Western Animation / Challenge of the GoBots

"Mighty robots! Mighty vehicles!"
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Duh-daaah-dah! Duh daaah-dah!

In 1983, Tonka acquired the North American license for Bandai's Machine Robo line of toys, perhaps as a response to its chief rival Hasbro's acquisition of Takara's Diaclone figures. Catching wind of Hasbro's Stateside release of Takara's Diaclone toys, Tonka hastily commissioned Hanna-Barbera to create an animated series, anticipating Hasbro's own Transformers media blitz. Thus was born... Challenge of the GoBots.

The series dealt with two opposing forces of transforming robots from the planet Gobotron: the heroic Guardians and the evil Renegades. The Guardians were led by Leader-1, accompanied by Turbo and Scooter. The Renegades were led by the evil Cy-Kill, with Crasher and Cop-Tur among their ranks. The characters rarely had guns, instead shooting energy blasts out of their fists.

Despite the tagline of "Mighty Robots, Mighty Vehicles", the GoBots were in fact Cyborgs - alien humanoids who transferred their brains into robot bodies after their civil war had ruined their planet's biosphere. The Guardians then began converting the otherwise-dead world into a completely metal-sheathed City Planet, breaking up entire uninhabited worldlets for the necessary materials. At the time of the series, this massive construction effort was still ongoing, accounting for the metal world's peculiar "apple-core" shape. The GoBots' origin as organic beings accounted for the presence of genders among the characters - in fact, GoBots stood out among 80's cartoons for having a diverse cast: not only did the show include more female characters than the original Transformers, it also included a woman of colour as a major protagonist!

The series generally focused on the "lead" three robots from each faction (Leader-1, Turbo and Scooter vs. Cy-Kill, Cop-Tur and Crasher), who were virtually ever-present. Other characters seemed to rotate in "guest-star" roles. GoBots had no clear divide between the two factions. The characters, as well as the toys, had no identifying insignias or markings to indicate their allegiance, although it was clearly indicated on the packaging. Likewise, there was no commonality of design within each faction. The only "theme" to a faction was that anything that turned into a monstrous-looking robot or vehicle was a Renegade.

There were at least two other Alternate Continuities for the franchise. A British comic strip called Robo Machines appeared in the periodical Eagle from November of '84 to July of '85, featuring a radically different storyline (the other wiki has information here.) In France, where the American show had been quite popular, the Japanese Machine Robo series was used as a second season, despite the drastic Art Shift between the series.

While Challenge of the GoBots initially held up well against the initial onslaught of Transformers paraphernalia, the line began to flag in 1985. Although the GoBots were cheaper and thus more desirable (at least for parents), the line was outdone by the Transformers, who sported descriptive bios, diverse transformations, and a massive cast. The line limped into 1986 with a hastily-produced feature film, Battle of the Rock Lords, a commercial and critical flop that more or less signalled the end of the GoBots. The line fizzled out soon afterwards.

The GoBots were largely forgotten, even after Hasbro bought Tonka in 1991. By the mid 2000s, the Transformers toyline and ancillary fiction began incorporating a few sly winks to its old competitor. In 2010, it was finally declared that the GoBots were, in fact, actually part of the Transformers multiverse, albeit very distant analogues- and that at least one GoBot literally was a dimension-hopping Transformer.

In 2015, Facebook's "Ask Vector Prime" feature was temporarily usurped by "Renegade Rhetoric", hosted by Cy-Kill himself. The feature was decidedly tongue-in-cheek, as Cy-Kill was more than happy to take potshots at the Transformers universe. The bulk of the answers described plots for a "season 2" of Challenge of the GoBots, produced in an alternate reality.

In our reality, at least, the GoBots exist in a kind of legal limbo: Hasbro owns the rights to the characters and the premise, allowing them to get away with things such as "Renegade Rhetoric." However, Warner owns the rights to the cartoon, and their competitor Bandai maintains control of the original Machine Robo molds. Don't go expecting a major revival any time soon...


