I happened to be looking at Pluto TV early yesterday when the Paramount Plus channel (used to preview shows on their streaming service, as they share a parent company now) was showing the first episode of Transformers: EarthSpark, which had already released on a UK YouTube channel but not available in the US. I checked to see if it was going to air on Nickelodeon, since I missed part of the beginning, and it was scheduled multiple times this weekend, including yesterday. But as I prepared to ready myself for a Pilot Review I found out that Paramount Plus’ YouTube channel had the episode up, so as long as they don’t take it down (like what happened with Voltron: Legendary Defender on the official Voltron channel) I get to bring you the review AND the episode.
EarthSpark is the latest kids Transformers toyline and animated series. The focus is on a family whose lives become entangled with the Transformers. The mother is a former soldier who fought alongside the Autobots until the war finally ended in this continuity. Megatron reforms and outside of a few outlaw Decepticons the Transformers form a new secret organization (add them to the list!) with the humans called Ghost to help the remaining Transformers adapt to living on Earth. However, her two kids, Mo and Robby Malto, find a mysterious cave that brings two new Transformers online, the first “born” on Earth. Thrash and Twitch become bonded to the kids, but an evil scientist has his own plans for the Transformers. Tonight I bring you the first episode as the kids meet their new best friends.
Just to be sure for UK readers (Sorry, I don’t know what to do in other countries) here’s the version released on Nickelodeon UK’s YouTube channel, not available in the US.
First off, you know I have to say it…weak intro! I’m hoping the full series at least has a decent intro instead of this lame “just show the title” stuff. Remember that this isn’t just streaming on Paramount Plus, it’s also airing on television via Nickelodeon. Therefore I still demand an intro! (Although let’s be honest; me being me I’d demand one streaming, too. I love a good intro.)
I did review the previews for this series and now I get a better idea about these characters. The father isn’t a complete goofball, but I’m curious if he was ever involved in the Transformers Earth war and how he met Dorothy. I like to think he was a records clerk or something and just stumbled into impressing her somehow during a battle, maybe saving her from a Decepticon attack by circumstance, since she’s clearly the soldier here. That’s my head cannon until they come up with a real explanation. He’s clearly a Transformers fan, especially Bumblebee so we know he’s got good taste. Dorothy also impresses me with her skills, and her interaction with the Autobots, but also her love of her family, and how easily she and Alex accept Trash and Twitch into their family, a rarity for adults who aren’t the Witwickys.
Of course the important humans are Robbie and his sister Mo. I wasn’t sure what to think about Robbie in the previews, a city kid who hated his new life so much he tried to bike back to Philadelphia. However, he chills out after being bonded to Twitch so he avoided being annoying fast enough. Mo…yeah, I still hate that character model. (My only complaint otherwise about the CG is how fake the explosions look, like they’re 2D in a 3D world.) Her eyes are too big and it makes her face look weird. She stands out from the other humans we see in the show in a bad way, but at least she isn’t an annoying kid either and the siblings have a good bond with each other as well as the “Terran” Transformers they’re connected to, which I assume they’ll eventually explain where all this came from. If Miko had been more like Mo she might have more fans.
Also, considering I could probably list all the important black characters in Transformers right now–Walter Barnett, Epps, Dr. Green and his daughter Francine, Agent Fowler, and now the Maltos–it’s nice to see to see a few more people of color in the franchise…since their being black has nothing to do with their character. They’re a family who happens to be black, which means they’re characters and not a color-based stereotype. Also, points for not race-swapping Spike, Sparkplug, and Carly and instead creating all new human characters that everyone can like and celebrate. See, you can do representation right if you really try, modern storytellers. Just remember you’re writing people. The franchise’s humans tend to be either white or Japanese (the latter thanks to anime installments), with Carlos and Raphael as the lone Hispanic characters. So while I’m ready to judge everything as virtue signaling, because lately that’s the only way they do non-white characters instead of just making good characters of alternate ethnicities and nationalities, at least they did it right for once. Make this the trend and nobody will complain about black characters. “Woke” is in the presentation, not the existence. There were plenty of black and other non-Caucasian characters in the cartoons I grew up with, but they were people first just like the white ones, with diversity coming from their worldview and personalities, not some biological result of the part of the world their ancestors grew up in.
As for the new Transformers on the block, Thrash and Twitch are pretty decent in their first outing. We don’t get a whole lot of their personalities but the introductory personas on display look fine. Interesting that the boy gets the girlbot and the girl gets the boybot but maybe the gender thing also won’t matter as they just write good characters. More of that, please.
The new human enemy? Yeah, I still don’t care about human enemies. I blame this more on Transformers: Animated because there have been decent human villains, but they tend to only make occasional visits, like Silas or the non-super criminals of Rescue Bots. Now we have a villain who is being set up to be THE antagonist of the series and I’m not sure how I feel about Mandroid just yet. We’ll see what they do with him in the later episodes.
Having a series set after the War is curious for the kids show. There are some nice homages to previous incarnations, like the kids having comics based on the War, flashbacks done in G1 style (made me sad that Bumblebee didn’t keep his G1 form like he did in the flashbacks and comics) and of course the name of the town is an homage to the Autobots’ original human allies. Megatron comes off a bit too upbeat for me but he might grow on me. Optimus and Elita (nice to see her in the franchise again) hopefully will get a chance to show off their personalities, and Bumblebee as a trainer of Thrash and Twitch might be fun. They’ll be easier to instruct that Skids and Mudflap from the live-action movies anyway.
Final analysis: Transformers: EarthSpark has a few hiccups but is off to a really good start. The humans are great, the concept has legs, and the art style only has issues with the weapons. You have positive representation of non-white characters, a good premise, decent animation depending on your tastes, and this may well end up a great addition to the Transformers franchise. Time will tell. The show will be released streaming on Paramount Plus and on Nickelodeon in the US.