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, and went from being in syndication to airing on Fox Kids in the US (it remained in Canada on YTV). 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, managed to free himself from the underside of the Autobot shuttle he was tied to, somehow return earlier than the Maximals and in the interim conquer Cybertron by ripping the sparks from the entire population and converting their bodies into his Vehicon armies. 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:
- Ace Custom: The Vehicon generals have slightly different, more colourful paint jobs than their drone soldiers.
- 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 becomes a barren and empty nightmare patrolled by Vehicons.
- Anti-Climax: Subverted. In "Fallout" after his vision at the start of the episode, Optimus transforms to robot mode to seemingly engage Megatron and Tankor in a big climatic duel, then 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.
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Blackarachnia and Silverbolt of all people fall under this after he's rescued from Megatron's control. Due to his hangups from being brainwashed, their relationship is in a rocky place, but despite arguing, they're also shown supporting each other and expressing flashes of their old romantic rhythm.
- Ax-Crazy: Jetstorm completely enjoys causing destruction.
- 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.
- Body Horror: Part of the reason Megatron uses his control suit to control the Vehicons; it conceils the fact that his experiments to rid himself of his beast mode left him with horrific scarring.
- Big "NO!": Megatron yells "No!" when Optimus sends him down to the core to Vector Sigma, thus reformatting Cybertron.
- Big "YES!": Despite the show otherwise turning down his hammy traits, Megatron maintains his penchant for saying this.
- Bittersweet Ending: By the end of the series, Optimus sacrifices his life to stop Megatron, reformatting 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.
- 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.
- Brought Down to Normal: After crash-landing on Cybertron, the Maximals were stripped of their Transmetal bodies and returned to their Season 1 forms by Megatron's virus, at least until the Oracle reformatted them.
- In "Spark of Darkness", Megatron's spark ends up trapped in the body of one of his tiny, unarmed diagnostic drones.
- Call-Back: A fairly subtle, clever one: Megatron's selection of Rhinox for one of his generals seems odd, until you remember that Megatron saw what he was capable of when he was infected with a Predacon virus back in season 1 of Beast Wars. Not only is Rhinox capable of Machiavellian scheming beyond even Megatron's skills, but he's also given to overconfident gloating, both traits that Megatron takes advantage of.
- 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.
- Cold Ham: Megatron has become one of these, being far colder than he was in Beast Wars, but still not giving up his hamminess entirely. At the end of the series, he goes right back to being a Large Ham once more.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: After reformatting, the Maximals's sparks are colored differently. The list below also applies the lights emerging from their transformation and their robot form's eyes.
- Blue: Optimus Primal
- Magenta: Cheetor
- Green: Blackarachnia
- Red: Rattrap
- Cyan: Nightscream and Botanica
- Yellow: Silverbolt
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: The Maximals at their peak only had seven members facing veritable armies of Vehicon drones, but the drones' lack of imagination and initiative allowed the Maximals to outmanoeuvre them most of the time, requiring Megatron to create his Vehicon generals so that his forces could face the Maximals on a more even footing.
- Darker and Edgier: The show has a much more serious and bleaker tone than Beast Wars due to Megatron taking over Cybertron and imprisoning the sparks of nearly all Cybertronians. Optimus Primal and the other Maximals spend a good deal of the series trying to evade Megatron's forces and set things right again.
- Dark Reprise: A few particularly dramatic episodes would reprise some of the recurring themes from Beast Wars, albeit in the more techno-influenced, industrial sounding music style of the series.
- Death Equals Redemption: In "Fallout" Rhinox's spark expressed regret over his recent actions and he becomes one with the Matrix.
- Death of Personality: Happens to the original Vehicon generals. Tankors personality is pretty much erased when Rhinox takes over, though Tankors programming still affects him, while Thrust and Jetstorm have their personalities completely destroyed and replaced with the original personalities of their spark, Waspinator and Silverbolt respectively, when they are reformatted.
- 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.
- Dude, Not Funny!: Occurs in "Forbidden Fruit" when Rattrap makes a remark to Optimus that he should save his advice for Rhinox and Silverbolt, who had gone missing since the start of the series. Cheetor and Blackarachnia are quick to call Rattrap out on his retort, the former stating that the remark is low even for him and the latter pointing out that Optimus is burdened by the guilt of being unable to save Rhinox and Silverbolt.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: To reformat Cybertron in the Grand Finale, Optimus combines his spark with Megatron. He overpowers Megatron and sends him falling into Cybertron's core. Before entering the core, Optimus echoes the Oracle/Allspark's speech about the "great transformations" as Megatron yells in desperation.
- 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 Knockoff: A good description of Megatron's use of a duplicate of Optimus's old Optimal Optimus body, choosing the body for both the practical reason that he doesn't have time to create a completely new form for himself and so decided to use an existing template, and the Irony of beating Optimus with his own prior form.
- 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.
- FaceHeel Turn: Tankor turns out to house the spark of Rhinox, who plans to stop Megatron only so he can carry out his scheme on his own terms.
- Fallen Hero: According to supplementary material, Obsidian and Strika were Autobot generals during the Great War (there is a reference to this in the show, when Obsidian refers to Optimus Prime as a "great leader").
- Family-Friendly Firearms: Unlike Beast Wars, actual guns and missiles were banned from Beast Machines. 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.
- Famous Last Words:
- Fantastic Racism: Megatron has developed a burning hatred of organic life and desires to wipe it out completely.
- Flesh vs. Steel: The show has the technorganic Maximals fight against the completely robotic Vehicon forces of Megatron. Ultimately subverted with the aim of delivering the message that nature and technology shouldn't be enemies.