Challenge of the GoBots provides examples of the folllowing tropes:

  • After the End: The planet Gobotron, whose biosphere was destroyed in a war.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The Evil One in "Search for the Ancient Gobonauts" was a GoBot who was exiled to Earth for his transgressions and inspired the construction of the pyramids and the Great Sphinx in Egypt.
  • Anti-Villain: Fi-Tor at times, especially when he is captured.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: Subverted. The Guardians attempt to abide by this in the first few episodes (hence the Earth vehicle disguises), but once it becomes clear that the Renegades have completely blown their cover, the Guardians from then on share their technology with the humans and help to establish them in the interstellar community.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence:
    • "The Gift" ends with a being named Alarik moving onto the next world after passing his knowledge onto the Guardians.
    • "The Last Magic Man" features an immortal man with magic powers who goes to the afterlife after deciding he's lived long enough.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Done for fun. Anya Turgonova once curses "Ish Kabibble!" Certainly none of the kids watching would have caught that Ish Kabibble was a famous Vaudeville comedian. Or the '40s coronet player for Kay Keyser's big band who went by the same stage name
  • Ax-Crazy: Crasher really loves it when she gets a chance to blast the Guardians.
  • Back for the Finale: The Last Engineer and the Master Renegade, both introduced in "The Gobotron Saga", return in the show's final episode "Quest for New Earth".
  • Bad Boss: Cy-Kill on occasion. He frequently insults his minions when they screw up, some episodes end with the implication that he intends to punish failure severely, and he frequently leaves Crasher and Cop-Tur for dead in the Five-Episode Pilot.
  • Barrier Warrior: Leader-1 could generate a protective force field. However, it took a lot of energy and was exhausting for him, so he could only maintain it for a couple of minutes at a time.
  • Benevolent Boss: Leader 1 and (by Evil Overlord standards) Cy-Kill. While he could be abusive (in the pilot episodes he blasted Fi-tor for referring to the Renegades defending their fortress as "my forces"), compared to his contemporaries Megatron or Cobra Commander Cy-Kill complimented his soldiers on a job well done and freely acknowledged being glad to see missing comrades again ("Welcome back, Crasher. I missed your charming laugh.")
  • Big Bad: Cy-Kill serves as the main villain of the series, being leader of the Renegades.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Cy-Kill works together with Magmar in the movie Battle of the Rock Lords, though he eventually betrays him to take the power scepter for himself.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Matt to Nick and A.J.
  • Bizarro Universe: "Transfer Point" has Leader-1 and Scooter end up in an alternate dimension where the Guardians are evil and the Renegades are good.
  • Blind Seer: "The Seer" involved Cy-Kill attempting to kidnap a blind boy who was able to see into the future.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Turbo is the strongest of the Guardians and very upbeat.
  • Brain in a Jar: The GoBots are actually organic brains in robotic bodies.
  • The Brigadier: General Newcastle is a military officer and serves as the highest human authority that the Guardians are allied with.
  • The Cape: Leader-1 is in charge of the Guardians and wants to do what is right.
  • Captain Obvious: Humorously lampshaded by Turbo in The Movie.
    Leader-1: (after seeing a meteor he's following crash into a building) THERE IT IS!
    Turbo: (gives him a weary look) Yeah, I noticed.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Though difficult to really notice, around the start of the Last Engineer/Master Renegade storyline the series gets a tad more serious and starts delving into the divine origins of the Gobots. This is best shown in that the storyline is kicked off after Turbo is horribly wounded by the Renegades and it is explicitly stated that if he is not healed soon he will DIE.
  • Characterization Marches On: The initial wave of toys had short bios written for them, some of which differs quite noticeably from their portrayal in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon. For example, Crasher is said to be male and Cop-Tur is written as an intelligent schemer rather than the dull and not particularly disloyal brute he is in the show.
  • Co-Dragons: Cop-Tur and Crasher are both the most prominent minions of Cy-Kill.
    • That said, the actual second in command of the Renegades was Fi-tor.
  • Combining Mecha: The Renegades' Puzzler (made up of six individual robots), and the Guardians' Courageous, which was formed from a starship and four suits of Powered Armor. The toy line had a two (or possibly three) others, Grungy (a villainous counterpart to Courageous) and Monsterous (made up of six monster robots), and Nemesis (another villainous version of Courageous that may or may not have actually been released).
