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Challenge of the Go Bots dealt with two opposing forces of transforming robots from the planet Gobotron: the heroic Guardians and the evil Renegades. The Guardians were led by Leader-1; others included Turbo and Scooter. The Renegades were led by Cy-Kill, with Crasher and Cop-Tur among their ranks.
The characters rarely had guns, instead shooting energy blasts out of their fists. Although Rule of Cool may state otherwise, built-in weaponry does make a lot more sense for a robot, when you think about it (and if you observed closely, the Transformers in the 2007 live-action movie seem to follow this rule, with all their weapons being "onboard").
The GoBots' origin as organic beings accounted for the presence of genders among the robots. Unlike Transformers, Challenge of the Go Bots had regular female characters but the females were built like the males. Only Crasher received any distinguishable feminine features. It is worth noting that Transformers was intended to have females right from the start but this was overruled by Hasbro. While Transformers eventually also added female castmembers, those Cybertronians were female in the sense of gender identification as opposed to biological sex. What exactly gender meant for a race of beings that are essentially brains in jars was never explained.
Also, since they did have young GoBots who needed to be educated, and the characters did not make claims to vast age like the Transformers did, it appears that GoBots do age, reproduce, and experience generational turnover like any other biological race. Again, how this works is anybody's guess.
Notably, the Renegades do use nonsentient, inorganic robots as weapons, such as the Zods and the Puzzlers; while the Guardians use piloted mecha called Command Centers and Powered Armor called Power Suits. Only one episode features a sentient inorganic robot, and interestingly, it is human-built. The movie also introduced Nuggit, who is identified as a true robot.
Their race became cyborgs in order to survive after their long-standing civil war had decimated their planet's biosphere beyond repair. The Guardians then began converting the otherwise-dead world into a completely metal-sheathed city planet, breaking up entire uninhabited worldlets (small planets) for the necessary materials. At the time of the series, this massive construction effort is still ongoing, accounting for the metal world's peculiar "apple-core" shape.
The series generally focused on the "lead" three robots from each faction (Leader-1, Turbo and Scooter vs. Cy-Kill, Cop-Tur and Crasher), who were virtually ever-present. Other characters seemed to rotate in "guest-star" roles. GoBots had no clear divide between the two factions. The characters, as well as the toys, had no identifying insignias or markings to indicate their allegiance, although it was clearly indicated on the packaging. Likewise, there was no commonality of design within each faction. The only "theme" to a faction was that anything that turned into a monstrous-looking robot or vehicle was a Renegade.
Challenge of the Go Bots is considered to be a rip-off of Transformers; this is only partially true. The GoBots toyline pre-dates the Transformers toyline (recycling a lot of Machine Robo toys). However, the cartoon was created as a response to the Transformers cartoon though Challenge of the GoBots ended up premiering 9 days before The Transformers.
Despite addressing some valid and interesting science fiction tropes (as listed below), the series's biggest handicap, apart from its obvious similarity to the Transformers, was probably its "toony" character design, as compared to the comic book-realism of the Transformers art. (This may account for the show's popularity in Europe, where toony character designs in adventure shows and comics are more common.)
The parent company of GoBots would eventually be acquired by Hasbro, folding the GoBots into the Transformers multiverse with the characters, usually Cy-Kill, often popping up as corpses on Cybertron. The names of some GoBots would also see reuse in Transformers, most notably Leader-1, though this was usually In Name Only.
In 2018, IDW Publishing launched Go-Bots, a five issue miniseries that drastically reimagined the cartoon's adventures.
Challenge of the GoBots contains examples of:
- After the End: Gobotron, whose biosphere was destroyed in a war.
- Ancient Astronauts: The Evil One.
- Anti-Villain: Fi-Tor at times, especially when he is captured.
- Alien Non-Interference Clause: Subverted. The Guardians attempt to abide by this in the first few episodes (hence the Earth vehicle disguises), but once it becomes clear that the Renegades have completely blown their cover, the Guardians from then on share their technology with the humans and help to establish them in the interstellar community.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Done for fun. Anya Turgonova once curses "Ish Kabibble!" Certainly none of the kids watching would have caught that Ish Kabibble was a famous Vaudeville comedian.
- Barrier Warrior: Leader-1 could generate a protective force field. However, it took a lot of energy and was exhausting for him, so he could only maintain it for a couple of minutes at a time.
- Big Brother Mentor: Matt to Nick and A.J.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Turbo.
- Brain In a Jar: The GoBot race.
- Breakout Character: Sort of. Since GoBots isn't exactly an inhouse name like Transformers, most internet nerds don't know who Crasher is but they will recognize her iconic design whenever its homaged in fiction.
- The Brigadier: General Newcastle.
- The Cape: Leader-1.
- Cerebus Syndrome: Though difficult to really notice, around the start of the Last Engineer/Master Renegade storyline the series gets a tad more serious and starts delving into the divine origins of the Gobots. This is best shown in that the storyline is kicked off after Turbo is horribly wounded by the Renegades and it is explicitly stated that if he is not healed soon he will DIE.
