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This is Sacred Icon, a blog posting Top Ten lists, opinion pieces, reviews and other content related to many different sci-fi franchises, including Doctor Who, Halo, Star Wars and Star Trek. This blog also features reviews and Top Ten lists of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays, and also occasionally hosts showcases for my own custom Dalek collection. Feel free to browse the category list, or click the categories in the menu above, to browse posts on the site, and don’t forget to follow the blog for updates on new posts and leave a like on any posts you enjoy.

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Transformers – Optimus Prime’s Top 5 Most Brutal Kills in the Movies

As leader of the Autobots, one would assume that Optimus Prime would have to be a particularly righteous kind of individual, and this is certainly true across all the incarnations of the character throughout the Transformers multiverse. Even in universes in which Optimus is not the leader of the Autobots, such as in Transformers: Animated, he is still defined by his code of ethics and strict adherence to the moral philosophy that freedom is the right of all sentient beings. This also goes for the version of Optimus Prime seen in the Michael Bay movies, as even in a franchise that doesn’t always get it right when it comes to character development, the fundamentals of the character of Optimus Prime are there. However, this version of the character also has a tendency to get violent – really violent. So despite believing that freedom is the right of all sentient beings, he is perfectly happy to rip the head off a lumbering Decepticon or tear the spine out of a weaker foe if the need arises. So, in honour of this Optimus Prime’s apparent double-standards when it comes to preaching to his Autobots compared to slaughtering Decepticons, here are the Top 5 of Optimus Prime’s Most Brutal Kills.

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#5 – Bonecrusher

The first entry on the list also happens to be the Autobot leader’s first on-screen kill in the movie franchise, and that is the legendary decapitation of Bonecrusher following a lengthy battle on a highway near the climax of the first Transformers film. Bonecrusher transforms and uses his rollerskating wheel feet to rampage down the highway, destroying cars and even a bus along the way. Clearly angered by the senseless loss of life, Optimus also transforms and, following a brawl spanning multiple levels of elevated highway and a punch in the face from Optimus that pops one of his eyes out of its socket, Bonecrusher is finally put down by Optimus’ blade. In an epic finishing move that let fans know immediately that this incarnation of Prime meant business, he stabs his blade into Bonecrusher’s neck, severing his spine, and then rips his head off, tossing it to the floor. Though it is certainly a brutal kill, Bonecrusher’s death ranks fairly low on this list, as many will agree that the beserking Decepticon deserved it.

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#4 – Demolisher

A controversial kill of Prime’s from the opening sequence of Revenge of the Fallen, Demolisher was essentially a Decepticon minding his own business – hiding in his alt-form in Shanghai, watching over smaller Decepticon Sideways and generally doing nothing in particular – that is until the Autobots and their N.E.S.T. allies come along, draw him out of hiding and then execute him, and his weaker Audi-R8 charge. What makes this kill particularly brutal is the fact that, after jumping on his head and causing serious damage to his wheels, Optimus essentially executes a critically injured and helpless opponent, in a similar manner to how Ratchet meets his fate at Lockdown’s hands in the opening of Age of Extinction. However, it has to be said that Demolisher was clearly as bloodthirsty as any Decepticon, since he went out of his way to cause as much destruction as possible during his attempted escape, even flinging helpless cars hundreds of feet into the air seemingly for the fun of it.

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#3 – Megatron

It might seem odd to include Megatron on this list, as many would assume that killing the Decepticon leader would be justified regardless of how brutal that actual execution itself happened to be. The conclusion to Dark of the Moon presents a very dubious moral decision on Optimus’ part, however, as after the destruction of Cybertron, Megatron offers a truce to the Autobot leader in exchange for deposing Sentinel and taking his rightful place as leader of the Decepticons, all after intervening in the nick of time to save Optimus’ life by attacking Sentinel Prime at the opportune moment. And Optimus’ response to the proposed truce? Well, as any level-headed and forward-thinking leader would, Optimus takes the opportunity to bury his axe in Megatron’s face and tear out the Decepticon Leader’s spine. This act genuinely took many fans by surprise, as one would think that after three films of constant warfare, Optimus would be sick of the senseless slaughter by now. But no, he seems to take great pleasure in brutally murdering his former brother, and he then goes on to make mincemeat of a defenceless Sentinel for good measure. Speaking of which…

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#2 – Sentinel Prime

After ripping off Optimus’ arm and attempting to murder him, some might say that Optimus’ execution of Sentinel at the conclusion of Dark of the Moon was justified. But considering Sentinel and Optimus’ long history, particularly in light of Sentinel’s genuine plea to Optimus before the end that the only reason why he betrayed the Autobot leader was to ensure the survival of their species, it would probably have made more sense for Optimus to spare Sentinel’s life, particularly considering what came next. If Sentinel were alive, he could have stood trial for his crimes against humanity and perhaps even taken the majority of the blame for the devastation of Chicago, rather than the general public simply turning their anger on all Transformers given the fact that Optimus had ripped the spines out of every Decepticon commander who could have taken any of the blame. What is also particularly brutal about Sentinel’s death is the manner in which it is done – despite firing at Sentinel’s exposed braincase with fusion shotgun at point-blank range, Optimus fires a second time to make sure the job is done, just for good measure. Well, at least Ironhide got his revenge.

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Honourable Mention – The Fallen

Whilst the Fallen can basically be blamed for the events of the entire Autobot-Decepticon war, and therefore all the deaths that have ever taken place in the Transformers series (even after his demise), the Fallen’s death at the end of Revenge of the Fallen as an honourable mention simply because of how truly brutal this kill is. After making mincemeat of Megatron and relieving the Fallen of his staff, Optimus stabs him in the neck and, uttering the infamous quote “Give Me Your Face”, Prime quite literally tears off the Fallen’s face, and the horrified Fallen makes a desperate attempt to flee. This proves to be a short-lived endeavour, as Optimus takes the oppurtunity to punch through the Fallen’s back, rip out his spark core, and crush it before his very eyes. A justified kill perhaps, but certainly a gruesome way to die regardless.

