A Turtley Awesome Transformers Christmas!
By Dave Newman on 19th December 2020
A couple of stories from two different series, which I’ve thrown together here on the simple basis of them both starting with the letter T. Need it be more complex than that?
The Christmas Aliens
From the 2003 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, airing on Christmas Day of 2004 – yay! The theme tune hasn’t aged really well, but I like it, and the music was the making of the show at times. It’s an adaptation of the Michelangelo one-shot comic from 1985. The Turtles are preparing for Christmas and the Purple Dragons are preparing to take advantage of parents with needy kids by stealing and selling Lil’ Orphan Aliens toys “on the internet” (another dated reference). Michelangelo, accompanied by new pet cat Klunk, intervenes.
Pretty much all action on the Mikey side, with fights and car chases, then a bit of character development with Casey pursuing April for a kiss under the mistletoe and guests appearing in the sewer lair, such as the Silver Sentry, Usagi Yojimbo and Angel. Splinter gets to have some time to ascend to a higher plane briefly to commune with his master, Hamato Yoshi, in a nice moment.
It’s a light episode, just for fun, in an otherwise pretty dark series. Not too deep, just trying to create some special little moments to make everyone feel good. Can’t fault them for that.
A bonus episode, totally unrelated to Christmas, to set up for the next review, from the classic Transformers series, specifically season 3, after the movie. No Decepticons in this one, just Autobots challenging some human gang members. Crime boss Victor Drath is frustrated by their interference, so he employs the strange mercenary Old Snake to help combat them. Snake’s plan? To capture Rodimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Springer and Arcee and transfer their minds into synthoids, human duplicates resembling them (red-haired Rodimus, brunette Springer, blonde Arcee [who’s pretty horrified by her transformation] and the Reed Richards-like Magnus). Conveniently, they escape being squashed in a trash compactor and manage to get some overalls in the same colours as their robot forms.
There’s a cool noir feel to the episode with the gangsters and a nighttime setting. Really good lines too and the humour is just right without being goofy (“This is the world, Mr. Drath – EVERYTHING is for sale!”). Although it’s understated, this is the only animated crossover we’ve ever had of Transformers and GI Joe. Chris Latta commanding (pardon the pun) the now-mindless Autobots to transform is an excellent moment.
Beyond the potential death aspect with the human Autobots almost getting killed, there’s also a surprisingly sexual aspect with Rodimus hooking up with the gangster’s moll off-screen when she saves him from a beating. She then stabs him in the back, metaphorically speaking, after the post-coital breakfast and coffee. Great attention to detail with him being injured and crying out in a robot-like way about his circuits being damaged and having a failing connection with the matrix.
More great little moments including the human Ultra Magnus backing down some criminal-controlled robots with a grenade until he’s shot from the roof. Separated from him, Arcee heads to Autobot City to let everyone know what has happened and ends up getting sent to the psych ward by an Elvis soundalike. Luckily, human Springer thwarts an attack on Metroplex, leading to the Autobots getting returned to their robotic bodies. It’s a bit creepy as the synthoids dissolve into nothingness, but nowhere near as creepy as the aged Snake, who has escaped again, lamenting that they don’t make terrorists like they used to, before his faltering voice attempts the cry of “Cobra!”.
A weird episode, but a great episode, which in a small way has attained a place in history as the only time an animated, Chris Latta-voiced Cobra Commander met the Transformers. Just brilliant, never done better.
The spiritual successor to the last episode, from Transformers: Animated season 3, with a Christmas setting, but aired during April of 2009. For those who haven’t seen TFA, think Transformers if it was animated by the guy who did The Batman. I had really bad feelings about it when the preview images came out, but it turned out to be the best Transformers show since Beast Wars and would probably be better remembered if it wasn’t followed by the even better Prime. Previously, the Autobots had battled Soundwave, the enhanced form of the Sound Wave toy. As it’s Christmas, smarmy businessman Porter C. Powell has relaunched the toy after he bought eccentric inventor Isaac Sumdac’s company. Whatever could go wrong?
What does go wrong is that the Autobots get transferred into human bodies while asleep. Bulkhead struggles with the challenge of having a digestive system and needing to have a dump after eating so much, while Prowl, taking the form of a motorcycle cop, probably adapts best. He’s also the one that realises they’ve not really been turned into humans, rather it’s through psychological manipulation and trickery. Due to it being in a virtual reality, they are able to achieve some epic moments, like destroying Megatron.
If it wrapped up at the end of the first episode, it would be a pretty great episode. However, it goes two episodes and doesn’t become better for having done so. They just stretch out and add in some other subplots, like one involving Wreck-Gar, Snarl (this show’s version of Slag) and Scrapper as substitute Autobots. It’s fun, but not entirely necessary. I actually would’ve preferred a different episode with that subplot as the main plot. Only Human as a two-parter would be better than this as one part.
The Bottom Line: Add Transformers as a show I’ll have to do more reviews of!