"Transformers: EarthSpark" Secret Legacy, Part 1 SPOILER Review


"Secret Legacy, Part 1" SPOILER Review

On October 9, 2022, a Transformers EarthSpark panel was held at New  York Comic-Con in New York City.   During this panel our audience was lucky enough to see the very first episode of the upcoming series set to debut on Paramount+ on November 11, 2022.  I was live Tweeting and typing furiously to get as many notes down as I could for the review below.  To kick things off, we were also shown a new trailer embedded below.

Special thanks to my friends Steve K. and Leslie D. for also taking photos and helping to jog my memory on certain points of the episode!   All screen captures below are from the trailers already released for the show over the last few months.

The Decepticons Hardtop and Swindle (Nolan North in both roles) drive up to a set of trailers.  Opening one up they see a batch of Energon.  However, before they can get away with their loot, the Autobots Optimus Prime (Alan Tudyk) and Elita-1 (Cissy Jones) arrive on the scene!  A battle ensues and Elita-1 reveals that the “tip” they received about the Energon was a set up to capture these two.

A battle ensues but the two Decepticons are quickly overwhelmed (in part by Elita-1’s superior hand-to-hand combat skills).  Just as the Decepticons are defeated, six legged “Arachni-mechs” suddenly appear with large heads and six eyes!  They attack Swindle and Optimus Prime, who quickly dispatches them before locking Swindle and Hardtop up in a trailer for transport.  Optimus tells Elita that it is not Cybertronian technology.  There are rumors about Decepticons going missing and he believes what is happening is…more than meets the eye!

Elsewhere, Robby (Sydney Mikayla) and Mo Malto (Zion Broadnax) are trying to fly a kite that will hopefully get them the cell reception they so crave.  Unfortunately it’s not a strong signal and soon their father, Alex Malto (Jon Jon Briones) calls them to have them come home for dinner.  At the dinner table they are joined by their mother, Dot Malto (Benni Latham).  She seems very happy living in Witwicky (yes, you read that right) with no wifi (which is interesting) but Robby definitely is not.  He wants to go back to where they came from: Philadelphia.

That night, Mo tries to make Robby feel better by bringing him food but he’s already outside running away in his bike.  Mo follows him but her bike breaks so the two stop just in time to see a convoy of vehicles heading right for them!  On the other side of the road is a group of spider robots who fire rockets at the convoy!  The explosion throws the kids down a hill where they discover a cave that lights up!

Inside the cave the siblings discover an artifact that resembles a crystal.  Robby pokes it and knocks it over by accident.   The two kids touch it and suddenly it activates!  Each sibling gets a sleeve over one arm and then two figures emerge from a pool around them.  The Transformers created are Twitch (Kathreen Khavari) and Thrash (Zeno Robinson).  The kids quickly realize they can feel the emotions of the Transformers and even know their names!  The new Transformers know their names as well, showing the connection is mutual.  Suddenly a spider robot attacks and they quickly dispatch of it!

Elsewhere, a mysterious figure missing one arm is seen detaching one of Hardtop’s arms.  He tells Hardtop he is not an Autobot or part of G.H.O.S.T. and he intends to become “so much more” than he is!

Predictably, the kids bring the two Transformers back home, but want to hide them from their parents.  At the same time, they want to help the two learn about Transformers.  First they give them comic books but that does not seem to teach them what they know.  So instead the kids decide on an alternate path.   Eventually they have their father lecture about his favorite topic: Transformers history!  He explains that the Transformers war came to Earth on September 17, 1984.  After much conflict, the Autobots destroyed the Space Bridge, severing the connection between worlds.  After that, the war ended leaving only small pockets of Decepticons to cause trouble on Earth.  During this flashback sequence we learn that Dot Malto fought alongside the Autobots before becoming a Park Ranger.  While Twitch and Thrash heard the story, they do not feel like part of the Transformers story. 

Meanwhile, Dot finds the wreckage of the convoy on a road.  Optimus and Elita-1 show up and explain they are working with a human organization called G.H.O.S.T. that seeks to ensure positive Cybertronian/Earth relations.  They also explain her job as a Park Ranger was created by G.H.O.S.T. in Witwicky because this is where their base is located.  Suddenly, Megatron arrives on the scene and lands, transforming into his vehicle mode and picking up Dot!

To Be Continued…

It is not often that any Transformers animated series takes place after a Great War.  Energon and Robots in Disguise (2015) both explored this idea in their own ways, but EarthSpark’s use of this story idea looks like it may be the most ambitious version of this story yet in Transformers animation.

EarthSpark starts with a bang up action sequence that immediately engages the audience and sets the status quo.  We learn very quickly the Great War is over but there are still small pockets of Decepticons floating around on Earth causing trouble.  We also learn that strange spider-like robots are attacking Transformers regardless of their affiliation.   That’s a good amount of information being thrown at us in just the opening of the episode, yet somehow it does not feel forced or overwhelming.

I found Robby and Mo Alto are both characters I cared about very quickly.  Robby is sympathetic as a kid whose entire life has been changed.  You don’t feel a lot of control as a kid, and less so when you can’t even see your friends or talk to them anymore.  Mo is stubborn but wants to be there for her brother and that is a strong emotional core for the show to focus on.