  • Cowardly Sidekick: Scooter often complains about getting involved in dangerous situations, even when he begrudgingly does so at Leader-1's request.
  • Cyber Cyclops: Destroyer
  • Cyborg: The GoBots in general; but also the Last Engineer, who still looks human but with bionic bits.
  • Dark Action Girl: Crasher is the most notable female Renegade and she loves to fight.
  • Dirty Communists: Averted. Dr. Turgonova is one of the good guys. Double points because this show was made in the early Eighties.
  • Dumb Muscle: Cop-Tur is very strong, but not too bright.
  • Enemy Mine: In the two-part episode "Invasion from the 21st Level", the Guardians and Renegades are forced to work together to fight back an invasion of insect creatures from another dimension.
  • Escape Battle Technique: The "Astro-Beam" used for ultra-long-range teleportation reverses itself after a certain period, and the bad guys are simply not there any more.
    • That said, the Astro-Beam's effects would sometime wear off at the worst possible time, such as the time a Guardian summoned was trying to hold a door shut against attacking intruders. When he realised the Astro-Beam was wearing off, he only had time to apologise before he was sent back to Gobotron and the invaders broke through.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When it looks like the Guardians are going to get the information they need out of the captured Fi-Tor, Cy-Kill believes he has to kill him, but is deeply reluctant. Fi-Tor is a fellow defector from the Guardians, and arguably Cy-Kill's only real friend. As he's about to do it, he mutters, "Farewell, Fi-Tor..." and is then relieved when he realizes there's an alternative.
    • Unlike Megatron or Cobra Commander, Cy-Kill is at least hesitant to abandon his troops. Even among the rank-and-file Renegades there is rather less selfish backstabbing going on than among their contemporaries the Decepticons or Cobra (both of which encourage a Klingon Promotion method of advancement that really doesn't encourage teamwork).
  • Evil Former Friend: Cy-Kill to Leader-1.
  • Evil Genius: Doctor Go is a Renegade scientist. The Quisling Doctor Braxis as well, since he's a scientist who offers to help the Renegades in exchange for power.
  • Evil Laugh: Cy-Kill has one as part of his Evil Overlord repertoire. The most famous, however is easily Crasher, maniacal and joyous. Ha ha ha HAAAAAAA ha hah hah!
  • Expy: Dr. Zebediah Braxis is pretty clearly based on Dr. Zachary Smith from Lost in Space.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When Fi-Tor is captured in "Fi-Tor to the Finish", he sabotages the ship he's in. When the panicked Guardians realise they're all trapped inside, Fi-Tor fearlessly laughs and simply enjoys the fact that he'll at least take the Guardians with him.
  • Face–Heel Turn: It is revealed in "Et Tu, Cy-Kill" that Cy-Kill and Fi-Tor used to be Guardians, but defected to join the Renegades out of their lust for power.
  • Fantastic Nuke: Sorium.
  • The Federation: The Guardians are democratic, and they are the dominant government on Gobotron. The Renegades are a rebellion.
  • Fem Bot: Averted. Except for their faces, both sexes' prosthetic robot bodies appear genderless. Except Crasher, sort of.
  • Fist Gun: GoBots tend to fight each other by firing lasers from their fists.
  • Five-Episode Pilot: The series began with a five-part episode.
  • "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome: Scooter tries replacing his hologram projector with a standard blaster. He discovers he isn't nearly as effective without his illusion-casting powers, and quickly switches back.
  • Flying Brick: All GoBots can fly, and are superhumanly strong giant robots. They are also all armed with internal weapons, including eye beams.
  • Flying Saucer: Pathfinder's alt mode.
  • Fully Absorbed Finale:
    • Decades after the show's end, the actual GoBots from the show travelled to various Transformers universe (mainly the Transformers: Classics one, with a quick stop by the Transformers: TransTech universe first).
    • Cy-Kill himself would wind up on the Trans Tech homeworld of Axiom Nexus, and quickly set about trying to take advantage of it. He successfully recruits several Transformers into his Renegades (coincidentally toys that never made an appearance on the cartoon) before fleeing back to his own universe with his new troops in tow.
  • Fuuma Shuriken: Cop-Tur's rotor blades, used as a weapon in robot mode.
  • Galactic Conqueror: Cy-Kill. Although he views Gobotron itself as his necessary first step.
  • Giant Foot of Stomping: Crasher's main attack is to stomp the ground, sending a crackling streak of energy along the ground toward her target.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: Yes, the Cold War is still going on in this near future. Nobody in the '80s expected it to end as it did, so this is totally forgivable.
  • Ground Punch: Crasher, one of the main Renegades, frequently used this attack. She'd stomp the ground and send a bolt of energy at her Guardian opponents. The same goes for her Good Twin in Transformers: Shattered Glass and her other alternate universe counterpart Fracture in the Transformers Film Series.
