Beast Machines

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
The Next Evolution of the Beast Wars

Cheetor: So what are we? Robots or animals?
Optimus: Both...and neither.

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 technogical 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, even better than the already impressive stuff from the end of Beast Wars, and it still holds up today. And while Beast Wars provided the concept, this show is the main 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.

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 Lock Out 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.

Tropes used in Beast Machines include:
  • A Boy and His X: Nightscream and Noble Have this relationship after Megatron's consciousness exits Noble.
  • 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.
  • 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 fulfils this role.
  • Ax Crazy: Jetstorm.
  • 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.
  • 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 reformating them.
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Diagnostic Drone, who plays an integral part in the Season 1 Finale.
  • Continuity Lock Out: 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
  • 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 Hero 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.
  • 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.
  • Idiot Ball: For a pair of brilliant generals, Obsidian and Strika have a hard time figuring out that standing on an anti-gravity platform is bad for your immediate health. Sucks to be them.
    • Optimus suffers this at the end of Season 1. His final scene in the penultimate episode "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 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 to 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.

  • 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.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Tankor. Full stop.
  • 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.
  • 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!

Megatron, of all people, calls Blackarachnia, Cheetor and Nightscream on mistreating Rattrap and Optimus for promising more than he can deliver.
They also call Rattrap on making a deal with Megatron and Optimus calls him for attacking them.
    • In "Fallout," Rattrap pushes Rhinox/Tankor's charred remains over. His response? "Hehheheh. Oops." Skips What the Hell, Hero? and becomes absolutely horrifying when you remember that Rhinox was Rattrap's best friend. Rattrap watched his pal disintegrate with a smile on his face.
      • However, Rattrap and everyone else (except Megatron) thought that Tankor was already dead. Given Tankor's similar appearance to his troops, It's possible Rattrap mistook him for a tank drone.
    • 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!"