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|« Beast Machines »|
Beast Machines is a 26-episode cartoon that aired in the US from 1999 to 2000, in support of the toyline of the same name. It is a direct follow-up to Beast Wars, set in the same G1 continuity and featuring many of the same characters. Like Beast Wars, its computer animation was created by Mainframe Entertainment.
The show follows the adventures of the core Beast Wars cast (including Silverbolt and Blackarachnia) upon their return home to Cybertron; there, Optimus Primal and his crew find that the whole planet is abandoned, and the streets are patrolled by mindless Vehicon drones serving Megatron, who somehow escaped his captivity.
Worse still, they learn that they are infected with a deadly virus that will kill them in a matter of hours. Salvation comes from the mysterious supercomputer known as the Oracle, who sees them fit to complete its mission of a planetwide "reformatting", and turns them into technorganic warriors, a perfect blend of organic and technological matter.
As the show progresses, Primal and his fellow Maximals learn to balance their technological side with their newly introduced organic aspects, mastery coming in slow stages. Unlike the previous conflict, where sides had been roughly equal, the four original Maximals were quite outnumbered by their Vehicon enemies, and the battles took on a "guerilla warfare" feel, with the Maximals using sewers and underground levels to their advantage and avoiding surface levels unless for combat purposes. As the show progresses, two brand-new Maximals and a returning face boost their numbers and together, the Maximals eventually turn Cybertron into an technorganic paradise, though at the cost of their leader's life.
Controversial even by the standards of other Transformers reinventions (!), Beast Machines is remembered by some as a series which tried to tackle heavy philosophical concepts with mixed results, discussing such issues like what it meant to live in an increasingly technological society and the dichotomy between the desires of the individual and the needs of society and the paradox of a living technological world. Story editor Bob Skir describes the series as a "religious epic novel for television."  The series' detractors complained about the show's alleged "hippie" agenda, claiming it would ruin Transformers; a few went so far as to send Skir death threats, causing him to cancel a convention appearance in 2000. Even more sympathetic fans have commented that the show lacks the campy, lighthearted humor of Beast Wars'. The show also featured seemingly endless scenes of the good guys running away, and that the requirements of the overall plot structure leave it treading water story-wise at times. Many characters had radically different personalities and goals than in Beast Wars (Rattrap's being the strongest example). The show was and remains the darkest and most thought-provoking Transformers animation to date, and the final animated entry into the Generation One story canon, bringing the events in that universe to a rather conclusive ending.
Despite all the criticisms, the show continued the high production values of Beast Wars, with solid scripting, excellent voice acting, and CGI that was a considerable step up in quality even from Beast Wars. Mainframe's animators showed their considerable talents in giving highly emotive expression to such alien characters as the Vehicon Generals and even the Diagnostic Drone, which didn't have a face at all. As with Beast Wars, Robert Buckley provided the series background music, this time creating a stylized electronic music in keeping with the mechanical environment of Cybertron.
With Beast Machines perhaps not quite living up to Hasbro's hopes, the followup line to Beast Machines was subsequently scrapped. Hasbro's next foray into animation would be to bring over a year-old Japanese show for consumption in the US, until a new story could be concocted. In light of the results, some fans have found themselves re-evaluating Beast Machines more favorably, though the newfound positive reception is still not universal by any means.
Season 1 largely centers on the Maximals' efforts to find out what has happened to them, as they arrive on Cybertron with no memories. In addition to Megatron and the core Maximal cast, three new Vehicon generals are introduced, as well as the new Maximal Nightscream. By the end of the season, Optimus Primal has been driven down a road of extremism, and an apocalyptic confrontation marks the season finale...
- The Reformatting
- Master of the House
- Fires of the Past
- Mercenary Pursuits
- Forbidden Fruit
- The Weak Component
- Revelations Part I: Discovery
- Revelations Part II: Descent
- Revelations Part III: Apocalypse
- The Key
- The Catalyst
- End of the Line
Season 2: Battle for the Spark
The ultimate face-off at the end of Season 1 is resolved in a most unusual and cerebral manner, setting the tone for Season 2 as Primal realizes his mission is one of balance, not extremism. Silverbolt rejoins the Maximal ranks, a new Maximal arrives from off-world, and two dangerous new generals join Megatron's side as the Maximals search for the lost Sparks of their brethren and battle to regain control of Cybertron.
- Savage Noble
- Prometheus Unbound
- In Darkest Knight
- A Wolf in the Fold
- Home Soil
- Sparkwar Pt. I: The Strike
- Sparkwar Pt. II: The Search
- Sparkwar Pt. III: The Siege
- Spark of Darkness
- Endgame Pt. I: The Downward Spiral
- Endgame Pt. II: When Legends Fall
- Endgame Pt. III: Seeds of the Future
Because developing new CGI character models was, at the time, an expensive and time-consuming process, the number of named on-screen characters in Beast Machines was relatively small compared to most other Transformers shows. It is thus practical to list all the Transformers who appeared in the cartoon. They are listed in order of appearance. (Most drones are not listed, and neither are incidental flashback characters.) Note that many characters besides these are also full-fledged Beast Machines characters, having appeared in other media.
- The Diagnostic Drone (sparkless, hence a non-transforming Transformer, but had a speaking role and a personality)
- The Oracle (not much of a personality, but definitely a major speaking role)
- Mainframe Entertainment executive Dan DiDio explicitly told Bob Skir and Marty Isenberg to ignore all previous Transformers cartoons when writing Beast Machines, because "Beast Wars was too continuity-heavy". It clearly did not work out that way.
- In the May 2008 "DC Nation" editorial appearing in DC Comics publications, Dan DiDio recounted that writer Steve Gerber had once pitched a "wildly original take on Transformers" as part of the development of Beast Machines.
- The theme tune for the show was Leftfield's "Phat Planet". This was also used for a famous Guinness advert. The latter proved a more popular TV slot.
- Apart from flashbacks, visions and one instance of anger, Beast Machines takes place entirely on (or in orbit of) Cybertron and has no human or human-related characters. Few appearances or references of Earth, either. This is unique among the TV shows.
- The Beast Machines cartoon have an unusual tendency to pronounce Cybertron as "Cybatron".