Nostalgia is a damn powerful thing, especially for 80’s spawn like myself. The opiates of ‘toys’ and ‘cartoons’ were allowed to intermingle and form some sort of new, more potent form of marketing methamphetamine. That’s probably why our generation has the same problem resisting the urge to banter about My Little Pony and Etch-A-Sketch that the last few generations had with recounting how many Nazis they could kill with only their scrotums and moxie.
But, again, since I’m not part of that generation, all you people are going to have to make do with me regaling you with the story of how, while re-watching a cartoon I grew up with, just how batshit the original source material for the sprawling merchandising machine was.
But where to begin? The Giant Purple Griffin? An episode that basically tells kids gambling is ok, and the only thing better is cheating at it? How about one revolving around a hypnotic superdisco?
No… No, we can do even better than that. We’re going to dive right in and see how the hell mermaids fit in with the Transformers universe!
You know that things are going to be weird when the show begins on an alien planet, considering that most of Season 1 and 2 were restricted to Earth until the Transformers built the Space Bridge for direct transport to their home world, Cybertron. So we open with a race of polymorphous mer-people on an alien world ruled by Deceptitran and his army of drone robots. You would think that if he had a rotund, possibly gay supercomputer with an endless army of attack drones, Megatron might keep him handier than some random backwater mermaid planet, but I suppose that’s why I’m an Internet reviewer and not a giant robotic warlord. Deceptitran is tasked with harvesting Energon, the ever-undefined superfuel that Transformers use to get high (not entirely kidding), by forcing the merfolk into slave labor, and when that’s not demeaning enough, sucking life force directly out of them with Science Tubes. Unfortunately, staying cool under pressure isn’t his forte, so he sends out a distress call to the Megatron back on Earth when the tiny, fleshy slaves begin to rebel against him and his… endless robot army. Of course, he sucks so bad that he ends up hailing the Autobot Seaspray instead. Go Tranny.
Of course, he could have done worse, since Seaspray is, for all intents and purposes, the Aquaman of the Transformers, except without the powers. He turns into a hovercraft, and sounds a little like Inspector Gadget gargling whenever he opens his non-mouth. Speakerphone. Whatever you wanna call the opening he talks out of. So he goes back and relays the news to Optimus, who orders the Autobots to go rescue the poor, oppressed mermaids of planet Aztec or whatever. Of course, he doesn’t go himself, he seemingly sends the Autobots who would be missed least (Bumblebee, Perceptor, Seaspray and Cosmos.) That’s why he’s the boss.
Of course, things don’t go as planned, and they don’t quite figure out it was a distress call from the Decepticons rather than the Chipotle mermaid people, so Cosmos gets shot down (something that should inspire a drinking game) and the Autobots are stuck helping out until the plot is satisfied they’ve hung out there long enough.
I’m not really here for the full critical analysis of the episode though, so let’s focus on the weirdness. After the credits rolled, I was left with a strange, disoriented sensation. I was staring at the DVD menu wondering if what I just saw actually happened, or if I had dozed off and had a fever dream inspired by watching the rest of the DVD in one sitting. Then I watched it again, and I had the same sensation. Transformers has a lot of weird filler episodes, but this one takes the cake for me. Bear in mind this includes episodes about:
- Galvatron going to a therapy planet
- The Autobots being cast as rubber suited stunt doubles in a movie
- Starscream traveling back in time to rule a medieval kingdom
- HYPNOTIC SUPERDISCO
The main heft of “Sea Change’s” plot focuses on the romance between Seaspray, who again, giant robot who sounds like he’s waiting for a director to tell him it’s alright to swallow, and Alana, a mermaid. Transformers was a cartoon to sell toys to little boys. I’m not so in love with the series to deny that and call it a work of art or agonize over how each retarded filler plot ties into the overall mythos of the Transformers Multiverse. But how did a romantic subplot involving mermaids even make it into Transformers? And it wasn’t an isolated thing, either, in a later installment, expect “The Girl Who Loved Powerglide” to make an appearance. It just seems like if they were marketing it towards boys so intently that they didn’t think anyone would buy a female Transformer figure, there wouldn’t be much room for this:
So anyway, there’s a magical spring that transforms things, and is the secret of how the mermaids can get legs and go on land and such sometimes. Of course, when machines touch it, they’re horrifyingly disintigrated. So, after winning the first round against the forces of obese gay robo-evil, Seaspray gets a nice emo moment where he decides that this chick he just met is totally worth risking his own horrible death over the chance to transform himself into a merman to bone her. And, surprisingly, it works out! He emerges the spring as a Fabio-esque merman, but retains his ball gargling voice and for some reason still has big clunky robot boots. And so they swim together to the undersea city, only to have Decepticon reinforcements arrive and start kicking some asses. As Seaspray is now a fleshy uselss clod and not a useless clod made of space alloys, he of course, has rendered himself useless against the enemy, leaving his girlfriend to turn into a hot female Autobot.
She’s better at the transforming thing though, since she doesn’t retain fish legs or organic feet. And so, equipped with a body powerful enough to confront the evil robots directly, she then proceeds to… go… talk to Deceptitran.
Who gracefully accepts her compromise and uses his drones to chase away the Decepticons.
So, let’s get this straight, we have an evil supercomputer who felt so threatened by a race of mermaids that he sent out a call for reinforcements. And when confronted directly by a lone woman who just happened to transmogrify herself into metal, he happily goes along with the plan she comes up with to double cross his masters. Why do I get the feeling that even if the Autobots didn’t show up, the rebellion probably would have been just peachy?
The episode ends with that classic “We love each other enough to never see each other again” bit that cartoons like to do to keep the cast the same from episode to episode. Alana reverts to human form, and Seaspray returns home glumly. Frankly, they should have kept the mermaid in robo mode and left Seaspray back on the stupid planet. She was competent and halfway interesting compared to her would-be boyfriend.
There’s also a downright unnerving moment where Rumble (or Frenzy, whichever) is tricked by Alana into turning himself into a tree within the spring. I’m not sure how he escaped, but it’s just a bit chilling when they go from her disembodied voice telling him to ‘imagine himself spreading outward like a tree’ to save himself, then the realization he actually was turning himself into a tree with a gnarled copy of his face in the trunk. That’s the kind of stuff that Japanese horror is made of, man.
- Weird Enough To Feel Like An Altered State
- Bumblebee Gets Captured
- Cosmos Gets Wrecked
- Unintentional Body Horror
- Interspecies Romance
- B Squad Episode (Optimus sends Mini-bots and a guy who turns into a microscope to take on a world under the enemy’s total control. Either they were really trying to push those toys, or Optimus wanted them out of the base for a while.)