Earth, Machines took a small group of severely outnumbered Maximals who were forced to rely on stealth and guerilla warfare. Noted Transformers comic writer Simon Furman has complained that Beast Machines was 'too dark' for a children's cartoon. And when you see some of Simon Furman's work... too dark for him is impressive.

Several items deserve particular noting. The CGI was top-notch, arguably even better than the already impressive stuff from the end of Beast Wars, and it still holds up today, although the heavily stylized take on the design was not for everyone. And while Beast Wars provided the concept, this show is an even larger source of information about the origin and properties of sparks, the soul of a Transformer.

When it aired, it had the strongest continuity of any cartoon ever shown in America or Canada. It also brought the animated Generation 1 continuity to an end, though it would continue in comic book form.

So far, this show is the only Transformers cartoon to take place entirely on Cybertron, and not to feature any humans or human ancestors, with the exception of one very brief flashback.

Beast Machines tried to tackle such concepts as loyalty, individuality, the merits of freedom vs. chaos, and the challenges of living in an increasingly technological society. This over-ambitious aim, coupled with the Continuity Lockout and the radical departure in tone from its predecessor, as well as some massive departure from the Beast Wars's characterizations in some cases, turned this show into one of the most hated Transformers incarnations of all time when it aired; the sheer backlash over it at the time led to Hasbro scrapping a planned Sequel Series named Transtech in favor of dubbing Transformers: Robots In Disguise. However, with the subsequent release of the (generally lower-quality) Unicron Trilogy as well as readier access to Japanese post-G1 series, coupled with the gap from the Beast Wars continuity and new fans watching it as a work of its own; Beast Machines is now looked upon somewhat more favorably, though it's hardly universal.

The toys were a mixed bag. The Vehicons had a living machine theme, and the toys were generally pretty good, but looked nothing like the characters on screen. The Maximals aimed for a technological animal feel, but were of mixed quality and exceedingly show-inaccurate. Better quality, show-accurate toys were later released as part of the "Battle for the Spark" Beast Machines subline, and a few were held over until the Robots in Disguise line.

It has a character sheet.

This show provides examples of:

