Transformers was one of those cartoon series with a general plot that was so simplistic yet original that you could kick yourself for never coming up with such a lucrative idea on your own. And because of this unexpected marriage between cosmic civil war and robots that transform into vehicles, the minds behind the show’s creation saw dollar signs in their eyes for every one of the 98 episodes — they really couldn’t end the series at an impressive 100 episodes? — that aired from 1984 to 1987; not including the 1986 movie that pretty much let the executives of Hasbro and Sunbow Productions buy party yachts.
But with so many episodes and a movie having been produced within such a short span of time, it is safe to say that quantity over quality was definitely the mantra for the companies pulling the puppet strings behind the cartoon (which isn’t to say that every episode was terrible, there were some really memorable ones).
Some awful episodes were more tolerable than others, but which truly horrendous ones stand out from the rest? Find out in 10 of the worst episodes of Transformers! It goes without saying that Daniel and Wheelie make appearances on this list, yes?
10) Golden Lagoon
Finding a not so well-hidden lagoon of mysterious golden liquid — looking suspiciously like sparkling urine — that makes any Transformer temporarily invincible upon contact with the stuff, the Autobot Beachcomber watches in dismay as his discovery is used by the Decepticons for their own nefarious deeds (which is something any Autobot should learn by now when they get emotionally attached to anything).
Lazy plot aside, the location of the lagoon looks like it was pulled out of a Disney movie (i.e. furry little critters and a fairy tale-like ambiance); Beachcomber even has his own Snow White moment with the animals that just feels completely out of place and forced for a cheap laugh (if any). And the episode’s ending is nothing short of depressing. Like nearly every episode of Transformers, the denouement always ended with the series’ trademark triumphant fanfare that lets you know the day is saved, job well done, we can all go home now, and so on. But not this time!
After the Autobots and Decepticons’ standoff for control of the lagoon, the once cute and cuddly forest is rendered a charred and smoking wasteland with Beachcomber lamenting over the hollow victory. Do any of his fellow Autobots come over and reassure him that they’ll work tirelessly to make the land beautiful again? No. The entire scene simply fades to black and we’re left to assume that all the animals slowly die from the gaping wounds caused by any misfire and general destruction of their habitat. (Season 2, Episode 27)
9) A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur’s Court
The Transformers cartoon series was really no different from any other in that it too was forced to have at least one obligatory Arthurian episode within its entire run. In typical paint-by-numbers fashion, the Autobots, Spike and the Decepticons find themselves trapped in medieval England after stumbling through a mystical time gate or somesuch and do nothing to make sure they tread carefully in order to prevent tearing the course of history asunder.
Not once do the Autobots consider the repercussions of driving around the medieval countryside side in their vehicle forms, nor is Spike, at any point, chased by angry villagers and burned at the stake for being a purported warlock (“To Hades with the warlock who wears trousers of den-um!”). And to top off their indifference to the intended course of history, both the Autobots and Decepticons participate in a huge battle that was sparked by a dispute over cows, because the kids at home might not understand more sensical inciting incidents like regicide or misinterpreted religious mandate.
In the end everyone manages to make it back to 1985 without any damage to themselves or time, save for the history books now mentioning a clinically insane warrior of metal named “Warpath” that spoke entirely in onomatopoeia… (S2, Ep. 38)
8) Child’s Play
Really, what is it with the Autobots and Decepticons’ penchant for having their fights send them through a portal and into another time or world? But I digress, the episode “Child’s Play” tells the story of the Transformers ending up on a planet of gigantic beings where they themselves are no bigger than action figures and nearly end up as the playthings of an alien boy named Aron.
From there the Transformers find themselves under the dissection scalpel when they’re captured by the planet’s science institute; because the best way to understand a newly discovered sentient race of technological marvels is through torturous death by evisceration. While the plot itself isn’t exactly poetry, the whole episode did a really poor job of hiding the fact that the cartoon series (like any other that’s pressured to carry a line of toys) was one big commercial.
