"Roll For It"
Written By Douglas Booth - Directed By John Walker
.....Streaking through the sky along with
Thundercracker and Soundwave, Starscream revels in his assumed position as
leader of the Decepticons. The three approach a hydroelectric power plant, and
quickly scare off both the plant workers and the ill-equipped security guards
after Starscream crashes through a window. Then, as Starscream gloats, the
Decepticons begin collecting energy.
.....The Autobots have been alerted, however, and a group led by Optimus Prime soon arrives. Cliffjumper is the first to attack, but is easily dispatched by Thundercracker, who bats him away with a support beam, right into Brawn. After Brawn makes light of Cliffjumper's "attack", Starscream picks up a smashed generator and threatens to destroy the smaller Autobots with it, but is stopped by Prime, who rips the generator from Starscream's hands and throws it aside....right into the Decepticons' stack of Energon Cubes.
.....Starscream makes a hasty retreat after the
Energon Cubes explode, promising revenge as he does so. Soundwave, who had
given the order to retreat in the first place, runs out of the power plant and
is chased by Prowl and Bluestreak, who change into their car modes as they
close in on their prey. Bluestreak reaches Soundwave first and rams into him,
sending the Decepticon flying. Starscream orders him to transform, and flies
off with Soundwave in his cargo hold after he has changed into his cassette
player mode. Bluestreak shoots both Starscream and Thundercracker with a
healthy dose of electricity, causing the two jets to nearly crash into each
other before righting themselves. Optimus Prime then orders Prowl and
Bluestreak to hunt down the three Decepticons, while Thundercracker insults
Starscream's "leadership" skills as the two limp away from the power plant.
.....Meanwhile, in the deeper regions of space, on the planet Cybertron,
Megatron stands in the confines of the Decepticon Command Center, anxious to
get back to Earth and fix whatever damage Starscream has done. Shockwave
manages to establish communications with Starscream and Thundercracker,
noticing how bad the two look before informing then that their previously
planned attack to procure an antimatter formula, which should provide the
Decepticons with all the energy they need. Thundercracker pledges his devotion,
while Starscream, who is already less than thrilled to see his leader alive and
well, points out that they need repairs pronto, or they'll "conk out before we
get [Megatron's] precious formula". Megatron orders the two to hurry up before
entering the Space Bridge, while Shockwave darkly wishes him a safe journey.
Once on Earth, Megatron is greeted by Laserbeak and Rumble, who report that
Reflector will soon be returning with his report on the antimatter research
.....At the laboratory, Bumblebee pulls up to the gate, and the guard greets one of his passengers: a boy named Chip Chase.
The guard lets Bumblebee enter, and is mildly surprised to find out that the
yellow VW Bug is really an Autobot. Regardless, the guard punches the code to
the installation's security to let Bumblebee, Spike, and Chip in, not knowing
that he's being watched by Reflector, who takes pictures of the guard as he
punches in the password. Reflector flies off with a smile on his faces as the
four enter, confident that, with his information, stealing the formula "will be
a piece of oil cake!"
.....Inside, Bumblebee, Spike, and Chip meet with Dr. Alkazar, who gives Chip a disk that will allow his computer to connect to the lab's computer after noting that his help has been invaluable. Chip gleefully accepts, and the three leave at once. Outside, Chip notices an odd looking bird....Laserbeak! The Decepticon tries to stop Bumblebee from getting away, but fails, reporting immediately to Megatron, who decides to attack the lab now (as opposed to waiting for Starscream, Thundercracker, and Soundwave to arrive), fearing that Prime will show up if he doesn't act fast.
.....Bumblebee arrives at Chip's house, dropping him off as Chip promises to contact Dr. Alkazar, while Spike announces that Prime is on his way there. As Bumblebee drives off, he contacts Prowl and Bluestreak, who have their hands full, as they've tracked down Starscream's party to the Ace Aircraft Factory. The two arrive as Starscream and Soundwave fit Thundercracker with a new wing, with Starscream expressing his concerns about Megatron getting the antimatter formula. Prowl and Bluestreak agree, but apply that statement to all of the Decepticons before starting their attack. Soundwave unleashes Ravage, and he, Starscream, and Thundercracker shoot down Prowl as Ravage tackles Bluestreak......
.....Megatron gloats in anticipation of his
expected victory as he, Reflector, and Laserbeak land at the laboratory.
Reflector enters the passcode, and they enter. Spike, meanwhile, attempts to
contact Dr. Alkazar without luck as Megatron blasts through to the doctor's
lab. Alkazar hastily enters commands into his computer, claiming to Megatron
that he has erased it once Rumble pulls him away from the terminal. Megatron
isn't fooled, though, and scans the computer, quickly deducing that it has been
uploaded elsewhere, and promises to find out exactly where the file has been
sent. The formula has in fact been sent to Chip, who pledges to keep it
.....At the aircraft factory, Bluestreak continues his struggle with Ravage, eventually shaking free the robotic jaguar, who makes an easy target for Prowl. Ravage runs back to his master, and Soundwave shoots Prowl, damaging the Autobot's battle computer in the process. Slumping to the ground, Prowl remotely seeks assistance from an online computer so that he can resume fighting.