  • A Boy and His X: Nightscream and Noble Have this relationship after Megatron's consciousness exits Noble.
  • Affirmative Action Girl: Botanica joins the Maximals in the second season and the Vehicons get their first female since Blackarachnia one episode after that.
  • After the End: Cybertron under Megatron's control.
  • Always Night: Both Beast Wars and this series established Cybertron being in orbit of a star, but this trope was rarely averted. Justified in that the Maximals (now as La Résistance) can't risk being easily spotted.
  • Anti-Climax: Subverted. In "Fallout" after his vision at the start of the episode transforms to robot mode to seemingly engage Megatron and Tankor in a big climatic duel, than sees Megatron and Tankor being atomized by the Plasma Energy Chamber before he can even touch them. We then see the real climax: Optimus using his powers to save Cybertron and deactivate all the drones.
  • Apocalypse How: A Class X was narrowly averted. The Oracle reveals that the combination of plasma energy and the energy from the key to Vector Sigma would have produced this, utterly destroying Cybertron.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Organic goo pretty much fulfills this role.
  • Arc Words: "The seeds of the future lie buried in the past."
  • Art Evolution: A step up even from the last few episodes of Beast Wars, and Energon's CGI made it look even better in hindsight.
  • Ax-Crazy: Jetstorm.
  • Back from the Brink: When the group arrives on Cybertron, Megatron has pretty much already won and conquered the planet. The heroes are soon Mode Locked and being hunted down by Megatron's massive army, having pretty much no one they can turn to since the entire planet has pretty much had their sparks stolen. The only thing that saved Cybertron was the Oracle stepping in and reformatting them.
  • Bitter Sweet Ending: The ending of the series:Optimus sacrifices his life to stop Megatron, reformating Cybertron. After both are destroyed, the other Maximals wake up in a technorganic Cybertron. The freed Transformers, with their sparks once again in their bodies, run over the horizon, ready to assume control of the newly technorganic Cybertron.
  • Book Ends:
    • The very first shot is an organic flower, which is crushed underfoot by a tank drone. In the final episode, Botanica causes a bunch of the same flower to bloom across Cybertron, and the very final shot is one of them.
    • When Optimus Primal is reformatted in the first episode, the Oracle gives a speech involving 'great transformations'. Optimus gives the exact same speech to Megatron in the last episode as they fall to the organic core.
    • The very last line spoken is by Cheetor. Cheetor also got the very first line in Beast Wars, so this works as a bookend to the entire Beast Era, as well as signifying Cheetor's progression from naive rookie to capable commander.
      • Cheetor's fight in the penultimate episode acts as a book end to his first battle in Beast Wars. In the first series, he is head-strong, gets into a one-on-one fight he has to struggle through due to inexperience and only survives because of the others' arrival. Here, he still struggles, but is much smarter about his approach and emerges victorious all on his own. Additionally, his final opponent is Thrust, who is of course really Waspinator - his first opponent in Beast Wars.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Thrust and Jetstorm take on this role, while Megatron ironically believes he is doing good:
    Thrust: Nothin' noble 'bout us, boy!
    Jetstorm: But savage? That we can do!
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Diagnostic Drone, who plays an integral part in the Season 1 Finale.
  • Continuity Lockout: A common complaint of the show was that the continuity was so strong that the show was impossible to follow unless one started from the beginning. Yet still, at a length of only twenty-six episodes, this is not as much of a drawback as it could be.
  • Darker and Edgier
  • Death Equals Redemption: In "Fallout" Rhinox's spark expressed regret over his recent actions.
  • Divine Intervention: The Oracle/Allspark's part in the story could be considered this. Optimus treats it with the reverence of a god, while Megatron considers it a malfunctioning computer.
  • Downer Ending: An overwhelming number of the episodes in this series end on a bad note.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Optimus gets a lot of practice at this.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Technically speaking, the population of Cybertron isn't dead, just having a massive planetwide out-of-body experience, their disembodied sparks stuffed into a closet somewhere. Practically speaking, they're dead.
  • Evil Plan: Megatron's endgame is to purge Cybertron of free will, individuality, and Organic matter before absorbing the Sparks of his entire species and becoming a Physical God. Yipes.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Rhinox/Tankor.
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: Unlike Beast Wars, actual guns and missiles were banned from Beast Machines, probably at the insistence of Fox Kids. So the Maximals fought with various types of energy projection and swords (in Cheetor's case), while the Vehicons had in-built weapons. Averted in the final episode as Optimal Megatron fires missiles at Optimus Primal several times.
  • Five-Bad Band: Albeit a continuously evolving one.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Flesh Versus Steel: Ultimately subverted, with the aim of delivering the message that nature and technology shouldn't be enemies.
  • Foreshadowing: In episode six, the shadow cast by Thrust foreshadows quite blatantly that he contains the spark of Silverbolt, but whoops not really.
    • Played straight in the very same episode with Jetstorm, who refers to himself as "the handsome devil with the silver wings."
    • A subtle example in the opening sequence. the last thing we see before the title is a zooming-out view of Cheetor standing alone, hinting at his promotion to The Leader at the end of the show.
  • Forgot I Could Fly: Megatron, while suffering a Disney Villain Death.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Beast Wars was legendary for this. Beast Machines was far less naughty than its predecessor, but when it did this, it was even more audacious.
    • In "Home Soil," Thrust clearly gives Optimus The finger (helps that he only has three on each hand). Optimus is unamused.
    • In the same episode, we have Blackarachnia checking herself out in the background before glaring at Botanica. Feeling inadequate, Legs?
    • The pose Blackarachnia takes while transforming has to be intentional.
    • Rattrap gives us this little gem while arguing with Botanica:
      "Eh, sure beats the heck out of plowing your little field of dreams!"
  • Hate Plague: The Maximals have some trouble with a mutation of the original.
  • The Hero Dies
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Optimus slides further and further into fanaticism as the first season draws to a close. And then subverts it awesomely.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: The initial four Maximals in the sequel series had significant difficulty adapting to being biomechanical, particularly Rattrap who doesn't figure out how to transform until episode six. Maximals introduced later have no such difficulties, with Nightscream, Silverbolt and Botanica understanding the process with no training at all.
  • Hypocrite: Blackarachnia has a moment of this in episode 6, when her response to finding out about the deal Rattrap cut with Megatron is declare him a traitor and attack. She's certainly one to talk.
