Sunday, February 28, 2010

Transformers: Headmasters – "Explosion on Mars! Maximus Is In Danger!"

Weirdwolf: Destroy Mars?
Mindwipe: Interesting...
Zarak: We have stored the plasma energy generated in the destruction of Cybertron. We'll use this energy to destroy it. Soundblaster, explain the details.
Soundblaster: Yes, sir. Firstly, we set the necessary amount of plasma bombs below the surface. Then we drop bombs to explode simultaneously at its north and south poles. This triggers off the plasma bombs which have been set in advance. All this super-energy generated by Mars' destruction will be ours.

An episode whose title includes TWO exclamations points has got to be a winner, right? Well, it does open with a big bang as we watch what appears to be Mars erupting in fierce explosions, but it turns out to be a simulation presented to the combined Decepticon forces, for their education on Zarak's latest and greatest plan. The recent "happy accident" of Cybertron's destruction created enough free plasma energy to be collected and used by Zarak in bombs to destroy the planet Mars. This new cataclysm will produce another huge outpouring of plasma energy into the solar system for the Decepticons to utilize. In addition, Zarak promises his troops that he will deal with the threat of Fortress' new massive transform. His own super-sized transtector is waiting in the shadows, almost ready to be revealed!

Meanwhile on Mars, coincidentally, Spike, Daniel, Wheelie and the Trainbots are surveying the planet in hopes to eventually terraform it into a second Earth. Suddenly, they detect an explosion near the south pole and head out to investigate in two teams. Daniel and Wheelie spy two Terrocons, Hun-grrr and Rippersnapper, reporting this to Spike who immediately contacts Autobot HQ on Athenia. The Headmasters are dispatched to help and Fortress also contacts Ultra Magnus on Earth to scramble more reinforcements. However, Trypticon and Sixshot launch a surprise attack on Autobot City, engaging the Technobots and Metroplex in combat.

Back on Mars, Chromedome and the Headmasters arrive, meeting with Spike and the Trainbots who are battling the Predacons. They decide to send the Trainbots to retrieve Daniel and Wheelie, based on where their last transmission originated, but unbeknownst to them, the unlucky pair have just been captured by the Terrorcons. While imprisoned, Daniel and Wheelie learn that the Deceps are planning to destroy Mars, which understandably has them both panicked, especially Daniel as it the resulting debris could devastate the surface on Earth.

On Earth, Trypticon and Sixshot are still battling Computron and Metroplex to prevent them from helping out on Mars. I must point at this juncture that the animation in this sequence and others in the episode is really very fluid, detailed and commendable, on par with what was seen in the opening three-parter. It has been discussed elsewhere that the animation in this series takes a dip during its midsection and then bounces back for its last third and this installment is most certainly in the well-animated group.

On Athenia, Fortress is very concerned about these developments, but hesitates on heading out. He must suspect at this point that he will again be targeted by Zarak, whether directly or indirectly, as in the previous Peruvian volcano and man-eating plant incidents. We then cut to Daniel and Wheelie, still held captive by the Terrorcons and wondering how they can communicate with Spike and the others. Daniel remembers that the Autobot symbol on his exo-suit has an emergency beacon. He convinces Wheelie to fight him in order to tear off the symbol and destroy it, which activates the beacon.

Daniel: Wheelie...
Wheelie: Hm?
Daniel: Pretend to fight me and tear the symbol off my chest.
Wheelie: A fight?
Daniel: Sh! Keep your voice down. They'll hear you.
Rippersnapper: Eh? What's all that noise?
Daniel: Oi, you!
Wheelie: You...!
Rippersnapper: Have they fallen out?
Sinnertwin: It breaks the boredom. Let's see who wins.
Wheelie: You're not even an Autobot yet you wear that symbol!

Thanks to this, Spike, Chromedome and the others quickly locate and rescue Daniel and Wheelie. Fortress, now arriving on Mars, is informed and advises all except the Headmasters to leave Mars immediately, since they do not know the coordinates of the bomb placements. Fortress assures Daniel that the planet will be saved and can one day be as green as Earth.

The Decepticon Headmasters show up as usual to face down Chromedome and his team. During the battle, there is a humorous bit where Mindwipe mistakenly hypnotizes Skullcruncher, who then easily reveals the location of the bombs. Chromedome and the Headmasters speed to the coordinates, but instead are ambushed by a battery of blazing lasers. Under fire, they cry out to Fortress for help. He hesitates, still waiting for the exact balance of neural and physical energy before drawing the Master Sword, but he is soon motivated by the screams of fellow Autobots.

As Fortress emerges from his battleship, ready for action and at that exact moment, Zarak commands his troops, hidden nearby, to fire plasma energy at the valiant Autobot Commander. The power of the Master Sword cancels out the plasma energy, but in the process is completely drained. Fortress is unable to complete his massive transformation and falls backwards to his battleship. Thus ends this episode, as we wait to find out whether the destruction of Mars will actually occur.

There is lots of mounting tension to be found in this installment, helped by the multi-pronged action happening on Mars, Earth, Athenia and Charr. As I noted earlier, the animation featured is quite fluid and detailed, lending a great kinetic feel to action sequences on both Earth and Mars. The skirmish between Metroplex and Trypticon, plus the heavy presence of Terrorcons, gives it a decidedly US G1 third season feel, which is always welcomed by me. Following Zarak's successful plot to destroy Cybertron, his new plan to have Mars meet a similar fate carries greater weight than just an empty threat. There will be no bargaining or negotiating with Zarak. He simply needs that plasma energy and will collect it by whatever means necessary.

The idea of our solar system without Mars is a pretty bold concept as well and I was unsure whether or not the show producers would follow through. After Cybertron's demise, the stakes were raised and nothing seems sacred!

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