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#1 – Grindor

Taking the top spot is another of Optimus’ kills from Revenge of the Fallen – Grindor. The unfortunate third Decepticon in the three-versus-one battle in the forest who is grossly outmatched compared to Prime, even with Megatron and Starscream around, Grindor tries his best in the forest battle – he comes when Megatron calls, and plays his part in the three Decepticon’s coordinated attack on Optimus to draw out Sam, but he never really stood a chance. As soon as Optimus goes ballistic on the trio, drawing out both blades and apparently intent on murdering them all, Grindor loses and arm before having a significant portion of his chest cut out, which understandably takes him out of the battle for a while to recover – and mere moments after extracted one of Optimus’ blades from his leg, Grindor is taken by surprise as Optimus leaps onto the giant Decepticon’s back, stabbing him in the eye with a hook blade in the process, before stabbing his neck with the other hook blade and tearing the guy’s face apart. Judging by the blood-curdling metallic scream that Grindor lets out as this is happening, the process was far from painless.

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Doctor Who – Top 5 Monsters That Should Make a Return in Series 12

Chris Chibnall definitely delivered on his promise of featuring no returning monsters in Series 11, which was perhaps not the wisest choice for the debut series of a new Doctor and new showrunner. Usually, when a new Doctor is introduced, their first series will retain many recurring elements from the show’s history, to reassure viewers that it is indeed the same show. This is usually done by having the new Doctor face off against classic villains such as the Daleks, and is part of the reason why fans will always yearn for the show’s recurring villains to make continuous comebacks – as the show evolves, the essential aspects of the show’s identity must evolve with it, and there is no reason why new showrunners can’t introduce their own recurring villains, such as the Ood, the Weeping Angels or the Stenza.

Having said that, Series 11 featured a distinct lack of classic villains, and although Resolution turned out to be quite a good Dalek story, it ‘s status as a New Years Special means that it was not included as part of the eleventh series. This makes Jodie Whittaker’s debut series seem quite odd and out of place compared to previous Doctor debut series – and as a result of the lack of truly great villains in the series to stand in for the lack of classic monsters, the Thirteenth Doctor’s character came across as somewhat flimsy and vague compared to recent Doctors like Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi. Perhaps in response to feedback from fans, Chibnall seems to have lifted his ‘ban’ on including classic monsters in the series, as he has stated in several interviews recently that he intends to do more with the show’s iconic monsters – after all, there is no better way to define yourself as a showrunner than to present fans with your spin on the show diverse array of key elements – the Doctor themselves, the TARDIS, the Sonic Screwdriver, but also the classic monsters. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the Top 5 Monsters That Should Make a Return in Series 11.

macra

#5 – The Macra

Though they may seem a strange choice for a returning monster, the Macra are actually quite a topical choice given the recent release of the animated version of The Macra Terror. This fantastic recreation of a lost classic using the original audio manages to capture the essence of the Second Doctor’s era and finally does the concept of the Macra justice, as their previous appearances in the original version of the episode and then in 2007’s Gridlock never managed to truly present the idea to its truest potential due to the sheer lack of budget. One of the things that Series 11 showed fans is that Doctor Who now has CGI to rival that of other modern sci-fi shows, and so now with Series 12 the writers might finally have a chance to write a new Macra story with the CGI budget to justify it.

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#4 – The Master

Audio producers Big Finish have been doing some very ambitious projects involving the Master recently – the first canon multi-Master story, The Two Masters, starring Geoffrey Beevers and Alex MacQueen, the War Master box sets starring Derek Jacobi, the introduction of the Master’s first incarnation played by James Dreyfus in the The First Doctor Adventures box sets, and more recently the return of Eric Roberts’ Movie incarnation and Michelle Gomez’ Missy, the latter getting her own audio series. With so many incarnations of the Master ‘active’ in fan’s minds at the moment, and with the Master also being a time-traveller like the Doctor, there is no reason why Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor couldn’t come up against one, or even several existing incarnations of the Master. Particularly good choices for Masters to go up against Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor on-screen include Geoffrey Beevers, who could be featured in heavy makeup or even as the voice of a CGI version of the rotting corpse Master, and Alex MacQueen, who has never had a TV appearance before but would be a fantastic choice to portray the charismatic yet sadistic killer to contrast Whittaker’s good natured Doctor.

time of the cybermen

#3 – The Cybermen

Having been primarily responsible for the death of her previous incarnation, it would make sense that the Thirteenth Doctor would have a bone to pick with the Cybermen. Not only that, but her diverse cast of companions perhaps best portrays the Doctor’s love of individuality and diversity – something that the Cybermen seek to destroy. Given that so far we have only been given one insight into Chris Chibnall’s take on the Cybermen, and that was Torchwood’s Cyberwoman, it would be nice to see Chibnall’s take on the standard Cybermen in the main show. Whilst Cyberwoman did have some really creepy and unique concepts dealing with Cyber-conversion in it, the unfortunate error with the costume design trying to emphasise the show’s adult nature derailed the episode. Now that he runs Doctor Who, however, Chibnall now has a chance to portray a fresh new take on the iconic metal men.

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#2 – The Sontarans

Having been practically transformed into a comedic joke during Steven Moffat’s era through Strax, the Sontarans stand in a sort of limbo-state at the moment, as all of their appearances – even ones that were not down to Strax – have been for comedic effect since Series 7, and at the moment it remains unlikely that they will ever make a return that can scare or intimidate viewers anymore. Interestingly, there were rumours during the run-up to the release of Series 11 that it would feature an episode that delved into the origin story of the Sontarans, how a ‘clone race’ was actually created, and how their warrior ethos came to be. Although it turned it to be false, the story idea remains a good one – and certainly one that Chris Chibnall could harness given the popularity of the concept.

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Honourable Mention – The Dalek Fleet

Included here as an honourable mention are the Daleks, or rather their Fleet, who should not make an appearance in Series 12 per-say, except maybe have them hinted at as a recurring arc for foreshadowing, as it and, of course, the pepperpots themselves should definitely reappear in the next New Years Special. The Recon Dalek in Resolution was prevented from sending a full transmission to the Dalek Fleet, but given that it was using every single transmitter on Earth at once, it is more than likely that something got through to them, and having Daleks on New Year is definitely something that many fans would happily adopt as an annual tradition.

stenza

#1 –  The Stenza

To give credit where it was certainly due, the Stenza were an interesting race introduced by Chris Chibnall, and as the only recurring enemy in the series, they are effectively Chibnall’s ‘poster’ villain at the moment. All the more reason for them to make a reappearance in Series 12, particularly considering the fact that we only saw an individual member of the race in the series and not, say, their homeworld. An episode called ‘Planet of the Stenza’ would certainly be an interesting concept, particularly as each warrior would have a unique appearance given the fact that each one hunts on a different planet – and so each one would have wholly unique teeth implanted into its face, presumably.