    • She gets another hypocrite moment when she forcibly turns Jetstorm back into Silverbolt against his will. Not only had she promised not to do something like that (Jetstorm had made very clear that he didn't want to be Silverbolt again), but she had previously deserted the Maximals because she was horrified by the thought of that happening to her. Double-points for the fact that she does it despite the massive amount of horrendous pain it clearly causes Jetstorm.
  • Idiot Ball: For a pair of brilliant generals, Obsidian and Strika have a hard time figuring out that standing on an anti-gravity platform isn't the best of ideas.
    • Optimus suffers this in the first season finale. His final scene in "The Catalyst" sees him concerned that "the Oracle has been tampered with." But in "End of the Line," he trusts what he thinks is an Oracle vision without question. At the very least, Cheetor calls him out on this.
  • Irony: And it is glorious:
    • Megatron uses the Optimal Optimus body to try and finish off that meddlesome Optimus in the finale. With the Optimus Prime-style helmet and everything. How fitting that the Maximals' cause would almost be laid to ruin with that.
    • Said Optimal body, even expanded to massive proportions and supercharged with the sparks of the entire planet's population, is too slow and unwieldy for Megatron to stop Optimus from plunging them both into the organic core with a well-placed energy blast. Ouch.
    • Lest you forget the greatest one of all: Megatron's Famous Last Word. Yes, it's a Big "NO!".
      Megatron: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! (Falls into the core and dies)
  • Killed Off for Real: Rhinox/Tankor is fried in the season 2 premiere, Noble is killed by Megatron, who also devours several sparks in the same episode. Then, of course, we have Optimus Primal and Megatron falling into Cybertron's organic core in the Grand Finale. As is appropriate, it's a huge Dying Moment of Awesome for Optimus, as Cybertron is reformatted as a result.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Optimus has an epic one.
  • Large Ham: Jetstorm could give Inferno and Megatron a run for their money in the ham department.
  • Laughably Evil: Jetstorm. So very, very much.
  • Made of Explodium: All of Cybertron. Lasers hit pavement? Boom. Sword hits bridge? Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom. Maybe that was why they needed to reformat the planet.
  • Matrix Raining Code: Megatron appears as a hologram composed of this on several occasions in Season 2.
  • Metaphor Is My Middle Name: The Vehicon Generals' introduction, after Blackarachnia called them "mindless drones":
    Jetstorm: Only three things wrong with that little theory: One, we're not drones, two, we're not mindless, and three, problem's my middle name.
  • Myth Arc: One of the first Transformers shows to have one. Whether it was handled well or not is hotly debated by fans.
  • Necessary Drawback: In combination with a Necessary Advantage. Their new technorganic robot forms give them weapons and advanced combat abilities, but Rattrap learns by accident that their beast forms shield them from the Vehicon sensors. Both forms were needed in order to survive.
  • Never Say "Die": Subverted. In the first few episodes this is played straight with replacements like "sparkless body" and "extinguished spark", but as the series progresses, death and dying are referred to directly more and more often.
    • There is a difference in between the two terms, however. We see in several occasions that even if a tranformer's spark has left their body, it can still be reunited and they can be brought back to life.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Tankor. Full stop.
  • Off Model: The toyline is infamous for not being screen accurate towards the show. With the toys for Optimus Primal, Cheetor and Tankor being the most notorious examples.
    • In regards to the show itself, the models Vehicon generals Jetstorm, Thrust and Tankor often get confused with the models of the drones they command. Megatron's eye scar also can't decide whether it should be over the right eye (its proper place) or the left.
  • Plot Tumour: Sparks, an interesting and occasionally important aspect of the Transformers mythos, introduced in Beast Wars, ends up being central to the plot of Beast Machines.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Loads. Cheetor and Optimus, Rattrap and Botanica, Jetstorm and Thrust, Strika and Obsidian, Blackarachnia and Silverbolt, Nightscream and Silverbolt, Everyone and Silverbolt...
  • Same Character, But Different: The source of flack the series gets. Applies to pretty much the whole cast.
  • Sapient Tank: Tankor, the dim-witted tank Vehicon at least until Rhinox's personality resurfaces again.
  • Shout-Out: From "Revelations, Part 1", while attacking the others:
    Jetstorm: All I need's a spider, and I've got the whole set. Gotta catch 'em all!
  • The Smurfette Principle: Ultimately subverted. Blackarachnia is the sole female character for the first season and half of the second, but is then joined by Botanica. Strika, a female Vehicon general appears an episode after Botanica makes her appearance.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Jetstorm and Thrust, Strika and Obsidian.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Cheetor, as part of his promotion from The Chick in Beast Wars to The Lancer in Beast Machines.
    • Silverbolt, too. Goes from a Knight in Shining Armor who was only really dangerous if you hurt Blackarachnia to an angsty Anti-Hero who mows down Vehicon soldiers.
    • Thrust is perhaps the greatest example of this in the whole Transformers mythos. He. Used. To. Be. Waspinator. Seriously, I'm not making any of this up.
    • MEGATRON. Seriously, he went from being a humorous campy villain in Beast Wars to a rather dark character and believable threat to the Maximals in Beast Machines. That being said, it's one of the only character changes from BW to BM that have been well received, and even then not by everyone, some of whom complain that his humor was a large part of his charm and his hatred of all things organic is out of character.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never do find out what happens to Strika and Obsidian after Cheetor shoots them into orbit. Could double as a Bolivian Army Ending.
    • There was supposed to be a scene of them being brought back down to Cybertron in the epilogue but it had to be cut for time.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • "The Weak Component" has several instances. Megatron, of all people, calls Blackarachnia, Cheetor and Nightscream on mistreating Rattrap and Optimus for promising more than he can deliver. For their part, BCN call Rattrap out on making a deal with Megatron and Optimus calls him for attacking them.
    • At the end of season one, Optimus calls upon the energies of Cybertron in a last-ditch attack against Megatron, knowing full well that everything mechanical on Cybertron will be annihilated. His response? "If this is the Will of the Matrix, so be it!" Thankfully, the Allspark calls him out on it and allows him to redeem himself.
    • The last half of Season 1 had Optimus and Cheetor at odds over pretty much every decision. Some arguments might have been forced, but in "End of the Line," Cheetor really lets Optimus have it over intending to use the Plasma Energy Chamber to annihilate all machinery on Cybertron to stop Megatron.
      "You unleash this thing and you're no better than he is!"

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alternative title(s): Transformers Beast Machines; Beast Machines
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