Thursday, August 4, 2005

The Transformers Creation Debate

People who have not followed the various forms of Transformers fiction over the past 20+ years will no doubt be surprised to learn that there's been a long-standing debate within the fandom over how the Transformers were created, often with religious implications. This has arisen because the various forms of fiction (cartoon, comic book, toy packaging, and others) were often created independently of each other, and so often came up with conflicting accounts of parallel events.

For example, the 1980's comic book version of The Transformers followed up on threads from Transformers: The Movie by making the movie's giant planet-eating Transformer, Unicron, into a "dark god," necessitating the creation of a counterpart to fight him. This counterpart was called "Primus," and the comic says that Primus created the Transformers (and their planet, Cybertron) to fight Unicron.

The 1980's cartoon ignored Primus completely, but said instead that the Transformers were created by a race of aliens called the "Quintessons," semi-robotic creatures with five faces that rotated around their single head to depict various emotional states. According to the cartoon, the Transformers were created as robotic tools that eventually developed sentience and rebelled against their creators. Unicron had nothing to do with this origin, but it is established in the cartoon that he was similarly created by a kind of "mad scientist" named "Primacron" for reasons of his own, but that Unicron also got out of control.

Fans of the Quintesson origin decry the establishment of "religion" in the Transformers fiction, often arguing that their version is more "believable" than the "god origin" and often suggest that the Primus/Unicron story goes too far toward the hyperbole of making the Transformers "the absolute most important beings in the entire universe." Primus fans, on the other hand, not only don't have a problem with religious elements in the story, but exhalt the depth that such a religion brings to the characterization of the Transformers, often noting that not all Transformers are "followers of Primus," and in fact multiple religions and interpretations have nonetheless surfaced.

As is often the case with long-standing fictional universes with apparent contradictions, there have been attempts to meld the two origin stories together in recent years. Primus, in one version, created the Transformers, but the Quintessons occupied the planet Cybertron and used the not-yet-sapient Transformers for their own purposes, aiding in their creation. But these are almost all (with one possible exception) merely fan attempts to weave a coherent continuity, and are not generally considered "official."

But what really intrigues me is the question of why science fiction fans (of which Transformers fans have a right to consider themselves a part) seem to find it so much more believable to suggest that Transformers (or humans, depending on the genre) might have been "created" by some alien visitors from outer space than by any kind divine being. While this tendency is by no means universal (as has already been demonstrated), it seems to me that the idea that humans were "planted" by an alien race (see Stargate SG-1, an excellent program, for an example of this) requires at least as much suspension of disbelief as the idea that God created us. Especially when one considers the question of where the aliens originally came from! This, of course, does not enter into the "creation vs. evolution" debate, which is also touched upon in great detail in science fiction, but which is beyond my purposes here. Here I'm merely talking about creation (be it evolutionary or otherwise) as "engineered" by some other entity, be that entity alien or god.

I've probably already made my own bias for the "Primus origin" clear. I've really never cared much for the Quintessons as characters. I found them far too ineffectual to be viable "Transformer progenitors." Probably my own belief in the existence of a God (big "G") makes the fictional version of a Transformers god (small "g") more plausible.

The debate continues....

1 comment:

  1. I tend to consider myself an agnostic, but I always found the Primus theory much more sound - the Quints just kinda sucked, and having gods lent a much more mythical and epic feel to the whole thing, instead of my favorite characters being the equivalent of toasters sold at Wal-Mart.

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