Transformers return to TV this Friday with new animated series

Transformers: Prime is the latest computer-animated incarnation of the long-running franchise, executive produced by the writers of the Transformers movies and reuniting the original voices of Optimus Prime and Megatron. After the show's initial five-part miniseries last year, Transformers Prime returns this Friday with the rest of its 26 episode season. We recently got a chance to see Friday's episode as well as hear from executive producers Roberto Orci and Jeff Kline on what lies ahead for the show.

The episode, "Masters and Students", should have everything long-time Transformers fans are looking for: full-out brawls between Autobots and Decepticons, hints of the Transformers' deeper pasts and grander plans, Starscream totally failing at being a tyrant, with a little corny humor thrown in for good measure.

As you can see in the clip up top, the show isn't backing away from the often fiendishly convoluted backstories of the various characters. Executive producer Jeff Kline noted the show has a 400-page continuity bible, and they intend on exploring some of the trickiest questions in the show's mythology. In particular, the show will examine Optimus Prime's belief that Megatron can be redeemed and whether this is really a justifiable belief.


Bob Orci said that this show was an opportunity for him and co-writer Alex Kurtzman (who have also brought us the likes of Star Trek, Cowboys & Aliens, and Fringe) to explore the Transformers universe over season-long arcs instead of just 2.5 hour movies. Transformers: Prime also lets them redress a fundamental limitation of the movies, and that was the relatively limited amount of Transformer screentime.

For various reasons - budget chief among them - there's an upper limit on how much the Transformers can appear in the movies, but the same limits don't really apply in animation. As such, this just might be the robot-centric Transformers show that the movie's detractors have been waiting for. That said, Orci did say the upcoming third Transformers movie, Dark of the Moon, is "the best of both worlds", so perhaps there's room for just a little cautious optimism after all.

All that said, Transformers: Prime is going to be careful in how many new Autobots and Decepticons it adds to the mix. Every new Transformer essentially requires creating three entirely new characters: the robot mode, the vehicle mode, and the transformation in between. That means the core cast of twelve human and robot characters adds up to closer to thirty different character designs, which means the producers want to get the absolute most they can out of existing characters before adding new ones.

The producers also want to make sure the Autobots always have their work cut out for them, so there need to be fewer Autobots than Decepticons, which further reduces the room for new characters. But Jeff Kline did promise that there's a "kickass female Decepticon" coming up soon. And there will also be some flashbacks that will allow dead characters to reappear - Kline said that, in general, once characters are killed they will stay killed. (Megatron presumably excepted, because coming back from the dead is like 95% of what Megatron does.) That should allow them to bring back Cliffjumper, who was killed in the miniseries, although it's unclear whether Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson will return to voice him.


Speaking of voices, Orci said how excited he was to have original Megatron voice Frank Welker back in the fold. He said that he had lobbied hard for Welker to voice Megatron in the movies, a role which ultimately went to Hugo Weaving. Welker did get to voice Soundwave in the sequels, but this is his first time playing Megatron in a Transformers TV series since the 1980s.

You can check out a few more images from "Masters and Students" in this gallery. The episode airs this Friday on the Hub, Hasbro and Discovery's new TV channel. The current season has twenty-one episodes left in its run, and Kline confirmed a second season has already been commissioned.


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Why do all these people persist in giving Optimus Prime a mouth?

And a silly one at that.