Sunbow Productions (September 23, 1985 – November 5, 1985), Shout! Factory (September 15, 2009), 4 discs, 660 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Dolby Digital Mono, Not Rated, Retail: $29.99
The second season of The Transformers
continues the success of the show’s inaugural season with new episodes featuring the continuing battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons. The season’s first 28 episodes are now once again compiled in this 25th Anniversary DVD set.
The second season of The Transformers cemented the show into cult status. As the show got past the rather repetitive storylines from season one, it finally settled into a new groove and explored new themes. While the theme of trust was played out in part during the first season, it was usually a sub-plot in many of the episodes. On the other hand, in the second season, trust becomes the dominant theme. As the members of the Autobots deal with issues of trust from within their own group, they also have to deal with protecting other powerful machines, devices, and weapons. In many of the episodes, the Autobots are entrusted with a powerful human machine or device that is the target of a Decepticon attack. In other episodes, the Decepticons have their hands on a powerful device that becomes unstable or dangerous. Finally, when strapped for new ideas and storylines, the writers basically resort to putting the Transformers into other established mythologies. Sure, there are some episodes here and there that do not fall within these categories, but they are few and far in between.
As mentioned, one dominant theme in this season is trust (or lack thereof) within the Autobot group (it already doesn’t exist among the Decepticons). In reality, there are a few main questions that need to be answered. Can machines that are programmed really be trusted? Can Autobots trust their own memories, abilities, and partners when they can apparently be tampered with great ease? This is a theme that is featured time and time again throughout this second season. In some episodes, the Autobots malfunction or the Decepticons find a way to make them stop working properly. It’s actually quite disturbing how easy it seems for the Decepticons to tamper with an Autobot’s memories, powers, or personality. This happens in Traitor (with Mirage), Changing Gears (with Gears), and in City of Steel (where Optimus Prime’s parts are used against the Autobots). In other episodes, the Autobots completely malfunction due to external issues or because of Decepticon interference. This happens in Attack of the Autobots (where Decepticons basically take over several Autobot members), Auto Beserk (where Red Alert malfunctions and teams up with Starscream), and in The Autobot Run (when the Decepticons build a device that keeps the Autobots in car mode). It’s no wonder then that trust becomes a main issue for the Autobots. Even the not-so-bright Dinobots can see it. In Desertion of the Dinobots, both Autobots and Decepticons malfunction leaving the Dinobots to claim independence from the other groups.
Of course, my favorite episodes with the theme of trust are when the Decepticons manage to manipulate the Autobots or humans into believing something that isn’t true. In A Prime Problem, Megatron builds a clone of Optimus Prime and uses it to trick the Autobots. Unfortunately, the episode quickly falls apart when the Autobots decide that the best way to tell the two robots apart is to have them face-off in a series of challenges. I don’t know why Optimus agrees to the challenge or why he doesn’t suspect the clone is a Decepticon trap, but it seems to makes sense to them. The episode also leaves me with lingering doubt as to why Megatron doesn’t always have a clone of Optimus Prime at hand. In The Master Builders, the Constructicons convince Grapple and Hoist that they are no longer members of the Decepticons. They are easily convinced despite Optimus Prime’s warnings to the contrary. My favorite episode on the disc is Megatron’s Master Plan. In this episode, the people of Earth are manipulated by the Decepticons, with the help of a millionaire politician and media tycoon, into believing that the Autobots are evil and that the Decepticons are good. This causes mankind to banish the Autobots from Earth. This is a great episode because it is entirely original and tackles greater issues than just Decepticon vs. Autobots. It’s always more fun when these episodes involve humans who are also on the side of good and evil. In too many episodes, the only humans we get to know are the ones already allied to the Autobots.
The bulk of the remaining episodes deal with devices, computers, or robots that fall into Decepticon hands. One constant throughout all of this is that the Autobots can’t really be trusted by humans to protect them from Autobot attacks. They seem to capture just about every device that the Autobots are meant to protect (although I suppose without this plot point, there would be no episodes). This happens in The Immobilizer (with a device that can freeze objects), Enter the Nightbird (with a human robot ninja), and in Day of the Machines (with a human computer system). In other episodes, the Decepticons, Constructicons, and Insecticons have an advantage that quickly escalates, becomes unstable and threatens all of Earth. This happens in The Core (when the Decepticons think it’s a good idea to drill to the Earth’s core), in Microbots (when Megatron captures the unstable “Heart of Cybertron”), The Insecticon Syndrome (when the Instecticons get huge and unstable), and in Quest for Survival (when the Insecticons duplicate at a fast pace and a galactic microbe introduced to stop them gets out of control). Perhaps the most interesting of these stories (and one with an ecological message to boot) is The Golden Lagoon when both Decepticons and Autobots discover a pool of Electrum in an idyllic valley. The element coats their armor protecting them from attack, but it wears off after a few hours. Of course, the Decepticons destroy the valley in the process of coating themselves which leaves one Autobot very upset. It’s an interesting story with an uncharacteristic downbeat ending.