The new Autobots, Thrash and Twitch are pretty undeveloped at this point – but that presents an opportunity for fun storytelling.   We’ve seen “new” Transformers characters emerge on Earth plenty over the years whether it was the Dinobots in G1 or the Stasis Pod warriors in Beast Wars.  However, those characters always emerged in the middle of a conflict. These two characters are newborns in a relative peace time so it will be interesting to see how that affects their perspectives.  We already got a hint of it where after learning their “history”, they have little interest in combat and instead wish to explore the world around them.

I cannot help but wonder why Thrash and Twitch need the mental bonding with Robby and Mo.  There are shades of “kids finding Mini-Cons” from Armada here, but the connection seems to go much deeper.  And is this somehow connected to why Dot wants her family in the middle of nowhere?  I originally thought it was just about trying to get as far away from her experiences during the Great War as possible, but now I wonder if there’s more to it than…well, you know.

The flashback sequence is already being talked about a ton thanks to photos I posted from the episode on Twitter during the Earthspark panel at New York Comic-Con 2022.  I’m going to write an article focusing on just that, but what I will say is as a G1 fan, I will say I was absolutely thrilled with all the nods to G1 including using the animation models from Marvel/Sunbow to represent the past.  They even squarely cite September 17, 1984 as the date the Transformers arrived, a meta reference to the date the very first episode of G1 aired in the United States.    This sequence is not just still images.  There is some minor animation (such as the Decepticons running).

To be clear, this show is not a direct sequel to the G1 show from the 80’s.  Instead, series Producer Ant Ward stated during New York Comic-Con 2022 that this is “not direct canon” and considered this modified G1 continuity as a homage to the past and referred to it as “G1.5”Transformers fans should be more than familiar with the concept of a multiverse at this point and it looks like this is another G1 adjacent universe.  I prefer this as it keeps them from potentially stepping on continuity landmines and giving the writers flexibility in how they refer to the past (if at all) beyond this episode.

While the end of the episode is written like a cliffhanger, it has already been spoiled in the trailer released on October 9, 2022 that Megatron is no longer leading the Decepticons, and in fact appears to be an ally of both Dot and the Autobots.  This also explains why the characters now wear a unified symbol instead of their original faction symbols.  If they all work with G.H.O.S.T., I suspect that’s actually more of a G.H.O.S.T. symbol than a Transformers faction symbol.  I am very interested in seeing this explored in the show.  Whether he changed allegiances or not, Megatron is still responsible for a lot of mayhem and death on Cybertron (and possibly on Earth).  It would be fascinating to see if that comes back to haunt him at any point.  The Prime Wars Trilogy played with this idea and did a nice job and I look forward to this version of Megatron’s story.

References, Connections & Callbacks
With literal decades of Transformers fiction preceding this show, it is not surprising that some themes and ideas seem to call back to previous shows.  Meanwhile, other references are much more overt and intentional.  This list may not be comprehensive but here’s what I caught:

  • Arachnid-like robots serving a master feels very much in the spirit of Tarantulas’ little drones from Beast Wars.
  • The classic Transformers transformation sound effect is used at varying speeds throughout the episode.
  • Hardtop is not a callback to a G1 character but rather a character from the Cybertron series.  Even cooler?  Cybertron Hardtop’s brother was none other than Swindle (who he is paired up with in this episode)!
  • One of the trailers in the opening battle scene says “Stax” on it, which is one “X” away from being the same as the name of a G2 Decepticon Powermaster.
  • Optimus Prime works the classic tag line “More than meets the eye” into a sentence very early on.
  • Optimus Prime voice actor Alan Tudyk previously appeared in a Transformers production as Dutch in the third live action Transformers film Dark of the Moon.
  • The town of “Witwicky” is a reference to the family that the Autobots first met in the G1 comic books, cartoons and other fiction in the 80’s.
  • Robby and Mo finding the Cybertronian artifact in the cave is very reminiscent of the kids in Armada finding the Mini-Cons.
  • While it is hard to hear during the episode, the voice that speaks during the creation of Thrash and Twitch is none other than Clancy Brown as Quintus Prime!  Brown previously voiced Silas and Nemesis Prime in Transformers Prime.  Quintus Prime was the scientist of the original 13 Transformers making it very possible that the artifact is the Emberstone, which was made to seed life.
  • The issues of the Transformers comic book given to Thrash and Twitch to read feature G1 character designs on the covers including a nice and chonky G1 Seaspary and Soundwave!  The design of the comic covers (front and back) appear to be a combination of classic Marvel and IDW Publishing comic books.
  • When Alex Malto tells the “history” of Transformers there are tons of callbacks to the G1 animation style and even specific animated moments from G1 history.  I’ll get into these in more detail in a separate article but for any G1 fan it is an absolute treat to watch.
  • When Alex Malto begins his flashback story/history lesson, the screen aspect ratio actually narrows, adding an extra retro touch to the segment.
  • Alex says “Be an Optimist Prime, not a Negatron”.  This is a reference to a meme that has bounced around the internet for years.
  • Megatron’s double rotor aerial mode is very reminiscent of his Transformers: Animated counterpart.

Final Thoughts
“Secret Legacy, Part 1” is a very encouraging start to this new entry into the Transformers lore.  It pays respect to what came before while clearly having a very clear visual language of its own.  The episode featured action, mystery, fun humor and Easter Eggs galore.   I think every fan should give the first two episodes a watch and see if this new show is for you.  I for one plan on tuning in week after week!