Unique Toys are at it again, one of the most productive 3rd party companies of the last 12 months – whether it was under the banner of UT or DX9 – are doing Decepticon Triplechanger Octane. Y-01 “Provider” comes hot on the heels of Chigurh, the Triplechanger Astrotrain that DX9 produced earlier this year. With Sandstorm (Sworder) teased just yesterday, this company are not wasting any time nailing down this whole subsection of Generation 1 multi-changers who are yet to be spoken for at Masterpiece scale. Whether or not you agree that Provider is indeed MP scale is another matter, but my gut feeling is that’s what UT were going for with this.
This test shot of UT Provider landed on my doorstep over the weekend and every day I’ve spent with it has led to a deeper appreciation of its merits, while crystallising the areas that concern or don’t work for me. Just as with Generation 1 Octane from 1986, Provider has tanker truck and jet alternate modes. One thing that ought to be established straight away is that sticklers for scale will struggle to reconcile any lack of mass shifting between a truck and a full on jet, but that’s what you get with Provider, inherent and unavoidable Triplechanger compromise. Once you are over that, you can develop a proper understanding of what UT have achieved with Provider.
One of the strengths of Provider is that every mode is striking and eye-grabbing. Now while that may not always be for the right reason, I can’t deny how impressed I am that they have extracted three such distinct and mostly-successful modes out of this design. The robot mode has all the features of the original inspiration of G1 Octane’s unique silhouette. The jet mode begs to be swooshed around with its exceptionally nice front end and wings, and the truck mode cries out to be played with, rolls very well on its rubber tyres in addition to stamping its authority on your attention with the sea of chrome at the front end.
If we start with the truck mode, one of the first things you will notice is how squashed up against the cab the tank is. This is not completely unprecedented among trucks like this as a Google search may reveal, but it is the first thing that got my attention in this mode and jarred a little. The chrome grill, front wheel arches and hubs look great, the rear bumper with its translucent Decepticon purple lights tickles me and the density and solid feel of this mode make it a winner. I guess if it had been an articulated truck as with the upcoming KFC “Stratotanker”, it would have appealed to more collectors, but there has been no shortage of appreciation for Provider’s truck mode. The front wheels are articulated (a function and welcome by-product of the transformation), making it just that much more enjoyable to interact with. Maybe the greatest success of the truck mode is that there are no immediately obvious remnants of the jet mode on display, and anything that is visible has been cleverly integrated. Just look at how the undercarriage folds up on either side to act as gas tanks for the truck, and while they don’t serve a practical purpose, the jet engines tucked beneath the main tank and wheelbase look suitable menacing and like a Transformer in disguise.
Jet mode, if we start at the front at the nosecone and move down the fuselage, begins in epic fashion. The fuselage itself is of course made up of different types of panels and fold-out bits, but they’re seamless enough in terms of it being a smooth surface. The wings are spectacularly nice, and the way in which you construct them from the various panels and long fold-out truck sections (including the grills becoming the wingtips!) is, quite frankly, inspired. This is without a doubt my favourite step of all the transformation sequences this legitimate Triplechanger has to offer. The jet engines are gorgeous, with the chrome turbines prominently on display. Regarding the truck wheels on the back of the jet engines, clearly visible when the plane is facing away from you, you could fall into one of two camps. You will either marvel at the ingenuity of how UT solved that particular problem of parts conversion and hiding, or it will repulse you and turn you right off. I just cannot see anyone being indifferent about that design decision, I feel as though it would evoke a strong reaction either way.