  • Higher-Tech Species: The GoBots have had their technology for centuries.
  • Hot Scientist: Anya Turgonova is a scientist and is very attractive.
  • Human Aliens: The original form of the inhabitants of Gobotron. The only two surviving humanoids are the Last Engineer and the Master Renegade, who spent the intervening ages in Suspended Animation.
  • Humongous Mecha: Despite being cyborgs, both sides used nonsentient, inorganic robots as weapons, such as the Zods and the Puzzlers; while the Guardians use piloted mecha called Command Centers and Powered Armor called Power Suits. Only one episode features a sentient inorganic robot, and interestingly, it is human-built. The movie also introduced Nuggit, who is identified as a true robot.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The Stealth Device, described as a hologram that works across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.
  • The Juggernaut: Zod is usually treated as this. In the Five-Episode Pilot, Scooter opts to get the Command Center to flee rather than face Zod, declaring, "Zod'll tear us apart!"
  • Kibbles and Bits: The GoBots seemed generally more willing to make use of their kibble than Transformers were. A Guardian with a cockpit in his chest might allow a human to ride around in it; or a Renegade might forcibly shove a human into his cockpit to hold him prisoner. And they would frequently pop their heads up out of their vehicle modes to emphasize a point when speaking, particularly Cy-Kill. Scooter pretty much always left his face visible when transformed. Cop-Tur's favored attack was to use his spinning helicopter blades as a hand weapon.
    • Scooter was a subversion, since his head actually became his front wheel, and where his face appeared in vehicle mode corresponded approximately to the yellow mark on his waist (or groin?) in robot form. Possibly justified by Scooter's ability to project holograms.
  • Literary Allusion Title: "Et Tu, Cy-Kill?"
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: With most being little more then background characters; often the same character would be seen as both good guy and bad guy — even in the same episode.
  • Master of Illusion: Scooter's hologram projector can be used to disguise himself, other people, or to simply make an illusion of something that isn't there.
  • Mechanical Monster: Zod and Scales are both much less sapient than the rest of the Renegades.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Well, this was a cartoon based on a toyline.
  • Mind Control: Used by the Renegades in the Five-Episode Pilot.
  • Monochrome Casting: Averted. AJ and General Newcastle are both black, and Anya is Russo-Chinese.
  • The Mothership: Roguestar, the Renegades' cloaked base ship.
  • The Movie: After the series ended, there was an animated film called GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted in Battle of the Rock Lords, where Cy-Kill at one point says that Leader-1 will end up a dead GoBot.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Completely averted. Most characters are cyborgs.
  • Off Model: In a case of literaly using the wrong character model, the similar-looking Guardian Baron Von Joy and the Renegade Dr. Go were often drawn as each-other.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Cy-Kill and Crasher both have no qualms with killing anyone who opposes them.
  • Out of Order: The "Gobotron Saga" five-parter was aired late in the series' run, even though it picks up from where the Five-Episode Pilot left off and introduce many recurring characters and concepts.
  • Pastiche: The episode "Destroy All Guardians" is one big love letter to Kaiju films, right down to the name.
  • Planet of Hats: Averted. The Guardians are the planet's dominant society, and they have noncombatant civilians. Zeemon is a politician. Scooter laments that he'd rather be working as a librarian.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: The Gobots: Battle Of the Rock Lords movie was one for the Rock Lords. While the movie does a good job at keeping the plot focus on the Gobots, the opening credits list all of the actors for the Rock Lords prominently and even give them fancy little animation intros while the Gobots and humans get relegated to a single screen listing their actors. Hell, the end credits doesn't feature the Gobots theme, it has the Rock Lords theme instead, making them look like a total Spotlight-Stealing Squad.
  • Porn Stache: Matt Hunter has a thick mustache.
  • Power Armor: The Power Suits make the Guardians stronger.
  • The Quisling: Dr. Braxis swears allegiance to the Renegades once he finds out they exist. Braxis eventually becomes such a pitiful loser shmoe because of his repeated failed misdeeds that it finally drives him crazy, turning him into a certified Mad Scientist.
  • Retcon: Ask Vector Prime and Renegade Rhetoric provided some interesting tweaks to the GoBots mythology in order to strengthen its ties to the Transformers universe. The "Evil One", a demigod-esque GoBot from "In Search of Ancient Gobonauts", was revealed to be an incarnation of The Fallen - you might know him as the guy from the 2009 movie. The Renegade Stretch was likewise revealed to be a Decepticon who had fallen out of the Transformers Animated universe and wound up on Gobotron.
