- Ben Watson
The past year has seen a long overdue shift in the offerings of the Masterpiece line, bringing (finally!) non-G1 characters into the high-end fold. Beast Wars favourites like Optimus Primal and Cheetor have been given the perfect plastic treatment. This should be huge cause for celebration. I should be celebrating - and spending the requisite funds on pieces of such import. After all, Beast Wars is my thing - so why don't I feel it in the least?
If my own unreliable timekeeping is correct, this Christmas (or maybe last?) marks twenty years of Transformers digging its talons into my life. Yes, 1997 was surely The Year of The Beast as the most exciting and guitar-shredding-theme-tuned cartoon exploded into my retinas and I was given my first hit of the plastic crack. I started young, as many do and remember trying to take the highlight of my yuletide haul to school to show my friends who'd received similar - but ultimately Waspinator had to stay home. Tarantulas came the month after for my birthday and the very long spiral towards where I am now began. But why do I seem to have fallen out of love with Beast Wars? How do my humble beginnings hold up against the last two decades of assorted excellence?
For a start, not as well as they used to. For a few years now, I've just not felt the same energy for Beast Wars. Yes, you always remember your first but Armada thoroughly overshadows the Beasties when it comes to how much I nostalgically love a line. No doubt it was a huge stride forward in areas like detail and articulation but perhaps thanks to the intervening years filled with super realistic vehicles given a certain spark by the magic of the live-action movies - I no longer take beastformers seriously.
The last decade has had no let up in showing audiences that the Transformers are wholly metallic beings whose bodies are made from vehicle parts (and vice versa?). So casting my gaze back to Beast Wars just has me thinking: how does a metal robot come out of a cheetah? And well, there's your problem. Overthinking.
Beast Wars was what got me into Transformers because it was cool to a four-year old. Perhaps to recreate that long dim charm, I need to switch off the more mature and rational part of my mind. Set aside what gaining a degree in Robotics has taught me and remember it's pretend. Why take it so seriously? The toyline still proves to be an excellent source of great design, fun figures and a kind of energy that's long fizzled out of mainline Transformers toys. Isn't it fun to just stick some robot animals outside and imagine they're in their element? Short answer: yes.
I think my real issue with Beast Wars today is that stylistically, while it may have informed most of the first couple of years of the 21st century's Transformers - it doesn't fit with them now. Beast Wars is best enjoyed as a standalone entity. Maybe, in the way it was first envisioned: as a toyline heavily influenced by Transformers but actually providing something completely different that wasn't supposed to tie to what you already know. Existing in a bubble in this way really lets you (or at least me) enjoy the figures on their own merits almost as if this is the only way Transformers have ever been. Of course for six-year old me, that was the truth. "So what really ruins Beast Wars is the rest of Transformersdom?" you decry me and I reply "Maybe, yeah."
I'll always cherish Beast Wars and the figures that populated my childhood (never as many as I think and hardly any of the ones pictured here) but for this collector, going forward the only way I can reconcile it with the other 90% of my collection that's made up of hard-edged vehicle men, is to leave it alone. To enjoy the figures in isolation and move on with Transformers as it rolls happily along a set of wheels or treads. Until the day it sets paws upon the ground once more - which going by oddly placed logos and rumbling rumours - may not be too far away... Perhaps it's time for a perspective shift.
Follow Ben on Twitter @Waspshot23