The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.
|Airdate||September 23, 1985|
|Story by||Jeff Segal and Kelly Ward|
|Teleplay by||Doug Booth|
|Animation studio||Wang Film Productions|
The Renegades and Guardians have an adventure in ancient Rome.
In deep space, Crasher and Cy-Kill spy on a human scientist, Professor Ling, introducing UNECOM to his Chronos Time Transporter – a machine that can transport matter to any time and place on Earth - which is to be tested shortly by Matt Hunter and his Guardian allies. But Cy-Kill chuckles that it won't be Guardians traveling through time – it will be Renegades!
Meanwhile, BuggyMan Astrobeams himself to Earth, enacting Cy-Kill's plan to distract the Guardians by destroying a dam. It works, and the Renegades infiltrate the lab. Ling, who hasn't been paying attention, mistakes them for the UNECOM research team. He gives them three control sensors that can bring them back to the present. Cy-Kill requests to visit the recent past, his plan being to slaughter the Guardians' human allies as children (!). Ling enters the coordinates of Aug. 1, 1971, Tucson, Arizona, into the console, warning the Renegades not to interfere with the past. But just as the machine is about to activate, the Guardians arrive. A fight begins, ending with Scooter crashing into the transporter's control console – activating it and changing the date and location to 217 B.C., Rome, Italy!
Things quickly go downhill as a group of Roman Centurions and barbarians mistake the Renegades for gods. Leader-1 leaves A.J. and Path Finder in the present, while he, Turbo, Scooter, Nick, and Matt travel to 217 B.C. to stop Cy-Kill. When they arrive, the newly founded Roman-Renegade alliance chases the Guardians into a canyon. The Guardians are quickly defeated by some falling rocks. As Cy-Kill starts to dig them out, Matt and Nick escape into a nearby cave. The Roman General shows up and requests to parade the defeated Guardians before the Roman Emperor.
Somewhere in Rome, the Guardians are led in shackles before a crowd of jeering Romans. Cy-Kill tells Crasher that he now intends to rule the world by becoming emperor of Rome. Matt and Nick sneak through the crowd, but are quickly seized by guards who notice they aren't dressed like Romans. They are turned over to a sympathetic blacksmith, Marcus, and told they will be forced to fight in the arena. Though the emperor is reluctant, they are soon released into the arena, where they must do battle with a gladiator and two panthers. Matt and Nick manage to defeat the warrior and his feline allies. Matt then asks the emperor to have the two groups of gods fight each other.
They do, but the Guardians are clearly outmatched. In desperation, Turbo uses his exhaust to mask the Guardians, allowing Scooter to disguise them as Centurions. The Renegades immediately conclude that they've escaped. Cy-Kill turns on the emperor, claiming that this was his doing. The guards seize him, and Cy-Kill declares himself ruler of the empire. They leave, and the hopeless Guardians reveal themselves – and meet Marcus, who agrees to help them defeat the Renegades.
Back in modern times, Ling's lab undergoes a sudden architectural transfiguration. Path Finder, confused, catches a newspaper out of the wind and takes it to the professor and A.J. To their horror, the headlines show Cy-Kill being appointed as governor of North America! A.J. and Path Finder race to the time transporter, determined to help their friends in the past. But just as they leave, BuggyMan bursts through the door, telling Ling that he's there to inaugurate Cy-Kill as master of the Earth upon his return. A.J. and Pathfinder arrive in Rome, where Cy-Kill has erected a colossal statue of himself. Path Finder blasts its head off with her lasers. At the arena, Marcus is finishing up some replacement parts for the Guardians. A.J. radios them to announce her arrival. Meanwhile, the general informs Cy-Kill that his statue has been destroyed by a "demon from the air." Just then, the three repaired Guardians show up with Path Finder. The two groups start to fight, now on even footing.
After a brief battle, the Guardians stand victorious, and Marcus declares the "false gods" to be defunct. In the present, the laboratory returns to normal. The Guardians and the humans return to the present, defeated Renegades in tow, but BuggyMan zaps the Renegades with a Stealth Device, allowing them to escape. He's also short-circuited the time transporter, causing it to explode. Leader-1 protects the group from the explosion with his force field. Finally, Nick and Scooter search the ruined lab for a history book, to see if they'd left any mark on ancient Rome. There's no mention of the Renegades, but the book does show a mysterious statue resembling a certain Guardian – which has apparently baffled historians for centuries. The statue shows Scooter raising his left arm in an oddly specific gesture. Scooter mimics the statue to the amusement of his friends.
This is fine, right?
(Numbers indicate order of appearance.)
"In the past, there are no guardians to protect our human enemies!"
"Which means their future...has just run out!"
"We've got a rendezvous with the past...and I don't want to be late."
"Our enemies will soon be history!"
- —Cy-Kill and Crasher engaged in some time-related punnery
"I just love being an uncivil engineer!"
- —BuggyMan before blowing up a dam
"Little Matt had better look both ways before he crosses any streets I'm driving on."
- —Crasher jokes about killing children
"Look! The Roman gods have appeared to aid their Centurions!"
"Gods? Finally, someone acknowledges our true status."
- —Cy-Kill demonstrates his incredible humbleness
"My time transporter is ruined!"
"Just as well. Tampering with history is much too dangerous!"
- —Leader-1 has no time for sympathy.
- "Time Wars" was the first episode of the 1985 series aired, and the first produced, which is a rare case of both numbers being the same. As such, it serves as the introduction of UNECOM, the United Earth Command, the worldwide peacekeeping force with whom the Guardians work now that Earth and GoBotron have become official allies in the interim between the pilot mini-series and series proper. However, a few months after this episode's broadcast, the five-part "GoBotron Saga" mini-series would air, which takes place between the pilot and "Time Wars," filling in some of the series storytelling gaps. Still, it's very clearly an "early" story for the series, which makes Professor Ling's mistaking the Renegades for UNECOM researchers a bit more understandable, given that GoBots are still a new presence on Earth.