"I must link up with another online computer. Searching..... Searching....."
Chip, still logged onto his computer, hears Prowl's distress signal and
assumes command, dazzling the Autobot with a series of acrobatic moves. As Chip
has Prowl jump over to one of the fighters in the hangar, Bluestreak gives
Starscream yet another dose of electricity, sending the Decepticon to the
ground in spasms. Chip has Prowl take control of the fighter and fire its
supply of missiles, scaring off the Decepticons and leaving Prowl to thank the
boy for his assistance.
.....At the lab, Megatron successfully traces the location Dr. Alkazar sent the formula to, and orders Starscream, Soundwave, and Thundercracker to retrieve it. Chip, however, hears Ravage breaking into his house and destroys the disk, having already memorized the formula. When Chip tells Ravage that he's destroyed the formula, the Decepticon takes Chip captive, placing him inside Starscream's cargo hold before returning to cassette mode.
.....Elsewhere, Bumblebee and Spike meet up with the other Autobots as they close in on Dr. Alkazar's lab. Starscream, Soundwave, and Thundercracker arrive just as they do, and Rumble (who had been pulling guard duty) warns that Chip will be killed if the Autobots try anything stupid. Starscream, however, notes that Chip's life is forfeit even if they don't do something idiotic, just before taking the boy inside.
.....As Optimus Prime lays out his plan to rescue Spike, Soundwave extracts the formula from Chip's brain, pleasing Megatron to no end. Chip protests, arguing that using the antimatter formula for the Decepticons personal gain is wrong, but Megatron refuses to listen, and simply orders that the boy be disposed of at once. Outside, Mirage and Hound get ready to infiltrate the lab, as Mirage has disappeared, and Hound has created two holographic doubles of himself. After apologizing to Prime for getting ahead of themselves, Mirage disappears again, and Hound disguises himself as a rock, which begins to "roll" towards the laboratory.
.....Rumble soon notices the "rock", but Mirage speaks up, which confuses the small Decepticon long enough for Bumblebee (with Spike in tow) to fly past him, and for Mirage and Hound to walk right by him and into the lab. Inside, the Decepticons begin generating antimatter and collecting it as Chip continues protesting Megatron's actions (for which he gets knocked down by Ravage). As soon as Megatron notices that Chip is still alive, he repeats his order to have him disposed of, and just as Thundercracker sets off to do the job, he is interrupted by Mirage's voice. Megatron tries to identify who spoke, and finds Hound and his holographic doubles eagerly accepting credit. He fires at the images futilely as Bumblebee and Spike rescue Chip.
.....Starscream sees the attempted rescue, though, and prepares to fire, but is thwarted by Mirage, who appears and shoots Starscream's laser out of his hand, which gives Bumblebee enough time to escape with Spike and Chip as his passengers. Mirage and Hound soon follow, and the three Autobots rocket out a fifth-story window and meet up with Prime, telling him that it's OK to begin the attack. Prime bashes through the outer wall of the laboratory, and he and the others hurry off to prevent Megatron from harnessing the power of antimatter.
.....Megatron is ready for them, though, and is holding an Antimatter Energon Cube as they smash through the walls and into the lab.
"It is too late!"
He tosses the cube as the ceiling above the Autobots,
unleashing the explosive power of antimatter down upon them.....
.....As the Autobots limp out of the laboratory and return to base, battered and beaten, Megatron begins gloating happily, confident that he shall soon defeat his foes once and for all. The Autobots return to Headquarters without incident, though, and Spike pleads with his father and Ratchet to repair them as quickly as possible. Chip blames himself for allowing Megatron to get the antimatter formula, but Wheeljack will hear none of it, and he invites both Chip and Spike to help him with a project of his.
.....The Decepticons, meanwhile, prepare for their assault on Autobot Headquarters as Reflector and Rumble load up the Antimatter Energon Cubes into the Decepticon jets. They close in on the Autobots' base not long after Ratchet and Sparkplug have finished repairing their injured allies, and are met outside by Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, who attempt to force down Skywarp and Thundercracker, only to be brought down by Starscream. The other Autobots join the battle, but Megatron lands and absorbs the Antimatter Energon Cubes supplied by Thundercracker. Megatron transforms into his gun mode, and Starscream begins firing at the Autobots gleefully.
"I am invincible! No one can stand against me! No one!"
