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Beast Wars - A Look At Primal & His Zany Maximals!
Matt - 1/23/01



Somehow, I've managed to do this site for the past however many months without paying any real tribute to one of my favorite shows ever, Transformers: Beast Wars. This show was, easily, in the top five best written animated series ever - and that includes prime-time animated 'sitcoms'. Those of you familiar with Transformers, but not this show - they're two different ballgames. See, one has cars and planes. The other has dinosaurs and ants. Completely different. Also, Beast Wars Transformers know how to kiss and they can actually kill each other. A lot of us think Transformers was the ultimate genre - but Beast Wars actually improved on it.

Here's the quick back story before we move on to today's special focus: In the future, there aren't many Autobots or Decepticons. I don't think we ever got a clear explanation as to why, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with test markets showing a marked disinterest in any more transforming car toys. With that, we now have Maximals and Predacons. And despite a thinly veiled treaty, those dirty Predacons haven't fully let go of their Decepticon heritage. They're evil, folks. Not evil like taxes, or flat soda. I'm talking intentionally evil - they mean harm, and since a show about giant robots robbing banks and stealing candy wouldn't be a hit, they're out to decimate the Maximals.

So, a ship led by Megatron (not old Megatron, new Megatron!) starts shooting at a Maximal ship, a lot of shit goes down, and both teams end up on the Earth. Only, it ain't the Earth we know and love. Its not polluted, and there's no sign of guilt-free potato chips containing Olestra. See, they're millions of years into the Earth's past! I love dimensional rips! Well, this whole past business would come into play in a big way later, but let's just focus on the issue at hand for this article: The Maximals.

Those of you who only remember the Autobots as the heroic Transformers, take note: Maximals have twice the personality and hold conversations about things other than missing energon cubes. Its a pretty rough change, but give 'em a chance...you might like what you see.


Optimus Primal is your godly leader. He's also got some pretty bad luck. See, after the ship crashed on prehistoric Earth (which for some reason apparently hosts only six or seven real life animals, that somehow mix together tigers, dinosaurs, and men - a major insult to paleontologists everywhere) ...the computer scans the land to give the Maximals new transformations. Remember, these are robots in disguise. So just like The Ark played a cruel joke on Soundwave by turning him into a cassette deck, this ship turns each Maximal into a different animal. Optimus Primal's the leader - and he should be taken seriously. Kinda tough when you consider the fact that he's a giant monkey. If there ever was a time-honored tradition, its that all monkeys are to be viewed as comedic masterpieces. So, the Maximals at times aren't always with Primal's command, because after all, he's just a monkey. He should be entertaining the other Maximals by juggling and taking craps on the equipment. Or if the equipment can't be mistreated, at least throwing said crap against the walls. Not bossing the other guys around.

Despite that, Primal is a great leader. He knows that his team aren't exactly trained for combat, and that they're all hypersensitive bastards, so he treats 'em well and doesn't put too many demands on them. He also has a great success rate in managing to live when his body explodes by getting into a head-on collision with a supernova. Besides all this, the Maximal team lacks brawn. The Predacons have their fair share of warriors, while at best, all Primal has is a cheetah going through puberty and a rhino that breaks wind as a form of weaponry. Apes may be comedians, but they're powerful comedians. A+ on this ape.


Cheetor was Primal's surrogate son. A Maximal who still had a lot of growing up to do. Case in point: after the ship turned him into a cheetah, an amazing phonic coincidence considering his name's Cheetor, the guy ran up to two real-life cheetahs and tried to strike up a conversation with them. It was all downhill from there. A few episodes later, Cheetor managed to get himself caught in Predacon Tarantulas' web, and almost became the first Maximal to get eaten by his opponent. Finally, Cheetor probably has the worst aim on the show. The guy shoots at everything that moves, and never ever hits his target. I guess that was his tribute to his Autobot heritage.

But, Cheetor had a good heart. Most of the Maximals would second guess anything and everything...Cheetor was all about being good-natured and stupid. Primal liked that, so he appreciated him. Later in life, or more specifically in this series' spinoff, Beast Machines, Cheetor would turn into a badass techno-terror who was strong enough to warrant action figures longer than my arm.


