Do Transformers have souls? The answer may surprise (and irritate) you!

Nostalgia can be a funny thing. It's so easy to look back lovingly on the entertainment of our youth and remember the awesomeness, the happiness and the fun we had, while ignoring that a great deal of what we watched as kids was just absolutely terrible. I've decided to take a look at the worst our childhoods had to offer, beginning with the original Transformers cartoon, and its infamous second season episode titled "B.O.T."

Do Transformers have souls? The answer may surprise (and irritate) you!

Our story begins with the Combaticons, driving into an unknown city. This is more unusual than it sounds, as two of the Combaticons are a helicopter and space shuttle, two vehicles not particularly known for their ability to, you know, drive (also all five Transformers fit side by side on a two-lane street, with room to spare). The Combaticons drive for about, oh, five seconds and then combine into the mighty Bruticus. Before he can take a single step, Bruticus is shot and completely destroyed by Defensor, who apparently takes his defending very seriously.

Ignoring the fact that the combiner — generally the toughest Transformers in the series — is taken out by a single laser blast, it's this kind of pre-emptive strike that makes one wonder if the Autobots are really as heroic as they seem to be. What if Bruticus was just taking a walk, or doing a bit of shopping? We'll never know, because Defensor kills Bruticus in cold blood — er, oil — and walks away, leaving a giant pile of dismembered Transformer corpses in the city street (hey, he's called Defensor, not Clean-Up-Afterwardser). Swindle the jeep manages to survive the blast that has literally torn the other four Combaticons into pieces, so naturally he immediately goes to see a South American dictator named "El Presidente" in order to buy parts to rebuild his fallen comrades.

Meanwhile, Megatron is watching a simulation of his newest plan, which is as follows:

1) Knock the moon out of orbit
2) Use Soundwave's unspecified device to control the tides
3) Flood a nearby canyon
4) ?
5) Receive limitless power

One might think that if one has the power to knock the moon out of its orbit, one might already have plenty of power, but Megatron seems very into this tide thing. Starscream bitches about how much time Megatron spent on the simulation of the plan rather than the actual plan, which seems a pretty fair complaint, honestly.

Do Transformers have souls? The answer may surprise (and irritate) you!

At the Combaticons HQ — apparently the Combaticons live by themselves, in an interesting peek at the Decepticon caste system — things have already gotten confused, as somehow buying replacement parts from El Presidente has resulted in El Presidente demanding that most of the Combaticon pieces get thrown in the dump. This includes several of the Combaticons' heads, which are apparently not as essential to rebuilding Transformers as one might have suspected. So Swindle takes the dismembered pieces of his team and dumps them in the city junkyard, which strikes me as super fucked up. That's like if humans got rid of our dead by putting them in garbage bags and setting them on the side of the road.

Megatron eventually learns of this horror and demands that Swindle rebuild Bruticus, either for Bruticus' ostensible power or because Megatron isn't a complete sociopath, inserting a bomb into Swindle's head to make sure he gets it done. So Swindle starts stealing jet parts from Arabs. Why jets? The Combaticons don't have a jet. Why fly to Saudi Arabia when the parts are in the local junkyard? No idea. What happened to the parts he was supposed to get from El Presidente? Let's… let's just move on.

Swindle rebuilds the Combaticons… poorly. Instead of flying through the air to combine, they try to form a cheerleader pyramid, and then all fall to the ground. Also, they have no fucking souls. No one talks, and they barely move without mild coercion. Apparently, Swindle couldn't find Brawl's personality component, although why that prevents the other three Combaticons from not being morons is unknown.

And now we get into the real meat of the story: three horrible kids in high school. Martin and Roland are super-smart delinquents who turn their teacher's laser into a death ray. The teacher, somewhat miffed, forces them to enter the school science fair along with nerdy nerd Elise, in order to win a blue ribbon or flunk the class. The trio, while watching the Protectobots rescue a few people from a burning building, are inspired to build their own robot, and thus, obviously, obviously, go to the dump to look for parts, where Elise unknowingly picks up Brawl's personality thingie.

Do Transformers have souls? The answer may surprise (and irritate) you!

The three assemble their robot at school in the middle of the night — well, Roland and Elise do, as Martin is doing the heavy lifting of naming their robot. He comes up with "Biotronic Opertaional Telecommunicator" entirely because the first three letters spell "B.O.T." (When Elise and Roland are unimpressed, he also points out that "B.O.T." is short for "robot." They continue to be unimpressed.) On a whim, Elise inserts the mysterious part she found into B.O.T.'s head — literally just opening up a panel in its head and setting it inside — and B.O.T. immediately starts breaking shit.