.....As Starscream continues trashing the Autobots, Wheeljack begins his plan with Spike and Chip under Prime's supervision. Optimus Prime transforms into his trailer mode, and charges Starscream, who happily prepares to gun down the Autobot Leader. However, in a small ravine in front of Starscream is Brawn, who lifts up Prime as he races over the ravine.
"Let's hit it!"
The momentum sends Optimus flying, and he manages to knock Megatron from Starscream's hands, sending him flying.
.....Skywarp recovers Megatron, but Spike begins drilling into his left leg before he can take any action. Chip wheels over to Skywarp as he threatens Spike and places a device on his right leg. Skywarp threatens to blast Chip instead, but the devices activates, and Teletraan 1 assumes control of Skywarp's body, and forces him to fire at the Decepticons. Disgusted, Megatron transforms back into his root mode and announces that the antimatter inside him is almost at ignition temperature. Megatron ejects the Antimatter Energon Cubes, but he and the other Decepticons are caught in the explosion. Realizing that he's been beaten, Megatron orders the Decepticons to retreat as the Autobots celebrate their victory, and thank Chip for his help. In the skies, Megatron flies off, knowing that a mere boy tipped the scales in favor of the Autobots on this day, but remains confident that he shall have his revenge and eventually emerge victorious in his war against the Autobots.
.....As an unabashed fan of
Filmation Associates and their assorted series, I generally concede that I am
willing to overlook flaws in animation if those flaws don't keep me from
enjoying the story. "Roll For It" seems to be the exception to this rule, as
the review process for this episode left me cold because of the
near-stultifying number of animation errors I encountered (and, since my
reviews entails watching each cartoon multiple times to get a feel for the
episode, create sound clips for my own use, take screen grabs, write the
synopsis, and finally review the thing, I get more than enough exposure to a
'toon when I review it). Not counting the Season 1 finale, "Heavy Metal War"
(which I'm excluding for reasons that I'll discuss when I review that episode),
"Roll For It" is the worst-animated episode of the first season of The
Transformers, and a strong contender for the worst-animated installment of
the entire series. However, the episode benefits from the introduction of Chip
Chase, the wheelchair-bound human who is quite likely the best written disabled
character in animation history.
......The problem is, he debuts in an episode that starts looking ugly almost from the beginning. The second shot of the episode features yet another instance of the Decepticon jets being miscolored, as Thundercracker's body (but, oddly, not his tail fins) is colored the same as Starscream, who's flying right beside him.
Starscream nearly manages to crash into Soundwave as he rants
and raves about how cool he is, which is a strange turn of events (although we
do see Soundwave raising his arm angrily, which implies that the near collision
is meant to be a counter to Starscream's claims of superiority.
.....Starscream's target is a dam, the second of three times in Season 1 that we'd see the Decepticons raid such a facility. It's also the least elegant (and least important) of the three attempts, but it seems like this is because of Starscream and his ham-fisted attack methods. The two guards who watch Starscream crash through the window look excessively....friendly (if you know what I mean) as they react to Starscream's transformation.
"Hey, those aren't jets; they're Decepticons!"
There's no way that American men would ever touch like that in
that circumstance, since we're all about looking manly and such.
.....The camera angle is again used effectively in order to make the Decepticons look larger and more imposing. These men have obviously been trained how to deal with a Decepticon attack (further implying that this is simply a refurbished Sherman Dam), and they immediately clear out and let the armed security guards security guards take over. Of course, it's laughable, because we already know that humans can't handle the Decepticons, and Starscream and company manage to clear them out easily. Of course, this gets Starscream gloating again, which means the fall is coming, and it's going to suck for our villain.
.....While he's gloating, the close-up on Starscream's face has his nose drawn far too big. So much so that it kinda resembles Bill Cosby's nose in terms of its size.
"Who needs Megatron?"
Another oddly animated moment happens a mere five seconds later as Soundwave produces Energon Cubes (which look full) from his open cassette door.
"Soundwave, prepare the Energon Cubes!"
See what I mean about poor animation? Normally, I'd be suspecting that this episode was animated first, before "More Than Meets the Eye" and "Transport to Oblivion", but the vocal track (which is, naturally, recorded before the show) features Chris Latta with his fully developed voice for Starscream, which means that this episode was definitely recorded after "Transport to Oblivion". (All bets are off about the production status of "Roll For It" in regards to that of "More Than Meets the Eye", though.) So, we've got two animation errors within the first 1:32 of the episode (a figure which includes the opening credits, I might add). Then, a second later, we get this close-up of Optimus Prime.
"Conflict zone ahead."
So that's three, and we're maybe a minute into the episode
proper. The story may be lacking in the development and sophistication areas
(hey, it is the second regular episode of the series, after all), but it
and the voice work are already being serviced poorly by crap animation and/or
coloring. (Note how Prime's fender isn't even miscolored a uniformly incorrect
.....The device Starscream uses to extract energy for his Energon Cube is also a bit strange, but this can be traced directly to the storyboards, if not the script itself.