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Star Trek – Who Are the Cardassians?

Introduced midway through Star Trek: The Next Generation, the proud and draconian Cardassian race became one of the franchise’s most important factions during Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and went on to be as popular as classic Star Trek races like the Romulans and the Klingons. However, due to the fact that they were introduced to the series a lot later, and that they do not play a major role in any of the movies, The wider science fiction community has not been able to assimilate as much information about this species by osmosis as they have the aforementioned Klingons or the Borg. So for the benefit of those who are not as familiar with this fascinating species, we will be answering the question: Who Are the Cardassians?

To begin, let’s cover the basic details first – the Cardassians were introduced in the TNG episode ‘The Wounded’, a very influential episode in the show’s fourth season that also developed the backstory of popular character Miles O’Brien – so to say that this episode laid a lot of the groundwork for Deep Space Nine is an understatement. The episode establishes that the Cardassians recently fought a brief but brutal war with the Federation that ended following the signing of a treaty that established a shaky but lasting peace. However, a rogue Starfleet Captain and friend of Picard is convinced that the Cardassians are preparing for another war, and takes his ship on a vigilante mission to destroy as many Cardassian ships as possible whilst the crew of the Enterprise follow in hot pursuit, desperately trying to maintain the peace.

The political nature of a lot of the interactions between the Cardassians and the Federation in this episode would go on to establish a defining aspect of their personality as a species – snide, deceitful and callous but with an almost Machiavellian understanding of the intricacies of intergalactic diplomacy. Unlike the Romulans, who are almost all presented as being rude and crass in their xenophobia, the Cardassians often maintain a charming external visage when talking with their rivals that masks their sinister scheming. A perfect example of this is the Deep Space Nine character Garak, who weaves complicated webs of deception and engages in quick-witted diplomatic spats with other characters while wearing a devious wide-eyed grin. In some ways Garak embodies everything that defines the Cardassian psychology – he is almost transparently deceptive, but to the extent that it is often hard to know when he is actually telling the truth. However, what differentiates Garak from your average Cardassian is that he is eventually able to gain some facet of trust from the Federation.

One of the traits that Cardassians are best known for, particularly among Alpha Quadrant races, is their untrustworthy nature. Almost every race, even the Ferengi and the Romulans, regard the Cardassians as among the most untrustworthy races in the Galaxy. This is perhaps an unfair assessment, as even though Star Trek often utilises a simplistic ‘planet of hats’ style of species design, there have been examples of Cardassians that are honourable and trustworthy, but as a species they are defined by their guile and political double-dealing, which comes into play most commonly when they are negotiating with neighbouring civilisations like the Federation. But arguably their most notorious trait is their clinically efficient ruthlessness. In wartime, Cardassian soldiers are generally known for their sickeningly eager brutality, and no conflict better emphasises this than the Occupation of Bajor, the conclusion of which kicks off the plot of Deep Space Nine.

empok norDuring their time on Bajor, the Cardassians set up labour camps, executed and tortured prisoners, enforced martial law and essentially drained the planet’s resources – despite the fact that the Bajorans presented no threat to them whatsoever. This occupation had been largely ignored by the Federation, who have no authority over what goes on in Cardassian space, but following the Cardassian-Federation war the Occupation began to gradually decline until Cardassian authorities finally decided to withdraw. By this point, the Cardassians had almost completely reshaped Bajor both physically and socially. The once entirely peaceful and spiritual Bajorans had learned much of violence and brutality from their Cardassian occupiers, and as a result the post-Occupation Bajor was a very different planet. In fact, had it not been for a belated but honest intervention from the Federation, Bajor may have descended into despotism, and all because the Cardassians not only conquered the planet, but also unintentionally taught the Bajorans their ways.

Naturally, this attitude makes the Cardassians quite unpopular in the Alpha Quadrant. By the time of TNG, the Cardassians are perhaps the most aggressive military race in the Federation sphere, and would perhaps be one of the most dangerous in the Galaxy were it not for external threats like the Borg and the Dominion. For one reason or another the Cardassians are loathed by almost every other race – the Klingons mistake their guile for cowardice, the Federation races dislike the Cardassian’s aggressiveness and even the Romulans, who share many traits with the Cardassians, regard them as a brutish race. galor.jpgHowever, there is far more to the Cardassian species than guile and warfare. Cardassia Prime has seen its fair share of poets, artists and philosophers, all of whom were either devoted supporters of the Cardassian Government or had their works edited to make it seem as though they were. As an authoritarian society, Cardassians show little regard for democracy or even due judicial processes – all trials on Cardassia Prime have a guilty verdict pre-decided, the trial itself is merely a formality – and yet as a culture they are still capable of self-expression and creative flair, as shown by the intricate designs of their ships and space stations. Ironically, warfare does seems to be the primary source of Cardassian arts, although their stylistic architecture is seen on all of their ships, military or otherwise.

For more about the recent history of the Cardassians in Star Trek, a good place to start is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, watching the series from start to finish tells you all you would ever hope to know and more about the Cardassians, particularly how they respond to threats both within and beyond their Empire. Also, the TNG episode The Wounded provides a comprehensive (though undeveloped, due to it being their first appearance) account of the antics of the Cardassians up until TNG.

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Transformers – Top 5 Movie Autobots that Disappeared

When watching Michael Bay’s Transformers films from start to finish, one might start to wonder – was there really any reason, other than merchandising, for the films to have Autobot characters in them at all? Other than Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, the filmsAs previously discussed in How to Fix Michael Bay’s Transformers Films – Part One: More Than Meets the CGI, the films don’t exactly do their Autobot characters justice, and despite the literal decades of character development through multiple different incarnations of the franchise, the Michael Bay films never managed to present anything more than a cardboard cutout Autobot cast. The filmmakers cared so little for the ragtag gang of ‘lesser’ Autobots that, throughout the five films in the Michael Bay Transformers chronology, there are many Autobots that simply disappear between films, never to be seen or heard from again. So, in honour of those Autobots that are MIA, let’s roll out the Top 5 Movie Autobots that Disappeared.