While Elise tries to reason with the robot they failed to include any kind of "off-switch" for, Roland has an "Einstein" (his words, not mine) and grabs the death laser. B.O.T., annoyed that his creators are trying to destroy him, punches a hole in wall and calmly walks away. The three humans, despite having no idea what the Protectobots were a few hours ago, decide to call the Protectobots to solve their problem for them.

Do Transformers have souls? The answer may surprise (and irritate) you!

The Autobots receive the kids' distress call — let me repeat that, the Autobots receive the distress call from a local high school — and Optimus sends Gears, Ironhide and Bumblebee to check it out. Upon arrival, the high school surreptitiously grows several times in order to accommodate the new giant robots traversing its halls, and the kids and Autobots discover B.O.T. wrecking the cafeteria. I feel it's worth noting that the cafeteria apparently has a large freezer full of ice and corn in it for some reason, because B.O.T. throws it at Gears. B.O.T. defeats/outsmarts all three Autobots and escapes, cleverly locking the cafeteria door behind him so the other giant robots can't follow him. Gears correctly describes the situation as "degrading."

B.O.T. escapes to a half-destroyed building across the street, and takes its still-working elevator to the 30th floor. The Autobots tell the kids not to follow; Elise is perfectly willing not to enter the building that may collapse at any time, but Roland and Martin drag her in. The Autobots, unable to see B.O.T., start firing wildly, hoping to hit something, only to get ambushed by Swindle, who manages to get to Brawl's personality core out of B.O.T. off-screen (which is presumably also where he learned Brawl's personality core was in a shitty high school science fair project). Swindle returns to Decepticon HQ, Brawl's personality is reinserted, Bruticus is formed without incident, and Megatron laughs about soon controlling the oceans.

Roland, Martin and Elise examine B.O.T. to find out why it turned into "a violent maniac," quickly discovering the mysterious device Elise had inserted is missing, and correctly guessing it must belong to the Combaticons. Martin pulls up a completely unmentioned brain scan of B.O.T. from his "violent maniac" period, and realizes he can home in on the brain waves to find where the Combaticons are. Elise points out this is the worst fucking idea in the entire world, but is forced to go with Roland and Martin anyways, following the signal.

When they're stopped by the ocean, Elise — who has brought B.O.T.'s speech synthesizer, an odd choice since B.O.T. never once spoke — rewires it to "receive and decode," and thus hears Megatron's ridiculous moon/tides/power plan, as well as his plan to undergo another round of testing, specifically that of the orbital disrupter on Autobot HQ. The idea that disrupting Autobot HQ's orbit would technically dsrupt the orbit of the entire goddamn planet does not occur to Megatron. The kids, obviously go to warn the Autobots, and the Autobots call the Protectobots.

When Megatron, Bruticus, the orbital disruptor and several other Decepticons arrive at Autobot HQ, the Autobots are lying in wait, and again open fire without warning. Contrary to the beginning of the episode, Bruticus receives several hundred laser blasts to his face and torso without so much as a scratch. Meanwhile, Optimus Prime, Megatron and several other Transformers are shot but not annihilated, but instead simply fall down as if pushed.

The kids, watching from the Autobot HQ, decide to help, and send B.O.T. — who is miraculously remote-controllable from the Autobot's spaceship computer — to muck with the orbital disruptor. Meanwhile, the Protectobots form Defensor, and create a force field around themselves and the Autobots; the Combaticons form Bruticus, who also runs to the disruptor. Defensor inexplicably drops his force field, and is shot instantly afterwards.

Do Transformers have souls? The answer may surprise (and irritate) you!

As Bruticus gets ready to finish them off, the disruptor suddenly turns and shoots Starscream, who, to the disruptor's credit, does seem to get flung off into low orbit. Of course, B.O.T. is controlling the disruptor, Elise is controlling B.O.T., all the Decepticons are flung into the sky, B.O.T. overloads the disruptor, it explodes, and B.O.T. dies, alone and unloved. In the end, the Autobots thank the kids, and Elise says she'd like to make another robot. Martin and Roland throw tape over her mouth and drag her away, presumably to a dark basement or a shallow grave.

So what can we learn from "B.O.T."? Well, we learn that Transformers clearly don't care when non-Transformer robots die, which would be shocking if we didn't also learn that they apparently throw their dead away in the trash. We learn that Transformers souls do not entirely reside in their personality cores, but we also know that Transformers can be programmed evil, so the Decepticons aren't really responsible for their actions. We discovered that if you take one combiner compotent's brain away, the other four also become morons for some reason. And we learned that no matter how fondly we remember it now, when classic Transformers was bad, it was truly godawful.