It might be an experimental device, as Starscream is seen fussing with it when the Autobots arrive. Cliffjumper is again too eager to fight the Decepticons (especially since the three present tower over him physically), and gets quickly tossed aside. Brawn comes out ahead in the sequence, as he isn't even affected by Cliffjumper being thrown right into him.
His head is also miscolored in the shot. (Should I even be wasting my time
pointing out all of these mistakes? *grumbles*) Whereas Brawn is confident for
a reason (i.e., he's really strong and durable for his size), Cliffjumper is
just really dumb.
.....Starscream's decision to try and bash the two Autobots with a broken generator (which, in a bit of good continuity, was seen being destroyed as the Decepticons chased off the human guards earlier) is his fatal error, as Prime uses it to destroy the Energon Cubes. It's also at this point where the Decepticons just look like idiots. Starscream flies off (and with a big continuity error, too, as he's seen taking off twice), and Soundwave looks like a total klutz as he rushes outside,
stumbling along and running through a net. He looks really ridiculous after he gets rammed by Bluestreak and sent flying into the Land of Really Low Frame Rates. There's a neat little bit of animation, though, with Starscream, as a panel on his underside opens up to receive Soundwave (even if the rest of his body looks pretty poorly drawn).
It's a neat little plot convenience, even if this is just about
the only time that any of the Decepticon jets' cargo holds would ever have an
opening on their undersides.
.....There's yet another, much shorter shot of Thundercracker miscolored as Starscream here,
and this time he's colored exactly like Starscream. This would
also be the start of a sequence where most of the views of the two jets would
be drawn very much off-model. Here, they look more like Veritech fighters from
Robotech than F-15s, but the most common problem would be an elongated
.....I like the detail and animation during Bluestreak's firing on Starscream and Thundercracker and the footage of the two getting hit. What I don't like is the painfully obvious error as Prime speaks to Prowl and Bluestreak.
Granted, the two characters originate from the same toy mold,
but the way they look onscreen is different enough for it to be safe to assume
that there would never be any animation accidents involving Prowl and
Bluestreak if they were to ever appear together. And, apparently, that
assumption is wrong. Regardless, the scene does end well, as Thundercracker
tears into Starscream.
.....The following scene begins with not one, but two excellent panning shots. The first, of the void of space, shows a surprisingly black void, which is contrast to the much-easier-to-animate-around blue voids of space seen in most episodes of the first two seasons. The next pan, which is of part of Cybertron, is enhanced by the foreground pieces that move by faster than the main background, creating an added illusion of depth.
Megatron's anxiety here isn't surprising, given how we've just seen Starscream completely botch a routine energy collection mission. Thankfully, this is kept short and sweet, as Shockwave promptly contacts Starscream, beginning yet another round of Megatron-Starscream banter. Thundercracker also gets in a good jab, while managing to score some actual suck-up points in the process. It's also the first time we see him in his vehicle mode, on-model and colored correctly, in the entire episode so far (as most shots have featured Thundercracker in the dark blue of his toy while in jet mode, as opposed to his animation-friendly shade of light blue).
"Wonderful, Megatron! With your leadership, we can't fail."
Starscream manages to debunk Megatron's plan by pointing out
that he and Thundercracker needs parts, which only manages to upset Megs even
further. However, he isn't about to let Starscream's bungling interrupt his
......Problem is, this is where the scene stops making sense. Last episode, Megatron was rightfully obsessed with finding a way to actually get Energon Cubes to Cybertron, but here we learn that Megatron already had a plan to generate even more energy, which the other Decepticons knew about, which Starscream apparently ignored by attacking the dam (since he thought that Megatron was dead). Even at this early juncture, Megatron isn't known for developing multiple plots at once, unless they are part of one greater plan to do the plundering of Earth and defeating Optimus Prime thing. So it seems that this episode's writer has decided to entirely skip the standard "I've developed a plan" step in favor of claiming that the plan had already been formed last episode.
.....Even more dubious is Shockwave's behavior as Megatron leaves for Earth. Instead of being unfailingly loyal to Megatron, his farewell has a distinctly sinister tone to it.
"Have a safe journey, Megatron."
This behavior likely harkens back to both the Tech Specs that
came with the Shockwave toy (which specifically stated that Shockwave wished to
unseat Megatron) and the comic book (where Shockwave spent a rather large
portion of the series as leader of the Decepticons). Here, however, it's quite
out of place, because there's been no indication at this point (and there never
would be, in fact) that Shockwave holds Megatron in contempt. However, for what
it's worth, the sequence is handled well, especially with the blue filter on
the camera, which adds to the feeling of the moment perfectly (even if
Shockwave's "mouth" fails to light up as he speaks).