#5 – Jolt

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Jolt is perhaps the most unknown Autobot of the movie franchise (that actually appears in the films, at least) as he was a last-minute addition to Revenge of the Fallen and so gets very little screentime. His most notable scene is when he uses his electric powers to fuse Jetfire’s warm corpse to Optimus Prime’s back so he can use the rusty afterburners to defeat the Fallen, but after the second film, he is never seen again. Since Chevrolet were really pushing his alt-mode – the Chevloret Volt – at the time, perhaps they had something to do with his sudden last-minute inclusion into the script – after all, in what little screen time Jolt gets, he is often in vehicle mode. Unlike other one-shot Revenge of the Fallen Autobots like the Arcee sisters, Jolt is never seen being injured or killed in the film. The Transformers movie comics would do Jolt the justice of giving him a heroic death at the hands of Shockwave at some point before Dark of the Moon, but since this was not included as part of the movie itself, Jolt is still considered MIA as far as most of those that care are aware.

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen Skids and Mudflap

#4 – Skids and Mudflap

It would be hard not to mention the infamous twins having just referred to their debut film, particularly as they are a notable case when it comes to missing Autobots – eagle-eyed fans have noticed that Skids and Mudflap do actually appear in the third film, albeit in a brief scene in which all the Autobots drive into their home base in their vehicle modes, but aside from that they are totally absent with no explanation. Apprently the twins were set to appear in the film until as late as early shooting began, as they had received concept art and even toy models for an update appearance for Dark of the Moon, but were clearly cut at the last minute. Once again, the vigilant folk that write and draw the Transformers movie comics included a death scene for them at the hands of Sentinel Prime in the third film adaptation, and quite a heroic one too. As for why they were cut from the movie in the first place, it might have something to do with their overwhelmingly negative reception as racist stereotypes, but that lesson clearly didn’t sink in completely with Bay as racist cartoonish stereotypes would go on to become a staple of the franchise from the second film onwards.

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#3 – Roadbuster

One of the Wreckers introduced in Dark of the Moon, Roadbuster was the loudmouth Scottish Autobot who, along with his teammates Leadfoot and Topspin, crewed the Autobot’s only spacecraft, the Xantium. Following the strange time-jump between the third and fourth films that saw a radical shift in tone (and cast), many Autobots went missing and are presumed to be killed at the hands of the vicious Cemetary Wind – with emphasis on the word ‘presumed’. We see evidence that Humans were responsible for the death of Leadfoot via camera footage in Age of Extinction, and Topspin is seen to be alive in The Last Knight – but poor Roadbuster is never seen again. Some fans have pointed out that several of the KSI drones seen in the fourth film bear a resemblance to Roadbuster, implying that he may have been among the first victims of the Transformer Purge and his ‘Cybertronium’ was harvested to make Oreo robots, though this is unconfirmed. Although most movie fans assume that this Autobot’s road has long since been busted, his official status remains as Missing In Action.

#2 – Mirage

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Another prominent Autobot who disappeared after Dark of the Moon is Mirage, the blade-wielding red Ferrari who actually received a fair amount of screen time in the film, killing Hatchet during the highway chase and taking part in (and surviving) the final battle. However, following this, he is neither seen not heard from again. Like Roadbuster, several fans assume that he may have been an early casualty of Cemetary Wind’s purge of the Autobots and Decepticons on Earth following Dark of the Moon, as several of the KSI drones seem to feature his trademark blade weapons and sleek design – particularly Stinger. Interestingly, it was originally planned for Mirage to meet his maker near the climax of the third film, instead of poor Que, as it was originally scripted for Starscream to make mincemeat out of him before using his head as a puppet, for some reason. As Que took the literal bullet instead, and there are no further appearances to explain what happened to our Ferrari friend, Mirage’s fate remains unknown.

Honourable Mention – Trench

Autobot Trench from Transformers: The Last Knight

‘Trench’ is the name given to a Constructicon-turned-Autobot who appears in The Last Knight for about forty-five seconds before disappearing completely, never to be seen again. He is included here as an honourable mention as he doesn’t disappear between films, and the fact that he vanishes is not due to lazy writing – Trench was one of many Transformer characters introduced in the fifth film to make the world seem more populated by factionless or disparate refugees – a welcome change, even if it was too little too late. Trench, therefore, is likely a Decepticon who managed to survive the events of all the movies and eventually gave up on combat and joined the Autobot hideout crew in their junkyard. He is seen transforming to help Hound create a diversion to stop Megatron from discovering Cade, and so he more than likely met a final end in the fifth film. Nonetheless, as his fate was never shown, his status is still MIA.

Autobot Sideswipe from Transformers: Dark of the Moon

#1 – Sideswipe

Arguably the most prominent Autobot to simply ‘disappear’ without a trace between films, Sideswipe was a rare example of a well-liked fan favourite Autobot character that did not debut in the first film – of all the ‘disposable’ Autobots introduced later in the series, he gets by far the most screentime. He is perhaps best known for his role in the opening sequence of Revenge of the Fallen, in which he chases and kills Sideways in a dramatic fashion only to do nothing for the rest of the film. In Dark of the Moon, he helps Ironhide kill the Dreads and survives the final battle, but is never seen again after that. Allegedly he was originally to be confirmed dead in Age of Extinction, either through Cemetary Wind’s strange Autobot hit-list playing cards or during the scene in which the Autobots mourn Leadfoot. Either way, he is still MIA, and of all the Autobots to slip off the radar during the production of the live-action film series, Sideswipe is perhaps the most unusual. After all, there is no clear reason why he was never either killed on-screen or featured alive in a later film, as he was a popular character and was about as close as the series ever got to a suitable replacement for Jazz, so for him to simply vanish between films is particularly strange. On the other hand, if this list has proven anything, it’s that the movies use a revolving door technique for their Autobot casting, likely to maximise toy sales, because that is what Transformers is all about, apparently.

