There’s no shortage of robots in disguise to keep track of in the new Netflix Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege series, but don’t blow a gasket — our reference guide will help you keep track of all the Autobots who fight for peace, honor and the opposite of whatever Megatron and the Decepticons think is a good idea.
Optimus Prime, esteemed leader of the Autobots and chosen wielder of the Autobot Matrix of Leadership is a Transformer who should need little introduction.
In every iteration of Transformers, Optimus Prime exhibits the defining characteristics of strength, battle prowess, wisdom, courage and altruism (perhaps to a fault), the latter of which is exhibited in Prime’s trademark phrase, “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.” (According to Bob Budianksy, who wrote the Marvel Comics Transformers series in the US as well as created the mythos, characters and names for the Transformers animated series, Optimus’ saying is based on Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote from the Declaration of Independence. Source: “The Story of Optimus Prime” TV series documentary)
As mentioned above, being a Prime means Optimus is the designated bearer of the Autobot Matrix of Leadership. The Matrix is a Cybertronian relic (one strongly suggested to be a conduit of power to Cybertron’s creator-god, Primus) that bestows its owner with vast powers, including the collective wisdom of and means of communication with past Autobot leaders (in the afterlife) and even the ability to create new Transformer life or fully revive the spark of a dead one.
Biggest differences between G1 and War for Cybertron Optimus Prime:
In G1, Optimus Prime was already an established Autobot leader with a clear aptitude for commanding and mobilizing his troops as well as making strategic battlefield decisions.
In War for Cybertron, Optimus is a newly established leader who is still learning the ropes as Autobot Commander. As a result, some of the decisions he makes are questioned by his troops and he isn’t the overpowered, omniscient, insuperable Prime we’ve seen in other Transformers iterations.
Although it adds more dramatic tension to the narrative with an Optimus Prime that isn’t nigh-invincible and whose decisions aren’t infallible, it would still be nice to see Optimus fill the leadership role a little more adequately. Or at the very least, grow into it. Optimus is supposed to be what George Washington was to the poorly-trained, undersupplied and outmanned Continental Army; what Pericles was to the Greeks during the Golden Age of Athens; he’s the only leader intelligent, inspiring and influential enough to lead his outnumbered forces to victory against seemingly insurmountable odds.
Prime’s alternate mode is a Freightliner FL86 Semi-Trailer Truck and his signature weapon is an enormous, black ion cannon. He also has the ability to retract his hand and emanate a golden-colored Energon axe to use as a melee weapon.
Another difference between G1 Optimus Prime and War for Cybertron – Siege’s is Optimus’ trailer. In the G1 cartoon, the trailer of Optimus’ 18-wheeler truck could metamorphose into a battle deck equipped with a variety of artillery, a grapple-arm launcher, a communications disk antenna which allows Optimus to broadcast messages to fellow Autobots within a 50-mile radius, and last but not least, Roller, an autonomous, wheeled drone module. The only drawback of Optimus’ trailer and Roller drone was that if damage was done to one module, Optimus would also feel the pain.
So far in the Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege Netflix series, Optimus hasn’t yet exhibited the ability to use his truck trailer or Energon axe.
Optimus Prime’s voice actor in the majority of Transformers incarnations is the iconic Peter Cullen, who has been the voice behind Prime since the original series’ inception in 1984. Cullen has always lent an air of sagacity and resolve to Prime’s voice, with a hint of John Wayne bravado when talking smack to Megatron during battle or ushering the famous “Autobots, transform and roll out!” line. While 22-year-old Jake Foushee doesn’t necessarily do a bad job voicing Prime in War for Cybertron – Siege, the notion that the young man is doing his best to emulate Cullen’s take on Prime without adding his own signature besides unexpectedly loud frustration in certain scenes was always in the back of my mind.
Elita One was Optimus Prime’s female counterpart in Generation 1. She was originally his girlfriend nine million years ago in the peaceful, golden age of Cybertron when the two were known as Ariel and Orion Pax. Ariel and Orion Pax were dock workers who one day had their facility raided by the Decepticon leader Megatron and his drones; the two were both killed in the assault.
Luckily, Ariel and Orion Pax’s deactivated bodies were salvaged and brought to Alpha Trion, one of the oldest and wisest living Transformers at the time. Alpha Trion was able to reconstruct Ariel into Elita One and Orion Pax into Optimus Prime.
As Elita One, Ariel was a formidable Autobot warrior who commanded her own squad of female Transformers, including Chromia, Firestar, Moonracer, Greenlight and Lancer. In comic book lore, another well-known female Autobot, Arcee, was also part of this group.