.....The Space Bridge animation is noticeably different from that in "Transport to Oblivion" and, as a result, different from how the transfer would look for the rest of the season. The beginning of the sequence, with its dark red energy, is completely contrary in appearance to anything in either of the first two seasons.
On Earth, we see just how thin the Decepticon forces are when
Megatron is greeted by Rumble and Laserbeak, who mention that Reflector is
elsewhere gathering data, something the Autobots could do and not worry about
violating the four-voice limit (and even then it's violated, as Frank Welker
voices Megatron, Soundwave, Rumble, Laserbeak, Ravage, Mirage, and Skywarp,
which at seven characters is nearly twice the limit). Chris Latta, Corey
Burton, and John Stephenson are almost busy this episode due to having to voice
a mix of Decepticons, Autobots, and humans while Michael Bell, Casey Kasem, and
Dan Gilvezan only have two voices each handling Autobots and humans, indicating
just how badly unbalanced the cast was at this point.
.....After the very ugly looking meeting between Megatron, Laserbeak, and Rumble, we meet Chip Chase, who would turn out to be one of the series' most dynamic characters (but I'll leave the full discussion for my review of "Divide and Conquer"). There's an interesting reveal as we see Bumblebee create a ramp for Chip, who is wheelchair-bound.
Unlike other shows that love to toot their politically correct horns, the matter isn't elaborated, and Chip's inability to walk, while a major part of his character, quickly avoids becoming the character entirely. He's also handled better than the guard in this sequence, whose first line is delivered by Chris Latta in his "Sparkplug" voice, then for the rest of the scene by Dan Gilvezan, who uses a southern accent. Additionally, the animators have decided to give the guard extremely long legs, a style common in many Japanese cartoons.
"Chip, Spike. Great to see you guys."
Spike (and even Bumblebee after he transforms) also has this
problem, but it is far more noticeable with the guard, who is the focus of each
shot he is in. The bad art is broken up by the sight of Reflector, who takes
pictures of the guard as he enters in the passcode to the lab's interior.
There's a lot of really nice angles and perspective-based distortions of
Reflector as he transforms and flies away, creating interest in what is a
mundane (if highly important) part of the plot.
.....If the art outside the lab was bad, then the art inside the lab is absolutely atrocious. Bumblebee in particular look horrible, with the worst shot possibly being the moment when he, Spike, and Chip face Dr. Alkazar.
"Our antimatter formula may be Top Secret, but without Chip's help, it would be a mystery to us as well."
Believe me when I say that the picture speaks a thousand words.
:\ Chip fares almost as badly when Alkazar gives him the floppy, as he's given
a Japanese style expression of glee that makes him look like a little kid
(which manages to overemphasize his geek factor big time).
.....Things again proceed quickly, as the three leave the lab even quicker than they came. However, it works well, as we receive just about all the necessary information we'd ever get from the scene, as well as providing a quick segue into the next action sequence. That sequence, Laserbeak's attack on Bumblebee, is very nicely animated, with a number of camera angles designed to increase the tension of the scene (aided as always by the great music). One shot I really like is that of Bumblebee as he drives towards the parking lot, with the camera seemingly attached to his driver's side door.
The implied intensity of Bumblebee's escape comes across very
well, making the moment work. However, the scene ends sloppily, as the last bit
of fire from Laserbeak is not seen or heard-the after-effects of the attack
simply replace the undamaged backgrounds after one frame, jarring the viewer
unnecessarily, and ruining a well-executed sequence.
.....Frank Welker's delivery is excellent here, as Megatron's frustration is quite clear as he launches his attack ahead of schedule. Things get really busy again as we see Spike and Bumblebee drop off Chip, then check in with Prowl and Bluestreak, who've found Starscream, Thundercracker, and Soundwave-all in less than 45 seconds after Megatron is seen lamenting over Bumblebee's escape. Thundercracker's replacement wing undergoes a quick (and fairly predictable) color change after Prowl and Bluestreak arrive, and we get the barest acknowledgement of Starscream's distrust for Megatron before the fight begins. For a moment, however, Thundercracker is miscolored as Skywarp (which also manages to show that the two are drawn subtly different).
"Nah, you don't have Brawn and Prime to bail you out this time."
Things continue moving at a dizzying pace as Act 1 concludes (implying that the writer was having difficulties writing under Sunbow's three-act structure), but not without an error that has largely been masked by the dark and blurry 1" broadcast masters for this episode.
It appears as if the film literally broke at some point in
production (or, more likely, post-production), possibly during the telecine
(film-to-video) transfer process. How much of this actually made it to
broadcast is uncertain, but it's safe to say that the fade out to commercial
had to be handled in post-production.
.....As we begin Act 2, the laughter at the end of Megatron's line is left strangely unprocessed, and even then it sounds more like Frank Welker's "Rumble" voice than his inflection for Megatron. Next, Chip uses the word "acknowledge" when attempting to contact Dr. Alkazar-not exactly the type of word a civilian would ever use. Probably the most famous inconsistency of the episode, though, occurs when Megatron quickly determines that Dr. Alkazar is lying.