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Halo: Reach – Why Forge World is Actually the Best Halo Map Ever

Halo has a huge number of maps, many of which have become timeless classics. Fans who spent hours each evening duking it out in arenas like Hang ‘Em High, Blood Gulch, Lockout, Midship, High Ground and countless others will all agree that Halo has some of the best map design and optimisation in the FPS world. Alongside Call of Duty, Halo may have among the best oppurtunities for map strategy in the console FPS market. One thing that Halo has over Call of Duty, however, is the diverse variety of settings and locations that the maps are based around – from terristrial battlefields to some wacky off-the-wall mazes.

The title of this piece may come as a surprise to most fans – at the end of the day, compared to the professionally-built multiplayer maps in the game, Forge World cannot compare – in its default state it is practically useless for most gametypes, and its vast size makes it a poor choice for local multiplayer. However, the clue to Forge World’s success is in the name, as this map was created with one particular purpose in mind – it is the ultimate Forge environment. At the time of release, Forge World had the biggest selection of Forge items of any Halo map, and the fact that Halo: Reach’s Forge system expanded and improved on Halo 3’s Forge in almost every conceivable way, it isn’t hard to see why Forge World was one of the most anticipated features of the game in the run-up to Halo: Reach’s release.

Forge World Canyon Blood Gulch
The iconic Blood Gulch remade in Forge World’s Canyon

And, unusually for the modern gaming world, it actually lived up to the hype. Since it was released Forge World has become one of the most popular maps of all time, and fans have used the tools available in Halo: Reach’s Forge to create some extraordinary creations. But it is not just the expansive Forge options that make Forge World great – after all, Bungie could have simply released a blank sandbox that allowed players to build whatever they want in a large space. But Bungie aren’t known for cutting corners and would often go the extra mile, and that is exactly what they did with Forge World. At the time of release it was the largest Halo map to date, so large that the developers were able to re-create several sizeable maps from classic Halo games within the space of Forge World itself, such as Blood Gulch, Ascension and Sanctuary, all made using the various natural features of the map, and the Forge budget is the largest of any map in Halo 3 or Reach with 10,000 credits – for a sense of how big that is, most Halo 3 Forge maps barely surpassed 1,000.

The fact that so many classic maps have been remade in Forge World illustrates how versatile the map is, and betrays the fact that a lot of the map’s natural terrain and topography is either inspired or directly recreated from the environments of classic Halo maps. For example, the ‘Canyon’ section of Forge World is very similar to Coagulation, and the aptly-named ‘Pillar’ rock formation in the ocean is what forms the basis of Ascension (and its remake). Perhaps the most efficient and creative use of space in the map is the Collosseum, a large hangar-sized indoor arena embedded in a cliff-face, and the fact that the grassy area on top is the perfect size for either sports-based minigames or remaking many of Halo 2’s arena maps.

Forge World Island
Forge World’s Island, the location of many popular Forge maps

These are just a few of the possible locations to Forge on the map – others include ‘The Island’, an assymetrical playspace surrounded by water that includes a cave system, a mountain and several rocky paths for vehicular play – and that is just the basic layout, before any Forging has even been done. With some creativity and imaginative level design, fans can use the prexisting structures to make some truly incredible creations, such as using the Canyon as the crash site for a spaceship or building structures around the Waterfalls to create a suspended arena surrounded by flowing water. This is all made much easier due to the fact that Forge World was the first Forge map to allow players access to the elusive ‘Structures’ section, allowing them build their own buildings, bases and even entire arenas when previously all players could do in Forge was edit weapon and vehicle placements. This opened up a huge variety of gameplay sub-types with Forge, such as creating artwork, playing a Forge 1v1 with a friend or even creating intricate minigames and mazes.

Forge World Halo Ring Skybox
Forge World’s beautiful skybox is yet another reason why this map is so memorable

Needless to say, many of these features have gone on to be included in later Forge versions, and it has to be said that both Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians have Forge modes that expand massively on the features of Halo: Reach. For example, Halo 4 added dynamic lighting to Forge, meaning that the structures you create will actually cast shadows, and Halo 5: Guardians completely reworked the Forge tool to make it much more developer-focused, adding scripts and all sorts of features that have taken map-making to a whole new level. However, the Forge frenzy that began with Halo 3 was truly actualised in Halo: Reach, and the one map that stands out from all the others when any fan thinks of Forge is, of course, Forge World. It does somewhat beg the question of why, with all the new features and upgrades that 343i have added to Forge, they haven’t remade Forge World itself for the new generation of Halo players. 343i have released some Forge sandboxes in the past, such as Forge Island, several blank sandboxes and some smaller Forge arenas in Halo 5, but none of these have ever truly lived up to the variety, creativity and diversity of options presented by Forge World itself.

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Doctor Who Feature – The Twelfth Doctor Era: Is Peter Capaldi the Definitive Doctor?

Doctor Who has its ups and downs, as anything that runs for over 50 years does. After all this time, the show perhaps as well known for its dud season arcs, madcap plots and failed experiments as it is for its creativity, memorable characters and iconic villains. For every modern classic like Series 4, there is a legendary failure like Series 7 – and nothing illustrates this point more than the Peter Capaldi era. This three series long chunk of the New Series that lasted from 2014 to 2017 presented audiences with some of the best Doctor Who content of the decade – and also some of the worst. But can the flaws of the Capaldi era truly dampen its successes? Do fans look back on the era fondly or harshly? Is Peter Capaldi actually the definitive Doctor? We aim to find out.

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The Grumpy Doctor

Upon his initial casting, Peter Capaldi proved to be somewhat of a controversial choice to play the Doctor, despite having all the necessary traits required to play the Doctor. Due to the fact that the previous two Doctors, who had a combined tenure of nearly ten years, were both young and handsome incarnations, the show had got used to that idea being a staple of the series – in fact, it could be argued that Clara’s entire relationship with the Eleventh Doctor in Series 7 was based around the fact that he was young and handsome. As such, the fact that the Twelfth Doctor was cast as an old man was a sudden and jarring change to the series, one that many viewers felt shook the foundations of the show a little too much.