  • Rival Turned Evil: Cy-Kill was once Leader-1's friend, but he betrayed him out of envy over his successes.
  • Robot Girl: As cyborgs, the GoBots have gender, at least on a neurological level.
  • Sequel Hook: The movie Battle of the Rock Lords ends with Magmar still alive and vowing revenge as well as Boulder stating that he's certain they'll meet the Guardians again someday.
  • Silicon-Based Life: The Rock Lords are living rocks.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Justified. The war left Gobotron a biologically dead world long ago. Its current status as a city planet is an attempt to make the world comfortable again for its cyborg inhabitants.
  • The Smurfette Principle:
    • Mainly averted. The show had quite a few female characters, Small Foot and Pathfinder being the two most prominent female Guardians, and Crasher being one of the lead villains. The humans had AJ and Anya (although Anya didn't show up very often after the Five-Episode Pilot).
    • Played straight with Solitaire, who is the only female Rock Lord seen in the movie Battle of the Rock Lords.
  • Something We Forgot: "The Seer" ends with the Guardians leaving and unknowingly leaving behind Van Guard, who is stuck in a tar pit.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: And poor Cy-Kill knows it. No wonder he values Fi-Tor so highly, since Fi-Tor is loyal, intelligent, and competent, when hardly anyone else in the Renegade army is all three. In fairness, Cy-Kill didn't hire these shnooks; the Renegades were a pre-existing army, and he seized command of them when he left the Guardians.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The Astrobeam.
  • Terraforming: The humans are preparing a massive terraforming project for a planet they want to colonize, near the end of the series.
  • Theme Naming
    • Vehicular Theme Naming: Go ahead, just guess what kind of vehicles Cy-Kill, Scooter, Cop-Tor, Dumper, Super Couper, Throttle, Tail-Pipe, Zero, Buggy Man, and Loco turn into...
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Even at the series's outset, it is clear that human technology is advanced a bit beyond the present day. With the GoBots' assistance, it quickly advances far beyond that, allowing humanity to start colonizing other planets.
  • Undying Loyalty: Fi-Tor towards Cy-Kill. When he's captured by the Guardians, he deliberately damages the ship taking him to interrogation rather than risk even the possibility he might betray Cy-Kill. When he realises he's possibly doomed himself and two of the top Guardians (Leader-1 and Turbo), he laughs at the thought.
    • He also assures the Guardians that Cy-Kill would see him dead before he'd allow the Guardians to carry out a proper interrogation, and Fi-Tor is totally fine with it.
    • Cy-Kill reciprocates this loyalty, and is absolutely certain Fi-Tor won't talk when he is captured. Crasher suggests making sure (implying that they should kill Fi-Tor themselves), and a furious Cy-Kill declares that would be a last resort. He dispatches his troops on a rescue mission, taking the time to warn both Cop Tur and Crasher that he wants Fi-Tor back in one piece. When he realises he has no choice but to destroy the Guardian ship (and Fi-Tor with it), he takes the time to whisper a goodbye just before an alternative idea comes to him. He pretty much goes to a lot of trouble to save Fi-Tor, a huge contrast with other villains from the 80s like Mumm-Ra, Megatron or Cobra Commander.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Matt Hunter and Anya Turgonova. They do kiss in the Five-Episode Pilot, though.
  • Vague Age: How old are the GoBots? There are young GoBots who needed to be educated, and the characters did not make claims to vast age like the Transformers did, so it appears that GoBots do age, reproduce, and experience generational turnover like any other biological race (although exactly how Go Bots propagate their species is anyone's guess).
  • The Voiceless: Zod. He did roar a lot, but never spoke.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Most of "Et Tu, Cy-Kill" consists of flashbacks narrated by Scooter that explain that Cy-Kill used to be a Guardian as well as how he became a Renegade.
  • Worthy Opponent: While he rarely admitted it, Cy-Kill acknowledged and even respected Leader-1's leadership and combat skills.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Whatever parts of Old Gobotron are still habitable have become a terrible slum, inhabited mostly by off-worlders.
  • You Monster!: Cy-Kill is called a monster by the GoBots of Gobotron in "Clutch of Doom" when it appeared that he destroyed one fifth of Earth's human population by crushing one of the condensed globes containing them.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Fi-Tor is captured in "Fi-Tor to the Finish" and tries to destroy the ship carrying him to interrogation. The horrified Guardian Turbo tackles him and calls him a lunatic. Fi-Tor retorts, "The word is patriot. wimp!"


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