(Inside The Ark of Transformers Generation 1)
The series that rebooted the Transformers franchise after a years-long recession, Beast Wars premiered in 1996 and was animated in CGI. It was produced by the now bought-out Mainframe Entertainment, hot on the heels of its predecessor ReBoot. Hugely controversial among the Unpleasable Fanbase that are Transfans due to the wildly different direction it took from the original series, Beast Wars was not based around the familiar Autobots and Decepticons, but their descendants, the Maximals and Predacons, who now transform into Earth animals instead of vehicles or household items. Lumped with this series is the sequel, Beast Machines, although they are not considered a single story arc.
Beast Wars treats the events of Transformers Generation 1 as a mixture of history and legend; it never gives enough details to figure out which Generation One (cartoon, |comics or something else) it comes from.
The story is thus: after stealing a precious MacGuffin from the Cybertronian archives, a small band of Predacon renegades (defying the peace that befell the planet after the Autobots won the "Great War" against the Decepticons) crash-land on a mysterious planet along with their Maximal pursuers. The planet, heavily seeded with a raw, crystalline version of the Transformers' fuel source Energon, proves so harmful to them that they need to convert into animal Alternate Modes to survive.
The battle then begins, with Optimus Primal dubbing this conflict, "the Beast Wars". The reasons behind the Predacon's theft of the MacGuffin grew in importance, the inclusion of a third party (the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens known as the "Vok"), along with a mythology twist that really clinches the story.
Despite the cries of "TRUKK NOT MUNKY!" from the purists, Beast Wars was actually quite innovative for its time; not only because of the aforementioned CGI, but also because of the tight, involving storyline, significant character development, and revolutionary ball joint technology that not only made the toys much easier to play with and pose, but also provided more realistic and believable transformations and alt-modes. (Not to mention graphic violence that was let slip because flying robot parts have been permissible since time immemorial.)
The expense of CGI animation at the time required a limited cast of characters, unlike the 1984 series' cast of dozens. Although this, too, was decried at the time, this meant more time was spent with each character and hence deeper characterisation. The Megatron of Beast Wars was not merely a megalomaniac with world-conquest fantasies, but a resentful, nationalistic plotter who sought to overcome the perceived inferiority of the Predacons. Beginning as a fairly standard femme fatale, Blackarachnia went on to become one of the archetypal Dark Action Girls, eventually joining the Maximals and besting some of the most powerful villains (Dinobot II and Rampage) in combat. One of the show's generally acknowledged high points is the character of Dinobot: an honourable Predacon who deserts his side, but still feels some fealty to Predacon ideals, he is constantly torn in his allegiances.
Say what you will of the quality, this show set the standard for all other Transformers franchises from then on. Even now, it just won't die; a "10th Anniversary" release of the original toys was created  , and fan favorites introduced by the show (Blackarachnia and Waspinator) are among the recurring characters of one of the most recent versions of the franchise, Transformers Animated. To some fans, Beast Wars is the best Transformers incarnation of all time due to its high quality and production values. It isn't uncommon for longtime Generation 1 fans to claim that the show is their favorite Transformers series.
The Sequel Series, Beast Machines, was, uh, less well-regarded, due mainly to characterization changes, a focus on longer plot arcs, and a darker tone in general. Despite this, it has its own fanbase. See its own page for more information.
In Japan, two traditionally animated series were created to fill in the production gaps between seasons. Beast Wars II and Beast Wars Neo. They were never dubbed, as they don't fit in very well with the Continuity of either the source material or each other. Both shows are much more light-hearted than their Western counterparts, and aimed at a much younger audience than Beast Wars (which could plausibly be called the first Transformers series aimed at teenagers, not just children). It's also worth noting that the Japanese release of the CGI Beast Wars cartoon also changed the dialog for a younger audience, almost to the point of being a Gag Dub.
It has a Character sheet.
- Actor Allusion: In one episode, Silverbolt looks up at Venus and says it reminds him of Blackarachnia. Blackarachnia's voice actress is Venus Terzo.