But there was more to this shakeup than just the casting. Moffat’s decision to write the Twelfth Doctor as a grumpy and at times even cold character in his first series was a bold one, and it certainly shook the series up even more for Series 8. The reaction of a sizeable portion of the fanbase at the time when this was all first announced was then reflected in Clara’s reaction to the Eleventh Doctor’s regeneration – the look on her face perfectly visualises what many fans were feeling at the time. In many ways, the situation was somewhat comparable to the reaction to the casting of the Thirteenth Doctor, albeit for very different reasons. In the run-up to Series 8, fans were wondering whether the show could pull off such a radical change to its comfortable tried-and-tested formula.

Overall, Series 8 is somewhat of a mixed bag. There are definitely some genuine gems in this series, episodes like Mummy On The Orient Express, Flatline and Time Heist are enduring classics that most fans agree are the standouts of the series. Following these are the episodes that some fans love, but other fans despite – episodes like Robots of Sherwood, Listen and the too-often overlook Into the Dalek. The series does play host to some really terrible episodes, however, such as In the Forest of the Night and the truly abominable Kill the Moon, an episode that is only worth watching for Clara’s final confrontation with the Doctor due to Jenna Coleman’s astounding acting – other than that, the episode may as well have never existed. The two episodes of note that are particularly divisive are the first episode, Deep Breath, and the two-part finale, Dark Water/Death in Heaven. The former is a strange episode to put at as the opener to a series, as it requires too much prior lore knowledge to be accessible to newcomers. The latter is a finale that, although making fantastic use of the Cybermen and Missy, was notoriously dark and was responsible for genuinely upsetting some fans in a way that didn’t sit right with many people.

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The Hybrid

For Series 9, Moffat introduced a gradual change to the Twelfth Doctor’s character that would be truly actualised in Series 10. Grappling with the choices necessary to truly define himself as a good man, Series 9 sees the Twelfth Doctor tested in several ways, with each story presented a piece of the best and worst of the character. This is mirrored in the format of the series and the accompanying titles of each episode – most of the stories in this series are two-parters, with titles that oppose one another. This presentation of the character was certainly an improvement over the Series 8 version of the Doctor in the eyes of most fans, but still retained enough of the abrasive Series 8 Doctor that those who had grown attached to Capaldi’s Doctor were not disappointed.

Series 9 of Doctor Who, however, suffers from an entirely different issue, which ironically has almost nothing to do with the Doctor himself. The hamfisted attempt to insert an arc into this series with the lacklustre ‘Hybrid’ buzzword failed to click with many fans and the end result, revealed in the controversial finale Hell Bent, left many fans confused. However, Capaldi’s performance as the Twelfth Doctor was exemplary and, although the scripts themselves left something to be desired, the combination of Capaldi and Coleman’s fantastic acting was able to carry Series 9 despite its flaws – and this was enhanced thanks to guest appearances from Maisie Williams, Donald Sumpter and Julian Bleach that made Series 9 feel like the blockbuster run that it was designed to be.

Ultimately, the highlights of the series have to be those that are the most steeped in lore – the opening two-parter The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar make a fantastic opening to the series, and the penultimate episode Heaven Sent has to rank as one of the best episodes of Doctor Who of all time. There is a definite pattern to the quality of episodes in Series 9 – the best ones are the ones in which Capaldi himself stands out. From his emotive anti-war speech in The Zygon Inversion to his one-man-band performance in Heaven Sent, the Twelfth Doctor is by far the best thing about Series 9. Whilst the series itself it usually met with mixed reviews from fans, none can deny that it is Capaldi who makes the series – with almost any other Doctor at the helm, Series 9 may not have been the success that it was.

Although the ‘Hybrid’ arc seemed tacked on and rushed, the theme actually relates a lot to the Doctor himself and where his character was at this point. Series 9 presents us with a true Hybrid Doctor – a fusion of his Series 8 and Series 10 personalities that occasionally clash but more often than not showcase the gradual development of the character, particularly with hindsight. Critics of the Twelfth Doctor argue that his character was poorly written as each series seems to portray a completely different interpretation of the Doctor, and they are correct – but this is hardly a criticism. Capaldi plays perhaps one of the most dynamic Doctors of them all, changing from a brusque and occasionally mean character to a warm and merciful Doctor who understands his own moralistic limitations and does his best to do the right thing. The most interesting Doctors are the ones who grow and change over the course of their tenure – the Seventh Doctor and the Ninth Doctor both experienced this kind of development, but none have had such a structured three-stage character arc over as many seasons. Those who stopped watching the show after Capaldi’s first season due to the negative reception his character received were not privy to the incredible change that was apparent by Series 10, meaning they never got to understand why his character had to be that way in Series 8. But what was so special about this arc that it warranted having the Doctor act so un-Doctorish for a season?

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Never be Cruel, Never be Cowardly

To answer that question we have to go back to the beginning. In its early days, Doctor Who was not fully established, either in its popularity and fanbase or in its own personal identity. Fans of newer versions of the show, even as early as 80s Who, may be shocked if they choose to watch some earlier episodes by just how un-Doctorish the Doctor himself acts. William Hartnell himself actually contributed a lot to the development of the Doctor as a man of strict ethical principles after disagreeing with how the character was handled in the first ever season of the show, in which the Doctor regularly tricks and manipulates his companions, influences events to suit himself, and even on one or two occasions attempts murder. As the character traits of the Doctor became established, these character-breaking moments were seemingly brushed under the rug.

In the modern day, the New Series has reinforced the idea of the Doctor as principled and ethically conscious, but many fans have taken the idea of the Doctor as a ‘man who never would’ as gospel – particularly during the Tennant era – to the point where the idea of the Doctor shooting someone becomes completely unjustifiable. This is a nice sentiment, and ‘the man who never would’ is certainly how the Doctor himself wants to be seen the majority of the time, but those who buy into this have forgotten the ‘rule one’ of travelling with the Doctor – he lies. A lot. In fact, we already know that when the Tenth Doctor utters the line “I never would” in regards to using guns, we already know he is lying. The Doctor has shot and killed people many times throughout the show, a famous example being in Day of the Daleks when the Third Doctor steals a laser and blasts an Ogron. Following the Time War, the battle-scarred and guilt-ridden Doctor invents a persona for himself that exaggerates and hyperbolises all of his pre-Time War traits of honesty, mercy, pacifism etc to alleviate his guilt, but it is not a true reflection of his character. We know that the Doctor is prone to rage, and occasionally makes bad choices. Unfortunately, one particular bad choice has sullied the Twelfth Doctor with a bad reputation that is not entirely justified.

