THE BATTLE FOR GOBOTRON
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: 08/09/1984
WRITERS: Alan Burnett, Jeff Segal and Tom Ruegger
The Intrepid is able to avoid the ship, but the satellite is destroyed. NASA haven't picked up the ship, so the mission commander - Matt Hunter - sets off after Thruster, with cadets AJ and Nick in tow. Thruster lands in a desert, at which point Cop-Tur attacks the Intrepid. The three humans escape, but are pursued by the Renegades. The Guardians arrive just in time to drive them off, but Turbo is damaged by Cy-Kill. The Renegades return quickly, and the Guardians are soon pinned down behind Leader-1's forcefield. However, a NASA recovery team arrives on the scene, and both sets of Gobots slip away to avoid discovery. Matt and the cadets are left to explain to NASA, who don't believe them.
episode is the first of a five-part mini-series - effectively a pilot
for the Challenge of the Gobots series. A number of things would
change for the remaining episodes. NASA would also be rebranded as UNECOM
after this mini-series, while a number of minor characters' models would
be updated. The whole five-parter was released in compilation form on
VHS, simply titled Gobots. This was released on Vision Video Limited's
Kideo Video label on both sides of the Atlantic, with promotional art
of Baron Von Joy (who wasn't in it) slapped on the front. I'm working
from this release for the reviews, and while the fades are left in, I've
had to go with best guesses for where one episode ends and another starts
- feel free to contact
me if I've made an error with this.
Gobotron is located in the milky way, and has day and night. It's enough of a distance away that hyperspeed has to be used to reach it (this is hyperspace without pissing Lucas off - a similar but cheaper effect is also used). At this point, both the Command Center and Thruster seem to be one-of-a-kind deals - later both sides managed to mass-produce their ships. Thruster has a cloaking device, the Command center a 'walker' mode. The Gobots seem to have heard of Earth before, or at least don't need to expand on what or where it is beyond naming it (see "In Search of Ancient Gobonauts"). The Astro-Beam can project someone over a massive distance, but only for a temporary period (we never get an exact definition, it tends to flex accrding to the needs of the scripts).
All Gobots can fly in robot mode - some have questioned what the point is in, say, Leader-1 even having an alt mode in this case, but it's pretty obvious to guess - he's probably faster and more manoverable in his jet mode. And yes, Crasher is female. They actually manage to explain this (well, you can work it out) later on. Hans-Cuff can fire lasers from his light-bar when in police cruiser mode. Leader-1 seems to be a subcommander, answerable to Zeemon and the Guardian Council (he also orders Cy-Kill to surrender "in the name of the Federation"). Rather than being the leader of the faction, he's more a Chief of Police. Not sure if Zod qualifies as a Gobot - he seems more a slightly intelligent tool rather than something genuinely sentient. Fitor is shown to be Cy-Kill's second in command (he's a bit of a treacherous lieutenant at this stage, but is soon reformatted into a loyal right-hand robot). Scooter can track spaceships to an impressive degree. Cy-Kill can fire lasers from his eyes, even when in motorcycle mode. Anyone with a cockpit seems able to carry a human in either mode. Leader-1 has a forcefield in robot mode.
Featured: Crasher, Cy-Kill, Cop-Tur, Rest-Q, Hans-Cuff, Leader-1,
Turbo, Zeemon, Scooter, Geeper-Creeper, Tank, Fitor, BuggyMan, Path Finder,
Particularly Glaring Errors: When he stashes the Astro-Beam, Cop-Tur's chest seems completely hollow. Jeeper-Creeper can be briefly glimpsed with the Guardians attacking the Fortress. As the Fortress returns fire the Guardians are travelling on a weird orange grid background that is either unintentional, or completely doesn't fit with the rest of Gobotron - also, one of those scattered is Scooter, who's meant to be onboard the Command Center with Leader-1. There's a grey grid background behind Thruster as it blasts away, too - this I'm more inclined to think is an artisitic choice, but it looks very cheap. The view from the inside of Leader-1 bears no relation to the actual canopy on the jet. NASA's helicopters fly sideways in perfect formation. When they arrive, Cy-Kill orders the Renegades back to the Command Center. Talking of which, the Guardian ship doesn't seem to be cloaked, so how come it didn't show up on any NASA scanners?
Moments of Actual Quality: The painted backdrops of Gobotron are really nicely done, especially those orbital platforms which we never really find out much about. That and, erm, there's some seriously funky porno music as Turbo attacks Crasher on Earth.
Unintentional Hilarity: Cy-Kill looks appalling in bike mode with a neck and head. I can deal with Hans-Cuff having his face on the underside of his car mode, but this is just awful.
A surprisingly punchy start to the series, though the faster scenes on Gobotron work better. When the action hits Earth everything slows right down, and the episode ends in something of an anticlimax. The human characters don't come across at all - you can see why everyone else thinks Matt's a bit of an arse - he does basically nick and destroy an expensive spaceship largely on a whim. Braxis isn't much better, so luridly characterised it's obvious even at this stage that he's up to something.
The animation starts off mediocre, but also gets worse on Earth, where the robots contrast badly with the realistic airbrushed desert backgrounds - while the humans especially expose Hanna-Barbera's simplistic renderings and appallingly slight frame-rate. As a one-episode pilot establishing the basics, this would work nicely, but the tacked-on stuff with the humans drags us into a rather flimsy "No-one believes them!" plot.