In the Generation 1 cartoon, Elita becomes gravely injured and Optimus has to save her by “interfacing” with her, which is basically the Transformers version of jumpstarting a car battery. Only with slightly more sexually suggestive overtones. All I know is, my car doesn’t make the noise Optimus makes when interfacing with Elita One in this scene.
Biggest differences between G1 and War for Cybertron Elita-One:
That scene above where Optimus has to “interface” with Elita’s “power filter”? It’s because Elita had the ability to stop time in G1, a power she’d only use in the most dire of circumstances, as it would drain her of all her life essence, killing her. thus far, Elita doesn’t seem to have this time-stopping ability in the Netflix series.
Optimus Prime and Elita-One aren’t explicitly stated to be involved in a relationship in Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege but it is alluded to several times. Speaking of explicitly, maybe the fact that Optimus and Elita aren’t explicitly a couple in the Netflix series is a good thing, as it prevents them from doing this again in front of children.
“This isn’t the life I imagined for us,” Elita says to Prime on more than one occasion, lamenting the fact that the two must spend their lives fighting a civil war which threatens to tear their very planet apart instead of being together. Elita’s voice actor, Lindsay Rousseau, does an excellent job at evoking pathos during these scenes. You can hear the heartbreak and regret in her words.
Chromia is a female Autobot under the command of Elita One, ostensibly her second-in-command. According to her G1 bio, Chromia is a “seasoned, tough-as-nails infiltrator who’s adept at unflinching sabotage. Bluntly honest and a little married to her job, she doesn’t make an ideal friend, but she can nevertheless be fiercely protective, a quality which also makes her an exceptional bodyguard. Her rough edges often find her a kinship with other like-minded security officers such as Ironhide.”
She maintains the same appearance in Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege, with a primarily turquoise/light blue paint finish and a crowned head design. She is an adroit sharpshooter in the Netflix series, able to shoot down three Seekers from the air in an intense fight scene which takes place near the Space Bridge.
If you were a fan of the Generation 1 Transformers cartoon, there’s no forgetting Ironhide, one of the oldest troops in the Autobot army and Optimus Prime’s security chief and weapons specialist (as well as one of Prime’s closest friends).
As his name implies, Ironhide is one of the Autobot’s toughest warriors, with a chassis much more resistant to electromagnetic and ballistic attacks than the average Transformer. Ironhide is also well known in G1 for a voice which matches his tough exterior, a roughneck Southern drawl and some of the coolest lines out of all the G1 bots, like “Your days are numbered now, Decepticreeps!” and “Every time I look into a monitor Prime, my circuts sizzle. When are we going to start busting Deceptichops?” Of course, the fact that Peter Cullen, the same iconic voice actor behind Optimus Prime also voiced Ironhide certainly helped make the character that much more indelible. With all due respect to Ironhide’s voice actor in Siege, Kaiser Johnson, he doesn’t lend Irohide the same sense of memorability or air of roughneck, longtime friend of Optimus Prime to the series. In fact, Ironhide’s voice in Siege is probably one of the most noticeable voice shifts in the series.
Ironhide’s alternate form in G1 was a Nissan Onebox Cherry Vanette. Some of his special equipment included a Cannon that released from his arm compartment which could discharge liquid nitrogen, superheated lead, acid and adhesive fluids that could ensnare attackers.
Although Ironhide was one of the Autobots present with Optimus Prime on the Ark as it made its voyage to Earth in the original G1 cartoon, it doesn’t appear as if Ironhide boarded the Ark in War for Cybertron – Siege.
Despite being an Autobot with a cool design and vehicular form (a Datsun 280ZX Police car); a reserved, strategic demeanor and clout as Optimus Prime’s right-hand-man on Earth, Prowl was a character who wasn’t really given much shine in the Generation 1 animated series.
It remains to be seen whether or not he’ll play a more substantial role in War for Cybertron – Siege, but he does seem more willing to voice his opinion than his G1 counterpart at the very least. The conversation he has about his past as a law enforcement officer in Praxus, one of Cybertron’s prominent city-states is also an interesting allusion that I hope is explored further in the next two arcs.
In Generation 1, Bumblebee was always the plucky little Autobot who you could count on to have your back, even when it looked like the fight wasn’t in his favor. Being one of the smallest and physically weakest of the Autobots, the fight usually wasn’t in his favor either.
Still, it was difficult to dislike an Autobot who displayed enough bravery for a robot three times his size; who never gave up; who was essentially the Rudy of Transformers — an underdog you always wanted to root for.
Perhaps that’s why in the present day, Bumblebee is a more popular and prominent Transformer than he’s ever been. In the Michael Bay movies, he shifted from underdog to a more formidable warrior, but one thing remained: his courage and his unwavering loyalty to Optimus Prime and Autobot cause.