C’mon, the fact that the Transformers were the size of their toy aisle counterparts was just blatant and might as well have made a reference to Walmart. Not only that, but “Child’s Play” was just a boring episode, pure and simple. It’s easy to tell it was one of those episodes that was meant to fill a season quota (hey, it’s better than a clip show). But think about it, when you pop in your DVD of the second season, are you going to watch this episode or one that has Dinobots in it? (S2, Ep. 30)
7) Autobot Spike
After watching Sparkplug (Spike’s father) nearly destroy their base of operations with his latest robotic creation Autobot X, the Autobots immediately respond to an emergency alert of Megatron and his Decepticons causing run-of-the-mill mayhem at yet another power station… or military base… or laboratory (they all really do look the same on the show).
Tagging along like always, Spike is injured during the battle, with the only hope of a successful operation involving the transference of his pea-sized and feeble human mind into a temporary receptacle until the medical procedure is complete. So what do Sparkplug and Wheeljack propose? Place his mind into the unstable and out of control Autobot X instead actually taking the time to think of better alternatives.
Constantly trying to find an outlet to indulge in his dark and long-held desire to experiment on humans, Wheeljack successfully transfers Spike’s mind… leading to a redux of the base’s destruction. After Spike’s first freakout over his new horrific form, Wheeljack screws it all up again by letting him watch the last movie any person insecure with their monstrous physical appearance should: Frankenstein.
This of course leads to destructive freakout number two. Hey, Wheeljack, why don’t you just let Spike walk off his pent-up frustrations through a carnival hall of mirrors? Because if storytelling tropes have taught us anything, we all know how something like that always turns out! (S2, Ep. 17)
6) Surprise Party
And so we begin the first of two episodes that center around the one character that fills the heart of every Transformers fan with seething, venomous hate: Daniel Witwicky. The episode opens with Spike and the Autobots throwing Daniel an undeserved surprise party that is quickly interrupted by a Decepticon attack meant to halt the progress of an intergalactic peace conference, something that seemed to happen a lot in the third season.
After the battle, Daniel and Wheelie see how selfless and courageous Ultra Magnus was during the fight — qualities that the two are severely lacking, besides intelligence — and decide to throw him a surprise party as thanks… except for one little snag: They don’t know when his “birthday” is. As you can imagine, their little quest for answers snowballs into an unstoppable force of annoying that ends with Wheelie and Daniel being held for ransom by Cyclonus and the Decepticons.
Naturally the Autobots are given an ultimatum: Destroy the asteroid Daniel and Wheelie are on before it collides with Cybertron and the peace conference, or ensure dystopia and anarchy throughout the known universe by letting the asteroid wipe out the peace delegates in exchange for the life of Daniel. Because this is a cartoon, of course the Autobots are able to accomplish both without the loss of life.
But if this were the real world, they would’ve been quick to go with the first option with no qualms of any kind — especially with the prospect of stress-induced ulcers caused by Daniel’s bullshit being a thing of the past! “Daniel, this is daddy. Look, mommy and I love you… but, to be honest, not that much. Happy birthday! End transmission.” (S3, Ep. 77)
5) Carnage in C-Minor
Plot-wise, “Carnage in C-Minor” isn’t one of the greatest episodes of the third season. The Autobots and the Decepticons end up on the planet Eurythma — a world where everyone talks in a grating sing-song pattern that’s way too similar to that of Wheelie; by Primus, it’s like a nightmare made real.
Not to mention that the voice actors were far from being professionally trained singers and are guilty of rampant stretched syllables and other lyrical atrocities. But what really puts this episode on the map of awful are the innumerable — and downright embarrassing — animation errors that make “Carnage in C-Minor” nearly impossible to watch (unless you get a kick out of spotting the inconsistencies for a good laugh).
Everything from disproportioned characters to Decepticons fighting alongside Autobots to Galvatron holding Soundwave’s hand (he was probably helping him get across the street), this episode is proof that the overseas studio charged with animation duties had no clear grasp of the Transformers series and the entire animation team was getting fired after this episode’s completion. So, really, why bother putting in the effort? (S3, Ep. 79)
4) The Girl Who Loved Powerglide
Poor, poor Powerglide. The one time the guy gets his own episode and it has to be one of the worst of the second season. The story centers around Powerglide having to, reluctantly, act as a bodyguard for the sole surviving heir of a major technology corporation, Astoria Carlton-Ritz (do you — do you get the joke there?).
