Do robots pray? Yes, actually, if they are Transformers. Within the multitude of Transformers “universes” there are many myths and legends which in turn give rise to what are essentially religions and cults. I’m going to look at a few and explain, as best I can, where they come from.
The first and likely most well known is the Children of Primus. This is the most common of the Transformers religions, having been established in Generation One (G1), the “Armadaverse”, and the most recent Transformers Prime cartoon. This religion has as its central figures Primus, the creator god, and Unicron, the chaos bringer. There are various versions of history of these two. In most they began as spirits of pure energy, perhaps the first two consciousnesses spawned after the big bang. They fought because of their opposite natures – Primus wanted to create and bring order to the universe, Unicron valued chaos and disorder as the natural state of the universe. Eventually Primus came up with a way to trick Unicron. He put his essence into a newly formed planet. Unicron followed suit, not realizing that this was a trap. Within the bodies of matter, the spirits could not be nearly as destructive, and Unicron was forced to deal with his hunger by eating other planets. Primus went on to create mechanoid life forms to inhabit his new material body, and thus the Transformers were born.
There are many variations of this belief structure. In Transformers Prime, for example, Unicron went on to become the core of our Earth. In G1, Unicron was seen in Transformers the Movie and in season three, but Primus was not mentioned, but later in season three we get our first discussion of the original Primes. Part of the Unicron/Primus duality is the idea that Primus created thirteen original Primes – this is hinted somewhat in G1 and shown much more explicitly in both Transformers Prime and the live action movie series. Each of the thirteen original Primes seems to form an aspect of Primus, including The Fallen, who embodies the evil within Primus.
Part of the idea of the Primes is passing down the matrix from one Prime to the next, or from the leader of the Primes to the next. The Matrix of Leadership is, depending on the version, the sum total of the knowledge of the Primes, or the spark of Primus, or a key to Vector Sigma (the life giving sentient computer that might be Primus’ brain), or it’s a pile of dust in a sock… In any case, whoever is the chosen holder of the Matrix is the de facto leader of the Autobots, and usually undergoes a transformation that reshapes their bodies into a stronger form. In every version so far, Optimus Prime has either been the holder of the Matrix or eventually gains it as the story unfolds.
For those who didn’t notice, Optimus usually undergoes a Jesus-like death and resurrection. This started in G1 with his death during the Transformers movie. The matrix is passed to Hot Rod who becomes Rodimus Prime (really…really, Hasbro?). By the end of season three, Optimus is resurrected and regains the matrix, in part because Hot Rod isn’t ready to lead (he whined like a bitch the whole season) and in part because Optimus is just a much cooler hero. In Transformers Prime, Optimus is nearly killed at the beginning of season three, but Smokescreen restores him to life with the help of another Prime treasure. In the live action movies, Optimus dies and is brought back by the Matrix itself. In the G1 comics, Optimus died and stayed dead for a while before coming back as a Powermaster. It’s interesting to note that in the short-lived Robots in Disguise line (one of the best lines of toys, if not a great cartoon series), Optimus does not die, and in fact holds only half the matrix. The other half is held by Ultra Magnus, who is his brother in this storyline, and together they form Omega Prime, possibly the most powerful Prime to ever exist.
From here on out, things get weird..
First there’s the Cult of Primacron. Primacron was only seen in one episode of season three of G1, but he claimed to be the creator of Unicron, a being of vast intelligence bent on ruling the galaxy. Unicron got away from him, but eons later he creates Tornedron, an energy being, that almost does exactly the same thing, were it not for Grimlock’s timely interference. Primacron also claimed to have created the proto-Transformer race and the Quintessons. Or rather, Primacron’s Assistant said this. You see, it’s possible Primacron was dead, or it was simply a title passed down, or perhaps there never was a Primacron. In any case, it’s unlikely this was really the creator of the Transformer race, as he seemed unlikely to be able to build a ham sandwich that wouldn’t turn on him in a heartbeat.
Next there’s the Quintessons. Less a religion than a creation myth, the Quintessons claimed to have been the progenitors of both Cybertron and the Transformers themselves. The problem is, Quintessons are both liars and filled with extreme hubris. It’s unlikely they actually created the Transformers, though it’s possible they ruled as slave masters for a time, depending on the timeline. The funny thing is, the Quintessons probably do share some connection to Primus, or perhaps to one (or five) of the original thirteen Primes. They were able to create the Sharkticons, and apparently knew a great deal about Unicron. Oddly enough, it’s the Quintessons, who come in more shapes and sizes than the five faced judges, who are the likely source of Cybertronian mode Transformers having cockpits and other pilot seats – they were for the Quintessons, not sill humans like Spike and Sparkplug! (Or they exist because the original Transformers toy line, Diaclone, came with little plastic men you could put inside!!!)
There are also Transformer “atheists”. Jetfire (or Skyfire) is usually depicted as not believing in any sort of higher power. While he acknowledges that Primus and Unicron exist, he doesn’t see them as actual gods. In addition, he usually views the Matrix as a device, a housing for incredible power, but still nothing magical. Perhaps he believes in the Protoculture…
In Transformers Animated, we were introduced to Circuit-Su, a Transformers martial art which included the concept of “processor-over-matter”. Prowl and the Cyber-Ninja clan were apparently practitioners of this and many other Cybertronian martial arts which had a corresponding Buddhist-like tradition attached. After Prowl’s death in the series, he returns as a spirit, so there apparently was something to all the mumbo-jumbo!
This also brings up the idea of Transformer ghosts. We see that concept with Starscream, who, after being blown to bits by Galvatron in Transformers: the Movie, becomes a ghost who tries desperately to get a new body. He eventually succeeds, but this brings up the idea that the Transformers have a “soul” and can, in fact, become ghosts. We know Transformers have souls – they have a specific name: Sparks. But how or why Starscream stuck around after his spark was extinguished is unknown. The same goes for Prowl in Transformers Animated. What’s clear is that the spark is definitely more than a simple mechanical device. It stores within it the essence of a Transformer. When, in Beast Wars, Optimus Primal (who was NOT Optimus Prime) took the spark of the actual Optimus Prime for safe keeping, he took on many of the characteristics of the fallen Prime.
That’s about it for Transformers Religion and Mythology 101. Join us next time when we delve into the craziness that is Transformer gender issues!