The Transformers – Seasons Three and Four
[25th Anniversary Edition]
2010, Shout! Factory
Originally Aired: September 15, 1986 – November 11, 1987
- “The Autobots, The Decepticons & The Fans” – A look at the loyal fans of The Transformers
- From the Files of Teletraan-2
- Rare PSAs
- Archival Hasbro Toy Commercials
- Art Gallery
Picking up a few months (years?) after the events of Transformers: The Movie, Seasons 3 & 4 continue down the dark sci-fi path that the film set forth. Up to this point, The Transformers was basically G.I. Joe with a cast of robots but the series now goes completely sci-fi and gets dark and weird. When this season started up, if you had missed out on the movie, your brain would have exploded… New characters, new setting, new attitude, new theme music!
Various planets and creatures are seen and the show doesn’t spend too much time on Earth. I should point out that it seems like most of the remaining/surviving Autobots from the first two seasons are stationed on Earth so it’s the cast from the animated movie that is still front and center.
Season 3 kicks off with the five-part “The Five Faces of Darkness”. You can count this as a sequel to Transformers: The Movie. After the events of the movie, the lifeless head of Unicron now orbits Cyberton, Decepticons are desperate for energon and leaderless, Cyclonus & Scourge go off in search of Galvatron (who returns as a mad man due to some of his circuitry being damaged) and the Quintessons are back as well and scheming to destroy all Transformers so they can reclaim control of Cyberton (turns out they created Cyberton AND the ancestors of the Transformers).
So now the rest of the series is a battle between the Autobots, the Decepticons and the Quintessons although the Decepticons and Quintessons often are uneasy allies and attempt to use each other. Then there’s Starscream who makes two appearances in Season 3. He is now a ghost who can take control of other Transformers’ bodies (none of that is explained) and he is scheming to get his old body back plus get revenge on Galvatron.
Starscream’s real shining moment is in “Ghost in the Machine” where he forces Scourge to help him bring Unicron’s head back online and attempts to join Unicron’s head to Cybertron in order to bring Unicron back to full power so that Unicron will give him his body back. This is one of the better episodes of the season and could’ve easily been flushed out to being another multi-part story. Unfortunately, it’s the last we see of Starscream as he’s blown out into space (he got his old body back) at the end of the episode and is never to be seen or heard from again for the rest of the series.
A few words about Galvatron: I don’t like him. I loved Megatron. Megatron was a villain but he had a sense of honor, common sense and leaderskills that Galvatron is severely lacking. Galvatron is nuts and temperamental and even though it’s explained why he is this way after the events of the movie, I still don’t like it. He’s always flying off the handle, shooting and punching his own Decepticons in the middle of battle just because things aren’t going the way he wants. Megatron would have never acted like that. Frank Welker voiced Megatron and voices Galvatron as well (though the role of Galvatron was originally played by Leonard Nemoy in the movie) but I don’t like the voice he’s using for him. I was hoping he’d use something closer to Megatron’s voice.
There’s an episode that devotes itself even more to Galvatron’s insanity. In “Webworld”, Cyclonus tricks Galvatron into going to a planet that treats beings for mental illness. It does not end well for that planet and Galvatron’s sanity is not restored.
As far as characters go, pretty much everyone in the movie is still heavily featured. For the Autobots there’s Rodimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Kup, Arcee, Wheelie, Blurr, Wreck-Gar, Springer and the old guard are mostly represented by Perceptor, Blaster, the Aerialbots and Grimlock (the other Dinobots are rarely seen and Swoop is completely MIA for some reason). I was surprised by how much Perceptor and Blaster get used. Cosmos, Omega Supreme, Warpath and Jazz make cameos. Bumblebee is rarely seen and his only notable role is during “The Return of Optimus Prime” when he joins the Throttlebots and becomes Goldbug.
The Witwicky family (Spike, Carly and their son Daniel) are still around and there’s a new human Autobot ally: Capt. Marissa Fairborn of the Earth Defense Command. A few new Autobots have been brought in: the city-bot Metroplex (the biggest Autobot of them all… he’s the Autobots’ base on Earth), Sandstorm, Sky Lynx, the Throttlebots and the Technobots being the most prominent.
On the Decepticon side, the main characters are Galvatron, Cyclonus, Scourge and the Sweeps. Soundwave, the Constructicons, the Stunticons and Astrotrain play various minor roles and the rest of the old guard are basically background characters. New Decepticons include Octane, the Predacons, Runabout, Runamuck and the Terrorcons. Both the Predacons and Terrorcons appear in the series with no explanation. I always liked the origin episodes for the combiners so I was disappointed to see them thrown out there with zero back story.
Then there’s the Quintessons and their Sharkticons and all of these guys are basically interchangeable and were seen in the movie.
Despite some good episodes such as the five-parter, “Dark Awakening” (Optimus Prime returns from the dead), “The Return of Optimus Prime” (Opitmus Prime returns from the dead for real) and the episodes featuring Starscream’s ghost there are some truly horrid episodes. “Carnage in C-Minor” may be the worst TF episode EVER and “The Dweller in the Depths” (written by Paul Dini!) & “Nightmare Planet” are garbage too although my online research says “Dweller” is a fan favorite. There are also LOTS of animation mistakes throughout the these episodes.
1987’s “Season 4” is just three episodes. Hasbro was ready to cease production on the cartoon but as a gesture to the fans we get “The Rebirth” three-parter to give the series a conclusion. I’m fairly certain Hasbro’s motives weren’t entirely altruistic though because in addition to starring Optimus Prime and some major Season 3 characters these episodes are FULL of recent additions to the Transformers toy line such as the Targetmasters, Headmasters, Punch-Counterpunch, the Horrorcons, the Decepticon/Autobot Clones, Scorponok and Fortress Maximus. It’s unfortunate that the transfer on these final three episodes is not very good. The color is washed out and the animation isn’t all that great either but animation wasn’t Season 3’s strong-suit either.
Technically, there is a Season 5 that aired in 1988 but it was a “best of” season that features a stop-motion Optimus Prime in Powermaster form re-telling Autobot adventures to some kid.
Despite some terrible episodes, truth be told, this set is pretty good. It’s just that the series has a totally different vibe from Seasons 1 & 2 and it’s a bit off-putting at first. I really don’t have a problem with the new characters but it would have been nice to have seen other surviving Autobots from the earlier seasons interact with the new regime and Rodimus is no Optimus. I think Season 3 was really hurt by the fact that Optimus Prime was absent from it.
Still, I had fun watching these two seasons and the set is definitely worth picking up for G1 fans if only to see the original Transformers saga come to a close (in the U.S. anyway but we’ll get to into that at a later date).
Highlights: “The Five Faces of Darkness” Parts 1-5, “Dark Awakening”, “Starscream’s Ghost”, “Fight or Flee”, “Webworld”, “Ghost in the Machine”, “The Ultimate Weapon”, “Grimlock’s New Brain”, “The Return of Optimus Prime” Parts 1 & 2, “The Rebirth” Parts 1-3