Voyager-class Decepticon Starscream
Review by EVA_Unit_4A
Here is a bot who is destined to lead the Decepticons. In fact, he will be the greatest leader of the Decepticons in history! It’s just that no one- least of all their current leader, Megatron- knows this yet. He is cunning, ruthless, sneaky, always looking for the advantage, and above all the model idea of back-stabbing. But for one obvious fault- Starscream is rather incompetent, and tends to jump the gun. But, so long as he functions, his quest for absolute power will be second only to Megatron’s… which absolutely annoys and enrages Starscream all the more. He didn’t believe in the fabled All Spark that his soon-to-be-destroyed leader did, but after thousands of stellar cycles of searching, Megatron finally found it aboard a simple Autobot maintenance ship. As the Decepticon leader stepped off his warship, Starscream patted him on the back and wished him good hunting… at the same time planting a small-but-powerful explosive on him. After the explosion destroyed Megatron and sent the helpless Autobot ship careening out of control, Starscream celebrated and finally claimed the title of ruler of the Decepticons! But the shockwave from the explosion damaged the Decepticon ship, and the others scattered. 50 years later, after pushing the warship to its limits looking for the All Spark again, Starscream crashed it onto the Moon, and then headed for Earth. While the primitive species on the planet was no match for him, he decided to play along and scan one of their air interceptor jets for his alternate mode so that he could sneak up on the unsuspecting Autobots. His plan worked, and he became the first Decepticon to hold the All Spark in his hands! But in his arrogance, Starscream victory was short-lived, and he was fooled by a game of Keep-Away, and once more lost the All Spark to the untrained Autobots when the ancient artifact decided to defend itself. But no matter- he may not have contact with the Decepticon army now, but Megatron is still gone, and he is now their undisputed leader. And Starscream is no coward or prone to giving up easily once he’s set his fowl mind to achieving something. Now, if bots like Lugnut would just stop questioning everything he does…
. . .
The voice of Decepticon Starscream is performed by cartoon-veteran actor Tom Kenny, who also covers Dr. Isaac Sumdac and several other guest characters in “Transformers Animated”. (Perhaps he is best known for providing the voice for the title role in “SpongeBob SquarePants”.) Starscream’s vehicle mode (back) is based on one of the future Air Force’s high maneuvering jet interceptor fighters. These were part of an acrobatic display one day meant to honor Detroit’s newest heroes, the ignorant and puny Autobots. Starscream wanted to crash the party, so he initiated scanning and replication and snuck into the flying formation. Remember the praise I had for the design of the Voyager-class Decepticon Lugnut, in that there was little-to-no kibble on his undercarriage compared to almost all past flying Transformers toys? Well, the undercarriage kibble returns with a vengeance- not even attempting to hide the robot parts, just like all of Starscream’s predecessors. Guess I was wrong about that new level of evolution for the toys… And up front, the other obvious giveaway is the layered appearance of the nose which is lacking from his “…Animated” counterpart (Having the nose cone being positioned inside an engine intake is a familiar trait of some real jet fighters, such as the former Soviet Union’s Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21.) The transparent-orange cockpit canopy is divided into two halves by black paint only, and there is a molded airbrake directly behind it painted slightly paler than the grayish purple ABS. While inside the cockpit has a small seat with control panel in front of it, larger details just outside of it are six air intakes, each with its own set of air flow fins. While the bottom intakes are not painted, the top-front ones have a slightly darker-painted paneling, and the ones directly behind are all-black painted. As to the forward-swept wing design, which science-fiction has often uses to make air- and spacecraft look cool (as is certainly the case here), perhaps Starscream here derives his dorsal profile from the real Russian-built semi-stealthy Sukhoi Su-47 prototype- with the exceptions of the loss of the forward canard wings, and the twin vertical stabilizers [the tails] being pointed forward instead. (Intentional or not, it’s actually kinda creepy how similar Starscream’s vehicle mode is to the non-production Su-47 technology demonstrator.) Though his jet exhaust nozzles are not right next to each other like the Su-47’s, they still incorporate ball-and-socket joints for thrust vectoring - a real technology which tilts the nozzles up and down for increased agility! Starscream actually has quite a few movable features in vehicle mode compared to Lugnut. There is the aforementioned thrust vectoring nozzles. He also has three-point landing gear which can be raised & lowered; the back two flipping about nearly 135°! Though the landing gear are unusually close to each other, he’s not back heavy or prone to tipping over because of this. Between the engines underneath are two spring-powered missile launchers, each of which holds a single transparent-orange projectile. Now, Starscream uses his trademarked null ray cannons which hang under each wing in the series, much like his G1 counterpart from 1984, but these were changed to missile launchers on the toy; probably to give him a notable Voyager-class action feature. But here’s the cool part- though normally stored pointed diagonally backwards, each launcher has a friction joint which then allows you to flip them around to point forward under the nose! And since the triggers are on the sides of the launchers, they can be fired in either position. When pointed forward, the launchers will touch the ground, but won’t lift the wheels up; they will not touch when facing backwards.