"He uploaded the formula to someone."
But is it really an inconsistency? It doesn't take a
genius to figure out that Alkazar is lying-the antimatter formula is far too
precious (if a bit scientifically unsound in theory, even today) to just throw
away. And with the size of Alkazar's computer, it's amazing that Megatron was
connected as long as he was (hell, this website takes up more space than
Alkazar's computer could ever hope to store). Given the more noticeable fault
of not showing where the guard was as the Decepticons just waltzed into the
place (to say nothing of Alkazar's sudden disappearance after this scene), I'd
say this minor timing error (which is far more minor than the similar timing
error at the beginning of G.I. Joe's second episode, "Slave of the Cobra
Master") is the least important thing to be concentrating on.
.....When Chip does receive the formula, the text of the file is hard to read, but is clearly Japanese text, possibly even the names of the animation staff for this episode.
Of course, given that the individual animators of most
televised cartoons rarely receive individual credit (and then being lucky to
have even their studios named in the credits of American shows), it's not
surprising in the least that they'd put in such an "Easter Egg".
.....The next shot is pretty horrid.
"Oh, wow! Dr. Alkazar sent me the antimatter formula!"
Chip is drawn as if he were an anime teenager and not a teen on
a show with model design heavily influenced by the work of John Romita, Sr.
(And back when the comics industry was just beginning to use that "Sr.", I
might add.) Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.....
.....This entire scene requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. And I mean a lot. While the damage to Prowl's all-important (and never again mentioned) battle computer makes for interesting drama, it makes no sense that Chip, on his home computer, would be able to assume control of anything, much less an Autobot. The communication between the two is handled well, since it seems apparent that Prowl sent his message to all computers hooked up to a modem in the area. Of course, in 1984, this means scientists like Dr. Alkazar, schools, and rich kids like Chip. And, as a final touch, Chip produces a microphone with which to speak to Prowl.
"Prowl, this is Chip Chase. Don't worry! I'm assuming control now."
.....However, the plausibility of
this scene quickly plummets, largely because no computers available at the time
had speakers of any sort, rendering the ability for Chip to actually hear
Prowl's voice at about zero. Furthermore, on Chip's monitor he is capable of
seeing exactly what Prowl sees in real time-another impossibility for a 1984
home computer. Granted, I'm being a bit picky here (as will become self evident
as I review episodes with much more severe leaps of faith), but the behavior of
Chip's computer falls very much into the category of things that are supposed
to be as in our world when presented in the Sunbow universe.
.....However, one thing that does work effectively is the incredibly low frame rate for Prowl as Chip first commands him, a touch that adds a nice videogame-ish feel to the proceedings. In fact, Chip's rather unorthodox tactics seem to come right out of a videogame (especially the "blow everything up" mentality behind those actions). The shot of Prowl switching the fighter's engines on is a victim of an odd angle (i.e., one that wouldn't necessarily come from Prowl's point of view) and a cel layering error.
Also, the battle ends with an almost jarring halt, as if the
writer needed the scene to end quickly, before it got excessively pointless,
and to provide a proper segue in to the following scene (wherein Starscream's
party captures Chip).
.....The footage of Soundwave ejecting Ravage is re-used from the end of Act 1, right down to the background. Oddly, it doesn't appear that the clip was inserted by Sunbow after receiving the episode with a gap in the film (as in the Ironhide and Bluestreak chase sequence in "More Than Meets the Eye" Part III). Other oddities here include the use of Starscream's cargo space to carry Chip, and another clip of Frank Welker (this time as Soundwave) without the show's trademark voice processing.
.....Chip's reasoning here, to memorize the formula and destroy the evidence, seems dubious. Obviously, he knows that someone (and not necessarily the Decepticons, as Cobra would certainly have taken the formula if they had known about it) wants the formula, and that it's valuable regardless. But since Ravage essentially took Chip on his word, I wonder if it would have been a better idea for Chip to have claimed to have destroyed the disk, but yet having hidden it. Granted, Chip's life would have still been in danger, but a misdirection ploy would have kept Megatron from getting the formula so quickly. Of course, I suspect that I'm think too much again. ^_^
.....Optimus Prime re-appears at 12:02 in this episode, a whopping nine minutes after we last saw him at the power plant. For a series so noted for the importance of Prime, it seems jarring that he could go so long without appearing in an episode. Oddly, however, this sort of thing would become relatively common, even before the post-movie episodes.
