Sunday, January 25, 2009

Transformers: Headmasters – The Mystery of Planet Master

We now continue exploring the world of Takara's Transformers: Headmasters series with part two of its opening trilogy, "The Mystery of Planet Master". This episode includes the notable highlights of showcasing the history of the Headmasters as well as a fierce battle to the death between Soundwave and Blaster. The viewer is immediately dropped into the fray as soon as the credits are complete. Chromedome and his fellow Autobot Headmasters have arrived just in time on Cybertron, though they are still a mystery to everyone… everyone, that is, except Weidrdwolf, Skullcruncher and Mindwipe. The action continues, featuring more of the combiners, Jazz and even the Dinobots. Cybertron is soon saved and the Decepticons forced to retreat by the Autobot Headmasters, especially once the immense battleship which delivered Chromedome and his team lets loose a fury of laser fire against the Decepticons, all in a nicely animated sequence. However, before all this occurred, Optimus decided to descend into the depths of Cybertron to check on Vector Sigma.

In addition, it is revealed that Optimus has begun his journey towards Vector Sigma without the Matrix, which is in fact the wisdom that prevents the Decepticons from gaining control over the Transformers' master computer. The main thrust of the episode at this point is to find the Matrix and deliver it to Prime, the difficulty being that it is recharging at a secret location on Earth, one of several mysterious energy points on the planet. Hot Rod/Rodimus declares that he will lead the search and rescue Optimus, perhaps still feeling that while he not currently leader of the Autobots the task falls to him in Prime's absence. Of course, I am probably reading too much into this, but if a fan wanted to connect the dots from Transformers: The Movie to the episodes "The Burden Hardest to Bear" and "The Return of Optimus Prime", one could form an arc of Hot Rod's character wanting to return to the leadership role and still proving to himself and others that he is capable to handle it.

As in the previous installment, it is explained that Vector Sigma is accessible to both Autobots and Decepticons, impartial and able to maintain the balance on Cybertron by whatever means it sees fit. In some ways, this idea seems influenced by the role The Force plays in the "Star Wars" films, where it is not something which good or evil but instead a source which can tapped into by either side and utilized. It is wisdom in using this power that determines whether the outcome is to build or destroy, for light or dark. This is quite akin to much of Eastern philosophy, especially Buddhism, which expresses there needs to be a balance of both good and evil in the world, neither side could completely eradicate the other, but clear mind and clear thought can lead to right action. Now, as far as this episode is concerned, who knows what Optimus was thinking he could do to help Vector Sigma once he reaches it, without the Matrix!

Once the battle on Cybertron is over, there is a return to Athenia and during a fond reunion between Kup and Fortress, leader of the Headmasters, we learn the history of this new group. They had all been of a smaller group of Transformers on Cybertron and unable to play a role in the Great War. From the flashbacks, they look to have been similar to non-transforming drones, too weak to fight and thus they departed, eventually landing on Planet Master where they built a city for themselves. Over the millions of years they created larger bodies for themselves, called Transtectors, for which they would transform to form the head. The Transtectors could then change to vehicular alt forms. During the eons on Planet Master, one member, Zarak, decided to break off and form his own group, bent on domination and conquest, as well as studying strange forms of mysticism, leading to powers such as Mindwipe's hypnotism. Zarak and his followers set off, eventually teaming with the Decepticons, one can deduce during the year of peace between when the Hate plague was eradicated and the beginning of "Four Warriors from Outer Space".

Meanwhile, on Earth, the plan to search for the Matrix is uncovered by Soundwave and his cassettes. He and Blaster have a short scuffle, which Soundwave promises to finish later. Hot Rod, Jazz, Ultra Magnus and Blaster determine the five possible location where the Matrix could be stored. We see the Arialbots arrive in the desert to search, only to encounter the Stunticons. Hot Rod and Blaster speed on to the North Pole. Galvatron orders Soundwave to intercept them, giving he and Blaster a chance for a rematch. Soon, Superion and Menasaur also join the fray, plus the Predacons, who are thwarted in forming Predaking by Hot Rod in vehicle mode crashing directly between the five of them in midair. Great moment!

The combat between Soundwave and Blaster is brutal. They punch through each other's chest module, Soundwave loses an arm and they both perish by the end, with Soundwave actually exploding. Galvatron has been watching from Charr and is noticeably in anguish when he witnesses this, punctuated by the sight of Laserbeak flying away with Soundwave's head in his claws. Blaster's death is a sad moment for all, as it was being observed by the Autobots on Athenia. Back on Cybertron and unaware that the battle on the surface ended, Optimus is racing towards Vector Sigma, encountering defense systems on the way, similar to what was seen in the US series. He surprisingly is greeted by the ghost of Alpha Trion, who says he will help him reach his destination. On Earth, Hot Rod is on his own searching for the Matrix, while on Athenia Chromedome declares he will head to Earth to help out. Whether intentional or not, this episode ends with the dichotomy of the old and new Autobot leaders both alone on separate journeys, Optimus being assisted by the past in the shape of Alpha Trion and Hot Rod/Rodimus about to be helped by Autobots representing the future of the Tranformers.


Jimtron said...

I absolutely love the Blaster/Soundwave to the death battle. So much that it was one of my ideas for a possible cover for the Ark Omnibus edition. It's just brutal.

Zobovor said...

I'd like to echo Jim's comments. The fight between Blaster and Soundwave was one of the first scenes from Headmasters that I ever got to watch, and it made me go, "I have GOT to watch these episodes!"

Brian said...

That is a shame, Al Terry, that all you were stuck with was the Star TV dub! I was in the same place back in 2005, after I picked up some bootlegged episodes at a TF convention. I mean, I know it's good for a laugh, but for any fan who actually wants to follow along and enjoy the episode as intended it becomes impossible with that dub... the subtitled version is the way to go with all of these Takara series.

Hans said...

I think the best way to go on these is the Metrodome boxsets from the UK. You'll need a region free dvd player for them though (and a PAL system, for that matter... European TV's can play both PAL and NTSC, but I don't know about you Americans, hehe).

The Metrodome Headmasters set has both Star TV dub as well as original Japanese audio. And English subtitles of course. Lovely stuff.