- Actually Pretty Funny: In "Bad Spark", when Blackarachnia has accepted Silverbolt's presence and companionship under the excuse of self-preservation and protection from Tarantulus, the two of them come across Tarantulus's severed limb hanging from a tree. Silverbolt explains that there is no cause to worry, since he has been disarmed, and both of them begin laughing after trying to hold in their snickers for several seconds.
- Aerial Canyon Chase: Cheetor tries this with a canyon that has many close pillars. Even though he manages to shake off the Mooks with this technique, Megatron just plows head-first right through the pillars to no ill effect.
- A God Am I: Megatron's view of himself, or what he soon will be throughout the final episodes of the series. He refers to his "imminent godhood" and quotes from the covenant of Primus in reference to himself. This leads nicely into his view of himself all through Beast Machines as destined to ascend to godhood and contrasts with his more limited goals to conquer Cybertron when Beast Wars began.
- All There in the Manual: The device in the "Other Visits" two-parter was called Metal Hunter in the scripts.
- Animation Bump: While the CG was (at the time) well done. Some sequences, such as Waspinator's resignation speech contain very fluid animations.
- Anyone Can Die: Out of a total named cast of 20, only 8 make it out alive (Not counting one-shot characters). This was largely due to Executive Meddling and software limitations. CGI was relatively new at the time, and only a handful of characters could appear at once; add in the Merchandise-Driven nature of the franchise and characters had to be killed off to show off new toys.
- An Arm and a Leg: Losing limbs is a relatively common dramatic device, as they can always be reattached later.
- Arachnid Appearance and Attire: Tarantulas and Blackarachnia.
- Art Evolution: The CGI was always top notch but as the hardware improved, so did the animation. The most dramatic leaps were season two of Beast Wars and then the jump to Beast Machines.
- Artificial Beast
- A-Team Firing: Constantly.
- Auto Cannibalism: Dinobot disposes of a fully biological clone of himself by eating it.
- Back from the Dead: Optimus Primal is reborn in a new body all complete with a Transmetal upgrade
- Blackarachnia also gets this in "Crossin the Rubicon," all with Maximal Programming and a Transmetal II Upgrade.
- Battle Cry:
- "For the Royalty!"
- "For the glory of the colony!"
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: Throughout the series, nearly all of the Predacons have insect or arachnid beast modes. At one point, every Predacon aside from Megatron is at least half arthropod.
- Bulletproof Human Shield
- Broad Strokes: In regards to G1.
- By the Power of Grayskull: Maximals and Predacons shouting out their activation codes ("Maximize" and "Terrorize" respectively). At first, it seems like this was a requirement to transform to robot mode, but the trope wound up being subverted as the series wore on. After the first season, activation codes were said less often.
- Catch Phrase: Several characters, as seen in the Character sheets.
- Chekhov's Gun: The first episode opens with the mention that Megatron had stolen the Golden Disk, one of Cybertrons most ancient and sacred relics. Once it is determined that it could not lead them to Earth, as Megatron had believed, the disk was quickly forgotten. It becomes a crucial plot point in season two and beyond.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Comes with the package of being a Predacon. At one point or another, all of Megatron's forces try to betray him, with varying degrees of succes, except for Scorponok (who was not too bright) and Inferno (who was insane). Even Rhinox during his temporary Face Heel Turn does this to Megatron as well. To top it all off, the original Starscream makes an appearance, and does what he does best. Megs is happy to put up with all of this as long as he can use it to his advantage.
- Closed Circle: Both ships were totaled during the initial crash and rescue was next to impossible considering that they traveled through both space and time.
- Comic Trio: Inferno (schemer), Quickstrike (follower), and Waspinator (complainer) form one.
- Complexity Addiction: In the first scene of the pilot, Megatron has the Maximals ship cornered and damaged but opts for a lateral shot instead of destroying them outright so they will suffer. It ends up causing both ships to crashland on Earth and in consequence the whole cartoon series.
