I grew up in the mid-80s and I was a massive fan of Transformers. I had the toys, I taped the shows religiously on the family VCR, I saw the animated movie in the theaters and I read the comics. I loved the original cartoon, although when I look back on it, the quality jumps up and down drastically. One thing that caught my attention was the fact that certain Transformers rarely transformed, which was their whole deal. It happened for a variety of reasons – useless modes, lazy animators for the episode, a much cooler look in one form than the other. But I think the main reason was the writers just preferred one form over the other for a small handful of characters. Here’s my top ten list of characters who rarely (not never) transformed.
Perceptor comes in at number ten because he did transform but never for the right reason! He was a microscope but instead always seemed to change just to operate himself like a telescope. And when he changed, it was always brief because a microscope doesn’t move and can’t fight.
#9 All the Cassette Tapes
Ravage, Frenzy, Rumble, Laserbeak, Buzzsaw and all the rest. Sure, when they ejected from Soundwave or Blaster, they started in tape form but they immediately transformed. Because they would be useless as tapes. Did Soundwave or Blaster ever need tapes to record anything? Of course not. They weren’t analog robots. Even if Laserbeak or Ravage were spying, they’d always have a little camera pop out of their head, not turn into a tape and just sit there.
Trypticon was technically a triple-changer but the show could barely be bothered with his secondary mode, let alone the tertiary. His main form was a huge dinosaur. He also transformed into a city but you rarely saw that and it was never really established that anyone lived there. You never saw, for instance, Megatron chilling in a lounge talking about what a great city Trypticon was. The third mode was a slight variation on the city called a battle fortress. Eh, whatever. He suffered from the same problem as the last three – aside from his robot/animal mode, he had a stationary, dull second mode from a storytelling perspective.
Sharkticons were the mindless drones of the alien Quintessons in the cartoon. In the movie, they were shown in both modes. But mostly the “shark” mode which looks nothing like a shark. Once season 3 started, they were almost always sharks only. The Quintessons had other guard robots that turned into alligators. You’d see them as robots plenty although they were never made as a toy. Just weird.
#6 Omega Supreme
Omega Supreme was an awesome toy. He was a motorized tank and when you transformed him, he walked and lit up and made sounds. I loved having Omega Supreme. And in the cartoon, he was needed because the Decepticons had a combiner called Devestator that was incredibly powerful so now the Autobots could match that. But even though a tank is cool, he never really rolled around shooting stuff. Probably because being a massive robot is way more effective. He also had hands that turned into a giant rocket that was used maybe once on the cartoon. Transforming him as a toy was sort of a chore because you had to disassemble the tracks and rocket and reassemble them into leg and arm pieces that snapped together.
Springer transformed plenty… into a helicopter. But Springer was a triple changer that never really turned into a car. I suppose this was a case of the story not needing another car on a team full of cars, while a helicopter offered something a little different.
Shockwave was the Decepticon put in place to take care of the Transformer home planet of Cybertron while Megatron was out having adventures on Earth. Like Megatron, and later, Galvatron, he turned into a gun. But perhaps because he was not part of the regular cast, he just never really bothered to turn into a gun. I mean, his arm shoots lasers, so I guess why bother?
The Terrorcons were combiners introduced late in season 3 that turned from robots into monsters. But they really didn’t bother being robots. Heck, good luck even hearing their individual names. They were all puns like Hun-grrr so it’s not like you’re missing much.
SkyLynx is a stone cold weirdo. He’s a space shuttle with a blue box that he can hold. Then the toy could transform into two things: the blue box into a “lynx” (looks like a box with a head and legs) and the shuttle turned into a malformed pteradactyl. On the show, he mostly just ran around with those two forms merged and looked like an idiot.
Good luck finding Grimlock in his robot form by season 3. While all of the dinobots seemed to prefer their dinosaur forms, Grimlock got the most screen time, with his teammates all but disappearing after the movie. They show up as robots in the background when they are introduced in the ’86 cartoon film and immediately transform. That’s just about the last you’ll see of him as a robot. That’s just how he rolls.