by Sharon "Tut" LaBorde
Perhaps one of the most plaguing questions raised by Transformers: the Movie regards the exact nature of Decepticon leader Galvatron's identity. His origins are straightforward enough: in the year 2005 AD, the evil planet-eating Unicron metamorphosizes then Decepticon leader Megatron's body into a newer, more powerful form that he dubs Galvatron. However, this causes an interesting debate: is Galvatron simply the new name for Megatron, or is he a totally new individual in mind as well as body? While some may take the former view, that Galvatron is really Megatron at heart, the truth is that, for many reasons, Galvatron is a different person entirely.
The strongest piece of evidence cited
by proponents of the Megatron-reborn theory is Galvatron's profile according
to Transformers: Universe. It states that "Galvatron is Megatron
to the ultimate degree, more evil, more powerful, and even less subject to emotion
or decency." However, all the profiles in Universe have one fatal
flaw: they were written for the comic book storyline and not necessarily the
animated one. The same collection of profiles states that all the Dinobots were
created on Cybertron, when S.O.S. Dinobots and War of the Dinobots
establish beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were built on Earth as far as
the cartoon is concerned. Therefore, while Galvatron's profile in Universe
may have accounted for his state of mind in the comic book continuity, his onscreen
persona by no means fell under the same jurisdiction. Indeed, he is not simply
Megatron to the nth degree.
It is true that, in the sequence where Unicron offered a deal to a beaten and dying Megatron, he made no mention of creating a new personality. Unicron demanded that Megatron destroy the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, and in order to do so he offered Megatron "a new body, and new troops to command". Greedily Megatron asked, "And?", to which Unicron emphatically responded, "And nothing! You belong to me now." This makes no specific mention of a new mind, but that is not to say that Unicron did not decide to create one anyway. Within the span of a few minutes, Megatron demonstrated extreme audacity, greed and stubbornness that Unicron more than likely would have considered dangerous. By stating, "You belong to me now," he made the clear point that he felt free to do whatever he wanted to Megatron--including erase his personality and build a new one. Megatron assumed he was just getting a systems upgrade, but in doing so he also made the highly dangerous assumption that Unicron could not, or would not, be just as underhanded and double-dealing as Megatron himself tended to be.
Once created, Galvatron quickly exhibited more new traits than just a different voice, although even those have been questioned as evidence. Rather than head directly for Earth in pursuit of the Autobot Matrix, Galvatron's first order was "To Cybertron!" There he took command of the remaining Decepticon forces by destroying the newly coronated Starscream--who usurped Megatron to become leader himself. Many argue that Galvatron would neither have known or cared who Starscream was had he not been Megatron in a new body. However, if that were the case, he also would not have known or cared who the other Decepticons were and what significance Cybertron held. But Galvatron obviously did, so he had to have retained some memories of the planet Cybertron and the existence of other Decepticons, as well as Starscream's name and reputation. Again, however, this does not automatically mean he is simply Megatron's mind speaking in a new body. His most obvious way of demonstrating so was to kill Starscream, because Megatron would not have done so. Starscream tried repeatedly to overthrow Megatron in the series, and came close to killing him on several occasions; in the episodes Countdown to Extinction, Starscream's Brigade and Revenge of Bruticus, only intervention by other Decepticons or even combined Autobot-Decepticon effort kept Starscream from succeeding. But Megatron never killed him, instead choosing to make an example out of him by keeping him alive but beaten into submission. Had the new force of Decepticons interrupting Starscream's coronation been led by a refurbished Megatron, he would have had the perfect opportunity to humiliate Starscream for all time by literally beating the crown off his head. But instead, when Starscream asked in a shocked voice, "Megatron? Is that you?" he was met with "Here's a hint!" and a fatal cannon blast from Galvatron. In truth, the answer was a resounding, "No".
At several points in the movie Galvatron referred to events that happened to Megatron, such as when he faced off against Hot Rod near the film's end. Pursuing the much-smaller Autobot in the shadows, he called out, "Puny Autobot! You lack even Prime's courage," referring to a foe he had never faced personally. As he finally cornered Hot Rod and attempted to strangle him, Galvatron counted off, "First Prime, then Ultra Magnus, and now you. It's a pity you Autobots die so easily, or I might have a sense of satisfaction now." As in the case of Starscream, he did not have to be Megatron in order to know some of the things Megatron knew. Unicron had to have left enough data from Megatron's experiences for Galvatron to operate without being completely lost and disoriented.
The events of Transformers: the Movie illustrated several differences between Megatron and Galvatron, but the series that followed made the difference even more clear. The biggest contrast came in their separate styles of leadership and strategies of attack against the Autobots. In pre-Movie episodes, Megatron's preferred method was to develop superior technology--what Hitchcock would simply call 'McGuffins'--to defeat the Autobots. We have an ample number of examples of this: Kremzeek!, Microbots, Cosmis Rust, Changing Gears, Enter the Nightbird, etc. In each case, Megatron sought to win by means of an absolute technological advantage over his opponents. Galvatron, however, preferred full frontal attacks to subversion. At the beginnings of Webworld, Carnage in C-Minor, Dark Awakening and Call of the Primitives, we see him and his forces fully engaged in doing just that--meeting the Autobots head-on, no secret weaponry, determined to win by sheer force. While Galvatron did attempt to develop superweapons on a scant few occasions, most notable in Chaos, Grimlock's New Brain and The Ultimate Weapon, his track record was never as extensive as his predecessor's because he simply did not think and make plans the same way.
Another excellent example would be Rebirth; while technically Galvatron did seek to end the conflict once and for all by using a superweapon, namely the plasma energy chamber, in order to acquire its activation key he had to start with a full frontal assault on Autobot City, followed by one on Cybertron! He also risked destroying Cybertron by leaving the chamber open, something Megatron would never have done. Nowhere in the pre-Movie series did Megatron attempt to destroy his home planet. The one time he put Cybertron in significant jeopardy, it was a calculated risk; in The Ultimate Doom, he knew that not pulling Cybertron completely through the triangulated space bridge could tear it apart. But, he also knew that his arch-rival Optimus Prime would never let that happen--even if that meant Prime had to activate the final spindle for the space bridge himself. Galvatron, on the other hand, had no such qualms. He was not born on Cybertron. The planet did not hold for him the same significance of "home" that it did for his predecessor, so if Galvatron felt it tactically necessary to destroy it, then so be it. He would still have Charr as a base of operations, and the same void of outer space in which he had been created would still remain. Had that been Megatron in a different body, he would never have allowed or even seriously risked allowing Cybertron's destruction. Perhaps above all else, Galvatron was not Megatron because he did not consider "home" to be the same place that Megatron did.
In truth, Galvatron and Megatron are two totally different beings because they think and act in completely separate, even opposite, ways. One of the respective Decepticon leaders is not necessarily better or worse than the other, but they are not and never will be the same person. We can thank Unicron for that--had he not created a new being when he said, "Behold, Galvatron!", then we would have less to appreciate both in him and his predecessor. In that respect, for us fans of the Transformers, both Galvatron and Megatron are very good for each other because they are so different.
Back to Voices of Cybertron