Once you’ve got past the wings, the top of the fuselage dips down a little and this gives the plane as a whole an increasingly strange side profile, especially when you figure in the very small/short tail fin. I think by simply giving Provider a taller tail fin, the whole back end of the plane would work far more harmoniously with the rest of it, even with the slightly tapered top rear section of fuselage. The rudders are slightly adjustable and sit quite high compared to the main wings, but again that is not unprecedented among tanker aircraft. This is still a hugely attractive and enjoyable mode, just look at the chrome splash towards the back. As I said, those wings, front end, engines, landing gear and undercarriage are superb, and together with the play value of this jet mode, mark it out as quite a success. I cannot deny that the side profile of the jet looks awkward, though. Just one of the unavoidable compromises of such a varied Triplechanger. I guess UT could easily have made the tailfin bigger if it was detachable and useable as a shield a la G1 Octane, I just hope the vocal minority who constantly bemoan the smallest of partsforming sections have not influenced the design here. It may even have been a challenge that UT had set themselves.
On to robot mode, and depending on your tastes, the biggest success or failure of UT Provider. I mean, there’s absolutely no question that they have nailed the look of Octane. The enormous protruding jet wings from his back are a signature feature, and that has been reproduced here with serious intent. There is no collapsing or fancy folding of the wings to reduce the span, they’re just out there, offensively so! I think it looks amazing from some angles and completely essential to set this unique figure and transformer apart, and yet from other angles they seem completely over-sized and dominate the rest of the robot mode features. They maybe should also have been a little further up his back. I do love how prominent the jet engines are on the wings in robot mode, but there are questions about the proportions elsewhere on Provider in this configuration.
The head can occasionally feel a shade too small for the body, and the size of the lower legs compared to the thighs mean that, just like Chigurh, Provider cannot pull off a convincing kneel. There’s not enough bend in the knees to accommodate much in the way of ground-level stances or kneels. There is ankle articulation but it’s very limited and they only turn inwards, so the signature running pose I like to put bots in is impossible with Provider. That’s a real shame because with the amount of ankle kibble he has behind his feet, you would imagine added stability comes with the visual compromise, but it doesn’t. Those chromed wheel arches really should have been able to reach the ground and act as stabilisers or heel spurs. I have found that most poses require a generally forward or perfectly straight weight distribution or he has a tendency to lean back or fall back, even.
There is very good waist articulation, arms are reasonably well articulated too but a lack of double-jointed elbows mean there is limited movement available in the forearms. Shoulders are decent, though and there are no shortage of poses available for Provider, including that fan favourite of a robot holding his gun in one hand and resting the barrel in the other. Gun grip is good and solid, although he literally closes his fingers around it, there’s no clipping or sliding into a groove. The hands have the typical four fingers moulded together, no pointing fingers here. The neck has good articulation too, but he cannot look directly upwards, it’s limited there as well. There is some lovely ratcheting throughout, the only looseness I encountered on this test shot was the forearm flap from where you fold out the left hand. That had trouble staying closed and pivots on a pin, add to that the screw for the forearm halves is virtually unreachable thanks to the folding panels around it and it’s something I’ll just have to live with. Provider’s abdominal section is formed from a solid middle piece and flip-down outer sections hidden inside the abdomen normally. This is a good solution, but the pin on which one of the flip-down parts pivots came out first time. I’ve since pushed it back in and it’s held, but you must be wary of this because the way this part clips in to the central abdominal section – if you’re lazy about it – can cause the flip-out part to bend in a way that encourages pins to extricate themselves from their housings.
Going back to the head sculpt, it is unmistakably Decepticon. Just look at those evil eyes. Then again, with Octane’s depiction in the Sunbow cartoon, some may not want him to be a cut and dry bad guy in appearance. The cut-away sections either side of his chin are even more pronounced than with Chigurh, to the point where it actually seems part of his face is missing. They do like this aesthetic at UT/DX9 but in the case of Octane/Provider with such a low-detail cartoon head sculpt, I think they felt they needed to stylise it a bit more. I wonder if a generic facial sculpt may have worked more effectively for Provider. The helmet is spot on, though, and immediately reminiscent of Octane’s previous and original incarnations. The chest has a large space for a Decepticon symbol as is the fashion with 3P products nowadays.