.....I like Starscream's counterpoint to Rumble's threat to kill Chip, largely because it's frightfully honest, a quality not common with cartoon villains (Starscream included) under such circumstances. Yet another bit of dialogue from Frank Welker is left unprocessed, this time an oddly placed laugh from Rumble as we see Starscream take off with Chip in tow. Disregarding the bizarre placing of the laugh, it seems odd that the line (and the others similar to it) went unprocessed, given that Wally Burr is a noted perfectionist-so much so that a number of union rules (most notably the three-voice limit and the rules governing session lengths and overtime) were changed in the late '80s and early '90s because of the extreme circumstances that occurred during voice-over sessions directed by Burr.
.....There's a lot of ridiculously off-model animation as Soundwave reads Chip's mind. (And yes, I'm getting tired of pointing out bad animation in every other paragraph, thank you very much.) The act of "reading" Chip's mind seems a bit bizarre, but is actually rooted in reality, as all brain functions are simply a matter of synaptic activity-something Soundwave should be able to record (and, apparently, decipher). Chip's argument about why Megatron shouldn't steal the formula is wafer thin-a sign that Chip isn't even close to being able to argue such broad concepts as good and evil with Megatron (to say nothing of how it belies his youth).
.....Hound and (especially) Mirage goofing off while Prime plans the assault on Alkazar's lab is one of those moments that supports the belief that the Autobots under Optimus Prime in Seasons 1 and 2 are largely children. Hound's creation of his holographic doubles is a bit of foreshadowing, as well as a display of Hound's rather odd sense of humor.
.....Countering this is Rumble's amazing stupidity as Mirage talks back to the Decepticon, who is engaging in the time-honored activity of talking to himself. Not only does Rumble actually believe Mirage, he allows Bumblebee to fly right past him!
Hound and Mirage also get a free pass as well, while Rumble
finally realizes that something isn't right here. What's worse is that
this would be but the first instance of Rumble's ignorance over the course of
.....The production of the antimatter inside looks very nice, but begins to expose the greatest failure of this episode's plot. Simply put, antimatter is the opposite of matter, and, as veteran Star Trek viewers are well aware, when the two come into contact, there is an explosion that wipes out everything in the general vicinity. For those of you not in the know, "the general vicinity" is very big-so big, in fact, that such a disaster would turn the original series Enterprise into a sun-sized fireball. So the danger, as presented in this episode, is highly minimized. However, by storing the antimatter in Energon Cubes (which have qualities similar to the magnetic fields necessary to safely contain antimatter), some of the problems with this plot are negated.
.....The army of Hounds that appears just as Thundercracker is about to fry Chip is handled nicely, as each, "We did!" is delivered with a different inflection and echo. Further selling the concept that these are holograms is the shot of Megatron's blast passing through one of the images of Hound, and exploding off in the distance.
However, the three Hounds are standing in similar, but
ultimately different poses, which ruins the illusion.
.....Not only is Bumblebee again off-model as he picks up Chip, but Starscream's arms are oddly rounded as he prepares to fire at Bumblebee, Chip, and Spike.
"Your reunion will be short-lived!"
With this error, and the one in the next shot (where the flash
of Mirage's laser blast hitting Starscream's hand is held, on the same frame,
for the rest of the shot, and Starscream's laser flies from his hand at an
extremely slow rate), it seems as if the animation errors in this episode are
well on a pattern here. The thing is, that pattern is one where the mistakes in
this episode are one-and-onlies. Bumblebee has been drawn horribly, the
anime-izing of Chip, the above set of errors involving Starscream.....the list
goes on. Even for a young series such as this, the number of oddball errors,
paired with the more common (and therefore somewhat excusable) errors seems a
.....When Bumblebee transforms here, he literally envelops Chip and Spike-a curious visual experiment. From here, the Act seems to rush towards its intended resolution: the detonation of one of the Antimatter Energon Cubes. A lot has been made of the failure to animate the Cube's interior at the end of Act 2, but this is really inconsequential (and a terribly common error-one that would plague all of the Marvel and Sunbow shows throughout the '80s). Consider this: at the end of Act 2, we see Dr. Alkazar's lab blow up. The damage is so great that it's safe to assume that the entire place has been leveled. However, when Act 3 begins, this is what we see:
While the damage is nothing to laugh about, it's nothing
compared to the devastation seen as we went into the commercial break.
.....Disregarding the obvious problems with the use of antimatter, this is an humongous fault by the Sunbow staff, most likely one that can be traced back to the storyboarding process (if not the script itself). However, the greatest error occurs as the Autobots, beaten senseless, transform.
Suddenly, every Autobot pictured gains, as they transform, any
of a number of distorted body parts and broken windows. I can't even begin
to relate how poor the continuity is in this sequence.
