?Back in 1996, Transformers fans didn’t know what to expect from this new series called Beast Wars. Aside from being made up of a cast of all new characters with a mysterious connection to the characters many had grown to love over the years, it was also completely computer generated, a medium that had made a splash with Toy Story and ReBoot, but left a lot of viewers wondering just how good this show could be. As it turned out, Beast Wars has been one of the most widely beloved additions to the Transformers Universe in a long time and has even earned some of its characters spots in the pantheon of beloved Transformers. The series followed the exploits of the Maximals and Predacons — descendants of the Autobots and Decepticons — thousands of years in the future as they wound up accidentally traveling back in time and landing on a prehistoric earth.
Like any self-respecting Transformers property, many of the characters on the series went through changes either through getting old bodies destroyed or being changed by something called the Transmetal drive. Of course, not every upgrade can actually be considered a good thing. Sometimes they messed with a good thing too much while other times they didn’t do enough. Here, we take a look at the five best and worst upgrades from all three seasons of Beast Wars. Be warned, though, some of the changes came as the result of some pretty big story beats. If you haven’t watched the series or seen it recently, we highly recommend checking out the new DVD sets from Shout Factory.
THE BEST UPGRADES:
5) G1 Ravage into Beast Wars Ravage
In one of Beast Wars‘ many call backs to G1 Transformers, it was revealed that, years after the great war between Autobots and Decepticons, some Decepticons were granted amnesty. Ravage was one such ‘bot. He didn’t only get amnesty, though; this old timer also got a brand new upgrade. He went from being a cassette that could turn into a panther to a panther-headed robot who could transform into, well, a cassette tape. Ravage makes the list for not only being the only G1 survivor to make an appearance (the others show up prior to the events of the original cartoon) but also because being a super spy who can turn invisible and sports big guns is a million times better than hanging out with a bunch of dusty tapes inside Soundwave’s chest cavity.
4) Tigatron into Tigerhawk
Tigatron was kind of the ronin of the Maximals. He was a good guy with his own code of conduct, but he wasn’t much of a joiner. He also didn’t look all that threatening with his turquoise and white robot mode color scheme. When he got combined with Airazor by the Vok into Tigerhawk, he definitely got the better deal, as his new form not only looked more menacing and bad ass, but also went the splicing route and combined the best parts of tigers and birds.
3) Dinobot into Dinobot II
As much as we loved Dinobot and the valiant sacrifice he made to save a group of protohumans from Megatron and the Predacons, it’s safe to say he didn’t have the coolest looking robot or animal form. His evil, mindless Predacon successor — created by Megatron — might not have had anything close to the original’s charisma or complexity, but he did have a gnarly looking robot form we wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley. Everything about this new version looked dangerous, from the metal sharpness of the beast form to the fangs and glowing red eyes, the sequel takes home the award for best dinosaur. Just imagine how the real Dinobot would have put those abilities to use!
2) Optimus Primal into Transmetal Optimus Primal
Optimus Primal’s original design wasn’t bad. It captured elements of the more familiar Optimus Prime while also incorporating his ape beast mode. Our main problem was that he had to turn his entire lower half around 180-degrees when going from ape to robot. Seriously? That’s the best one of the most technologically advanced races in the galaxy could come up with? (Cybertronians, not the Hasbro team, though they’re pretty good too). After destroying that body to save the planet, Rhinox set Primal up with a new one that included a brand new Transmetal body. This one made a lot more sense and also did the best job of all the Beast Wars designs in combining the elements of animal and robot in both modes. Sure, he had a hoverboard that popped out of his feet, but that awesome cannon on his back and overall radness make up for what might be considered a splash of the ’90s obsession with all things “extreme.”
1) Megatron into Dragon Megatron
The Predacon’s leader — and no relation to G1 Megatron, aside from swiping his name — might have been an imposing threat from the beginning of Beast Wars, but his modes never seemed to match up. His original beast mode was a purple T-rex which wasn’t bad, but his robot mode involved the head of the dinosaur turning into one of his hands. We’re all for the idea of showing where all the parts go, but that just doesn’t seem practical. The second form was kind of a joke all around, looking like a pile of spare car parts got mixed up with dino appendages. It wasn’t until Megatron stole the spark of the original Megatron that he finally got a worthy look: a badass dragon. Sure he still has a head for a hand after transforming and pink isn’t the most terror-inducing color around, but all over this is a huge upgrade for a villain who deserved better.
Honorable Mention: Rhinox
We’re not sure how it happened, but the Maximals’ resident gear head and mystic got to keep his initial Rhino-based beast mode and original robot mode throughout the entire series. It also just so happens that he’s the baddest ass looking one of the bunch, so we’re sure that’s no coincidence.
The list isn’t over; the worst Beast Wars upgrades are on the next page.
THE UPGRADES THAT WERE REALLY DOWNGRADES:
5) Cheetor into Transmetal Cheetor
Like most of the first batch of Beast Wars Maximals, Cheetor looked alright. Having two characters of about the same size that were predominantly blue and yellow probably wasn’t the best idea in the world, but we could manage. LIke most of the Transmetal upgrades, the new robot/animal hybrid beast modes just looked kind of silly, even though he now sported jets. The real problem with his upgrade, though, was hands. When transforming from beast to robot mode, the bead of the tiger split in half and formed the robot mode’s hand. Huh? It looked silly and lacked practicality.
4) Blackarachnia into Transmetal Blackarachnia
Not every upgrade on Beast Wars was such a great move. Blackarachnia’s original forms were pretty damn cool. Her spider mode was realistic and creepy at least to arachnaphobics, while her robot mode was sleek, dangerous and sexy, if you’re into that kind of thing. The new version, which she got after exposing herself to the Transmetal drive, just didn’t look as cool because it made her look an awful lot like the villain from another beloved ’80s animated series. She would wind up getting a much more interesting look in Beast Machines, so don’t cry too much for her, Argentina.
3) Airazor into Tigerhawk
Unlike Tigatron, Air Razor actually lost some cool points when she got combined with the feline Transformer by the Vok into the new being known as Tigerhawk. Sure, Tigerhawk is still cool, but as one of only two female Transformers on the whole show, Air Razor actually had a really great looking robot mode before getting changed. Her beast mode was simple, but what more do you expect from the first round of Beast Wars? We’d have been happy if they just left her alone or maybe made Tigerhawk more feminine. Not in a weird way, but in a more representative way, get your mind out of the gutter.
2) Rattrap into Transmetal Rattrap
Another beloved Maximal who was around from the very beginning, Rattrap got the short end of the stick when it came to his Transmetal upgrade. The problem with Rattrap’s redesign is that it just didn’t change enough. He looks like just got a buff and shine in robot mode and looks kind of ridiculous in beast mode, especially with those wheels. He’s still an all-time favorite, but there could have been a lot more done with his redesign.
1) Optimus Primal into Upgrade Spark Optimus Primal
After getting a pretty great Transmetal form, Primal had to go and screw things up by taking Optimus Prime’s spark into himself. It was a noble deed and saved all of space-time which is great, but it lead to the worst change in all of Beast Wars. The resulting… thing now known as Optimus Primal looked like an awkward robot created by a 6-year-old with zero attention span and only a series of garishly colored blocks to build with. Worse yet, instead of still having anything resembling a beast mode, he turned into a tank and a plane or some nonsense. You know who turns into planes? DECEPTICONS.