The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Retro Review: Webworld



Oh, "Transformers". I have such a complicated history with you; some of my earliest memories were playing with your toys and watching your cartoons, then you eventually ended up on the list of franchises I loved that I felt betrayed me. I didn't like Armada, Energon, or Cybertron; I did love Animated, only for that to be killed to make more room on the shelves for toys based on Michael Bay's abominable movies... specifically, "Revenge of the Fallen".

Lately, however, I have been in a reconciliatory mood with franchises that broke my heart. In the case of "Transformers", my brother and other friends had spent two years recommending the current IDW comic books, and I finally broke down and read them. They're good. Really good. I then proceeded to re-visit some of my favorite episodes of "Beast Wars" and the classic series, and decided that I would write a review of my favorite episode not of Generation One, but of the entire franchise.

"Webworld" is an episode of Generation One's third season, the infamous post-movie episodes. I'm not afraid to say that this is the best season of Generation One, as a whole. And I've noticed that history has vindicated it since the shows came out on DVD. In the 1980's, it wasn't so popular. Optimus Prime was dead, the old favorites were dead or cast aside in favor of a new (and, in my opinion, superior) cast of characters. No longer did the show take place exclusively on Earth, but became more of a space-faring science fiction series. Also, and while there were a lot of clunkers in there, the better episodes tended to be a lot more sophisticated than anything out of the first two seasons. They're not "Batman the Animated Series" or "Gargoyles", but they were a step towards the more mature fare we would see later. And I think that's been noticed more by fans who have gone back and watched the series on DVD through adult eyes.

"Webworld" was written by Len Wein and Diane Duane, and right there you realize you're in for something special. Wein is most famous for the creation of Wolverine during his time at Marvel Comics. Diane Duane has written many novels, a few episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation", and as an unabashed "Gargoyles" fanboy, I will point out that she wrote "The Hound of Ulster". The animation in the episode is, well, kind of crummy, but the script makes up for any of those short comings.

The episode opens with Galvatron, Cyclonus, Scourge, the Sweeps, and Soundwave attacking a small group of Autobots mining a mineral on an asteroid belt. In his madness, Galvatron proves to be more of a danger to his own troops than the Autobots, allowing the Autobots to easily escape. When they return to Charr, two other Decepticons threaten Cyclonus with mutiny unless something is done about Galvatron's madness.

Side note, Galvatron's madness was caused when, during the climax of The Movie, he was tossed from Unicron into the depths of space, where he landed on Thrull, a lava planet, and spent weeks or months submerged, and his metaprocessor melted. Just for fun, here's where this all started:


The Quintessons appear, and take advantage of Cyclonus' desperation to help his mad leader, by pointing him in the direction of the planet Torqulon, a planet that specializes in psychiatry. Cyclonus tricks Galvatron into going to this planet where he is captured and taken into, not custody, but therapy. The Torqulites attempt several methods of therapy from talking about his problems, shop class, acting out his problems, etc. Each attempt ends with Galvatron attempting to escape and murder one or several people. These scenes are both amusing and sad at the same time.

Once it becomes clear that therapy is useless, the Torqulites attempt to plug Galvatron into their planet's central computer, and effectively lobotomize him. Torqulon itself is a living, organic computer, you see. Cyclonus objects and when he and the Sweeps attempt to rescue their deranged leader, they themselves are restrained as Torqulon begins to destroy Galvatron, and accesses his mind... only to be infected by Galvatron's madness and go crazy itself. Galvatron then breaks free and proceeds to destroy the planet's central memory core before destroying the Torqulites' entire civilization.

Wow.

I love this episode, I do. It focuses on my favorite Decepticons. Galvatron and Cyclonus are characters that I have loved for many years. They may not be as well known as the more famous Megatron and Starscream, but they are terrific characters. Cyclonus was a loyal second-in-command. Maybe too loyal for his own good. You so seldom see villains, especially in that era actually regard each other with concern, and caring for each other's well being... hell, it's still rare today.

More than that, I am surprised this script was approved and the episode was green lit. The Autobots are only in it for three minutes at the beginning. This is an episode that focuses exclusively on the Decepticons, our villains. Galvatron, the season's Big Bad, is helpless throughout most of the episode, and we begin to sympathize with him and his plight. The episode contains no big battle scenes of note, there is no good versus evil. It's not even shilling new toys. It's about a lieutenant taking his mad leader to receive help. It ends with Galvatron destroying an entire planet. Again, this is still rare today.

I think it's the best episode of the series, and while it's still a product of its era, and despite the mediocre animation, I still can't help but give this episode a solid A. It's just remarkable.

My next post will be about another franchise that broke my heart in the past, but I've been feeling reconcilatory towards. Stay tuned for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens".

7 comments:

  1. I've never seen much of the original Transformers, and this sounds very interesting. I'll look into it in the future.

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    1. The vast majority of G1 is very silly, and what you would expect from that era. Many episodes are just unwatchable. Several are really fun, and this one... along with another called "Dark Awakening" (among a couple of others) are really good.

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  2. I've not seen all of G1 and I don't think I've ever heard of this episode. It's just such an odd premise for the show that I'm surprised this wasn't just a rejected episode that somehow got animated.

    Galvatron getting therapy just sounds crazy enough to either be funny or sad, and it sounds like they did the latter very well. I'd almost feel sorry for him, till I remember what an utter monster he was. No 80s cartoon villain justified their madness/incompetence like this, and I wish a lot more did.

    Season 3 is my favourite too. A better cast and the space adventures were an improvement, but I loved that Rodimus was a flawed leader. He was allowed to have self doubts, to question his worthiness of his leadership, and would give it up if he had the option. I don't think any 80s cartoon had a leader like that and kept it as a consistent characterisation and not a 'one-and-done' episode.

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    1. "Galvatron getting therapy just sounds crazy enough to either be funny or sad, and it sounds like they did the latter very well."

      They did both really well.

      And yes, Rodimus Prime was great. Probably my favorite Autobot character in the entire mythos. I think he was the only one in the entire series at that time to have a character arc. Sadly, when he finally grew into the role of leader, they had to ruin it by bringing Optimus Prime back in the very next episode.

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  3. I tend to forget there even was a time where G1 Transformers wasn't so cheesy and childish and poorly written, but episodes like this one do show what it could have and should have been the whole way through, quality-wise.

    I can't wait for the Star Wars entry. I personally found the new movie to be, while nothing all that special or unique, a great return to form even in spite of JJ at the director's chair. Taking the franchise out of Lucas' grip was definitely the start of a redemption for it.

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    1. If I had to pick the best episodes of G1, they'd be "Webworld", "Dark Awakening", "Chaos", "Fight or Flee", "The Ultimate Weapon", "Ghost In the Machine", "The Dweller In the Depths", and "The Burden Hardest to Bear". Gee, they're all from the same season. There's a shocker.

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  4. Energon sucked ass; Armada was pretty bad but it had it's moments (Sideways was a pretty good master manipulator, Hot Shot actually grows)

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