Poor Ratchet. This guy was the one I always passed on, no matter how often it was readily available on the shelves, even if it was on clearance, and even if it was the only G1 figure available. I just couldn’t go in for the Doc. It was all about that horrible head, or rather, the lack of one, that kept Ratchet at the bottom of the checklist. Dealbreaker.
For an 8 year old, the gap in continuity between the toy and the cartoon was just too far a stretch for any kid to accept, leaving many a Ratchet and Ironhide left unsold on shelves. The cartoon character had a distinct head that resembled the other Autobots. The toy had an angry-face sticker that resembled the Obey Giant logo on a car seat where you would expect a robot’s head to be. Why did they have to make the cartoon character so drastically different from the toy? It was almost unfathomable at the time.
Little did we know in our consumerist American naiveté that Hasbro had duped us into believing that these toys were a completely new product, not a clever licensing scheme, an amalgamation of previously existing Japanese toy lines repackaged under a new moniker. We were told that these characters were robotic lifeforms from a distant planet divided between two warring factions, instead of the truth – these robots were in fact non-sentient machines piloted by soldiers from another planet in 1/60th scale. We were swindled. And happily so, reveling in the glorious G1 bubble. Alas the legend of Diaclone was left in the dust, its magnetic-clad drivers erased from Transformers lore, only to be remembered by older otaku and toyshop owners until the dawn of the World Wide Web.
It wasn’t until I discovered the Diaclone origin of this figure that I was actually ready to resolve the discrepancy between the cartoon and toy for Ratchet. As kids, my buddies and I speculated that our Japanese counterparts were treated to a version with an actual head, and that Hasbro had cheaped out on us. Well, in some ways we were right – whether because of the choking hazard liability, production costs, or creative issues, we didn’t get those cool little Diaclone drivers. So Ratchet was always left in the dust as the ugly one. Boy was I wrong.
As a Diaclone figure, on the contrary, the Onebox (both Ambulance and Cherry Vanette Type) really stands out to me as one of the Car Robots lineup’s most formidable figures. Aside from the Diaclone Powered Suits, I feel it is the only figure in which the driver stands out as the main focal point in mechanoid form, without which the robot would just remain as a mere shell with no autonomous capabilities. It would be just an expressionless, non-sentient mechanoid, like the exosuit piloted by Ripley in Aliens, or by Daniel in the ’86 TF movie.
With their Diaclone driver / pilot in the cockpit, Ratchet really stands out in robot form as some of the most amazing examples of toy-in-toy designs Takara has ever produced, in my humble opinion. The design of Onebox / Ratchet exemplifies the concept of the Diaclone storyline, of the Diaclone Taskforce piloting mecha disguised as ordinary vehicles to fend off the Waruder invasion. There is no need for a humanoid head in its design, as the pilot is front and center behind the windshield. Just brilliant.
As cool as his robot form may be, Ratchet’s trailer base is even more action packed and stunning with its chrome highlights. With dedicated spots for two pilots (and enough space for four to stand), both a PLASTIC MISSILE launcher and front cannon, and snowsled style treads, the base is a veritable artillery powerhouse that no other G1 figure except for Prime could hold a candle to.
Since Ratchet wasn’t given pegholes in his fists for a handheld weapon, it only makes sense that his entire arsenal lies in his “sled” base. This thing is a badass piece of Diaclone design. Just look at how well equipped this bot is, at a 12 on a scale of 1 – 10 for chromenificence.
Now that I’ve seen Ratchet for his true self – a fully kitted out silver surfing base bot, I have severed the cartoon character from the G1 figure. To me, they are no longer related. Not until CHUG did we ever see a decent cartoon accurate toy, and that’s fine by me. I’m sticking with my windshield head lawnmower version.