Dinobot was originally a Predacon, but he got pissed at Megatron for turning into a better looking dinosaur than him, so he defected to the Maximal team. He may be a good guy, but he really doesn't act like one. This is evidenced by his clearly villainous voice, clueing in that Dinobot suffers from a perpetual sore throat. Adding to his misery, he's got the least creative name of the entire cast. Its no wonder he was always so pissed off.

Dinobot was a warrior, but a sensitive one. He had a ton of internal struggles trying to decide if being on the Maximal side was the right thing to do. Sometimes, he'd be on the verge of defecting, but then he'd see Megatron making fun of one of the prehistoric Earth people, get swelled up with heroism, and kick Predacon ass. Dinobot also liked to complain about his honor, which was a constant thorn in Primal's side. 'Honor' was Dinobot's excuse for everything. If Primal needed help fixing the stasis pods, Dinobot would explain that 'to help fix machinery was without honor.' If Rhinox wanted to know where the rest of dinner was, Dinobot would claim that 'to not finish all the food in one sitting would be to eat without honor.' Fortunately for the stasis pods and Rhinox's insatiable rhino appetite, its this honor that would finally do Dinobot in.

In the famous Code of Hero episode, Dinobot is faced with a grave decision to make: save the future of the human race by taking on all the Predacons by himself, or not saving the human race, citing some instance of honor. In the end, Dinobot realized that prehistoric Earth was pretty bland without a surge of interest in matching soap/toothbrush dispensers and a horde of themed bagel shops, so he took on all the Predacons and died. And no, I don't mean fake dying like that dirty monkey above...I'm talking dying to the point where his very soul came out of him and floated into space. That kind of dying. The cool dying.


Tigatron was interesting, to say the least. A Maximal who secretly hated the other ones so much, he concocted a story about how he needed to be alone with nature just to get the Hell away from them. That's basically how it went, Tigatron literally went to the far, icy corners of the Earth to avoid conversations with Rattrap. We can't fault him for that, but its pretty silly that the Maximals had to remain outnumbered in virtually every battle just because Tigatron wanted to walk around in the snow.

Airrazor was the Maximals' first female, a bird girl with virtues. Tigatron took a liking to her, for a few reasons. Tigatron says it was because she was so morally stable and beautiful, I say its because she was the only damn Maximal female. Its hard to be all that picky when there's only one piece of ass to chase. Inevitably, these two hooked up, but faced a pretty dismal fate, because...

THEY WERE BORING.

Yes, boring. So boring, in fact, that the aliens who were puppeteering the Maximals on Earth at this point got so tired of watching them that they literally sucked them up off the planet. Since the series was cut semi-short, we never got the full story behind the aliens, but I'm pretty sure they were just toying with all the robots for their own enjoyment. Since Airrazor and Tigatron were so mundane, they were really cutting down the entertainment factor. So the aliens decided to play their own version of Survivor, removed them for a few months, did a little experimenting, and decided to hatch the first Maximal hermaphrodite, Tigerhawk.


Tigerhawk was the combined results of Tigatron and Airrazor, a bigass Maximal bird/tiger with a lot of firepower. Poor Tigerhawk was introduced late into the series as per the request of Hasbro, who wanted to sell more toys. Because of that special and late decree, the writers didn't have much chance to properly build Tigerhawk's character, so they went a different route and just killed the guy/girl off after one or two shows. Oh well. I guess we didn't miss much, twice the boring is still boring.

Oh, by the way, devout fans: I'm just kidding. I loved Tigatron. Remember, I love tigers. By this point, you should realize how tough Primal's job really was. Optimus Prime had it a lot easier - all the Autobots accepted him as God and followed his orders without question. And besides - for the most part, Prime was twice as big as the other Autobots. To deny him satisfaction would be asking for pain. Primal might be a little more powerful than the other Maximals, but its not that easy to take charge of a group consisting of a robot cheetah who gets knocked unconscious twice per episode, a enemy-defector who thinks that golden discs that could destroy the universe aren't important enough to mention, and a tiger and an eagle who refuse to explain the semantics of their relationship after they start sharing the same body. Unfortunately, we're not done.


Rattrap was the Maximal Mighty Mouse. If you complained about his constant bickering and overall sarcastic tone, ask yourself this: how would you feel if all your friends turned into powerful rhinos and tigers, and you got morphed into a lousy little rat? Rattrap usually didn't even bother transforming out of fear of being laughed at. Remember, these guys were facing the Predacons - who consisted of big dinosaurs, even bigger dinosaurs, and evil wasps. Rats aren't going to have much luck against 'em.