- Cold War/The Great Politics Mess-Up: Yes, the Cold War is still going on in this near future. Nobody in the '80s expected it to end as it did, so this is totally forgivable.
- Co-Dragons: Coptur and Crasher.
- Combining Mecha: The Puzzlers.
- Cowardly Sidekick: Scooter.
- Cyber Cyclops: Destroyer.
- Dark Action Girl: Crasher.
- Dirty Communists: Averted. Dr. Turgonova is one of the good guys. Double points because this show was made in the early Eighties.
- Dumb Muscle: Coptur. It was his only personality trait.
- Enemy Mine: In one two-part episode, the Guardians and Renegades are forced to work together to fight back an invasion of insect creatures from another dimension.
- Even Evil Has Standards: When it looks like the Guardians are going to get the information they need out of the captured Fi-Tor, Cy-Kill believes he has to kill him, but is deeply reluctant. Fi-Tor is a fellow defector from the Guardians, and arguably Cy-Kill's only real friend. As he's about to do it, he mutters, "Farewell, Fi-Tor..." and is then relieved when he realizes there's an alternative.
- Evil Former Friend: Cy-Kill to Leader-1.
- Evil Genius: Doctor Go.
- Evil Laugh: Crasher, maniacal and joyous. Ha ha ha HAAAAAAA ha hah hah!
- Expy:Dr. Braxis is pretty clearly based on Dr. Smith from Lost in Space.
- Face Heel Turn: Cy-Kill and Fi-Tor.
- Fantastic Nuke: Sorium.
- The Federation: The Guardians are democratic, and they are the dominant government on Gobotron. The Renegades are a rebellion.
- FemBot: Averted. Except for their faces, both sexes' prosthetic robot bodies appear genderless. Except Crasher. Sort of.
- Fist Gun
- Five Episode Pilot: The Pilot Movie, "A Battle for Gobotron."
- Flowers for Algernon Syndrome: Scooter tries replacing his hologram projector with a standard blaster. He discovers he isn't nearly as effective without his illusion-casting powers, and quickly switches back.
- Flying Brick: All GoBots can fly in robot mode, and are superhumanly strong giant robots.
- Flying Saucer: Pathfinder's alt mode.
- Follow the Leader: To The Transformers cartoon, although GoBots as a franchise is actually older.
- Fully-Absorbed Finale: Decades after the show's end, the actual Go Bots from the show travelled to various Transformers universe (mainly the Transformers Classics one, with a quick stop by the Transformers Trans Tech universe first).
- Fuuma Shuriken: Cop-Tur's rotor blades, used as a weapon in robot mode.
- Galactic Conqueror: Cy-Kill wants to be one and views Gobotron itself as his necessary first step.
- General Failure: Cy-Kill. He's arguably even worse the cartoon Megatron. For all his flaws, Megatron didn't rely on humans, or other aliens, too much, knew how to keep his troops (more or less) in line, and, even if he never conquered Earth, did conquer his homeworld and other planets. Cy-Kill failed in every category.
- Giant Foot of Stomping: Crasher's main attack is to stomp the ground, sending a crackling streak of energy along the ground toward her target.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Odo provided the voice of the mad scientist.
- Higher-Tech Species: If there's a problem, you can bet there's a GoBot device that can solve it.
- Hollywood Cyborg: The GoBots in general; but also the Last Engineer, who still looks human but with bionic bits.
- Hot Scientist: Anya Turgonova.
- Human Aliens: The original form of the inhabitants of Gobotron. The only two surviving humanoids are the Last Engineer and the Master Renegade, who spent the intervening ages in Suspended Animation.
- Humongous Mecha: Zod.
- Informed Attribute: The fact that the GoBots are cyborgs rarely comes up and more often than not, they're treated as Mechanical Lifeforms.
- Insistent Terminology: The GoBots convert. They do not transform (though they do have transformation circuits).
- Invisibility Cloak: The Stealth Device, described as a hologram that works across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.
- Iron Curtain: The writers could never seem to decide whether Anya Turgonova was from China or the U.S.S.R., alternately mentioning "Siberia" and "The People's Republic." Since it was the Twenty Minutes Into the Cold War future, perhaps they'd merged. Despite the Russian-sounding name and accent, she certainly looks Asian.
- Given that most of Russia is in Asia, an Asian-looking Russian is not unrealistic.
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Can never, ever be re-released or re-aired, due to the massive amount of legal tape due to copyright issues. Warner Brothers owns the cartoon but the character trademarks are owned by Hasbro (who acquired the property in the early 1990s when they bought Tonka, and also own the Transformers franchise) and character designs are owned by Bandai. Hasbro has recognized the popularity of the line however; they reused the Leader-One name for a character in Transformers Armada, created a homage to Crasher in the form of "Fracture" for the movie toyline, outright reintroduced Bugbyte as the big bad for a series of convention comics, and greenlighted Takara producing a box set of Gen1 mini-bots redecoed in the color of various Go-Bots characters. The characters and mythology of the original GoBots have been incorporated into Fun Publications' Transformers Timelines as the Transformer-equivalents in their part of the Transformers Multiverse.