A final set of episodes on this set begins to make me concerned about the future seasons. Whenever a series begins to mix well-known mythologies into an established story, I get worried. To me, it’s always a sign that the writers are running out of ideas and are starting to get lazy. In Dinobot Island, the Autobots discover an island stuck in time where dinosaurs still exist. When the Decepticons find the island and begin draining its energy, a time-warp is created causing ancient creatures to roam the streets of New York. None of it makes sense. It’s clearly just a reason to show dinosaurs, pirates, cavemen, and wooly mammoths in the same episode (and it’s a two-parter!). In The God Gambit, the Autobots and Decepticons crash on an alien moon where they are mistaken for heavenly beings. This is a stand-alone episode, but it baffles me that the Decepticons never really revisit this planet in future episodes. The other two episodes deal with well-known, established mythologies. Atlantis, Arise! features the Decepticons finding the ancient civilization of Atlantis deep in the ocean. They then team up with the Atlantians to conquer the human race. Finally, later in the season, we get A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur’s Court where the Decepticons and Autobots travel back in time and get caught between a medieval battle between rival knights. Even Merlin makes an appearance in this mess of an episode. Actually, I shouldn’t say that these episodes are poorly written (by Transformers standards). They just don’t fit in with the rest of the show.
The episodes are distributed as follows:
17. Autobot Spike
18. The Immobilizer
19. Dinobot Island, Part 1
20. Dinobot Island, Part 2
22. Enter the Nightbird
23. Changing Gears
24. A Prime Problem
25. Atlantis, Arise!
26. Attack of the Autobots
28. The Master Builders
29. The Insecticon Syndrome
30. Day of the Machines
31. Megatron’s Master Plan, Part 1
32. Megatron’s Master Plan, Part 2
33. Auto Beserk
34. City of Steel
35. Desertion of the Dinobots, Part 1
36. Desertion of the Dinobots, Part 2
37. Blaster Blues
38. A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur’s Court
39. The God Gambit
40. The Core
41. Make Tracks
42. The Autobot Run
43. The Golden Lagoon
44. Quest for Survival
Is This Thing Loaded?
Unlike the first season’s slew of extras, this second volume disappointingly features no special features. I am unsure if further sets will contain any extras, but it’s possible that all the features were used up in volume one. In short, it’s a bit disappointing, but not the end of the world, especially since most people that are buying this set probably already own the first volume.
This set basically looks like the set for the first season. The four discs are divided between two slim cases that are housed in one cardboard case. The cover of the case features Devastator and the Dinobots with a small figure of Optimus Prime and Megatron at the top. This release is being billed as “Season Two, Volume One” and the bottom right corner indicates the 25th anniversary of the series. The slimcase for discs one and two prominently features Optimus Prime while the slimcase for discs three and four features Megatron. Shout! has also paid attention to the disc art for this release with disc one featuring Jazz, disc two featuring Starscream, disc three featuring Bumblebee, and disc four featuring Soundwave, Ravage, and Laserbeak.
The set comes with two inserts. The first one is an advertisement for G.I. Joe Season 1.1 on one side and an advertisement for Transformers graphic novels on the other. The second insert is actually a lavish, fourteen-page booklet with detailed episode guides.
Ink And Paint:
The 28 episodes on this set are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Overall, the quality of the print on this set is pretty good for a show with episodes nearly 25 years old. Of course there are some dust and scratches here and there, but it never gets too distracting. Here, the episodes have undergone a restoration not only in quality of the print, but also in colors and restored animation. Episodes are included with opening titles, previously-on segments, episode bumpers, and end credits. There is a play-all feature included in each disc that also allows you to watch multi-episode stories seamlessly.
There is a disclaimer on the last page of the episode guide that reads the following:
“Transformers DVDs released prior to our 25th Anniversary Edition were missing animation seen in the original broadcast. We did extensive research, found the discrepancies between the original broadcast masters and the restored masters used for the last DVD release, reinserted the correct animation, and color corrected it as best we could to match the shots before and after. But because a one-inch master tape simply can’t hold up to the quality of the restored masters, you may notice occasional shots – or even scenes – in some episodes that seem slightly softer than others. Just take comfort in knowing that laser blasts have been reinserted, backgrounds have been corrected and Starscream is Starscream once again.”
As far as the audio is concerned, Shout! Factory has remastered the original audio and this release features English Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. When these episodes were originally released by Rhino Entertainment in 2002, they included new sound effects that did not appear in the original show. Overall, this is a fine track with no problems that I noticed. However, I do not have the originals to compare and check the new tracks. There are no subtitles or additional languages available.
The second season of The Transformers to me is actually much more interesting than the first one. It was in the second season that the show found its voice and began to develop more interesting storylines. In the first season, each episode basically featured the Decepticons looking for a source of energy and the Autobots stopping them at every turn. Here, we have more complex storylines with the Decepticons acting more offensively towards the Autobots and with the Autobots sometimes failing. In fact, in most episodes, the Autobots are completely on the defensive. Sure, some of the episodes get silly, and there are some lazy plot holes here and there, but there is still plenty of entertainment value. I would rate this season among the best of the show. As the seasons progressed, it became harder and harder for the writers to come up with new storylines for the show. As far as the set goes, I’m a little disappointed by the lack of extras on this set. The fact that Shout! still hasn’t bothered to provide us with a subtitle track (if only for the hearing-impaired) continues to trouble me. Is it that difficult? If you’re buying this, you probably already own the first season. If you didn’t buy the first season because you were unsure about the quality of the storylines, you might want to consider this set instead. There are no special features, but the stories are definitely better.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?