Automorph Technology is a special feature which was introduced in the “Transformers: Armada” (2005) line, and returned in “Transformers: Cybertron” (2006); though it was not called such until the debut of the toy line based on the first live-action film “Transformers” (2007). What Automorph does is- depending on which toy is involved- use a series of internal levers & gears, triggers, and buttons to move one part of the figure without you having to move it yourself; it automatically transforms for you. Sometimes, an Automorph feature will be electronically-powered, though this is reserved for special larger sets only. For Starscream, there are three Automorph features, though they are all interconnected in some way:
- As the waist section & legs are flipped under/ forward, the smaller section of the nose will retract backwards into the fuselage to make room for the rotating lower torso. Starscream’s head is hidden under the cockpit (though you can’t see it), and will shift upwards at the same time. This will-
- -cause the arms to extend out on their own via a gear system inside the retracting nose.
- When the nose is fully retracted and the waist has been snapped into position by you, and the arms have extended far enough, the wings and back dorsal paneling will spring downwards where the arms used to be stored; this also reveals Starscream’s head. While they flip down automatically, you have to finish the process by snapping the wing assembly over the retracted nose landing gear, which locks it in place.
While it’s really cool to see everything move on its own, you have a hard time finding places to hold on as all this happens. To transform him back to vehicle mode, you have to change him in the reverse order described here. The arms and nose will always move by themselves, but you have to start the process by holding the wings upright as you move the arms into place. It’s hard to describe, but there are actually two shafts inside of the torso/nose- one for the nose itself which is connected to that hip joint, and the other- connected to the shoulders- which Starscream’s head is attached to. So, if you move the shoulder Automorph joint too early, the nose section will pop his head off of his ball-and-socket neck! You need to keep track of what is going on inside for it to all work properly; if unchecked, his head will just hang around inside the cockpit while disconnected, and you won’t notice until you change him back to robot mode!
Starscream’s robot mode (back) is definitely an homage to his G1 self, but with the modern interpretation of the “...Animated” design-style. As this style is more reminiscent of a caricature, Starscream’s head- or rather, his chin- is stretched out quite a bit. His eyes- and, surprisingly- mouth are transparent-orange, so when light shines through the back of his head, they light up. Does it work…? Yes! Though with his pale face, he’s kinda Halloween ghost-like with the orange instead of the red eyes from the series. There is also a rather unusual high collar around his head, which doesn’t appear in the series, and doesn’t seem to have any useful function other than aesthetics. Strange… The upper torso remains the same as many of his predecessors- with the red engine intakes on either side of his chest, cockpit in the center, and up-turned wings on his back. In this case, the top-most engine intakes from the jet mode are now used as back-up thrusters. One modification, though is the addition of those stabilizer fins on his back, which are not present in his TV form. (Though shown extended in the instructions, I don’t see any need why they have to be extended in robot mode, which would closer match the TV version of Starscream. They’re also a real pain to transform in either mode.) His arms are actually kinda buff-looking. Each hand features the four poseable fingers which move as one part, and thumbs which move independently. One modification from most of Starscream’s predecessors is the placement of his missile launchers on his forearms as opposed to them being traditionally located on his upper arms. (Again, he uses the traditional null ray energy cannons which are mounted to his upper arms in the series, not on his lower arms as here.) His legs- particularly in the thighs and knee armor- have that same distorted style; with the rear landing gear merging in perfectly with the front of the lower legs instead of sticking out like a sore thumb. My only problem with the legs might be that those two tails in back just fold over sideways but still stick out; if they had wrapped around or folded into the legs somehow, I might have liked this arrangement a little more. The feet are both inverted “V” shapes- with ball-and-socket joints in the center of them (also transparent-orange ABS) to subtly imply jet engine thrust. Special features are limited to just the missile launchers on his forearms. One thing about the transparent-orange projectiles themselves which I have not read anywhere else is that they have subtly-molded jagged teeth and eyes like a shark on the warhead(s)! Starscream’s range of motion is just awesome! Notable highlights include poseable fingers (the ones on mine are quite loose), and the only ball-and-socket joints in his neck and ankles. Let me say that again- poseable ball-and-socket ankle joints! There are ratcheting joints in his shoulders (one axis), hips (two), and knees (one), with all the others swiveling about freely. Perhaps the only thing missing are wrist joints, but I’m certainly not complaining about what’s already available here! Some people will mistakenly position the knees tilted forward against the knee guards as when they unfold out from vehicle mode, but they are supposed to be tilted backwards one notch like this. While pushing them forward may be more show-accurate, they toy cannot balance properly and will tilt over frequently. (Adjusting the ankles can compensate a little for the former if you must insist.) The high collar around Starscream’s head does not prevent it from turning side-to-side 180°, but it does impair looking up a lot.