- Convection, Schmonvection: The characters themselves get very close to lava without any adverse effect, but they are alien robots and can survive in environments that living beings can not. All other combustible materials burst into flames at a proper distance.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Tarantlas' (admittedly well-deserved) demise is pretty horrible.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: The cast refers to Primus as their creator and the Covenant of Primus seems to be some sort of Bible analogue. Once Megatron goes right off the deep end towards the end of the series, the Covenant goes from a cultural footnote into something that outright predicts things. The idea of Primus was actually nabbed from the |Marvel Transformers comics, so this was actually a long-distance Continuity Nod.
- Deus Ex Machina: The Autobot shuttle on the Ark. They use it to take out the Nemesis' control tower and then to return to Cybertron, ensuring that history will never mention it.
Cheetor: Oh, an Autobot shuttle!
- Dialogue Reversal: Between Silverbolt and Blackarachnia in "Bad Spark":
- Early Installment Weirdness: The transformations are treated with much more gravitas. With each member shouting his name and transformation code out loud, and being seen to transform by themselves. This is not limited to just the first transformation either, as almost all of them in the first two episodes are this way. Similarly, a big case is made out of Optimus' inexperience at commanding. This is never referred to again once the two-parter is over.
- A lot of the characterization is quite different in early Season 1 before the writers really worked out who the characters were. Scorponok being the smart guy of the Preds and not Tarantulas, Tarantulas' focus seeming to be entirely based on eating things, Rhinox being the type of guy to say "Yo, ease up" - none of it jives very well with the characters as they eventually became.
- Earth All Along
- "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Several episodes in Season 1.
- Evil Is Burning Hot: While the Maximal base is located near a river, the base of the Predicons is at a lava flow.
- Expanded Universe: The IDW Beast Wars comics, which shoehorn characters from Beast Wars II and Beast Wars Neo, along with most of the toy-only characters, into the series--although they are all either chronally displaced or on Cybertron, so it does not clash with the series.
- Fate Worse Than Death: In "Possession", it was revealed that, after being killed by Galvatron, Starscream's spark has been wandering through the universe for thousands of years, even traveling through time.
- Five-Bad Band:
- Big Bad - Megatron, yeeessss
- The Dragon - Scorponok, then Inferno and later Dinobot II
- Evil Genius - Tarantulas
- The Starscream - Terrorsaur, though as that page will attest, several others had their run at it.
- The Brute - Quickstrike and Rampage, the latter far more effectively.
- Dark Chick - Blackarachnia
- Butt Monkey - Waspinator
- Five-Man Band: Characters usually had traits falling into multiple roles. However, they do approximate as following:
- The Hero - Optimus Primal
- The Lancer - Dinobot/Rattrap; Cheetor shares the role with the latter in the third season.
- The Smart Guy - Rattrap/Rhinox
- The Big Guy - Rhinox/Dinobot; Silverbolt joins later.
- Kid Appeal Character - Cheetor
- Sixth Ranger - Several, due to the nature of the show
- The Chick / Action Girl - Airazor
- Token Evil Teammate - Dinobot, Blackarachnia
- Rhinox makes a comment in the first episode that they do not even know when they are, because their FTL engines can move through time given certain circumstances. The fact the planet was prehistoric Earth did not come up until the beginning of the second season.
- Halfway through the first season, Rhinox makes a comment that "one of the moons is lighter than it should be, almost as if it were... hollow." At the end of the first season, it is revealed that it is a planet-buster weapon.
- Throughout the first season, Tarantulas was hinted to know more of what was going on than any of the other characters. Among other things, he desired to recover a stasis pod to get off the planet alone as soon as possible before the above mentioned Planet Buster hit.
- In the episode "Other Victories", a rotating picture of the Nemesis is clearly visible on one of Tarantulas' monitors.
- Four-Fingered Hands: Rhinox, Depth Charge and Transmetal II Cheetor.
- Gag Dub: The Japanese version of the show was rather less serious.
