Chapter 10: The Factory of Death
The Protectons manage to escape the conveyor belt leading to the furnace through Bront configuring into a ladder, but they end up on a factory floor with the Terrakors at the controls. Giant bulldozer bots roll in, separating the Protectons and driving each to either a press, or a smelting roller, or a pit compressor in the ground, or units that start taking them apart. Overrun, Argus signals Compucore.
In the Robotix manufacturing room, Zarru and Flexor, with the help of Compucore, figure there's enough stray parts to finish assembling the Robotix. They do so, and Compucore gives it the essence of a dim-witted Protecton named Boltar. They get the distress signal from the others and Zarru takes to the controls and interfaces with Boltar.
The Protectons are almost done for when Boltar rips up through the floor. Unable to free everyone at once, Zarru has him attack the Terrakors in the control room. The villains are beaten into yet another retreat, and the heroes are saved in the nick of time. Boltar is welcomed into the group and assigned Flexor as his human interface. Zarru objects, but Exeter dismisses the kid because of his age and the danger involved.
Bitter, yet eager to prove himself, Zarru takes a scout craft out and locates the Terrakors. He also sees a mysterious massive shadow in the water below, but the distraction causes him to lose control and his craft clips a few trees before plunging towards a mountain.
Chapter 11: Zarru Takes the Plunge
Zarru manages to keep just enough control to safely crash the craft in a snowbank. Back at Zanadon, everyone has been frantically searching for the boy. They finally ask Compucore, who tells them exactly what happened and where Zarru is. They set out in pursuit, but it's slow going and the Protectons are running out of energy. Argus points to Siliton Mountain and says they can restock on energy crystals once they find the boy.
The Terrakors are searching through the show-capped mountain and come across the lake with the shadowy form in its waters. It's the Terrastar, still intact. Without Compucore to pilot the craft, Nemesis decides to try hooking a Robotix with its interfaced human to see if that'll do the trick. Since nobody volunteers, the task is assigned to the idiotic Goon and his egomaniacal human Lupus.
Goon and Lupus manage to reactivate the Terrastar and lift it from the waters, but systems start shorting out, the ship fills with smoke, and it's not long before it crashes into a hill and is partially buried under an avalanche. Goon rolls out, wracked with pain. He's chewed out and dismissed by Nemesis, and Lupus gives up on this band of misfits and runs off. When Goon trudges off with his tail between his legs, Zarru, who's been watching from a hilltop, spots the open control console and leaps in, trying to force an interface with Goon. Goon starts hitting himself and crashing into rocks, then plows into the other Terrakors. The struggles eventually shakes Zarru out of the console and he's rescued by the arriving Protectons. The Terrakors retreat.
The Protectons now focus their attention on Siliton Mountain as they start the slow climb to the top. The Terrakors are lying in wait. When the Protectons reach the midpoint, Tyrannix blasts a wall of ice with his flame thrower and sends crashing waves of water to wash the Protectons off the mountain.
Chapter 12: Attack of the Rock Creatures
Boltar is the only Protecton with any energy left, so he configures himself into a dam to halt the flow of water and allow the others to catch up. Taking advantage of their lead, the Terrakors start searching for the crystals, but they enter a foggy patch and don't realize until too late that their numbers are being picked off, one by one, by giant cyclopean rock creatures. When the Protectons catch up, they're attacked and captured by the creatures, too.
The creatures haul all the Robotix to an underground chamber of rock structures and pools of magma. The humans - dubbed "organic vermin" by the creatures - are dumped in a pit while the Robotix are all clustered in a Stonehenge-style prison. While good and bad sides banter and begrudgingly put their heads together, they witness the creatures literally eating the needed energy crystals, and dunking the captured human space ship into magma and fusing it to structures on the wall.
As the humans break into an argument, everyone goes quiet when growls are revealed to be coming from large dog-like creatures that appear from a cave and head towards them with slavering jaws. In the Robotix cell, the Protectons wonder what happened to Jerrok, then spot him saying his farewells as the creatures lower him into the magma pit.
Most 80s cartoons featured one of two unwelcome tropes: the cowardly but good-hearted “cute” sidekick (Orko, Snarf), or the annoyingly plucky and resourceful kid (Scrappy Doo, The Copper Kid). In some cases, you got both, such as Scott Trakker and his craven robo-moped T-Bob from M.A.S.K.. When the focus of an episode turned to that type of dynamic duo, you got animated suckage to the 2nd power. For whatever reason, the powers that be assumed that kids needed one of their own to relate to. So against all logic, reason, and several international laws against child endangerment, there they were. No matter how dangerous the situation got, The Super Team never hesitated to let Timmy and Doug the Wonder Dog tag along. Is this the kind of stuff home school kids get to do all day? Because if so, I feel even more robbed by my public school education than usual.
“A field trip to a dairy farm. Do the cows at least shoot lasers out of their udders?"
Robotix has its own annoyingly plucky kid in the form of Zarru. Cut from the same “Hey, let’s make him look like Danny Partridge!” cloth as most 80s cartoon side-kids, Zarru has started to become the focal human of the series. Sure, he’s been poking his freckled nose into the narrative for a while now, but he’s clearly taken center stage away from our would be adult hero, Exeter Galaxon, who must be too busy with his side job as a John Tesh look-a-like (as you can imagine, they’re quite in demand in the far reaches of the galaxy) to lead his people to freedom. Given that the rest of the good humans have all the zest of a cold bowl of porridge, I suppose it could be worse. Still, I find Zarru and his zit-faced tenacity annoying. I go back to my statement from the previous Showcase: “Kids ruin everything.”
