When I was a kid it was just Transformers. One show, one mythology, one toy line. And by golly I loved it. Now that I am older and a parent you better believe I introduced my son to Transformers (although we do not speak of the Michael Bay directed monstrosities). Quite unexpected was his ability to surf Netflix and that he would introduce ME to several more recent Transformers series. Who knew?
Rescue Bots cuts out much of the previously established settings and characters to focus on a very specific tone. The highly descriptive opening theme song lays out all you need to know: “Learn from the humans, serve and protect / Live in their world, earn their respect / A family of heroes will be your allies / To others, remain robots in disguise”.
Set on the fictional island of Griffin Rock, the Rescue Bots consist of four emergency vehicles to make sure to combine the love children have for fire engines, helicopters, police cars, diggers, and transforming alien robots from outer space.
Our main robot cast (Heatwave, Blades, Chase, and Boulder respectively) work alongside the Burns family, who operate as the central hub for all the island’s emergency services rolled into one. Led by Chief Burns (a wonderfully moustachioed patriarch), the Burns family and the ‘Bots respond to many disasters and situations in the town whilst always hiding the ‘Bots true sentient nature by pretending that they are just really smart AI machines. The ‘Bots get to learn about humanity and in return, the day is always saved.
One problem with the original Transformers series was the need to always update the toy line, meaning that new characters were constantly added until the cast was so large it got in the way of any actual plot. By keeping the focus limited to just the four key ‘Bots and by enveloping them in a human contact mission rather than interplanetary war (there are no evil Decepticons here), Rescue Bots has carved out its own identity away from the central IP.
That isn’t to say there isn’t adversity. Dr. Thaddeus Morocco is a delightfully moustache-twirling recurring role usually centred around using stolen technology to take over Griffin Rock. Most antagonists are human-based and revolve around theft, callousness, political ambition, or disregard for safety. But then there is also an episode where the ‘letter of the law’ Bot Chase becomes Mayor but his logic blind creation and enforcement of rules fractures the good nature of Griffin Rock citizens. The stakes are occasionally big, but usually small. In doing this Rescue Bots is carefully crafted to appeal to a core younger audience.
At the time of writing Netflix has only the first season available to stream, but Amazon Prime users have access to all 4 seasons which this reviewer can certainly recommend. The first season suffers a little from ‘getting to know you’ syndrome where the ‘Bots and Burns family forge their relationships. Hot-headed Heatwave and arrogant Kade make for a fiery pairing whereas Chase learns the humanity behind rules when driven by Charlie ‘Chief’ Burns. Nervous Blades gleams confidence from the self-assured Dani while curious Boulder learns from the scientific Graham. The later seasons bed in and test these relationships while adding more flavour to the lore of Griffin Rock.
Rescue Bots may be skewed younger than most Transformers series (although spin off show Rescue Bots: Rescue Academy aims even younger) but in doing so it cuts out most of the fat from this aging franchise and what is left behind is a fresh and fun version. Cody Burns acts as a proxy for the target viewer as he youthfully reacts to all situations with enthusiasm, and the series makes a brave choice by aging Cody as it progresses instead of keeping him (and best friend Francine Green) in the usual cartoon time lock. If you have children in need of a warm hearted show, then let these friendly aliens roll to the rescue.
Words by Mike Record