- Gambit Pileup:
- In the first season finale, Megatron, Blackarachnia and the Maximals all had their own individual plans for dealing with the destruction of the planet by the alien Vok and almost all of their plans hinged on the different known factors of everyone else's plans.
- Tarantulas was originally planning on escaping the planet in a stasis pod, Blackarachnia secretly planned to steal his stasis pod for herself and use it to escape, Megatron purposefully allowed the two of them to go about stealing said pod with the plan of forcing that pod (with the escapee still inside) to become a makeshift bomb used to destroy the alien Planet Buster. Optimus and the Maximals planned to use the pod for the same purpose, but with the idea that Optimus would escape the pod at the last second (Megatron's version, which ultimately won out, involved Optimus not escaping and dying in the explosion.)
- Interestingly, after Optimus died in the explosion (which Megatron had originally meant for one or both of the spiders), Tarantulas's reaction was that of smug laughter, the kind he only ever does when he's just pulled something deceitful off. This leaves the implication that Tarantulas was well aware of Megatron's schemes too, and that his plan was to ready the pod and assume that either Blackarachnia, Inferno (on Megatron's orders) or Optimus would intercede (all tried to) and would die in Megatron's scheme, rather than him.
- Considering that his ultimate scheme is to destroy the Ark and both Autobots and Decepticons to negate the existence of all Cybertronians which, it turns out, Tarantulas is not one of, it wouldn't have made sense for him to be willing to leave the planet anyway. Claims that he wanted to were likely for Blackarachnia and Waspinator's benefit, so that it would get back to Megatron. Thus, ultimately, it's Tarantulas pulling all the strings.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: All over the place. The writers cleverly used machine-based terminology such as slag, scrap, or "that guy has bearings of chrome steel" in place of actual foul language. Some of the byplay between Blackarachnia and Silverbolt is particularly clever, implying lots but saying little. Some examples:
- After Silverbolt's illegal flirting with Blackarachnia in "The Agenda Pt. 1":
Rattrap: So, uh, where ya' been, bird-dog?
- Upon hearing that they may be going home, Rattrap invites Tigertron to a seedy bar where the waitresses do not have their chest plates on.
- From the final episode, when Blackarachnia needs a cable and decides Rattrap's sword/tail will do:
Rattrap: Hey! You emasculatin' fembot!
- Tigertron and Airrazor gasp at Rattrap's new look once he is turned into a Transmetal. Rattrap asks "What's with you two? Is my gearbox hanging out or somethin'?" As he says the last part he waves his hand over his crotch area.
- Heel Face Turn: Dinobot at the beginning switched to the Maximals due to his distrust in Megatron believing the plan has failed. But when it has succeeded, he switched back, only to return to the Maximals after realizing that Megatron's gone mad. He would remain with the Maximals till his Heroic Sacrifice
- Silverbolt, though it's because of his dissatisfaction with being a Predacon
- Blackarachnia switched to the Maximals at the beginning of Season 3 after realizing that Megatron's plan would wipe her from existences.
- And then Dinobot's Transmetal 2 clone switches sides after the death of Rampage and he becomes whole. It was this moment that was the climax of the Beast Wars.
- Hollywood Apocrypha: The Covenant of Primus, for both factions.
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons: Megatron's transmetal 2 form.
- In Their Own Image: According to G1's Megatron, this was the plan passed down to BW's Megatron. By going back to while the Autobots and Decepticons were in stasis lock and killing Optimus Prime, Megatron would create a time paradox that would remove Autobots, and thus Maximals from existence, causing the Decepticons to win the Great War and shape the future in their image.
- Killed Off for Real: Quite common, as a result of the competing needs of introducing new characters and keeping the cast small. Terrorsaur and Scorponok are unceremoniously bumped off at the beginning of Season 2; Dinobot's death in "Code of Hero" counts, later developments notwithstanding. Then, of course, the last few episodes are spectacularly fatal, with Tarantulus offed by the Vok, Depth Charge sacrificing himself to kill Rampage, Tigerhawk, Inferno, and Quickstrike getting gunned down by a freaking warship, and Dinobot's clone taking a leaf from his predecessor's book.