.....Things are dicier inside, as none of the Decepticons has damage of any kind, despite having been right in the middle of the blast. But that's nothing compared to the achingly huge gaffe of having Ratchet waiting for Prime and the others at Autobot Headquarters. Ratchet was seen in Act 2 with the Autobots outside Alkazar's lab, and inside the lab at ground zero (along with Jazz, Hound, and Sunstreaker) when Megatron hurled the Antimatter Energon Cube. At the start of Act 3, he's seen as the first Autobot to follow Optimus Prime as the Autobots leave. Given the differences between Ratchet and Ironhide's appearances, it's highly unlikely the animators made this mistake without the aid of faulty storyboards. Case in point: Ironhide is seen walking out of the lab at the start of this Act.
.....When we next see the Decepticons, the scene opens with a beautiful panning shot.
"This time, none of the Autobots will escape!"
The problem is, there are two Starscreams! In all honesty, this
is more of an issue of the lack of coloring guidelines for the nondescript
Decepticon jets, often referred to as "Seekers" (purportedly due to a notation
in an episode script, storyboards, or model sheets), that populate a number of
the first-year episodes. In "More Than Meets the Eye" and The Ultimate
Doom, for instance, the Seekers have colors that are generally some shade
of blue (and obviously not the shade of blue that Thundercracker sports), but
are otherwise indistinguishable from Starscream, Skywarp, and Thundercracker.
In "Divide and Conquer", the Seekers on Cybertron are given solid paint
jobs-the only differently colored areas being their heads, their Decepticon
symbols, the red-and-white stripes on their wings, and their chest panels.
Personally, I like the "Divide and Conquer" Seekers more, because they look
significantly different from the Season 1 jets (plus their colors-lime green,
purple, and yellow-are quite unique amongst the Decep jets). These design
issues (which apparently led to Sunbow radically altering the designs of the
Season 2 jets, plus all the other Transformers who shared molds with Season 1
characters) make it really hard to blame the animators for coloring errors like
this, because of the challenge involved (especially when you're under pressure
to get 22 minutes worth of cels colored so that they can be filmed).
.....There seems to be a bit of a time crunch, though, as this episode's Big Fight is started with hardly any build up whatsoever. The battle starts with a fun little bit with Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, though, which spotlights the interplay between the two "brothers" nicely. Especially fun is the exchange they share after being thrown from Skywarp and Thundercracker by Starscream.
"Hey, I get the feeling our jet judo needs a little more work."
"Oh, what makes you say that?"
.....The battle itself, however, is nicely done, and Megatron's absorption of the Antimatter Energon Cubes is an excellent, suspenseful moment. Megatron's transformation here is stock, but oddly, not in the traditional sense.
The image on the left is from this episode; the one on the
right from "More Than Meets the Eye" Part III. The footage from the earlier
episode, backgrounds and all, was reversed, and it can be noticed if you freeze
fame the image at the start of the transformation, as Megatron's barrel is on
the opposite side of his back, as is his fusion cannon. Even worse, this bit of
stock is from an entirely different time of day than the current events (which
are set at dawn).
.....The following shot of Starscream grabbing Megatron is wonderful, and quite dramatic. The blue background behind Starscream is a nice touch, and adds emphasis on him.
"And I am about to transform the Autobots into atomic particles!"
Also effective is how Starscream points at the camera, and fires right into it.
In fact, this sequence is classic Starscream, and the episode's
most memorable moment, as he lays devastating antimatter blasts at the Autobots
.....The rest of the battle is wonderful, as well, but when Prime knocks away Megatron and Starscream asks Skywarp to recover the "antimatter gun", I can't help but cringe. This moment ruins a well-conceived battle because this "gun" is Megatron! Never again would the series make such a huge error by casting off Megatron in battle like this. While it allows for some great exposure for Skywarp and Chip (and the use of yet another nifty invention by Wheeljack), the sequence does at the cost of Megatron's character.
.....And while I'm a sucker for the Season 1 "We'll/They'll be back" bits, the one here leaves me a little cold. It's certainly not the animation-the Decepticons look very nicely banged up. It's the dialogue. Even though Chip is an amazing asset to the Autobot cause, he's never again stated as the main, if not sole, reason the Decepticons lost. While I'm all for Autobots other than Optimus Prime getting the major hero moment of an episode, I'm not too keen about the human cast getting the full credit, especially during their first appearance. And definitely not in this episode.
.....To say that I'm disappointed with "Roll For It" is probably a rather sizable understatement. Perhaps it's because I expect more out of the debut episode for Chip Chase (one of my favorite human characters on the show). Maybe I'm just being picky. Then I look at the big plot problems (chiefly the misdefinition of antimatter) and remember that a good deal of the errors can be blamed on poor scripting and/or storyboarding and realize that just about everyone (including the normally infallible Wally Burr) screwed up at some point during the production of "Roll For It". Also, I can't help but think that the story is missing something. Of all the first season episodes, "Roll For It" seems to be the effort where most of the action is mundane, instead of dynamic. And even after reconsidering, I still can't help but feel that "Roll For It" is the worst episode of The Transformers' first season.
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