To compensate, Rattrap has been given a great aim, lots of experience, and a wit that no rat should ever have. Rattrap hits more one-liners than Dennis Leary, only they come off even better since they're coming from a transforming mouse. Seriously, watch a Chris Rock special and envision Rattrap doing his routine. If you kept it up, even Carrot Top would seem funny.

Overall though, Rattrap was needed. You wouldn't know it from all the subplots, but these Maximals are fighting under some pretty dire circumstances. If they fail, their entire race will be annihilated. Its not exactly the cheeriest thing around, so Rattrap's incessant mousy quips are essential in easing the underlying tension. At least, that's the best way I can justify the important of a robot rat.

Rounding out the troops...


Rhinox never got the credit he deserved. This was the Maximal's brain and brawn, the only guy who knew what the channel of 60,000 buttons actually did, and the only one who had a chain gun of doom. Rhinox was soft-spoken, so he was often overlooked by fans of the series seeking a role model with a little more umpfh. But don't let his kind nature fool you - this is one badass Beast Warrior who's heavy enough to kill his opponents simply by sitting on them. Given these circumstances, Rhinox is Primal's most trusted and valued ROBOT SLAVE GUY. In fact, it was Rhinox who brought Primal back from the grave the first time - so hey, we're sure he could do it again.


Every good guy team needs a Silverbolt. That is, if you want to root for the bad guys. Silverbolt is a cross between a wolf and a bird, or something, and he's got more virtues than anyone can stand. At least Dinobot's virtues usually meant he had to eat or kill somebody. Silverbolt just whines. But he does deliver a first - after falling in love with then-Predacon Blackarachnia, the two of them hit a milestone, a worldwide shocker: Transformers kissing! Silverbolt's sick love would ultimately lead to him goofing up in ways that threaten to reshape the universe, something which he still hasn't been reprimanded for. Sure, for a robot spider, Blackarachnia was pretty hot. But seriously Silverbolt, what were you planning to do with her? I don't think holding hands with Blackarachnia is important enough to completely disqualify the Maximal's mission and inevitably lead to the Predacons being able to shoot the dormant Autobots in their faces. Maybe your opinion differs, I'm just with the cause.

There were other Maximals, too. At one point, some giant manta ray named Depth Charge joined the fray. Blackarachnia eventually realized she'd be way cooler as a badass heroine getting face heat from the crowd, so she switched sides too. There were probably a few others, but here's the point I've been trying to make throughout all this...


THAT POOR MONKEY!

Honestly! Those soulful eyes tell the tale! Look at all these jokers...how in the world was Primal supposed to keep his team in line? This was, after all, supposed to be a normal space expedition for the Maximals, not a silly war involving golden discs and wild Transmutates. Primal didn't have any time to prepare or even put a staff together. His current troops are better suited for MTV's Real World than a universal threat.

How'd the Maximals survive? Simple - these Predacons weren't your normal, everyday world-destroyers. In fact, they were some of the saddest group of criminals ever. If they weren't trying to dethrone Megatron, they were completely forgetting the #1 rule of Transformers lore by actually getting hit by the Maximals' lazers. But that's for another article entirely.

As for the show itself, its a must see. I'm telling you, its like watching a sci-fi version of Melrose Place. But instead of the characters trying to get the other ones fired, they just shoot each other and make potty humor jokes. A true dynasty - awhile back, I interviewed Larry DiTillio, who cowrote the series. Check that out by clicking here.

Beyond the distinction of having one of the greatest cartoons ever, Beast Wars also holds the record for the worst video game in history, a complete and total victory due to the abomination for the Sony Playstation and for PCs everywhere. I won't even begin to describe that shitfest, but if you're interested, you can play a demo of the game by going here. If you've played the game but haven't seen the show, believe me, its nowhere near as awful. In fact, the only thing in Transformers lore that's come close to live level of suck is the fact that Hot Rod/Arcee sex fanfics haven't been released as an archived hardcover collection.

- Matt
Temp e-mail: matt@dotcult.com

Oh, what the hell. Ever wonder what would happen in someone decided that Ravage could talk? Remember him? Soundwave's panther cassette tape? You'd be amazed at how eloquent this guy can be if given the chance. It'll cost you 10MB, but it's probably worth the download: click here!