- Klingon Promotion: Word of God says that Predicon leadership welcomes treachery under the rationale that leaders who cannot thwart a treacherous underling were probably not fit to be leaders.
- Look What I Can Do Now!: This technically happens any time a character receives an upgrade, which is quite often.
- Magnetic Plot Device: The Vok were an alien race who had a vested interest in the planet and left all sorts of powerful technology that the characters fought over. While there is certainly some continuity with Megatron's schemes, the Vok episodes tended to be the ones where things really started to shake up.
- Market-Based Title: Canadian regulations do not allow a show to have the word "War" in its title; thus the show is called "Beasties" in Canada.
- Meaningful Echo: In Code Of Hero, Rattrap confronts Dinobot for his defection back to the Predacons, "Oh yeah, he's a slag-spouting saurian, but at least you know where he stands! Guess we live and learn." Later, after Dinobot saved the valley at the cost of his life, Rattrap repeats himself, "Like I said, you're just a blasted slag-spouting saurian, but... it's nice to know where you stand."
- Mind Rape: As makes sense given their robot nature, multiple plots involve hacking or messing with their minds/sparks; the screaming and struggling that accompanies it makes it clear that this is not a clean process.
- Mirror Morality Machine
- Mix-and-Match Critters: The Fuzors, Silverbolt and Quickstrike. There are more of them which are mentioned in the IDW comics. Magmatron recruits them.
- Mythology Gag: Numerous to the original series, but also to the original line of toys (or more correctly, the era they were made in).
Rattrap: (Commenting on the Ark) This thing wasn't built...it was POURED!
- Our Souls Are Different: Sparks.
- Outrun the Fireball: Seen in the opening of every episode of the first season, no less.
- Painful Transformation: Every upgrade transformation was accompanied by screams, and the second upgrades had the new body burst through their old one.
- Prequel: Theft of the Golden Disk and the comic Dawn of Future's Past. Both tells what happens before the cartoon events.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Both teams start out like this, with the Predacons as a group of relatively hastily assembled renegades and the Maximals a group of scientists that happened to be the only ones in the area able to pursue them.
- The Remnant: The Predacons.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: All reptile- and dinosaur-form transformers, including the cobra-scorpion fuzor Quick-Strike, are Predacons. The sole exceptions, Dinobot, is an ex-Predacon, though an honorable anti-hero sort.
- Ret Canon: Prior to the series premiere, the toyline painted the events as happening on present day Earth and instead of being Legacy Characters from Optimus Prime and the original Megatron, Optimus Primal and Beast Megatron were the same characters as their G1-namesakes, just with new forms. Needless to say, once the cartoon debuted, the toyline's backstory was changed to match up with it.
- The Reveal: The Golden Disk was not just a map to an Energon goldmine: it was a backup plan left by G1's Megatron with instructions for the Decepticons descendants to travel back in time, gain access to the Ark, and kill Optimus Prime and any other Autobots that would stop the Decepticons from winning the Great War.
- Right Man in the Wrong Place: Optimus' crew were mere scientists starting an exploration mission who just happened to be the only ones in the area when a certain crew of renegade Predacons zoomed by in a stolen ship.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The real mission of the Axalon was to take a stasis pod holding the abominable experiment Protoform X and drop it off on some desolate asteroid where he could hopefully be imprisoned forever. Unfortunately, their crash in to prehistoric Earth lead to the monster re-awakening.
- Sealed Good in a Can: The stasis pods all contained protoforms that were Maximal by default, but could be reprogrammed to produce a Predacon with a little know-how. This made every time a protoform made planetfall a race between the two factions to recruit the newcomer.
- Second-Person Attack: This infamous scene has a double version, plus an Impairment Shot of seeing double and falling over after the punch.
- Shout-Out: Several, to many things:
- A scene in Gorilla Warfare is inspired by RoboCop.