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The choice in question of course refers to the scene in Hell Bent in which the Doctor shoots the General. Fans have grappled over this scene and its implications, with some citing the fact that the Doctor had been driven mad with grief in that episode as justification, and others even going so far as to say it is proof that the show itself has lost its way. However, looking back on this entire situation, it seems fans on both sides of the argument need to re-assess the scene with the benefit of hindsight and the context of the episode. For those not in the know, the Doctor shoots and ‘kills’ The General after the latter refuses to allow Clara to escape from Gallifrey. Prior to this, the Doctor had spent 4.5 billion years living the same day over and over again, dying each time, and had now finally escaped and found a way of bringing his friend back – the thing that had kept him going the whole time. Considering all of these factors, and then adding to that the fact that the General is able to regenerate and that he had previously helped keep the Doctor imprisoned, adds a lot more to this situation than simply ‘The Doctor killed someone.’ In fact, this seems far more reasonable than the Third Doctor shooting an Ogron.

And yet, this scene does achieve something tangible – it is an important turning point in the second major change to the Doctor’s character. This scene represents the culmination of the ‘Clara arc’, a pseudo-unofficial story arc that essentially starts with Asylum of the Daleks that is supposed to showcase the best and worst parts of a close friendship. Clara and the Doctor are good friends, and they both help each other through serious tragedies in their respective lives. They are both flawed characters, and their flaws overlap – each one is too dependant on the other, and the fact that their friendship was set up by Missy goes to show how destructive it has the potential to be. The notion of the Doctor and Clara being the Hybrid may seem ridiculous, but it is Moffat attempting (in a somewhat ham-fisted way) to illustrate the point that Clara and the Doctor are in many ways two sides of the same coin – their personalities, their motives, their tendency for lies and showing off are all similar – yet ultimately they must be separated otherwise the Doctor runs the risk of sacrificing everything for her. The Doctor shooting the General acts as a wake-up call, both for Clara and the Doctor himself, that their friendship is no longer healthy and that they need to separate. If you look at the Series 9 finale in this light, it is actually a mature and introspective story that showcases how far the Twelfth Doctor had developed by this point – the seemingly unfeeling angry Doctor from Series 8 is gone, replaced with a far more compassionate man who is willing to go to any lengths to save his best friend – even if it kills him.

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The Grandfather Doc

The version of the Twelfth Doctor that we saw at the end of Series 9 sets up the plot of Series 10 perfectly – with Clara gone, the Doctor strikes up relationships with friends new and old in a way that the Series 8 Doctor would not have been able to do. With this newfound persona he is able to make peace with River Song, befriend Bill and even teach Missy how to be good, showing that even without Clara the Twelfth Doctor is just as much a paragon of virtue as the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors tried to be. But perhaps the most important facet of the Twelfth Doctor’s character development that takes place in Series 10 is his relationship with Bill and how that evolves. Initially taking on Bill as a student, their teacher-student dynamic gradually develops as the Doctor becomes a more paternal figure in her life, and this is a fantastic parallel of the very first Doctor-companion dynamic in the show – that of Grandfather and Grandchild. This is further implied in Bill’s first episode, in which the Doctor looks to Susan’s portrait when trying to decide whether to involve Bill with the dangers of TARDIS travel.

This is perhaps one of Moffat’s greatest achievements with the Twelfth Doctor, and many fans say that Series 10 has the best ‘feel’ of the three Capaldi seasons, as the friendship between the Doctor, Bill and Nardole seemed to resonate more with viewers than the Doctor and Clara’s had. It would be hard to imagine the Series 8 version of the Twelfth Doctor working in Series 10, as his pricklier personality and demeanour would clash more with Bill’s fun-loving attitude, but after two seasons of gradual character development the Twelfth Doctor proves himself to be everything that the Doctor should be, and more – Series 10 doesn’t just present the Doctor as a hero who saves planets, but also as a form of therapist, even counsellor. For fifty years he is able to provide Missy with a stable environment in which she can work towards casting off her evil ways and embracing the good in life, and with just a few months of tuition the Doctor is able to raise Bill’s grades and inspire her with new confidence, all before she even sets foot in the TARDIS.

The Twelfth Doctor in Series 10 is in many ways the ideal Doctor – perhaps even the definitive Doctor. Some may think it a shame that the Doctor didn’t simply start out with this personality from the beginning, and whilst it may have been lighter on viewers at the time if the Doctor had emerged fresh from regeneration as a kindhearted old man, but there is an argument that Moffat did the right thing from the start. The Twelfth Doctor was referred to earlier in this article as one of the most dynamic Doctors of them all, and this is due to his three-season long character development. Without the Series 8 version of the Doctor and his brusque attitude, the emotional weight behind Series 9 and 10 loses some of its impact, as part of what makes his character so interesting and likeable is his painstaking transition from a grumpy old man to a truly definitive Doctor.

Doctor Who Christmas Special 2017

The Definitive Doctor

There will of course be those who disagree, but overall Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor represents all the best aspects of the character. He is a righteous character, yet aware of his own moral hypocrisy. He is a kind and caring figure, yet he is also among the angriest and most utilitarian of the Doctors. His speech to the Master and Missy at the climax of The Doctor Falls perfectly summarises this – he admits that, although he doesn’t always get it right, he tries as hard as he can to be kind. Throughout his entire tenure the Twelfth Doctor grapples with the question of ‘Am I a Good Man?’, and it is in this scene that we, the audience, finally receive a definitive answer. The Doctor lays down his life for innocent people he doesn’t even know, and his final regeneration speech outlining what it means to be a Doctor proves that Capaldi himself has a deep understanding of the character.

If you are a former fan of the show who lost interest midway through the 2010s, or perhaps even earlier, then hopefully this article has made some points that will make you reconsider your stance on Capaldi’s Doctor. With hindsight, and the wider knowledge of the show that newer fans may have gained thanks to the rising popularity of the Classic Series, it is clear that many of the criticisms that were levied against Capaldi were either grossly exaggerated, such as claims of him being ‘too old’, or simply unfair, such as blaming him for the occasional bad episode like Sleep No More or Kill the Moon. Each and every Doctor is faced with criticism like this – Matt Smith was ‘too young’ for the role according to many in 2010, and nobody needs reminding of the frenzy of baseless criticism levied against Jodie Whittaker before Series 11 even aired.

