Beast Wars is generally regarded as a benchmark when it comes to high quality Transformers fiction. Sure there are some goofy bits, but on the whole the series is renowned for compelling characters, exciting storylines and great action.
Yet ask a lot of people and they’ll probably tell you season 2 is where it starts coming together, putting the first season aside as something you merely need to sit through to get to the good stuff. Not so, we say! And to prove it we’ve compiled a list of 10 absolutely epic moments from season 1 of the show.
It goes without saying that there will be MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for the whole of Beast Wars (and Beast Machines)!
#10. Dinobot vs Optimus, Beast Wars part 2
OK look, the first episode of the show has its moments and does a good job at establishing the basic plot, but it also feels a bit cumbersome with some rather awkward dialogue at times. Fortunately things ramp up in a big way come the second part, which gives some much-needed room for characters to breathe and establishes some of the key personalities going forward. Central to this is the opening showdown between Dinobot and Optimus Primal, which is exciting for several reasons. First, it’s a truly awesome fight scene with fast-paced action the likes of which we’d never seen in a Transformers cartoon before. But perhaps even more importantly it tells you everything you need to know about these two characters and why they’re so interesting for the show moving forward. Optimus is not your carbon-copy good-guy leader by any means but clearly has strong principles and believes in leading from the front. Dinobot meanwhile is unlike any “villain” we’ve previously come across, with an unbreakable sense of honour that means he’d rather be defeated nobly than win by accident. It’s bracing stuff and sets the tone for the series perfectly.
#9. Rhinox unloads, Chain of Command
Yes, this is the first of several Rhinox entries on this list. The big green guy spends the majority of the first few episodes either weaponless or having to borrow another character’s armament before someone designing the show clearly hit upon the idea to turn the toy’s spinning mace accessory into the most ridiculously massive chain gun you ever did see. That’s, er, quite the upgrade! One of those moments you’ll always remember seeing for the first time just for how high it ranks on the holy-s**t!-o-meter, it’s even better because it comes out of nowhere after Waspinator is sneaking up on Rhinox from behind. It also establishes the ongoing joke of Waspinator being smashed to pieces in increasingly inventive ways.
#8. Terrorsaur vs Megatron, Power Surge
OK so most people probably remember Rhinox vs Waspinator, but what about this moment from the sixth episode, eh? After finding a massive Energon deposit, Terrorsaur is so powered up that he decides to take on Megatron for the Predacon leadership… and wins! Even by this point in the show I don’t think we were quite used to seeing characters being blown to bits in such graphic detail, as Megatron ends up rolling down the hill in pieces. The way in which the previously-unmatched Predacon leader is disposed of so easily is a definite shock too! And yep, this is the most interesting thing Terrorsaur ever did in the show.
#7. Unicron, Other Voices part 1
By the end of season 1 viewers had become accustomed to any number of overt Generation 1 nods being thrown into the mix, as it became increasingly clear that Beast Wars was more than happy to pay homage to its heritage. Yet still it was a big surprise to see Unicron appear on screen in the penultimate episode of the season, even if it was just as a representation of an “authority figure” by the aliens who’ve taken Optimus Primal hostage. The big ape’s reaction says it all.
#6. Everything about Rhinox, Dark Designs
Rhinox was portrayed as a real stand-up ‘bot. Intelligent, loyal, brave, steadfast… these are just some of the admirable qualities he demonstrated on a regular basis. Yet there was always an indication of something a little more ruthless at his core, implying he was not to be messed with despite his friendly demeanour. Then came Dark Designs, which gave us a full on look at what Rhinox would be like if he was a Predacon and yeah… don’t mess. The irony of Megatron trying to turn him evil only for him to prove too malevolent for even the Predacon leader to handle is palpable, as Rhinox single-handedly brings down his entire team from the inside. This whole episode rings as especially intriguing once you know Rhinox’s eventual fate in Beast Machines, of course.
#5. Dinobot and Tigatron… talk, Law of the Jungle
Time for a bit of a change of pace with this entry, as this rare scene between Dinobot and Tigatron is mostly a quiet one, but is notable for some great dialogue that absolutely nails both characters. Following the death of his tiger friend, Tigatron announces that he is done with fighting and leaves the Maximals to pursue a life of peace. Dinobot follows him and tries to encourage him back, but the conversation is an intriguing insight into both character’s point of view without painting one opinion as being simply “correct”. They both make their points and both have a good case for what they are trying to say. We also get a fantastic insight into the mindset of the Predacons, who’re described as living for “the glory of conquest”, implying a much more tangible motivation that what’s often given to the “bad guy” Transformers. It’s rare to find this kind of moral conundrum in a cartoon promoting a toyline, but it sure makes for a great moment.
#4. Optimus goes berserker, Gorilla Warfare
On the face of it this scene is just straight-up glorious action, as Optimus takes a dark turn after being infected with one of Scorponok’s weapons and single-handedly infiltrates the Predacon base. The moment he takes on Tarantulas is particularly badass, as he shrugs off the spider’s bullet-fire only to take his harpoon weapon from him and leave him impaled. Yet what’s really interesting here is the outright implication that Optimus rarely fights to his full potential under normal circumstances. He shows that he’s more than capable of making a mess of the Predacons without too much worry, yet it’s so not in his nature to do so. One can’t help but wonder how long the Beast Wars would’ve lasted if this was normal operating procedure for Optimus, but then of course he wouldn’t have been the Maximal leader we all know and love.
#3. Rhinox saves the day, Victory
OK look, it’s our final Rhinox moment, I promise! Victory is definitely a standout episode from the first season, as the Predacons are seemingly destroyed and the Maximals believe they are free to finally return to Cybertron. The reveal that of course the bad guys are lying is held back just long enough to make you really wonder what’s going on, but it’s the final act that really doesn’t pull any punches. Firstly Optimus is left behind as the Axalon is already hurtling towards the stars, then Megatron sneaks onboard and manages to incapacitate the entire Maximal crew, leaving only Rattrap to face him. Just as it seems everything is lost Rhinox shows us that “don’t mess” attitude yet again as he bellows the words “Not a chance!” and gives Megatron what for. Despite the somewhat OTT Superman-esque heroics that follow, it’s Rhinox’s moment that remains so memorable.
#2. Blackarachnia vs Inferno, Other Voices part 2
Other Voices raises the stakes quite a bit, as the mysterious aliens announce that they will be terminating all life on the planet, including the Maximals and Predacons. Cue a mad rush for solutions, which for several characters includes finding a way off the planet as soon as possible. After Inferno confronts both Tarantulas and Blackarachnia it seems as though the imposing ant is going to get the upper hand and put an end to their scheme, but this scene ably shows what many of us already knew – don’t underestimate Blackarachnia. ‘Nuff said.
#1. The Beast Wars are over…, Other Voices part 2
Oh come on, this was always going to make it onto this list! Who honestly expected the first season of this show to end on such a massive downer? Not only does the bad guy win but the leader of the good guys is definitively destroyed. That’s pretty ballsy for any TV programme, yet alone one aimed at children. Of course this was really the beginning of Beast Wars becoming much more serialised with its storytelling as opposed to the “plot of the week” format that we saw through much of the first season, and you have to give major props to the show’s creators for not wrapping up this moment quickly… it might be “tradition” for Optimuses to sacrifice themselves (as Megatron puts it), but by leaving us on a cliffhanger for so long this was really shocking.
So, that’s our list! Do you agree with our choices? Let us know if not and of course feel free to suggest your own!