Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Peculiar Olympians: Beast Wars Megatron

“The Peculiar Olympians” is a series of blog posts about my most favourite fictional characters. They are each here for some combination of sympathy, empathy, inspiration, humour, quality, staying power, and/or significance to my relationship with fandom. These are not all the characters that I like, but they are the ones that have stood out to me the most. The list is also alphabetical and nothing more.

A love for villains with no deeper motivation or backstory than greed and personal enjoyment has become a nostalgic artifact for me. I sometimes miss my larger appetite for such characters, but if a “simple” villain has enough flair, I can still love them. Beast Wars Megatron totally has that kind of style, and looking at him takes me right back to the time when I could better appreciate the undemanding kind of villain.

Beast Wars was my first fandom, the first series with which I sought out material beyond the television show and began to follow online discussions. It lead to a larger engagement with Transformers fandom as a whole (which I’ve since fallen out of), butBeast Wars is still my favourite Transformers series, and its Megatron my favourite of the many unrelated characters to have that name.

Three hundred years after the end of the Autobot/Decepticon war, the primary Transformers factions are now the Maximals and Predacons. A Maximal exploration crew pursues rogue Predacons who have stolen an artifact called the Golden Disk, and the two ships crash on an Earthlike planet. This world turns out to be riddled with stores of raw energon, Transformers’ primary fuel source, and robots must adopt alternate modes derived from local animals/fossils to protect themselves from the resulting radiation. The scale of this conflict first seems small, but further details will be revealed that will introduce the potential to change the course of Transformers history. (And while it sounds ridiculous on paper, and a lot of plot details were never resolved, Beast Wars is still a good show.)

Beast Wars Megatron only wants power. Here and there he makes a bit of noise about wanting to free the Predacons from Maximal rule back home, but it’s abundantly clear that even this tidbit is more about feeding his ego than anything else. Yet his smooth voice, delivered by one David Kaye, lends him an air of refinement, and his ability to play his enemies against each other, with a light but twisted sense of humour sets him a cut above the rest….

…which it makes it all the better when we see how monstrous and bestial he truly is, his sophistication a veneer. Furthermore, as Beast Wars progresses, Megatron grows ever more insane and power-hungry. He loses something in this transition, but retains enough panache that my faith in him only wavers, never disappears.

The same can’t be said for the Megatron’s re-introduction in the sequel series Beast Machines. The merits of this characterization have been debated, but after struggling to accept it for years, I fall squarely on the side that considers Beast Machines Megatron an inferior and implausible continuation. Yes, he conquered the whole of Cybertron as he had always dreamed of, but deliberately put the population in stasis to rule an empty world. In addition he had inexplicable obsessions with cold, mechanical order and the elimination of organics. He had his moments in this series, but they were fleeting, and ultimately he was an unsatisfying re-iteration. Still, the memories of Beast Wars Megatron remain fondly.

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