When I asked "Transformers Prime" executive producer Jeff Kline what made the Predacons, the new faction making their debut on the third and final (more on that in a bit) season of the series tonight on the Hub, here's what he told me:
If there’s one word: power. The audience probably has a good idea of how powerful the Decepticons are and who’s the scariest ones and who’s capable. Now we are bringing in this x-factor with many more question marks.
The new season opens with Optimus Prime's life hanging by a thread following the destruction of the Autobot base at the end of season two. While being at death's door isn't new for the character (I'm betting his has some kind of day pass for the robot afterlife at this point), the fate of the 'Bot leader is definitely in line with the shifting power dynamics of the series. Kline tells me that if they were going to really ramp up the threat level to the surviving characters, the last season would be the best place to do it. "We’ve always tried hard to have alliances be shifting and allegiances be questionable," he says "And that will be the case with the Predacons as well."
The Predacons were, in the G1 days, a combiner faction of Decepticons who would transform into ferocious animals (think the Dinobots with a jungle theme). Now they're on Earth in "Transformers Prime" and likely one more group gunning for Optimus and friends.
For Kline, the series--which will reach 65 episodes by its conclusion--may not have lasted as long as he and the "Transformers Prime" team wanted, but the trajectory of the series and introduction of the Predacons is something that the show's writers had envisioned from the beginning. The current season will simply wrap up some dangling plot threads while introducing one more enemy for the Autobots to have at their backs.
The 65 episode cap is really just a factor of the animation on TV business, he tells me (it's the number of episodes necessary for syndication), but that left to their own devices, the "Prime" team would have more stories to tell with this take on the characters.
I asked him if there was a character that truly surprised him in the series and he quickly came back with the Autobot medic, Ratchet (voiced by Jeffrey Combs). It was actually in working with "Re-Animator" actor Combs that a true picture of Ratchet began to emerge for the series creators. In the series, we learn that Ratchet was once a proud warrior, but that tragedy has led him to relegate himself to medic/tech duty. According to Kline "Only after we explored his voice and how dynamic it was, it gave us the opportunity to explore more of a history with Optimus and Ratchet and give Ratchet the opportunity to want to be a warrior again."
The end of "Transformers Prime" won't be the end of Ratchet (or Bumblebee, or Optimus, or any of the other characters); while "Prime" is coming to a close, Kline teased that we will definitely see them all again in some form, adding that "the Transformers will be continuing in many variations and generations for many years to come."
The season three premiere of "Transformers Prime" debuts tonight at 7:30 ET on The Hub.