Transformers: Earthspark S1, Eps 11-20: Still More than Meets the Eye

The Transformers have taken on many forms since they first landed in the mid-1980s. From the original animated series to Beast Wars to (ugh) the Michael Bay live-action films, the franchise continues to find new ways to… well… transform itself and stay relevant. 

But not all visions are created equal. While some of the stories have been beloved, just as many have been forgotten. Part of the reason for this extends to their commitment to the stories. While many iterations think that the appeal of the franchise lies in its endless war between Autobots and Decepticons—remember that the series was originally designed only as a way to sell toys—but that’s not what makes the show special.

Because Transformers has never really been about transforming robots.

What has always set the best iterations of Transformers apart from other animated warfare was that it worked hard to make you care about its characters. Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and the rest were rarely treated as empty bots for animated battles. Instead, it became a series about the meaning of courage, friendship and love for one another. Even back in the 1980s, it was this aspect of the series that connected with audiences and it has been the thing most lacking from (most of) the live-action films and some other animated iterations.

Which brings me to Earthspark.

In Earthspark, the Malto family find themselves partnering with Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and their team to raise a new crop of bots called Terrans. These Earth-born Transformers have much to learn about who they are and how this fit in the world and they rely on their human and robot family to help guide them. Although the Decepticons has dispersed, they still remain a threat but Bumblebee and his new, young protegees are willing to learn and grow in order to build a better tomorrow.

While I wasn’t familiar with Earthspark prior to this review, I am pleasantly surprise that it contains same the joy and heart that I connected with in my childhood. Watching with my 9-year-old (coincidentally, the same age that I would’ve been when the original series first aired), I have been struck by its willingness to sit with its characters in a world that mimics their own.

Whereas the original series focused its story on the war between Cybertronians, Earthspark sits in a world where the battle is over. Hunted by the G.H.O.S.T. Corporation, the Decepticons have scattered and the Autobots live a peaceful existence. (In fact, Megatron, sworn enemy to Optimus and his team, has even switched sides, partnering with his former foes.) While an air of peace feels tenuous, this is very much a show that seems to be tapping into the offering of second chances to those who want to chart a new course in their lives. For these characters, life is an opportunity to make better decisions and continue to ‘evolve’.

Another significant change to the lore though is its conversation about identity. Since Bay’s inclusion of ‘scanning’ as a way to select their forms in the live-action films, the idea of choosing who you are has become central to character development in the Transformers world. But Earthspark advances this concept in its own way. Here, to take on one’s ‘alt-form’ is a manner of self-expression. Rather than being a ‘piece missing’, it’s an opportunity for these bots to show the world who they truly are. For new and maturing bots such as Hashtag and Jawbreaker, to choose their alt-form is a celebration of their identity, as opposed to a way of ‘hiding themselves’. This is a significant shift for a franchise known for bots being ‘secret agents’ in a human world and taps into the mindset of our current culture. This is a series that wants to emphasize tolerance and grace, celebrating differences along the way. This notion applies across the board, regardless of race, gender and, well, alien species. (In fact, Nightshade is the first bot to identify as non-binary, referring to their pronouns as ‘they/them’.)

In this world, everyone deserves the chance to be honoured.

Will Transformers: Earthspark be one of those series that lasts? It’s always hard to say. However, one can’t deny that the series taps into the very best aspects of the Transformers universe and makes them their own. In doing so, they ensure that this series proves its characters are still more than meets the eye.

Transformers: Earthspark S1, Ep 11-20 is available on DVD now.

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