Oh, the GoBots. That poor, ridiculous, terrible toyline and animated series that somehow managed to be a crappy knock-off of the Transformers, despite the fact that both the toys and the Challenge of the GoBots cartoon came out before Transformers. While I’ve talked about how the action figures sucked before, it’s time to take a moment to take a look back at this ‘80s cartoon non-classic and remember the real challenge was sitting through an episode.
First of all, in case you’re unaware or don’t remember—what am I saying, of course, you’re unaware or don’t remember, these are the goddamn GoBots—the GoBots were cyborgs who transformed into vehicles. Instead of the Autobots and Decepticons, there were heroic Guardians and evil Renegades, respectively led by Leader-One (who transformed into a fighter jet) and Cy-Kill (a motorcycle).
While the Transformers animated series arguably had more ridiculous episodes, the GoBots cartoon was more consistently bad, thanks to…well, pretty much everything. The transformations looked like crap because the toys’ transformations were crap, while the characters had about a 10th of the personality as their competition and names that would embarrass Masters of the Universe, e.g. Spay-C, Dumper, Hans-Cuff, Dive-Dive, Buggy Man, Creepy… and so on. Still, the episode “Renegade Carnival” manages to be an impressive combination of bizarre, moronic, and almost completely incoherent.
It starts with a premise that would completely alter the very fabric of the show if it hadn’t been completely forgotten for the rest of the series: There’s a woman who can read GoBots’ minds. Her name is Mira Shaw, and Leader-One and the Guardians have been using her to find out Cy-Kill’s plans and thwart them, which has annoyed the Renegade leader very much. Cy-Kill and six of his minions attack a UNECOM base (a generic Earth protection force, a la G.I. Joe) where she’s located—which is pretty dumb because Mira absolutely used her psychic powers to predict the attack—allowing the Guardians to put up the base’s impenetrable force field. The Renegades stupidly fly into it, get hurt, and leave.
In order to predict Cy-Kill’s next absurd scheme, a scientist named Dr. Helstrom has built a device to augment Mira’s psychic power even though it was clearly working just fine so far. Instead, the device knocks Mira out and puts her power on the fritz for a while, which renders her unable to know what the Renegades are doing. Unfortunately, only a psychic could have possibly foreseen the nonsense Cy-Kill’s been planning.
Cy-Kill hires a man named Wheeling to convince a local traveling carnival to buy an amusement park-style haunted house, which is inexplicably in a garbage dump in inexplicably pristine condition. This means someone wanted to not only get rid of an entire building but specifically throw it away and did so by gingerly transporting it in its entirety, with all of the attractions inside and still completely functional.
I wish to god this episode explained who would do such a thing and why, or at least explain how Wheeling got involved since he seemingly has no affiliation with the dump and thus no right to sell it. After it’s transported, Cy-Kill and the evil dump truck Dumper hide inside, while the equally evil Cop-Tur—who has turned himself into a ride for kids by attaching small, fake helicopters to his real helicopter blades—waits outside.
When Leader-One discovers a carnival is in town, he orders Scooter—the littlest, most cowardly, and most annoying GoBot—and their human pal Nick to check it out. That’s when the nonsense truly begins.
Scooter disguises himself as a clown, which ludicrously works. Nick enters the haunted house, which is completely controlled by Cy-Kill. Cy-Kill does nothing, really, except allow Nick to wander down a giant, long tunnel that starts spinning. Turns out, it’s really Block Head’s cement mixer, despite the fact that this is spacially impossible unless a TARDIS is involved. (Honestly, the sizes of everything—GoBots, humans, objects—fluctuate so wildly it makes Cats look like a paragon of continuity.) Cy-Kill eventually tells Blockhead to let Nick through…into a hologram of a cackling Cy-Kill, after which the human is at the haunted house’s exit and leaves peacefully.