Ultimately, the Twelfth Doctor era speaks for itself. Even amid the aforementioned terrible episodes it hosted, as well as others like In the Forest of the Night, the era also gave us some of the best instant classics of the modern era of Doctor Who. Episodes like Heaven Sent, Flatline, Mummy on the Orient Express, Oxygen, World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls will be remembered for years to come and proves that, even after more than 10 years, the New Series still has plenty of excellent stories to tell. Moving forward there is certainly a lot that the show can learn from the mistakes of the Capaldi era, but after the lacklustre Series 11, there is definitely a lot that Chibnall can learn from the Capaldi era’s resounding successes. Without a character-driven story Doctor Who can appear to lack substance, and this was an issue that plagued the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut season despite the writer’s best efforts to make her quirky and likeable. The irony is that Capaldi’s grumpy first-series persona is a far more interesting character than the typical do-gooder Doctor, and Moffat was able to blend the best elements of both worlds by having a brusque Doctor early on, that evolves into the definitive Doctor over time.

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So, to answer the question that sparked this lengthy feature-style blog post: Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor is the Definitive Doctor. Though it takes him time to get to that point, when he gets there, fans have to agree that it is worth the wait. It is a classic case of not truly knowing what it is you had until it suddenly disappears. Obviously there are some that may not agree – that is the nature of the fanbase. For some fans in 2014, the hardest part of being a fan after Series 8 was accepting Capaldi as the Doctor. But now, after a brief but legendary tenure, the hardest part for many is letting him go.

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Transformers – How Did Michael Bay Screw Up Starscream?

Starscream. The name has almost become an adjective in itself for characters that are traitorous, two-faced, sycophantic or conniving. Not only has the original Starscream been reinvented many times throughout the various iterations of the Transformers franchise, but characters in other shows, films and video games have taken inspiration from him. Starscream is certainly one of the most recognisable from the original series alongside Optimus Prime, Megatron and Bumblebee and almost every iteration of the character has been resoundingly popular with the fanbase. However, oddly enough, the Michael Bay Transformers films managed to perform the seemingly impossible – they managed to screw up Starscream.

One might ask how, since the logical thing for the film series to do would be to do what it did with almost every other Transformers character – have them be an almost exact carbon copy of their G1 personality, with almost none of the character development. In the first Transformers film, however, Starscream seems to be just like any other Decepticon – he lacks the iconic voice, he displays no traitorous intent whatsoever, and all we are really told about the character is that he often fails Megatron – and we only know that thanks to a single line during their only on-screen conversation in the first film in which Megatron says “You fail me yet again, Starscream.” So essentially, going off the first film alone, Starscream comes across as just another of Megatron’s incompetent lackeys. In the after-credits sequence, we see Starscream blasting off into space – which was obviously sequel-bait, but at least gave the audience something to remember him for.

Come Revenge of the Fallen, however, and suddenly things have changed dramatically. Now having inexplicably gained his G1 voice to replace the alien rasp he spoke with in the first film, Starscream is again bullied and kicked around by Megatron for no real reason – he is annoyed that Starscream took the mantle of Decepticon leader, but given the fact that Megatron was dead and rotting at the bottom of the ocean, and that the Fallen had asked Starscream to raise a hatchling army, this seems a flimsy excuse for abuse. A similar issue plagues Dark of the Moon, as Starscream seems to be loyal, if a little sychophantic, and yet Megatron still treats him like dirt. One would think that, with so many of his soldiers being killed in every film, Megatron would actually grow to appreciate Starscream – not for his unwavering devotion despite the constant failure of Megatron’s plans, but simply for surviving this long.

Having said that, Starscream’s impressive survival streak is brought to a sudden and jarring end in the final act of the third film, as he is unceremoniously killed off by Sam, of all people. Starscream’s death is one of several in the third film that were included when the filmmakers assumed that the third Transformers would be the last – as a result, every single Decepticon is killed, even Megatron, and although other incarnations of Starscream had a knack for returning from the dead, it would seem that the movie-universe Starscream is dead for good this time. Looking back on the character’s presentation in the three movies in which he appears, it is obvious that he was grossly mishandled – like many other classic characters in the live-action movies – but the real question is: how? How is it possible to screw up such a tried-and-tested, almost cookie-cutter character as Starscream?

To answer that question, we must first look at the wider issue of how the villains of the Transformers films, particularly the Decepticon characters, are used. As alluded to in How to Fix Michael Bay’s Transformers Films – Part Two: Decepticontinuity, the writers of these films were obviously not concerned with how effectively the villains were presented – as far as they were concerned, the names ‘Megatron’ and ‘Starscream’ held enough brand recognition in themselves that audiences would project their own recollections of the characters onto them. As a result, hardly any effort is put into actually establishing the motivations, personalities or conflicts of the villains aside from what is absolutely essential to make the framework of the story. In other words, the villains are only developed when the writers realise they absolutely have to be, and as a result they all come across as one-dimensional.

Starscream is as treacherous as ever in G1, but is he as well-established in the movies? The short answer is no, the long answer can be found at Sacred Icon
In G1, Starscream was known for his continuous attempts to betray or overthrow Megatron throughout the series that firmly established his character in the minds of the audience

Starscream is the perfect example of this – we never see or even hear about any treacherous ideas that he might have, the writers just have Megatron constantly refer to him as ‘treacherous’ despite there being no evidence for this. This uninspired ‘tell-don’t-show’ method of storytelling wouldn’t seem out of place in a Star Wars Prequel, and it even continues after Starscream’s death – the appearance of his decapitated head in The Last Knight (despite the fact it was blown up in Dark of the Moon) and the fact that Megatron still refers to him as ‘treacherous’ showcases just how little the writers cared about the character. Even a relatively generic and by-the-books depiction of Starscream, such as the version seen in Transformers: Animated, is leagues ahead of the Starscream seen in the movies.

Hopefully this article has shed some light on how Michael Bay managed to screw up Starscream in the Transformers films. To read more deconstruction of the Michael Bayverse, click the links down below. Be sure to leave a like if you want to read more Transformers content!

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