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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Experiencing Beast Wars for the First Time

Recently my good friend NC Bulkhead decided to sit down and watch Beast Wars all the way through for the very first time. Since he had never seen it before I thought it would be interesting to get the perspective of someone watching it with today's mindset rather than when it first came on back in 1996. I asked him to put his thoughts to paper (or in this case pixels) so I present to you: The Beast Wars Experience!

At 35 years old, I finally decided to watch Beast Wars. I have always been a G1 kid with a Trukk not Monkey attitude. I tried to watch it many times over the years but could never get past the first few episodes. To be completely honest, I always enjoyed the looks on people’s faces when I told them that I’ve never seen Beast Wars. Almost all of my friends have watched it, and love it. So I finally gave in, hunkered down and blew through all three seasons on Netflix. 

The first thing I noticed when watching Beast Wars was the CGI. When compared to a show like Transformers Prime, it looks like an Atari game. However, being that it first aired in 1996 I won’t hold that against it. It would be unfair to give it negative marks for not aging well considering the advancements in CGI. 

CR Chamber's Biggest Fan
The next thing I noticed was that Beast Wars was more realistic than Generation One. I know I know… transforming alien robots are in no way realistic. Let me explain. In G1 when a bot got shot they would say ouch, fall down, and get back up. In Beast Wars when a bot got shot, body parts came off, and they got scrapped. Watching Terrorsaur completely obliterate Megatron was a bit of a shocker to me. This was different in a good way. This is a war after all. However, if you have a TV show with a small cast, you can’t go killing all your characters. So how is that solved: The CR chamber! Genius!!! The Maximals and Predacons can have more realistic battles and afterwards throw their wounded into the CR chamber and bam…reset button.

Somewhere near the end of season one I realized how great the writing is in Beast Wars. There is actually a long running plot and continuity through the episodes. This is much different than the one-off G1 cartoons that could mostly be shown in any order. There is also character development. After I finished the entire series, I felt like I knew the characters and I cared about them. Each character had very unique personality traits and agendas. I was drawn to Rattrap's wise cracks and Dinobot's internal struggle. The banter back and forth between the two of them was gold. Speaking of Dinobot…

For almost all of my adult life I’ve heard Beast Wars fans rave about episode 35: Code of Hero. It had been built up so much I couldn’t help but think I would be let down. I even knew that Dinobot would die. Truth be told, I was not prepared. That episode hit me right in the soul. I think deep down inside a lot of us want to be a hero. We want our lives to mean something when it’s all said and done. For me, Code of Hero pulled that to the surface. Here was a Predacon going against his programming, knowingly fighting to his death to atone for the wrongs he had done, to save the future of Earth and the human race, to stop Megatron’s plan. Dinobot freely gave his life to save everything. When the episode was over I just sat there staring at the screen and only one word came to mind….WOW. I know it’s just a kids show. But there is something very relate-able in Code of Hero. I was completely hooked on Beast Wars like it was a drug after that.

I am very happy that I finally sat down and watched Beast Wars all the way through. At first I wish I would have watched it as it was originally airing on TV. However, being 18 I probably would have missed a lot of the deeper themes in the show. For that reason, I’m glad I watched it as an adult. G1 will always be my first love in the Transformers universe. But I have new found respect for Beast Wars. I spent years shunning and making fun of it. Now I have a soft spot for it. 

If you’ve seen it already, I realize I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. But if you haven’t watched it, do yourself a favor. It’s a great show, and in my opinion the best Transformer story ever told on television. Yessssssssssss!

A big thanks to NCBulkhead for all his insights! Check out his new blog Collecting Cybertron for more Transformers (and I'm sure Beast Wars!) goodness!

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