Friday, 5 June 2015

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2014 (Timelines) Trans-Mutate

(Femme-Bot Friday #21)
Since it's only fairly recently that I've seen the entire run of Beast Wars, the whole 'Trans-Mutate' phenomenon passed me by at the time. Out of curiousity, I did once consider trying to buy the US Beast Wars reissues which came with parts of a Trans-Mutate figure but, frankly, the Japanese reissues that were around at roughly the same time looked better, and more accurate to the TV show.

'Trans-Mutate', the episode of the TV show, was an interesting one... a damaged stasis pod releases a misshapen, cognitively impaired wreck of a robot that can't even transform. Megatron loses all interest but, strangely, Rampage and Silverbolt instantly take a shine to the new arrival and each tries to convince her to join them. Needless to say, it doesn't have a happy ending.

Now, almost 20 years later, the Collectors' Club has decided, almost on a whim, to add an alternate continuity, properly functional version of the character to its collection of exclusives...

What with this being one of the Club's premium exclusives, it comes in the usual large, sturdy collectors' box with images of Trans-Mutate and Rampage in profile on the front along with all the usual Timelines stuff. Oddly, despite the box containing a Maximal, the TransFormers masthead features the Decepticon insignia in every occurrence. This strikes me as a bit of a mistake but, having checked other Club boxes, I can't confirm that it's not simply that the current version of the TransFormers Timelines masthead is focused on the Decepticons.

Inside the box, aside from the cutaway for Trans-Mutate in vehicle mode, there's a small patch cut out for her bio card and, intersecting that, a piece of foam that has been cut out in readiness to store Rampage in its place. This is not the first time the Club has made space inside one of its premium boxes for a Membership Incentive figure and, while it's a welcome move, it does tend to presuppose that folks who like the MI figure will then be more inclined to get the premium figure to complete the 'pair'. It's sneaky marketing and it more than doubles the length of the box, so make of it what you will...

Vehicle Mode:
So we're expected to believe that Trans-Mutate - the unfortunate malformed creature from Beast Wars - might, under other circumstances, have transformed into something remarkably similar to a terrestrial motorbike? That's a pretty huge coincidence considering the character never goes anywhere near Earth - of the present or the past - in the Club's story, 'Alone Together'.

Still, she does look pretty awesome... if a little garish. Molded in a mixture of goldish and pale teal plastics, and with metallic paint in both pale teal and pale gold, she has a very striking appearance. The paint layouts are much the same as FE Arcee, but with the addition of gold on the raised detail on the front mudflap.

It is a source of personal annoyance that the bottom section of the windscreen/headlight piece remains unpainted, just like both the original FE Arcee and the NYCC G1 repaint but, by this point, I've kinda got used to the oversight.

The positioning of her Maximal insignias is a little odd, in that they're at an angle on her side panels. It's the kind of thing that makes you think "Oh, they must be the right way up in robot mode, then"... but that's not how they turn out.

Robot Mode:
Much as I like this mold as Arcee, I think it works surprisingly well as an alternate, properly-formed Trans-Mutate. Much of it, obviously, is down to the colourscheme, but the skinny limbs and details like the holes through the sides of her thighs are common to the Beast Wars character, so it's actually quite an intelligent choice. The head sculpt, too, is nigh-perfect, with Arcee's enigmatic smile giving Trans-Mutate an appropriate expression of serene and happy bemusement. The use of translucent reddish-orange plastic for the windscreen and headlights on the vehicle mode naturally means that's the colour used for her light piping and, with the eyes rimmed with black paint, the face looks very different to Arcee and very appropriate to Trans-Mutate.

My one gripe about the colourscheme is also applicable to both FE Arcees - that her forearms have been left unpainted. While the Club comic gave Timelines Trans-Mutate teal forearms, the forelimbs of the Beast Wars character were gold, and this model would have been perfect if the Club had gone that extra mile.

The downside to using the FE mold for this figure is that Trans-Mutate is armed with two forearm blades. Considering the large gun BW Trans-Mutate wielded, the accessories from the mass-release Arcee figure would have been a better inclusion even through the design of her hands would require the blaster to be underslung on her forearm rather than fitted over the wrist.

Quality control isn't normally a huge issue with the Club's output (with a couple of massive exceptions), so I was rather alarmed to find signs of rust on several of the metal components of this model - the screws in both inner thighs and the pins holding the bike nose/chest plates in place are both heavily tarnished. This is how they looked straight out of the box, and I'm pleased to see that they haven't worsened over time, but it's a bit disappointing nonetheless. Perhaps not so bad as the tarnishing of MP Megatron's metal parts (not that that actually bothered me a great deal) but, when you pay premium prices for an adult collectable, you tend to expect clean stainless steel, rather than whatever was used here.

As I mentioned at the start, Trans-Mutate, as a character, is something I had no experience of until I finally managed to see the entire Beast Wars series online and on DVD. I'd heard that its/her episode was one of the most powerful stories of the series and wasn't disappointed. I've almost been tempted to pick up the Trans-Mutate figure that could be built from parts included with Hasbro's Beast Wars 10th Anniversary toys, but probably won't bother now. I think I've made it clear enough that I'm a massive fan of the TF Prime Arcee molds, particularly the First Edition so, like Timelines Airazor, this is an example of the Club creating the right figure in the right mold to get my attention - and my money - in very quick succession. While vehicle mode isn't necessarily believable given the associated story, robot mode looks awesome, and it's amazing to think that the stock Arcee head works so well as Trans-Mutate.

It does bug me a little that no alternative name was created... I mean, the name 'Trans-Mutate' came about because it was imperfectly formed from its protoform in a damaged stasis pod. This character is a fully-formed Cybertronian robot... and yet still got called Trans-Mutate? And the reason for this is that she's effectively autistic? OK, it may have been a tougher sell if they'd named her otherwise, but the name just doesn't fit the figure.

Her bio card is pretty much par for the course with a Club exclusive, in that it delivers a lot of text with very little information. It refers briefly to her potentially devastating power, then goes to great lengths to explain her weird way of interacting with the world around her... neither of which were actually demonstrated in the club's comic.

I do like the idea of the Club pairing its free Membership Incentive figures with one or more of its premium exclusives (or - gasp! - the BotCon sets), and this one really worked for me. They do need to work more on tying their figures into a narrative that includes other exclusives, preferably (in my opinion) without drawing in an excessive number of important characters who will never appear in toy form, either at retail or via the Club.

Side Note: you will have noticed that the photos here were taken in different settings - the box and robot mode pictures were taken in the 'new' location, my kitchen, only recently, while the vehicle mode shots were taken in the original location, the coffee table in my lounge. This is because I somehow managed to lose the original box and robot mode photos, and had to retake them quickly, as the planned posting date for this FBF entry was fast approaching. I'm sure I took photos of everything originally, so I must have deleted them, assuming that I'd already uploaded them... but when I first came to work on this post, all I had were the vehicle mode shots. Silly me.

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