A haunted house that scares people with an illusion of a known robot terrorist is pretty wild, but Nick and Scooter somehow judge the carnival to be completely Renegade-free, even though Cop-Tur is sitting right there, completely undisguised other than a few plastic rides taped to his rotors, next to a sign reading “ROTO-COP-TUR.” (The GoBots never even tried to be robots in disguise.)
That evening, Mira is moved from the military base with the impenetrable force field to a hotel without an impenetrable force field. Luckily, Leader-One and his friend Turbo are standing watch; unfortunately, they are guarding the same corner of the building, the opposite side of Mira’s room. Even more unfortunately, they fail to recognize Block Head when he drives by them, or wonder why a cement mixer would be arriving at a hotel in the middle of the night. It turns out Cy-Kill has paid off Dr. Helstrom to put a tracking beacon in Mira’s room so Block Head can grab her, which he does.
While the Guardians are busy outside failing to guard anything, it’s up to Nick and the show’s two other human sidekicks, Matt and AJ, to try to stop the Renegade. While Blockhead has Mira in his grasp, they attempt to shoot him several million times, barely missing Mira with every shot. AJ even yells, “Careful! Don’t hit Mira!” and follows it up with more laser fire.
Blockhead leaves and heads to the carnival, and Leader-One, Turbo, and Scooter (along with their human pals) give chase. But when they land, they are surrounded by the seven Renegades, who open fire. Leader-One uses his mini-force-field to protect them, then pretty much instantly drops it, and all the good guys just…escape. They all fly away or run off, and the Renegades just don’t shoot at them, at all. Everything breaks into small fights which are pretty unremarkable other than that the pudgy Wheeling turns out to be surprisingly spry as he climbs a roller coaster to snipe at Matt, somehow vanishes before his eyes, and then leaps on him from the top of what is at least a three-story building.
The Guardians are completely outnumbered, especially since Scooter is a coward who spends the fight hiding with his illusion powers. Turbo gets his ass kicked and has a neural lock put on him, which Scooter very easily takes off once the coast is clear. That’s enough time for the other bad guys to take out and capture Leader-One, though, and sneak away on a train pulled by the Renegade named Loco. Yes, the robots that turn into a motorcycle, race car, and helicopter all ride comfortably in a single passenger car. And yes, Mira the psychic, who’s been slowly recovering her powers the entire time, uses them to lead Turbo and Scooter to their exact location.
They rescue Leader-One, who also enters the same train car to confront Cy-Kill, along with almost every human being who’s appeared in the episode, which I note specifically because what happens next blew my mind. As Leader-One and Cy-Kill open fire, Turbo decides to stop Loco from escaping. The heroic Guardian does this by collapsing a tunnel, which Loco runs full tilt into, derailing the entire train and killing every single human inside in what is clearly a horrific crash. Okay, sure, they’re all somehow fine, but look at this:
At any rate, Mira is rescued, her psychic powers return, and no one ever cares about them again. Roll credits. So let’s take one more moment to reexamine Cy-Kill’s plan:
1) Find haunted house no one’s using
2) Get traveling carnival to purchase said haunted house
3) Lead Guardians to carnival and surround them, utilizing haunted house in no way whatsoever
None of the Renegades were in the haunted house when the Guardians arrived; they were just hiding around the truly shocking amount of buildings located inside the traveling carnival. Also, Cy-Kill paid Wheeling a great deal of money to sell a haunted house neither the human nor the robot-motorcycle man almost certainly owned. And that’s in addition to paying Dr. Helstrom to build an elaborate device designed to put Mira’s powers on the fritz, a Renegade scheme she somehow completely failed to detect despite it being in the works before she got in Helstrom’s machine.
Before the train crashes, Scooter, the shittiest GoBot of them all, tells Cy-Kill, “And if you don’t mind my saying so, this was one of your dumbest schemes yet.” I’ve got to agree with him and the very sad Challenge of the GoBots writer who admitted their shame in their own script.
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