The Transformers (Season 4) (Johnsonverse)
The fourth season of The Transformers aired in the 1987-1988 television season. Season 4 saw many changes to the series, such as better animation, the resurrection of the Autobots who died in the movie, changes to Autobot and Decepticon leadership, and the introduction of new characters.
These paled in comparison to the sudden uptick in violence starting with Starscream's Revenge, with generic Autobots and Decepticons being graphically killed on-screen in all sorts of fashions. The season also began depicting on-screen human deaths, uncensored. Overall, the season is often seen as a turning point in the series, in light of looser FCC regulations and general acceptance of violence in cartoons. WBC (then known as JTV) was also not shy of showing such violence, and defying the "moral guardians", as Phil Stacker famously called them, began unrestricted depictions of violence (this only covered the Transformers, though; humans were killed in decisively less-graphic ways, but still graphic enough to show they were dead).
The season, as future seasons would, borrowed many plot elements from the concurrently-running Headmasters, mainly in the form of the characters of Twincast, Soundblaster, the Trainbots, Stepper (renamed Ricochet in the US), Artfire, and the W Cassettebots (renamed the Combiner Cassettes in the US).
The fourth season brought with it multiple changes:
- The production studio was changed from Sunbow Productions to JTV (in a move made by infamous Johnson Industries CEO Phil Stacker to reverse the falling viewership trend); as for animation, AKOM was out (though all three parts of The Rebirth were animated by them), switching back to Toei as the only animation studio for the first time since 1984 (Tokyo Movie Shinsha would animate several episodes starting with season 5)
- In addition, Toei received a major boost to its animation budget from JTV; the result was the series shifting to the art style used in the movie
- Several casting changes took place:
- Frank Welker replaced the late Scatman Crothers as Jazz
- Leonard Nimoy, Judd Nelson, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, and Eric Idle were brought back in their roles as Galvatron, Rodimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Kup, and Wreck-Gar, respectively, replacing Frank Welker, Dick Gautier, Jack Angel, John Stephenson, and Tony Pope
- Several new voice actors came aboard, including Paul Winchell, Mako Iwamatsu, Tony Jay, Tress MacNeille, Kath Soucie, and Wendee Lee
- Plot changes and events:
- The Autobot casualties of the movie come back, and it explained they were reactivated using the Quintesson technology Optimus Prime was brought back with
- Starscream returns after the events of "Ghost in the Machine" and takes control of the Decepticons; he also forcibly rebuilds Galvatron, Scourge, and Cyclonus back to their original forms as Megatron, Thundercracker, and Skywarp
- Bumblebee and Goldbug are retconned into separate characters
- The characters Hornet, Slipstream, the Autobot Air Force, and the Tank Squad were introduced to the franchise
- Characters from the Japanese-language series The Headmasters were ported over to the English-language series. Stepper was renamed Ricochet, Artfire's partner Nightstick was renamed Particle, and the Trainbots all received train-themed names:
- Shouki became Railway
- Suiken became Switchback
- Getsuei became Derail
- Seizan became Trainyard
- Kaen became Baseplate
- Yukikaze became Flashpipe
- Raiden became Terminus
The season contained 30 episodes.
- The Rebirth, Part 1 - Galvatron invades Autobot City and then Cybertron with a plan to destroy the Autobots forever! This is something new?
- The Rebirth, Part 2 - The Autobot Headmasters prove to be a smashing success, but the Decepticons soon find Nebulan partners of their own.
- The Rebirth, Part 3 - The battle for the Key to the Plasma Energy Chamber comes to an end.
- The Redux - Galvatron and Zarak pull a reprisal raid on Cybertron. As Hot Rod finds it hard to readjust to not being Rodimus Prime, and the Autobots slain by the Decepticons during the first Battle of Autobot City using Quintesson technology, Optimus Prime imbues Hot Rod with the power of the Matrix, creating a second Prime.
- Starscream's Revenge - Starscream, having last been seen tumbling through space, suddenly appears on Chaar. He takes advantage of the Decepticons' weakened state to take leadership, rebuild Galvatron, Scourge, and Cyclonus back to their original forms, and attack Athenia. This episode is generally seen as the point when the violence started becoming more graphic and brutal.
- No Place Like Home - Metroplex and Omega Supreme's sizes start to become a problem in human cities.
- Railroaded - The Autobots and Decepticons clash over Athenia, and help arrives in the form of the new Trainbots, who combine to form Raiden.
- SOS Cybertron - Starscream leads the Coneheads to the core of Cybertron to blow it up.
- Blaster vs Soundwave - Soundwave steals the Matrix of Leadership, and Blaster is in hot pursuit. One last battle to the death between these eternal enemies is inevitable.
- Operation: Big Apple, Part 1 - The Decepticon Battle Fleet invades New York, and an all-out battle is on!
- Operation: Big Aplle, Part 2 - Devastator destroys the Statue of Liberty, but the Autobots are now on the offensive.
- Starscream's Lost Love - The lost member of the Seekers, Air Lieutenant Slipstream, awakens from a coma after floating through space for years. She finds her way to Chaar, and a part of Starscream no one ever knew exist is revealed.
- Bumblebee's Sister - The long-lost twin sister of Bumblebee, Hornet, is found fending for herself on a Quintesson-controlled planet.
- Space Station - The Headmasters and Targetmasters investigate a space station thought to be occupied by the Decepticons.
- War of the Cassettes - Twincast recieves some new cassettes who combine, but they find it hard to keep it together.
- The Great Fortress Battle - Trypticon and Scorponok find themselves in a nasty place between Metroplex and Fortress Maximus, and the battle soon devolves into a stationary fortress war.
- The Trouble with Monsterbots - The Monsterbots are out of control.
- By Land and Air - Realizing the need for more military-minded Autobots, Optimus Prime recruits the Autobot Air Force and Tank Squad, and puts them under the command of Powerglide and Warpath, respectively.
- Dino-Not - Swoop runs away after the Dinobots fail to stop the destruction and genocide of Las Vegas, feeling he has failed in being a Dinobot.
- Jekyll and Hyde - Megatron, suffering from a split personality (the normal Megatron and the psychotic Galvatron), fights for control of himself.
- Traffic Jam - The Stunticons create a traffic jam in Los Angeles so the Decepticons can siphon fuel and make energon. The Headmasters and Targetmasters are sent to deal with the situation.
- From Where the Sun Now Stands... - Cerebros hangs up his commission right when Fortress Maximus is needed the most.
- Metal Surgery - The race is on to save Cerebros' life.
- Son of Sixshot - Sixshot is horrified to find his son, Quickswitch, has joined the Autobots.
- Pretending - Humans visiting Autobot City suddenly become Decepticons.
- Zarak's Gambit - Zarak, fed up with Starscream, tries to find a covert way to destroy him and take leadership.
- Metamorphasis - Zarak fuses with Scorponok and becomes the ultimate Decepticon warrior: BlackZarak!
- Mutiny, Part 1 - With his newfound power, Zarak and the Decepticon Headmasters and Targetmasters mutiny against Starscream.
- Mutiny, Part 2 - The mysterious Powermasters arrive in the midst of the Decepticon Civil War.
- Mutiny, Part 3 - Severely damaged, Optimus Prime is resurrected as a Powermaster.