“Thundercracker, Soundwave, follow me – I am the new leader of the Decepticons!”
Oh, how I love Starscream. See, in our last episode, Megatron accidentally sent himself to Cybertron via the Decepticon space bridge, and Starscream, even the conniver, decides he’s going to take charge. But there’s a catch: for all his ambition, Starscream is kind of a dumbass; all it takes to stop his raid on yet another Earth power plant is Optimus Prime, Brawn and Cliffjumper. Thundercracker is grumpy as the evil trio withdraws: “Some leader you turned out to be, Starscream!”
STEM Education: “I Love The 80s” Edition
The Decepticons’ actual leader is headed back to Earth and he has designs on a formula to make antimatter that he says will give him “ultimate power.” This formula is at a laboratory run by Dr. Alkazar, a grey-bearded scientist who wouldn’t be out of place in the Scooby-Doo universe. Alkazar’s colleague in creating the mysterious antimatter formula is one Chip Chase, who happens to be buddies with Bumblebee and the Autobots’ favorite human, Spike. Now if I remember right, Spike is a teenager – and Chip looks to be his peer. So which high school offers classes in Antimatter Alchemy, and why don’t the Decepticons just sign up for the class instead of doing all of these complicated schemes to get energy?
I should also point out here that Chip Chase is in a wheelchair. This fact is neither mentioned by anyone in the show nor relevant to anything that happens in it – though there will be times later in the show where Chip proves (as didactic 80s cartoons always do) that people who are different can still be our friends or whatever. No, I mention this purely for SEO purposes, because inevitably someone my age will go to Google and type “Who was that kid in the wheelchair on Transformers” and I want the pageviews.
“Calling all Nigerian princes…”
Anyway, Dr. Alkazar gives Chip a floppy disk that will “let your home computer talk with old Betsy Brainiac here, day or night.” Oh, so he gave him an AOL install disk? This becomes extremely important moments later, when two Autobot cars, Bluestreak and Prowl, end up in a firefight with Starscream’s posse, which is stealing aircraft parts from a hangar to effect their own repairs. (“They’re munchin’ jets for lunch!” shouts the excitable Bluestreak, which is all I’ll say about that.) Moments later, Soundwave blasts Prowl, which shorts out his “battle computer.” He then sprouts radio antenna from the back of his neck to “find another online computer.” Sure enough, he reaches out to Chip, who can apparently take control of an alien robot through his 300 baud modem, at least until his mom tells him she needs to use the phone so computer time is over. Chip’s l33t skillz turn the tide of the battle and the Decepticons are forced to retreat again. “Chip,” says a beaming Prowl, “for a human being, you make a heck of an Autobot!”
The password to the lab is 1-2-3-4-5 – the same combination Reflector has on his luggage.
Megatron and his charges, meanwhile, are breaking into Dr. Alkazar’s lab to steal the antimatter formula; the good doctor deletes the formula from his computer and emails it to Chip via AOL Instant Messenger (probably). So Soundwave and his robo-kitty, Ravage, kidnap Chip. “Excellent, Ravage,” says Soundwave, but not in his vocoder voice – it’s actually the voice his actor, Frank Welker, would go on to use as Doctor Claw on the “Inspector Gadget” cartoons. Anyway, they take Chip back to the lab and extract the antimatter formula directly from his brain.
Rubik’s Antimatter Cube was not nearly as successful as the original version, largely because it kept blowing up the universe.
The Autobots are wise to Megatron’s latest evil plan; he sends Bumblebee and Spike into the lab to rescue their favorite white-hat hacker. “Chip’s safe, Prime!” says Bumblebee. “It’s your game now!” Actually, it’s Megatron’s game now, and the game is “Throw an antimatter cube into the air and blow up everything.” As you might expect, he wins.
Ok, maybe he didn’t blow up everything, but the Autobots stumble out of the burning building and head back to base for repairs. This convinces Megatron that if he leans a little harder on Prime and company he can finally win the long Cybertronian war, so he flies his troops to Autobot headquarters, injects himself with some antimatter energy, transforms into a rifle and lets Starscream and Skywarp start firing at everyone.
They blowed up that antimatter good! Yep, they blowed it up real good!
Fortunately, the tinkering Autobot, Wheeljack, has developed a countermeasure: a remote device that lets the Autobot supercomputer, Teletraan-1, control Skywarp the way Chip helped control Prowl. Under Teletran’s control, Skywarp starts firing Antimatter Rifle Megatron at the other Decepticons; not only does this dash the whole “kill the Autobots” plan, Megatron has to jettison the antimatter from his system because it’s overheating. “One small boy came between me and mastery of the universe,” Megatron carps, as the bad guys pick themselves up from the ground they just blew up. “But soon, revenge and victory will be mine!”
An up and down episode – the cliffhanger of Megatron being stuck on his home planet gets resolved a little too easily, and Starscream faces no punishment for his latest coup attempt. It’s also not clear why Megatron doesn’t just kill Chip when he has the chance – he’s clearly causing problems for the Decepticons, and he has no compunction about trying to kill Autobots. Maybe he thinks roasting “puny flesh creatures” isn’t worth the effort? The show should make that clearer.
But if nothing else, this episode is good for showing just how much crazy Megatron is willing to bring to his world domination party, and for presaging the rise of the internet. Imagine how many robots would be logging on to poor Chip Chase’s computer these days.