- The Renegade character Stretch also appears in Transformers Animated as Porter C. Powell's limousine, brought to life by an Allspark shard (in the comics and Allspark Almanac II; the normal non-living limo that became Stretch was shown in the cartoon several times).
- Apparently a deal of some sort has been hammered out with the various copyright holders. A remastered DVD release of the original five episode pilot mini-series is scheduled to be released under the Warner Archive program.
- It has been said that Warner did their research and discovered that they had all the rights to the cartoon, and that they did not need to get consent from anyone. While others have said that Hasbro is just as certain they have all the rights to the cartoon, Warner has released the opening mini-series, and reportedly has plans to release the rest of the series in two sets, possibly later this year. No word on the movie, though.
- Kibbles and Bits: The GoBots seemed generally more willing to make use of their kibble than Transformers were. A Guardian with a cockpit in his chest might allow a human to ride around in it; or a Renegade might forcibly shove a human into his cockpit to hold him prisoner. And they would frequently pop their heads up out of their vehicle modes to emphasize a point when speaking, particularly Cy-Kill. Scooter pretty much always left his face visible when transformed. Cop-Tur's favored attack was to use his spinning helicopter blades as a hand weapon.
- Literary Allusion Title: "Et Tu, Cy-Kill?"
- Loads and Loads of Characters: With most being little more than background characters; often the same character would be seen as both good guy and bad guy - even in the same episode.
- Master of Illusion: Scooter's hologram projector.
- Mechanical Monster: Zod and Scales.
- Merchandise-Driven: Well, duh.
- Mind Control: Used by the Renegades in the Five Episode Pilot.
- Monochrome Casting: Averted. AJ and General Newcastle are both black, and Anya is Russo-Chinese.
- The Mothership: Roguestar, the Renegades' cloaked base ship.
- The Movie: Battle of the Rock Lords.
- Near Villain Victory: Cy-Kill's Zod fleet in the Pilot Movie.
- No Transhumanism Allowed: Completely averted. Most characters are cyborgs.
- Panty Shot: In "The Seer", a curly blonde cheerleader on T.V. gives a pink panty flash when she does the high kick.
- Planet of Hats: Averted. The Guardians are the planet's dominant society, and they have noncombatant civilians. Zeemon is a politician. Scooter laments that he'd rather be working as a librarian.
- Porn Stache: Matt Hunter.
- Power Armor: The Power Suits.
- The Quisling: Dr. Braxis. Braxis eventually becomes such a pitiful loser shmoe because of his repeated failed misdeeds that it finally drives him crazy, turning him into a certified Mad Scientist.
- The Rival: Zero was the Renegades' leader before Cy-Kill defected and stole the job from him. Zero has never stopped resenting him for it.
- Rival Turned Evil: Cy-Kill was once Leader-1's friend, but he betrayed him out of envy over his successes.
- Robot Girl: As cyborgs, the GoBots have gender, at least on a neurological level.
- Silicon-Based Life: The Rock Lords.
- Single Biome Planet Justified. The war left Gobotron a biologically dead world long ago. Its current status as a city planet is an attempt to make the world comfortable again for its cyborg inhabitants.
- The Smurfette Principle: Averted. The show had quite a few female characters, Small Foot and Pathfinder being the two most prominent female Guardians, and Crasher being one of the lead villains. The humans had AJ and Anya (although Anya didn't show up very often after the Five Episode Pilot).
- Strange Bedfellows: The Guardians and Renegades joining forces against insectoid creatures in the two-part Invasion from the 21st Level.
- Surrounded by Idiots: And poor Cy-Kill knows it. No wonder he values Fi-Tor so highly, since Fi-Tor is loyal, intelligent, and competent, when hardly anyone else in the Renegade army is all three. In fairness, Cy-Kill didn't hire these shnooks; the Renegades were a pre-existing army, and he seized command of them when he left the Guardians, booting Zero out of the boss position.
- Teleporters and Transporters: The Astrobeam.
- Terraforming: The humans are preparing a massive terraforming project for a planet they want to colonize, near the end of the series.
- Theme Naming
- Vehicular Theme Naming (Go ahead, just guess what kind of vehicles Cy-Kill, Scooter, Cop-Tor, Dumper, Super Couper, Throttle, Tail-Pipe, Zero, Buggy Man, and Loco turn into...)
- Too Dumb to Live: Nick and AJ are only still alive because this is a kids' show.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: Even at the series's outset, it is clear that human technology is advanced a bit beyond the present day. With the GoBots' assistance, it quickly advances far beyond that, allowing humanity to start colonizing other planets.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Matt Hunter and Anya Turgonova.
- The Voiceless: Zod. He did roar a lot, but never spoke.
- Wrong Side of the Tracks: Whatever parts of Old Gobotron are still habitable have become a terrible slum, inhabited mostly by off-worlders.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Fi-Tor is captured, and tries to destroy the ship carrying him to interrogation. The Guardians call him a maniac. He retorts, "You mean patriot!"