- Following the loss of their GoBotron fortress in the pilot, the Renegades primarily operate out of Roguestar (which appears for the first time in the next episode). In this episode, though, Cy-Kill has a secret facility on GoBotron—a concept that will occasionally pop back up in future episodes when the Renegades need to have a presence on their homeworld.
- Gadgets and Powers:
- Not really a power, but Cop-Tur's rotor blades can apparently deflect boulders with no obvious damage.
- Cy-Kill fires lasers out of each of the three square "nodes" on his chest.
- Turbo expels exhaust fumes as a smokescreen.
- Scooter uses his hologram projector to disguise himself, Turbo, Leader-1, Matt, and Nick as Roman guards. Later, he disguises himself as Leader-1 so that Matt, Nick, and Marcus can knock out Cy-Kill with a stone column.
- Path Finder blasts the Guardians with some sort of ray that results in an energy field surrounding them similar to Leader-1's force field. It repairs them, maybe? It's really not clear.
- Leader-1 fires lasers out of his eyes.
- BuggyMan uses a handheld stealth device, shaped like a rifle, to cloak himself and the Renegades as they escape the laboratory.
- This episode purportedly depicts the ancient Roman Empire, with such typical tropes as temples, a gladiatorial arena, an emperor, and so forth. Slightly more specific elements of the era include the use of centurions (professional soldiers of the Roman army), a murmillo gladiator in the arena, and Nick being armed with the traditional weighted net and trident of the retiarius gladiator. However, see errors!
- The Roman general initially believes Cy-Kill is Jupiter, the Roman name for Zeus, head of the pantheon of Greek gods and the god of the sky and thunder. Funnily enough, classical depictions of him don't resemble Cy-Kill in the slightest!
Continuity and plotting errors
- So the high-tech laboratory holding experimental time travel technology has…no security at all? Not even a little bit? Ling is completely alone!
- The time travel in this episode doesn't make a particular amount of sense. Cy-Kill alters the past, but A.J. and Path Finder, who have remained in the present, are for some reason completely unaffected by this, and don't even realize that the world has changed around them until they read a newspaper. Also, presumably the fact that they exist at all means that, despite successfully changing the timeline, Cy-Kill never actually wound up going through with his plan to eliminate the Guardians' human allies from history!
- It's probably safe to assume that the writing team wasn't much interested in historical research or accuracy. For example:
- The Roman Empire is generally considered to have begun in 27 B.C., after the fall of the Roman Republic...almost 200 years past the date this episode takes place in!
- Roman Centurions didn't exist until 107 B.C.
- Most of the time, retiarus-style gladiators didn't wear armor, since their technique was to outspeed the armored murmillos and secutors. But Nick and Matt are outfitted with metal breastplates.
Animation and technical errors
- Cy-Kill oscillates repeatedly between having four and five fingers on each hand throughout this episode, favoring four early in the episode, and five in the second half. This error will reoccur constantly across the length and breadth of the series, so consider this notice—we're not gonna point it out every time!
- As the Guardians are attempting to stop the flood, Leader-1 is shown flying against a background of space and planets.
- When the Guardians arrive in 217 B.C., Turbo is drawn in his typical model sheet pose, but his proportions are all messed up.
- The ancient Romans and barbarians all speak perfect modern-day English.
- As the Centurions arrive in Rome, the captains' horse's eyes are drawn bizarrely.
- After the Guardians are defeated by falling rocks, the dents and scratches on their bodies disappear and reappear multiple times throughout the rest of the episode.
- Nick's trident disappears and reappears between shots.
- When Cop-Tur gets shot out of the air near the end of the episode, his entire nosecone is colored orange.
- Though this episode marks the beginning of the series proper, no new opening sequence is created for the show. This means the opening used for the entirety of the show's life contains imagery and plot elements that were specifically drawn from the pilot, including prominent appearances by Doctor Braxis, Anya Turgenova, and Zod, who will all only have occasional guest-spots in the series run.
- So given the limitless power to travel through time and space, Cy-Kill's initial plan is to... kill only the Guardians' human allies. Huh.
- When Cop-Tur transforms to enter the Time Transporter, he rolls forward on the ground. The toy actually has four small wheels that could facilitate this.
- When Cy-Kill is given the opportunity to kill his greatest foes, he decides to leave them alive for "spare parts." Perhaps he thought they might need them if they were staying in Rome for a few millennia. Or perhaps the writers had written themselves into a corner. We'll never know.
- Matt can apparently wield a bola accurately enough to defeat a panther. Neat!
- As a Roman arena is probably a little bit too extreme for a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon, the Roman gladiator and his panthers are defeated rather easily and with no major injuries.
- Cy-Kill, who didn't hesitate at all at being named "king of the gods," apparently decides to be "governor" of a continent. Seems a bit humble for him.
- The "barbarians" are shirtless, carry stone axes, and wear furry underwear and horned helmets. This is usually cartoon visual shorthand for "Viking," but they're never really identified as such. The term "barbarian" was used around the Roman Empire to identify lots of people that weren't Roman.
Home video releases
1985 — Challenge of the GoBots — Volume I: "Time Wars" (Children's Video Library, single-episode tape)
1985 — Challenge of the GoBots — Volume I: "Time Wars" and "Cy-Kill's Shrinking Ray" (Children's Video Library, multi-episode tape)
2015 — Challenge of the GoBots — The Series, Volume One (Warner Archive Collection)