I didn't think I'd have to whip this out with a "Transformers Animated" figure, but it is time for the return of...
What the Instructions *Don’t* Tell You
[fanfare warbles from old age, being overplayed]
(EVA_Unit_4A, looking irritated at the original full-sized jukebox, kicks it)
[fanfare plays properly]
Better. (*looks warily at jukebox*) There's a rather important feature here that I completely overlooked. And it didn't appear in the series, so I knew-not to look for it.
- When in robot mode, if you push the missile launchers [individually] down along the lower arm toward the hands, two panels along both sides of his forearms will flip open. Reversing the process is easy enough, but whatever you do, do not press on the panels; they will pop-off and they are not designed to take that kind of force! I suspect that these are hidden cannons of some kind, but there's no way to tell since there's no real detail under them to determine this.
I suggest that you remove the missile projectiles before you slide the launchers forward, so that you don't break them or accidentally set them off in your eye.
Special thanks to CDX-user Mike for pointing this unmentioned special feature out to me!
Many people and longtime Trans-fans were once more greatly disturbed by the newest incarnation of those famous shape-shifting alien robots in disguise; for example, turning the famous Optimus Prime into a measly wannabe with no ambitions and trust issues, or the overall design style of merging & graceful lines/curves matching that of other recent cartoons such as Disney’s hugely-popular “Kim Possible” (2002-2007). And yet after a rocky start in trying to win back the minds of the fans, the show has become a hit on its own as much as it is a tribute to the original G1 series from 1984. Plus, “Transformers: Animated” is an original American series like “Beast Wars: Transformers” (1996-99) and “Beast Machines: Transformers” (1999-2001) before it, rather than being a dubbed anime production from Japan. The same can be said of the toys thus far in their initial releases. But as word has spread across the Internet, the toys have come to shine on their own- not just for their functionality, but for their absolute and striking similarities to their on-screen counterparts, which has never been as fully successful before- where proportions were usually off, colors were wrong, and functions were off or not mentioned. In other words, after 23 years, we are finally getting in our hands what we see on the screen in a way never seen before in Transformers history. This is a bot we all know and love. He’s easily recognizable as the back-stabbing second-in-command from the G1 series; perhaps the only thing missing from that interpretation is his cowardliness in facing off against Megatron. But he remains incompetent in being able to truly achieve his goals; often relying on the most fragile of alliances which- not unexpectedly among Decepticons- often backfire and frequently break at the drop of a hat. But, this toy also looks like the air-commander, even if he does not hold this rank in “Transformers Animated”. There is no doubt that it is him- the cockpit in the chest, thrusters in his feet (awesome idea with the ball-and-socket ankles!), and up-turned wings on his back. Oh, and that arrogant, devious grin. (It’s not quite as bright as I would like when light shines through, but it’s certainly better than a complete failure. Also, why couldn’t his eyes have been red like they are in the series? I miss that.) Yes, as some have pointed out, there are a few quality-control issues- on mine, his fingers are very loose to the point of almost falling off, the panels on his back which fold out into fins are hard to change (and frequently pop-apart as a result), and the back landing gear are incredibly difficult to pull out from the engines. (I accidentally pulled both of the back gear out the first time I tried to flip them down; both of them, the first time! I really have to force them, but my fingernails are unequal to the task. Some sand paper may be in order here soon...) Oh, yeah, and the return of the undercarriage kibble was really disappointing in spite of the awesome work done with Lugnut; I know we get it all the time, but I was hopping that the design(s) of the series had changed sufficiently to finally eliminate that frequent flaw. On the other hand, as with most of the toys from the series [I’ve seen so far], this one is very close in appearance to his TV counterpart, right down to the expression on his face! While he doesn’t have boring laser cannons- instead using missile launchers- I was surprised and quite impressed to find those shark-like faces on the heads of the projectiles. An easy-to-miss detail, but that was awesome! Same with the pop-out arm panels; they don't really have any significant detail, but that they're in there was pretty awesome too! The Automorph is rather cool, but it gets tricky when you have no where to hang onto that’s stable as he is transforming. And while they aren’t on the wings like in the series, I like that the launchers can be folded around to fire in either direction. This incarnation of Decepticon Starscream was one of the first toys from the new series that I saw, and I immediately fell in love with it. I strongly recommend getting him!
Oh... and please forgive me my little GERWALK moment here; I couldn't resist.
|Posted 9 July, 2008 - 02:08 by EVA_Unit_4A|