Transformers Prime: My Guilty Pleasure

As a self confessed man-child, my head is full of useless information. Things like the USS Voyager NCC-74656 is equipped with a Class 9 warp core and tricyclic input manifolds. These components allow the ship to achieve a warp speed of 9.975. Or that the BMW X1/X2 share the same basic ULK platform as the F56 MINI. Or that Transformers are able to change form due to a component known as a transformation cog, or T-cog. I loved Transformers when I was 9 and at 39, I still love them.

Consisting of two factions; Autobots and Deceptions, Transformers originate from the planet Cyberton. They came to Earth in search of new sources of energon to revive their dead planet. Here were vehicles that could transform into massive weaponized robots. As a child, I gravitated towards the Autobots, Prowl (a police Datsun 240Z) and Bumblebee (a yellow Volkswagen Beetle) were my favourites. The sound they make as they transformed or the distinctive laser fire still makes me squeal with delight.

 

There have been many cartoon series over the years, ranging from Generation 1, through to Beast Wars and the very underrated Transformers Animated. Michael Bay’s live action movies have introduced these robots to a new generation of children. But none of them have recaptured my youth and appealed to my more adult sensibilities as Transformers Prime has. This show, in my opinion, is the BEST Transformer series out there for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the animation quality is top notch. The CGI is just the right blend of traditional animation, with leanings towards the live action movie aesthetic.

Secondly, the voice cast are legends, with Peter Cullen and Frank Welker returning, voicing Optimus Prime and Megatron respectively, as they did for Generation 1 in 1984. Additional voice actors include Adam Baldwin and Gina Torres from Joss Wheaton’s Firefly. And there are many more.

In addition, the stories over the three seasons are layered and complex. Characters die, Megatron is a legitimate villain and the stakes by the end of season 3 are staggeringly high.

But, what makes this show so compelling are the characters and their relationships. In this show, there are only a handful of Autobots on Earth, operating with the American government in secret. Optimus Prime is the leader with his old war veteran friend Ratchet (voiced by Star Trek’s Jeffery Combs). Then there is Bulkhead (the muscle of the team), Bumblebee (based very closely on his movie incarnation) and Arcee (now a blue motorcycle), the resilient two-wheeler on the team. Collectively they form “Team Prime”. In the first episode, the Autobots are discovered by three children, Jack, Miko and Raf. Prime orders his bots to guard the children and the series begins.

As a stutterer, you would imagine I would be attracted to Bumblebee, as he communicates through beeps and whistles and only his partner, Raf, can understand him. Rather, it was Jack and Arcee I found myself rooting for during the first few episodes.

Jack is the oldest “child” at 16 and his relationship with Arcee is rather bumpy. He jumps on Arcee in motorcycle mode to escape two marauding Vechicons (Decepticon cars). Arcee, is a damaged character and lone wolf, dealing with her own demons. For his part, Jack initially wants to race Arcee and impress a girl in his class. These two eventually learn to trust each other and it is a joy to watch. This is where Transformers Prime lifts itself above just being a cartoon. It takes the time to really develop the characters, and the heart of the show is found in those relationships.

So,hopefully I have inspired you to check out this programme (all three seasons and concluding movie are on Netflix now).here are my top Jack & Arcee episodes.

  1. “Predatory” Season 1 Episode 12: A deception ship crashes on Earth and Jack and Arcee are sent to investigate. The ship contains a vicious female Decepticon called Airachnid. She is Arcee’s nemesis, having killed her former partner Tailgate on Cybertron. Arcee is terrified and it is up to Jack to save the day by destroying the Decepticon ship.
  2. “Crisscrossed” Season 1 Episode 17: This is my favourite episode in the whole show. Jack’s mother, June, fears he is in with a bad crowd. Jack tries to confess, explaining Arcee is a transforming alien robot fighting a secret war on Earth. June doesn’t believe him and is later captured by a group of rogue humans in collaboration with Airachnid. The fight scenes are amazing. The ending has long-term repositions and it has one of the best lines, ever. Jack describes Arcee as his “motorcycle, guardian, Autobot, friend.”
  3. Orion Pax Part 2: Season 2 Episode 2: Jack and Arcee travel to Cybertron, to find Vector Sigma to reformat the Autobot matrix of leadership and restore Optimus Prime. Jack gets to be a hero but can only do so with his partner having his back. Arcee gets to take on a huge Insecicon and comes out on top.
  4. Darkmount NV: Season 3 Episode 1: The Autobots are scattered after fleeing their compromised base at the end of the second season. Jack and Acree have to go it alone, searching for their teammates while avoiding Decepticon patrols. The imagery in this episode is beautiful and highlight show far this pair have come together.

On the surface, the idea of my car being a Transformer is something I have dreamt about since childhood. Imagine if the M3 suddenly transformed in the hanger and I got to live a life of adventure and intrigue. The idea of travelling around the Earth using a “ground bridge” to traverse vast distances is very appealing. Saving Earth from evil is also something new for the resume. But it goes deeper than that. These cartoons remind me of the child I was and the dreams I had. As a stutterer and homosexual, I never felt safe. Cars made me feel safe but that was a one-way relationship. True friendship and trust, I have learnt, takes time and patience. I know now, that teachers will be human, but the boy inside me will always be waiting for my car to Transform.

Transformers Prime images from news.tfw.2005.com