Trying to stay one step ahead of Megatron and the Decepticons — who think Astoria has the plans to some kind of secret formula — Powerglide practically ends up a babysitter to a grown woman that whines and demands constant attention and entertainment more than a child; she actually makes Daniel, by comparison, tolerable. Nah, scratch that one, but you have to admit it’s definitely foreshadowing darker things to come.
Anyway, after a tiring day of getting kidnapped by Decepticons and being rescued, Astoria begins to like Powerglide more than a friend, and vice-versa. This is America, and if they want to get together, so be it. But how Powerglide would be able to consummate their union without inadvertently killing Astoria, well, that’s something not even the combined think tank of Wheeljack, Perceptor and Ratchet could figure out… unless, of course, it’s Fan Fiction Friday… (S2, Ep. 51)
3) Nightmare Planet
Experiencing days of sleep deprivation due to Daniel’s incessant nightmares — with one involving a murderous Galvatron that would make any Daniel-hating Transformers fan stand up and cheer — Spike and Rodimus Prime are unable to pinpoint the reasons for his night terrors with Rodimus, in all of his infinite wisdom, suggesting that Daniel dream of him as a means of feeling better (okay, ew).
Meanwhile, the Quintessons devise one of the darkest and twisted plans in the entire history of their species: Use a machine that projects Daniel’s already deranged nightmares onto Cybertron and soon the entire galaxy! Now the thing with Daniel’s nightmares are that, aside from Galvatron, they mostly consist of the classic monsters from those Universal horror movies — the same ones that couldn’t even send the pee-pee running down the leg of the most cowardly and jumpy of individuals.
Still, they’re apparently driving Daniel into nocturnal hysterics and indicative of a rough, socially awkward life ahead. Second, “Nightmare Planet” seems to follow the creed of the Transformers writer: “When in doubt, go medieval.” Like “A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur’s Court” and “Madman’s Paradise” before it, this episode falls back on typical medieval mythos to add some kind of plot to the story; a princess, a dragon, a magic weapon to defeat the aforementioned dragon, that sort of thing. Combine that with a Daniel-centric plot and you got an episode that belongs in the toilet. (S3, Ep. 84)
When we watch Transformers, we expect as much giant robot battle action as we can handle with the human element kept to an acceptable minimum; not the case for the episode “B.O.T.” The writer thought it would be nice for a change to put the focus on a group of students working on a science project in robotics (always riveting).
Two high school delinquents are given a chance to redeem themselves for their lackluster academic track record by pairing with the class egghead and work on a project together. Remember, these are delinquents which by their very definition means they’re dumb as a post. Like a scene straight out of Good Will Hunting, one of the two class dumbasses not only proposes building a robot, but goes as far as demonstrating a complex understanding of both robotic engineering and artificial intelligence (now that’s some major suspension of disbelief).
And guess what the three use as the robot’s artificial brain? That of Brawl, one of the most violent and boisterous Decepticons (it’s a long story how this happened). So basically their robot, as a result of the Decepticon influence, goes on a rampage without, unbelievably, any loss of life. And this somehow all culminates with the students stopping Megatron from blasting the moon out of its orbit… or something like that. Yeah, definitely not the greatest episode. (S2, Ep. 65)
1) Hoist Goes Hollywood
What Hasbro never wanted Transformers fans to know, to avoid inciting public hysteria, was that series writer Earl Kress was the Nostradamus of his time — a seer that prophesied world events in the episodes that he penned. Chief among them, the episode “Hoist Goes Hollywood” foretold the coming of the greatest evil to descend upon the Transformers fandom. “The Dark Prince of Pyrotechnics.” “The Despoiler of Beloved Franchises.” Michael Bay.
The episode tells the story of Hoist catching the eye of an overzealous movie director that urges him to star in his film, thus necessitating a rewrite (much to the chagrin of the actors and staff). Like any film directed by Mikey B., the movie is nothing more than nonsensical action scenes that have little or nothing to do with the plot at hand (which mostly consist of crashing into walls and buildings).
Eventually more Autobots come on set for a piece of the fame and find themselves subject to the same trite action sequences as well as scenes that depict them totally out of character and display Bay’s impeccable talent for dialogue… just like in the real world. There was a scene in the episode involving Devastator and his balls, but the network censors at the time wouldn’t have it, obviously. (S3, Ep. 84)
Credits: Topless Robot