- 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.
- Grand Finale: For the Beast Era and the Generation 1 continuity as a whole. Optimus Primal pushes Megatron into Cybertron's organic core, killing them both and reformatting the entire planet into a technorganic world. Nothing Is the Same Anymore.
- Happy Ending Override: For Beast Wars. So the Maximals were heading back to Cybertron with Megatron chained to the roof of their Autobot shuttle, right? Turns out Megatron broke free during the trip, falling into the time vortex and ending up sometime in Cybertron's past. By the time the Maximals arrive home Megatron has conquered the planet with his Vehicon armies, the Transformers are on the verge of extinction, and the Maximals are quickly shot down and infected with his anti-transformation virus.
- Waspinator was last seen living a life of luxury with the neanderthals on prehistoric Earth, "Waspinator happy at last." Except the pre-humans got sick of him and tossed him out, forcing him to take the slow way back to Cybertron, where it was implied he volunteered to be spark-extracted by Megatron with the rest of the population.
- Hate Plague: The Maximals have some trouble with a mutation of the original in "A Wolf in the Fold." Silverbolt gets corrupted by the implanted virus, and passes it on to all of the other Maximals.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Optimus slides further and further into fanaticism as the first season draws to a close. And then subverts it awesomely in the second season premiere when he realizes that forcing organic life to take over machinery would make him no different from Megatron and the Oracle gave him the mission to achieve balance between nature and technology rather than to have nature win over technology.
- How Do I Shot Web?: The initial four Maximals in this series have difficulty adapting to being biomechanical, particularly Rattrap who doesn't figure out how to transform until "The Weak Component". 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 in "The Weak Component", 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.
- I Did What I Had to Do: In Part 1 of the Grand Finale, Rattrap justifies launching Botanica into an escape pod to save her by saying the trope name verbatim.
- 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:
- When Megatron recreates Rhinox, Waspinator, and Silverbolt into his first Vehicon generals he gives them personalities that are the polar opposite of their former selves. Smart Guy Rhinox becomes dumb brute Tankor. Noble, heroic Silverbolt becomes the sadistic, Large Ham bully Jetstorm. And Butt-Monkey Chew Toy Waspinator becomes "cool biker-bot" Thrust. Knowing Megatron, it was probably very intentional.
- 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.
- Killed Off for Real:
- Rhinox/Tankor is fried by plasma energy 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's reformatted body has a huge chin in robot mode.
- Large Ham:
- Laughably Evil: Jetstorm, thanks to being quite the showboater.
- 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.
- Meaningful Echo: "The Great Transformation awaits. Prepare to be... reformatted."
- "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, the series' premise involving the surviving Maximals adjusting to their reformatted forms while also trying to put a stop to Megatron's reign over Cybertron.
- 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 initially appears to be your standard dim-witted thug, then it turns out that he houses Rhinox's spark, and Rhinox isn't a good guy anymore.
- The models for 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 his right eye (its proper place) or his left.
- Anytime models from Beast Wars show up, the most that changes are their textures, if that, with noticeable differences when compared to the new models made for the series.
- 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 Herring: It's consistently hinted throughout the first season that Thrust has Silverbolt's spark, when in reality, it's Jetstorm who does. Thrust has Waspinator's spark.
- 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...
- The Reveal: The true identities of the Vehicon generals; Tankor is Rhinox, Jetstorm is Silverbolt, and Thrust is Waspinator!
- Same Character, but Different: One of the main reasons this series gets a lot of criticism is that the characters' characterizations aren't completely consistent with the original series, most notably with Optimus Primal becoming an extremist who is so focused on the mission that he thinks little of the other Maximals' feelings (which, to be fair, is called out In-Universe).
- Sapient Tank: Tankor, the dim-witted tank Vehicon at least until Rhinox's personality resurfaces again.
- Sequel Series: The series is a follow-up to the previous series Beast Wars.
- 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: Initially, 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.
- Speed Stripes: Done in an unusual way, using three-dimensional speed lines.
- The Starscream: Rhinox/Tankor attempts to overthrow Megatron and carry out his plan on his own terms
- Took a Level in Badass:
- Cheetor, as part of his promotion from the Kid-Appeal Character in Beast Wars to The Lancer in Beast Machines.
- Silverbolt — 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.
- Megatron, already a badass, went from a humorous campy villain in Beast Wars to a rather dark character and believable threat in this series. It's one of the only character changes that have been well received — though 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.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Believe it or not, Megatron. He was already firmly established as a monster in Beast Wars, but he only gets even worse here, going from a charming Faux Affably Evil villain to a completely humorless solipsist.
- Vocal Evolution: Megatron's voice was already pretty deep in Beast Wars, but Beast Machines makes it even deeper and replaces the smug, jovial tone with a cold, sinister one.
- Wham Line: Blackarachnia devises a means to temporarily make the stolen spark of one of the Vehicons come to the surface. She's convinced that Thrust is actually Silverbolt and wants to bring him back. She eventually catches Thrust and reawakens his spark. The first words out of Thrust's mouth reveals that he's not Silverbolt, but Waspinator.Thrust: No... Doggie-bot not here.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: We never find out what happens to Strika and Obsidian after Cheetor shoots them into orbit. There was supposed to be a scene of them being brought back down to Cybertron in the epilogue, but it was 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.
- In the first season finale, 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 first season 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!"
- You Fool!: During a confrontation in "The Key":Optimus: Enough! I am transformed!
Rhinox: You are a fool, Optimus Primal!