As for this block of episodes, I was wondering when all of this robot wrastlin’ was finally gonna send both sides scrambling to find some
Logic faults aside, it’s on the mountain that things begin to take off and the growing need for energy does a great job of highlighting the inner-dynamics of the two sides. As the situation grows more desperate, the Protectons and their human counterparts rally together while the Terrakors and theirs become more selfish. It’s certainly nothing new in this type of show, but it’s the can-do spirit of our heroes that lifts our own, and the back-stabbing narcissism of the villains that makes us laugh. The episode ends on a cliffhanger for both our human and Robtix characters, and I actually found myself caring if they survived or not. You know, I think I’ve finally started to bond with these characters just a little bit. Except, Zarru. He’s still a little douche.
Tony, the Robotix haven't been around all that long. When they did the flashback episode, it revealed they'd been awoken in their new forms and began their conflict very shortly before the humans arrived, so that's likely the reason why they haven't had to recharge yet, and why they don't have such crystals stored up in any fashion. If they'd been awake longer, it wouldn't have taken them so long to hunt down their respective capital cities.
That's about the only thing I can explain, though, as I have to wonder if this batch of episodes has suddenly jumped to a new writing team. The focus on the characters and style of dialogue has a different feel to it, with more energy spent on their interplay than on the plotting, which has has suddenly slowed down. Also, there's a few big inconsistencies. In the last batch, it was clearly stated that the incomplete Robotix (finished here as Boltar) they found couldn't be assembled by the factory he was in because the power source for the entire city is what went up in a fiery explosion. Now, not only is that furnace I poked at then still running, but the Terrakors are operating an entire chamber full of housed equipment, and Boltar is suddenly being assembled by, yes, the factory that couldn't be turned on. That's a HUGE fail of the writing team. Also, when Nemesis arrived at Terrakopia, he mourned not just for the crushing of his city by a glacier, but because that's where the Terrastar was housed, and that it was likely destroyed as well. But now he's suddenly searching for the craft again, which just so happens to be randomly placed in a lake.
This has all the hallmarks of a writer either leaving or being canned and everything that was done up to that point being shoved in the hands of someone else who had to pick up the pieces as best he could. That would also explain why a rather straight-forward storyline of humans trying to survive in the midst of a robotic battle on an alien world suddenly veers off in some bizarre directions. I don't mind the Robotix needing to replenish their power (especially Terranix, who has his foot thrusters running pretty much non-stop), but it's never been set up prior to this point, it's inconsistant in how it's used as Boltar isn't the only Robotix to have been activated more recently, and it completely abandons the already established struggle of the humans looking for sources of food. The bad guys have all the stock from the ship, but it won't last them long. The good guys got their hands on some seaweed, but we never see them having to settle for that unfortunate diet, and again, won't last them long. Also, the search for the crystals suddenly blurs us into a chapter of Inhumanoids as we meet the cyclopian rock creatures living in a lava city. Seriously, where the hell did they come from and what was the point of plopping them in this late in the game when the otherwise straightforward conflict of survival should instead be gearing up towards its climax? The way both sides are completely overrun and forced to share their fates is compelling, but it comes through too random a twist. And why did they do what they did to the human space ship? They took one of the key elements of the central struggle, melted it down, and stuck it to the wall, likely making it completely useless in the process.
I don't like this. I agree with Tony that the characters are starting to stand out just a hair more and I'm curious to see where things go as they're forced to stand together against a shared threat, but the situation that brings it about is pure nonsense that has nothing to do with anything that's been established to this point. Hell, it even has me wondering if this section was done by Dille as this shares many similarities with the race of slaver snail creatures that suddenly showed up out of nowhere for no reason on Inhumanoids. Or maybe this is the point where Roger Slifer took over writing duties from Booth. I'm not familiar enough with his writing to identify it as his, but he's in the credits and Dille isn't, so he's the more likely candidate. This certainly isn't Booth's writing anymore. (Presumably, I should add. Gah, I wish there were appropriate credits on this show because, knowing my luck, what I'm attributing to Booth could be Slifer, and vice versa. I've got a good feeling I'm spotting Booth correctly, but fully admit I'm guessing, so appologies to both if I'm miscrediting their work.)
I don't hate Zarru as much as Tony, but I agree with his point that the kid is there just to have a kid. Him getting a Robotix is something I've expected for some time now, so I've made peace with it, but him flying out in a jet and getting himself into a mess of trouble after he's already proven himself, and then getting hugs instead of admonishment for the danger he put everyone in is pure bull. And why is he paired up with Boltar? And why is Boltar Grimlock? We already have the lunkeaded grunt muscle of the group in the form of Bront, who's temper and bluntness has already made him the most prominently explored character, so why create someone else who's pretty much just him cranked up to the extreme of talking in the third person in broken sentences and being around for no reason but to hit people hard? Boltar is annoying because he's unecessary. He's a character we already have, exaggerated to a degree I don't want, and pairing him up with Zarru doubles the annoyance.
Now, all this said, there's still some good moments in this stretch. I mentioned the increasing focus on characters. Add to that the sequence of Goon and Lupus forced to interface with the Terrastar, and the disastrous results. And Zarru trying to force an interface with Goon. And everyone still failing to remember Compucore isn't a person and doesn't react to things the same way they would.
So this stretch is a mixed bag. There's some good stuff and the attention given to the characters is welcome, but the plotting hits some major contradictions and takes some unnecessary twists this late in the game. If this visible change in the writing is what's taking us into the final three chapters, I'm a little worried about what type of resolution we'll get. Inhumanoids (for the initial pilot run) and Bigfoot both had definite endings, so I'm not worried about too many loose threads here, but will it be a wrapup that has anything to do with the payoff, or has the change in hands led us into a new direction that'll leave certain issues unresolved simply because they've been forgotten?
Tune in next Sunday as we wrap up Robotix with chapters 13-15.