- In a similar note, the episode's name is a pun on the Guerilla Warfare concept, which is built on surprise attacks, sabotage, ambushes, and deception.
- In Victory, the scene where Optimus is falling from the Axalon after being shot by Scorponok in his Beast mode resembles a scene in King Kong.
- There's also this one to Superman, completely with a Suspiciously Similar Song version of Supes' Main Theme:
Dinobot: Wait! Look! Down in the sky! Is it a bird?
- Another scene, where Optimus brandishes his swords before Megatron shoots him down is reminiscent of the duel between Indiana Jones and the Cairo swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Dinobot pushing Scorponok into his rotor blade weapon echoes the demise of the German engineer in the same movie.
- Airazor's pose in "The Low Road" (as seen in the page image) is a direct reference to the famous Star Wars poster.
- Shut UP, Hannibal: In the final episode, Optimus delivers an epic one to Megatron.
Megatron: Come on now, let's here it. The usual "destiny and honor" speech.
- Sorry I Left the BGM On: In the third-season episode Changing of the Guard, when the previously-reluctant Rattrap is beginning to enjoy his submarine ride, cheery, upbeat music (a rarity for this series in general) begins playing. Cut to Silverbolt, listening to the music over his communicator with a puzzled expression.
- Story Arc: Less obvious in the first season, but became prominent in the other two with the Vok and Golden Disk issues.
- Symbolic Blood: Hydraulic fluid and bits of metal go flying everywhere
- Technology Marches On: The Maximals are several times seen using data discs that strongly resemble floppies.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Early on, the Maximals were as prone to internal squabbles as any crew of 'cons which were only exaggerated by the addition of a Predacon defector to the team. The eventually overcame this, but still has a few hiccups now and again.
- That's No Moon: The "second" moon at the end of season 1. Said revelation resulted in Earth All Along.
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Megatron's speech at the end of the second seasonafter he attempts to kill the original Optimus Prime appears to be adressed to the viewers as much as it is to the Maximals.
- The Renaissance Age of Animation
- Unusual Euphemism: Several, considering that the main cast are robots, not humans. Common examples are Rattrap's "Oh, for bootin' up cold!" and the general-purpose expletive "Slag!"
- Weaponized Landmark: The Standing Stones were actually a communicator beacon/containment grid for the Vok. Also, the second moon.
- What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: During the final battle between Megatron and Optimus Primal, they start quoting passages from the Code of Primus.
- Where's the Fun In That?: In the episode "Beast Wars: Part 1":
Dinobot: Their defence shields are down! Destroy them!
- With Us or Against Us: Law Of The Jungle: after Tigatron's departure from the Beast Wars, until the Preds made him return to the Maximal side, there is a short dialogue between him and Dinobot:
Dinobot: That is the law of the jungle. The hunters and the hunted. Scrap or be scrapped.
- World of Ham: Yeeesss... Between Megatron, Inferno and all characters voiced by Scott McNeil, there is still plenty of scenery left for all the oher characters to chew.
- Viewers are Morons: The reason for activation codes. Hasbro wanted to make sure the kids in the audience would know the names of each character and which ones to buy at toy stores. So characters constantly repeated their names in the early episodes because Hasbro assumed kids wouldn't be able to tell completely different looking characters apart.
- You Can't Fight Fate: Subverted; After getting a disk that shows a history of Earth from the perspective of the future, Dinobot refuses to look at it, being sure this trope is in effect and not wanting to see his own death...but then sees an image change when he does, which he quickly deduces to mean that there is no force keeping him from changing the past so he never dies. Ultimately, he meets his preordained death anyway...but only because his Heroic Sacrifice allowed humanity to live.
- Your Size May Vary: Unlike most Transformers shows, the approximate size of the characters remain consistent.
- You Shall Not Pass: Tigerhawk pulls one of these when he faces off against the Decepticon war ship Nemesis.
- With new figures for Primal and Megatron
- It should be noted that in the latinamerican dub, Dinobot adds to the first line "Animals hunt to survive", and Tigatron replies with "And what do you think war is about".