Classic Cartoons: The Transformers (S1E01)

Season: 1 Episode: 1

Name: More than Meets the Eye, Part 1


I didn’t get to see much of the original cartoon when it originally aired. For us here in Germany it only started airing in 89, about 5 years after the original release, and only a small portion of it. Altogether 39 out of the 98 episodes aired and out of those only 6 were from the first two seasons. We also never got the 1986 animated movie in the cinema, it took until 94 for it to be on TV. My overall exposure to the cartoon at the time was limited to a mix of watching a few episodes at the home of a classmate’s friend in a foreign language that I didn’t understand and listening to two of the episodes via their “audio drama” adaptation on cassette (effectively the cartoon dub with some added narration and some changed sound effects / music tracks).

Some time later I did catch up on the series, but that has been quite a few years back now. So I decided it’s time for a rewatch and since I got this blog running, why not collect some of my thoughts and observations (as well as some additional details if I am aware of them)?

Episode Summary

Quite a bit happens in this episode. We see a group of each of the Transformers factions leave their war-torn home planet Cybertron and crash on Earth where the conflict erupts again. The Decepticons build their own base, while the Autobots use the remains of their crashed spaceship, the Ark. In their first effort to collect energy, the Decepticons attack an oil platform. The Autobots arrive to chase them off and the episode ends in a cliffhanger where the Autobots try to save the humans from drowning while the remains of the oil platform burns around them. For a more detailed summary of the episode, you can go to the Transformers Wiki.

Comparison to comics

While watching the episode and when I thought about it afterwards, it occurred to me that both the comics and the cartoon started out pretty similarly (makes sense I suppose). Both started out as a mini-series (4 comics issues / 3 cartoon episodes) and with the Autobots leaving Cybertron (albeit for different reasons), being chased and boarded by the Decepticons and crashing onto Earth with the Ark. In the cartoon it’s not an intentional crash though, unlike in the comics where Optimus Prime caused it due to having foreseen the Decepticon attack. In general of course the cartoon is much more kid-friendly in its depiction of the Transformers fights, where the comics could go much further (just look at the first 4 issues alone), but there is ONE instance where the cartoon doesn’t hold back: when the remains of the Transformers inside the Ark after the crash are shown, before the repairs start.

General Thoughts

Even after all these years, this is still a pretty entertaining beginning to the series, I can see why it was so successful in 84. Both the opening theme and the “symbol-flip” scene transitions helped give the series “character”, they certainly stuck with me. The story of the episode doesn’t go into depth on the backstory part so that it can get the story rolling quickly and move the main setting to Earth, which is fine for the beginning of a series. A few details during the episode did make me wonder though. The  Ark is depicted as sticking out of the volcano’s side… and no one noticed that during all those year? That seems… unlikely. Later, when Hound and Cliffjumper find the Decepticon base and Cliffjumper pulls out his giant gun… where did he store that? And why is he such a bad shot? The humans on the oil platform also seemed rather… unfazed by the attack of the giant robots, considering how they just straight started throwing their tools at them. At some point in the recent years I learned that production of this series was VERY rushed (I was NOT surprised), so I won’t bother complaining about the usual errors that happen quite often in the series (missing / wrong robots on screen, robots colored the wrong way… things like that). Only if an episode is somehow special in that regard.

Up Next

We’ll get to see how the conflict continues in: More than Meets the Eye, Part 2

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