Differences between G1 and War for Cybertron Bumblebee:
Which is what makes Bumblebee’s demeanor and character arc in War for Cybertron – Siege so surprising. And jarring. In the Netflix series, Bumblebee is a self-described “Energon scavenger” with no allegiance to either the Autobots or the Decepticons. I’ll be honest, it’s a little difficult accepting Bumblebee’s behavioral shift; if it had been more maverick characters like Cliffjumper or Hot Rod in his place, I might have been more welcoming. Bumblebee not being a staunch advocate of the Autobot cause makes about as little sense as Soundwave being disloyal to Megatron and the Decepticons. Notwithstanding, I’ll watch the next two arcs of War for Cybertron to see if Bumblebee undergoes a character transformation which brings him more in line with the unerringly loyal and selfless Bumblebee we all know and love.
Ultra Magnus is commonly known among Transformers fans as the “I can’t deal with that now!” guy and hand-picked successor to Optimus Prime himself in Transformers: The Animated Movie — who eventually loses out the job to Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime.
Despite getting a bad rap for not getting the job done in Transformers: The Animated Movie, I’ve always liked Ultra Magnus. He’s got a great design and vehicular mode; he’s selfless, courageous and dependable and a formidable warrior; he’s Optimus Prime’s brother in some continuities; and he was voiced by Robert Stack. In addition to all this, he’s humble. He just wants to follow orders and do his part for the Autobot cause. When Optimus Prime appoints him new leader, Magnus says, “Prime, I’m just a soldier. I’m not worthy.”
In War for Cybertron – Siege, Ultra Magnus is Optimus Prime’s military advisor. He sees Optimus Prime and Megatron as equally stubborn leaders and advises Optimus into accepting Megatron’s proffered peace treaty. Optimus refuses on the terms that Megatron will never allow the Autobots freedom in the true sense of the word. At the end of the first episode, Ultra Magnus seems determined to find a way to foster a peace treaty on his own terms, without or without Optimus Prime’s help.
Wheeljack is the Autobots’ resident mad scientist. Although a number of his inventions end up blowing up in his face, when Wheeljack hits the mark, he really hits the mark. One such example: Wheeljack created the Dinobots, who although rough around the edges when they were first introduced, ended up being one of the Autobots’ most awe-inspiring and powerful assets in their war against the Decepticons in the G1 series.
Wheeljack in War for Cybertron – Siege is pretty similar to his G1 version, right down to his gruff voice and illuminating ear-pieces. Wheeljack has shown scientific zeal regarding the Space Bridge he and Bumblebee come across in the first chapter of Siege, so it’ll be interesting to see what sort of creativity and crazy concoctions he’ll come up with before the series is over.
Fun fact: The French version of Wheeljack’s name is Invento.
Hound is the Autobot’s resident scout who quickly falls in love with the planet Earth and its diverse surroundings in the Generation 1 series. After surveying oceans, grasslands, caverns, deserts and rainforests, Hound doesn’t miss the cold, barren metalscapes of his homeworld Cybertron much at all.
While the Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege version of Hound hasn’t yet expressed a similar desire for exploration or even a feeling of disenchantment with his home planet, he does look exactly like his G1 counterpart and sports the same military Mitsubishi J59 Jeep alternate vehicle mode.
Another difference G1 Hound exhibits over the Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege version is the ability project holograms. Hound utilized his holographic projection for such efforts as making it seem like a human was driving him in vehicle mode, visualizing construction plans with fellow Autobots and primarily bewildering the Decepticons in battle by making them see things that weren’t there.
It’s interesting to see Cog as a prominent Autobot in the Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege Netflix series because in G1, he’s not really his own Transformer. That is to say, he’s a constituent of Fortress Maximus, a robot the size of a city who becomes interim leader of the Autobots during Optimus Prime’s absence in the G1 comic books. Cog has no will of his own in G1 and is completely controlled by Fortress Maximus, serving as a mechanic, warrior and avatar to communicate with normal-sized beings and smaller Transformers.
Is the appearance of Cog enough to foreshadow that we’ll eventually see Fortress Maximus in War for Cybertron – Siege?
“I warned you guys there was trouble!”
“You always say there’s trouble, Red.”
Red Alert and Hoist, “Desertion of the Dinobots, Part 1”
In Generation 1, Red Alert is the Autobots’ Security Director with an impressive eye for detail but also a tendency to be overly paranoid. His signature weapon is a high-energy particle beam rifle and his alternate vehicle mode is a Lamborghini Countach fire chief car. I guess if my alternate mode was a $500,000 Lamborghini, I’d be pretty paranoid too.
In Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege, Red Alert’s role has shifted to that of an Autobot medie. Aside from Wheeljack, he is one of the best reminders in Siege that many of the Autobots aren’t inherently warriors and that the civil war on Cybertron between the Autobots and Decepticons has taken a heavy toll already. “I was a doctor before the war,” Red Alert says to Bumblebee at the Autobots’ hideout. “But then they gave me a blaster and now I’m a soldier.”
While we’re on the topic of most Autobots not being inherent warriors, I have to mention Perceptor. Perceptor is one of Autobots’ most brilliant scientific minds, perhaps even moreso than Wheeljack, considering his alternate form is a giant microscope. He’s not much in a scrap but his adroitness in metallurgy, molecular chemistry, electrical engineering and analytical adroitness make him an invaluable member of the Autobot army.
There’s only one problem: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Perceptor is not. In other words, Perceptor isn’t really much for outreach or toning down his scientific jargon in order to make it more easily accessible or understood by his teammates. One such example from Transformers: The Animated Movie:
Perceptor: Ultra Magnus, a cursory evaluation of Decepticon capability indicates a distinct tactical deficiency!
Ultra Magnus: In other words, Perceptor…?
Springer: We’re outnumbered!
If I recall correctly, Perceptor doesn’t even have a speaking line in Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege, but he can be seen alongside the other remaining members of the Autobot army in the first episode when Bumblebee is taken to their hideout after escaping Megatron and the Seekers.
Here’s hoping we can see more scientific endeavors revolving around Wheeljack and Perceptor in future episodes.
Sideswipe was one of the original Autobots on Optimus Prime’s Ark crew who crash landed on Earth in Generation 1 continuity. He was the first Autobot to have a Lamborghini Countach LP500S along with his twin brother Sunstreaker. (Red Alert would also have the Lambo alternate form when he was introduced later in the Gen. 1 cartoon.)
In Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege, Sideswipe looks very similar in appearance and robot-mode to the original G1 version. Sideswipe proves important to the Autobots in their Allspark retrieval and Spacebridge reactivation missions.
Ratchet is the Autobots’ Chief Medical Officer in G1. His alternate mode is a Onebox ambulance and he is equipped with a vast array of Cybertronian medical tools to assist in the repair and healing of his fellow Autobots.
In Siege, Ratchet is again the Chief Medical Officer alongside Red Alert. He shows compassion by offering his medical expertise to help mend Impactor, a Decepticon, claiming that despite the ongoing civil war between the Autobots and Decepticons, he will not sit idly while a fellow Cybetronian needs his help. Unlike in Generation 1, Ratchet doesn’t maintain a close friendship with Optimus Prime or the Autobots and even asks them to leave at gunpoint when Optimus, Elita One, Wheeljack and Mirage ask him to help repair the Space Bridge.
Mirage was a member of Cybertron’s elite, affluent upper class before the civil war between the Autobots and Decepticons broke out. It was this different upbringing which caused Mirage’s ideals to oftentimes conflict with those of his Autobot teammates.
According to his G1 bio, “Some of the other Autobots don’t trust Mirage. He feels the war, even after all these millions of years, is beneath him. War is not, after all, how civilized, erudite beings conduct themselves. He often questions the Autobots’ violent means, and not-so-secretly hopes they and the Decepticons can get along. Because of this, he has been labelled by a few others as a Decepticon sympathizer. Still, he sided with the Autobots for a reason, and he is there for the Autobots when they need him.”
Mirage’s alternate mode in G1 was a F-1 Ligier JS-11 racer, a Formula One race car. He also had the special ability to, as his name suggests, create holograms which could confuse his enemies or render him invisible.
Mirage retains this unique ability in the Netflix Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege series, by cloaking himself as a Decepticon at one point during Episode 3.
Despite being a red repaint of Bumblebee (or should that be the inverse?), Cliffjumper in G1 was about as different demeanor-wise as Bumblebee as you could get. Instead of being plucky, good-natured and unfalteringly loyal to the Autobot cause like Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, according to his G1 bio is “a paranoid, trigger-happy jerk with serious impulse-control problems.”
Despite being short-tempered and irritable, Cliffjumper was voiced by a voice actor with a very smooth, placating voice, the iconic Casey Kasem (Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, American Top 40 radio countdown).
Cliffjumper can be briefly seen in the Netflix Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege series on a monitor screen and also when the Autobots must defend their ship, the Ark from attacking Decepticons.
Which of the Netflix Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege characters was your favorite? Which one do you think was closest to their Generation 1 portrayal? Let me know in the comments.