Seasons 2 & 3
The producers of Beast Wars had the difficult task of appeasing hard core fans, who had built the Transformers mythos into a veritable cult, while at the same time never loosing sight of the fact that the show is, above all else, a toy commercial.
With seasons two and three, we see them succeed in that task quite well.
In the featurettes included on this set, the two head writers speak freely of the fact that they knew nothing of Transformers when they started work on the show. Random phrases from the first few episodes that seem to relate back to the previous series are mere coincidence.
Further, they really had no long-term story arc in mind. In an early episode of season one, the Maximals discover a Stonehenge-like ruin, which eventually led to a recurring plot involving ancient aliens. As it turns out, that first scene came about simply because Mainframe (the company who did the computer animation) just happened to have computer model of Stonehenge on their hard drive at the time.
Technology definitely drove some of the story telling in the series. The show was limited to 14 characters at any one time (presumably, that’s all they could fit on a hard drive back then), and as you watch through the series, you begin to see the pattern, characters will leave, die, or mysteriously disappear, and then new characters will suddenly pop up in the next episode.
The writers talk about being in a ‘glass box’ with regards to the limited number of characters and sets; but to their credit, it never feels that way. The show has a bit of an epic scale to it, especially when it involves the larger Transformers universe; and the characters develop and change enough over the course of the series to keep them from getting stagnant.
Season two opens with the destruction of one of the two moons orbiting the mysterious planet the Transformers had crashed on, and the realization that they were actually on Earth all along, though in the distant past. As the two seasons continue, the connections to the old series continue to grow more and more important; which, aside from being absolute catnip to the fans, also lends the series a level of depth far outpacing its children’s series styling.
The fighting in the first season was silly and Loony-Tunes-like. With the second season, it takes on a slightly more serious tone, even resulting in a few deaths. This gives the show a bit more tension, as there are now actual consequences to losing.
A big theme in these two seasons involves the characters ‘upgrading’ to ‘transmetal’ forms, and later to ‘transmetal 2’ forms. The new character designs make the show look fresh, but at the end of the day, they’re just a scam to make kids buy toys of the same character two or three times.
This second volume of Beast Wars is a significant improvement over the first. The tone is more serious, the characters are a deeper, and the story arc finds a direction. Aside from a few concessions to the Hasbro Toys marketing department, it is a respectable story and character driven show.