Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Transformers: Prime - Dark Energon Optimus Prime (2012)

Dark Energon Prime BoxartTen years ago, on November 26th, 2010, the first episode of Transformers: Prime aired. It was the centerpiece of what came to be called the "aligned continuity family," stemming from comments by Hasbro at the time that suggested they were attempting to "align" all of the disparate representations of the past then-quarter century of Transformers fiction into a single continuity. Almost immediately after this announcement was made, it became clear that it didn't extend as far as such a statement would seem to have suggested. The live-action movies, still in their heyday at the time, were clearly separate, and however much the character depictions in Prime drew inspiration from Generation One counterparts of the past, they were clearly not the same characters, either (despite Generation One voice actors Peter Cullen and Frank Welker returning to voice the new versions of Optimus Prime and Megatron, respectively). Also, although there were a couple of non-G1 influences on Prime (most notably the character of Bulkhead, who came from Transformers Animated), they were fairly minimal, with Generation One being the obvious primary influence (which ultimately made Prime similar in this regard to all other non-G1 continuities before it). For better or worse, the "aligned" name stuck.

One of the distinctive (if perhaps not altogether unique) aspects of the storyline of Transformers: Prime was the inclusion of "Dark Energon." Said to derive from the chaos bringer, Unicron, himself, Dark Energon (it seems to be consistently capitalized wherever I find it in official materials) could bestow tremendous powers upon Cybertronians, including the ability to reanimate the dead, as seen in the very first episode, wherein Cliffjumper was killed off within the first few minutes, only to return as a zombie-like minion of Megatron. Always looking for a way to reuse molds created for a toyline, Hasbro made an arrangement with online retailer BigBadToyStore to carry a sub-line of "Dark Energon" toys, which brings us to this Optimus Prime figure.

Dark Energon Prime Vehicle ModeGiven Dark Energon's sinister origins, the question of why the Autobots, let alone Optimus Prime himself, would have subjected themselves to its influence is a fair one. It should be noted that the depictions seen in the "Dark Energon" toys never showed up in the Transformers: Prime cartoon, so consider this a "what if" concept. Has Prime gone to the dark side? Can he ever be free from Dark Energon's pernicious effects? You decide!

This Optimus Prime toy has been a bit of an oddity in my collection. I'm not really a "sealed box" collector, believing that toys are meant to be played with (even toys purchased to go on a shelf as part of a collection). This toy, however, has remained in its box ever since I purchased it many years ago, being opened up only now for this article. I'm not especially concerned about resale value: the "Dark Energon" toys languished on clearance at BigBadToyStore for years. Mostly, I've been more concerned about the fact that the "Dark Energon" toys are made with so much clear plastic, which is believed to be more brittle than toys made with standard plastic colors. Still, this is an anniversary, so it seemed to be a good occasion to finally open this one up!

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