The amount of stuff Provider has on his back is undeniably significant and when viewed from the back, can seem overwhelming, but this is actually one area of the robot mode I have zero issue with because I feel it;s actually quite neat. The way in which Provider hides certain parts of the jet/truck and ably uses other parts impresses me a lot. How is it possible that something turning into a truck and jet could hide all of those alt mode bits and not have some stored on his back? In fact I even like how the concertina-style nosecone disguise and fuselage panels are arranged around his back and waist. The way in which the slide/extension bar for the nosecone plugs into the robot back is brilliant. There’s a lot of clipping and solidity in the robot mode, very little hanging or makeshift positioning of bits until you get to the plane’s chromed exhaust halves acting as heels.
Provider’s transformation features some really excellent steps that keep bringing me back to this toy. I mentioned the formation of the jet wings as a highlight. That, coupled with how the nosecone is hidden inside the front section of the fuselage, with the whole thing plugging into Provider’s back makes for some memorable steps. There are a number of occasions where you’ll have panels un-clipped for rotation and clearance is an issue, the legs especially feature one panel on a ball joint so it needs to be rotated clean out of the away before the lower legs can fold out from where they sit around the thighs. The situation with the middle of the fuselage is not too different in terms of creating panel clearance and rotating things into their rightful positions. Another reviewer mentioned that the gear in the wing assembly stripped out a screw, so there’s no room for lazy pushing of panels and sections without creating the intended circumstances for a part to rotate etc. From my experience, the most frustrating conversion was from robot to plane, the other transformations all seemed very fluid and intuitive even for something quite similar to Chigurh in concept.
As to the question of whether Provider is Masterpiece or Classics scaled, the way in which he matches Chigurh and MP-11 for height in robot mode, towers over MP Bumblebee and stands comparable to MP-10 Convoy tells me he was aimed at Masterpiece. Complexity in transformation definitely puts it in the MP category for me. Comparing the jet mode to Bumblebee’s vehicle mode suggest otherwise, but if you think how difficult it would be to accurately scale a robot, a truck and a jet, there comes a point where you have to give up a rigid system that would expel any such Triplechanger concept. Provider has convincing, excellent alt modes with acceptable compromises, engaging transformations with whispers of possible magic here and there, and a very seriously recognisable, attractive and faithful robot mode that stands well next to Masterpiece – and some CHUG – Transformers of relevance. Provider has distinct identity in all configurations, but owners absolutely must take note of the possible wear points and the fact that the test shots have highlighted some weak spots. In terms of cartoon accuracy, a staple of Masterpiece categorisation currently, I think with such a simplistic animation model they couldn’t resist adding detailing and paint apps to certain sections.
I’ve never really wanted a G1 or Classics Octane figure (especially not when Tankor came out not looking too close to the concept images shown at BotCon), not even after seeing his memorable solo appearances in Starscream’s Ghost and Thief In The Night, but I’m impressed with what UT have achieved here with Provider. He is completely and successfully displayable – and enjoyable – in all three modes, technically making him the best 3rd Party Triplechanger to date. It might be a personal thing but in a way his good looks and clever engineering coupled with the limitations in what extreme poses he can achieve frustrate me. When a toy is this attractive, despite visible compromises, that it keeps making me want to play with it, and then disappoints because I cannot make it hold all the poses that my imagination needs it to, it leads to an odd form of dissatisfaction. Like Chigurh, both alt modes have inherently long panel-driven sections (jet or shuttle fuselage, train shaft, oil tank) which creates somewhat unavoidable consequences for the limb proportions in robot mode and the methods by which you get between modes. If you’re not bothered by the above, what UT will give you is a great Transformer of a character often not cited by many as a favourite but may suddenly appeal, one which will look excellent in a collection or even by itself. Provider has grown on me every day I’ve owned him without being spectacular from the get-go but promising to be a long term keeper. Watch out for those pins, panels and screws, and you should be very happy together.
All the best