Many Franchises have big villains, some evil incarnate or fallen angel, powerful dark lords. Transformers The Movie did something bigger. In villains, Transformers have one of the few beings that we can point to and look at other franchises and realistically see an ultimate villain.
Unicron was a villain, an antagonistic force that made the war between the Autobots and Decepticons look insignificant. The first scene shows off the horror of what this villain is. Seemingly flying out of a star Unicron advances towards an advanced robotic planet not unlike Cybertron and the inhabitants only action is to flee, powerless at this force. But few escape as Unicron consumes the world brutally, a maw and grasping talons on the surface consuming the planet followed by images of his inner workings digesting the world. Without realizing it the creators of Transformers had not only created the franchises ultimate villain but also a cosmic horror.
By the end of the film Unicron after having Transformers (revealing he too is a Transformer) and attacked Cybertron is destroyed by the power of the Matrix of Leadership with his head in orbit of the now Autobot controlled Cybertron all without mentioning his origin. As season 3 continued though Unicron even reduced to a head was a massive threat, He had previously showed reality altering powers given how he turned wounded Decepticons into new more powerful ones to serve him and whenever the cast ventured into the seemingly dead remains it was clear Unicron still lived.
Unicrons origin would be told somewhat anticlimactically in the season 3 episode “Call of the Primitives” which I reviewed already. However an alternative and much more popular origin was given in the UK Transformers comics depicting him as the opposite of the Transformers creator god Primus (also created in the UK Transformers comics) A dark god of chaos and destruction, this would be the one that would be used going forward.
When the UK comics ended many of the writers went to work for the US ones and brought elements they liked over to those comics, this included the origins of Unicron who appeared in what was essentially the final antagonist of the G1 comics, sure there were a few issues after but that was more wrapping up, nothing could really compete with Unicron and nothing ever would, for nothing ever should.
Yet Unicron vanished from stories in the West for over a decade and if you don’t count the comics, even longer in the West. While Unicron made cameos or off mentions in Beast Wars such as in Starscreams later revealed fake story, a group of aliens using his image as it’s something the Transformers fear and Megatron famously calling Tarantulus a spawn of Unicron as an insult (the fans would take that more literally however), it was in the Japanese Beast Wars cartoons made to tide fans over while they waited for the Canadian made series to be finished and dubbed that Unicron made his return once more as the ultimate antagonist.
In Beast Wars Second both the Predacons and Maximals are fighting over a substance called Angolmois Energy. It was however in the sequel series Beast Wars Neo that Angolmois Energy was revealed to be the life blood of Unicron who possessed the then deceived villain of Beast Wars Second “Galvatron” (not to be confused with the G1 character) and also tried to possess Cybertron to make it his new body. But this was in Japan before the internet was widely used so we in the West didn’t see it and a lot didn’t even know it existed.
For us the return of Unicron came in Transformers Armada. A series that had the Autobots and Decepticons fight over a race of small power enhancing robots called Minicons. There wasn’t much hinting at anything other than Autobot vs Decepticons until the episode Chase. In the episode the treacherous “Decepticon” Sideways traps the human friends of the Autobots and their Minicon partners in cyberspace, before the kids escape however Sideways does something odd, he gets scared and apologetic. Sensing something far more dangerous than Megatron the kids run to an escape way but at one point look back and see a strange round object chasing them, something that to me who had remembered the movie (having not that long ago watched it) recognized, and exploded into excitement.
Unicron ended up the main villain of the latter half of Armada and ultimately the whole show having instigated and exacerbated the war by having created the Minicons, feeding off the hatred the war made to grow stronger and hid as Cybertrons moon. As the war went back to Cybertron Unicron created the first western instance of Nemesis Prime to try and stop them. The final battle had both Autobots and Decepticons join forces to stop him after Starscream heroically sacrificed himself to convince Megatron now Galvatron of the true threat.
It was here that after several failed attempts from both the movie and the Beast Wars anime line, Unicron got his first and till recently with a crowed funded Hasbro labs version, his only toy (which they then recoloured several times) and was the largest toy in that range (I would love to tell you how far but I am finding it very hard to find that information, the wikis failed me shame on them)
Armada started what was called the Unicron Trilogy, a series of connected anime that had Unicron as a central element, with sequel series Energon involving the Decepticons trying to revive him to use as a weapon (something that is completely against how they acted in Armada).Then Cybertron explaining his destruction in Energon resulted in the creation of the black hole that threatened to destroy the Universe (Cybertron also giving Primus his first proper animated appearance in a robot mode). That last one had the issue of the Japanese anime deciding to ignore the part about it being a sequel to Energon and just did their own thing while the dubbers tried to hastily edit in connections.
It was around this time that the heads of the franchise decided that Unicron and Primus (along with the 13 original Primes) were Multiversal Singularities, beings that in the multiverse there were only one of and thus extremely powerful… basically no one liked this as it frustrated writers for having to tie them in to every little thing that happened with these beings. Fans didn’t like it as there were already lots of times that didn’t make sense, the cartoon and comics for example having widely different origins. So we all were happy when they undid that decision (there was a comic made for a convention that explained that change).
Unicron made his next appearance in the Aligned Continuity and was introduced into the lore early on though it took till the Prime cartoon till that was confirmed. Both War and Fall of Cybertron (both amazing games) had this substance called Dark Energon and while not said to be connected to Unicron in the games long time fans noticed a similarity to Angolmois Energy. When Transformers Prime started however Starscream openly called it the blood of Unicron. In this show it also showed that Dark Energon could be used to revive a Transformer from the dead as a zombie like TerrorCon but this was far from the biggest new piece of Unicron lore in that show.
Dark Energon hadn’t been as major a plot element after the 5 part opener Darkness Rising until near the end of the first season with One Shall Fall. This episode ended with Dark Energon erupting from the Earth’s core. This shocking sight heralded the big twist to Unicron this setting had done. Unicron was the Earth.
The end of season 1 had Optimus and Megatron knock Unicron unconscious until he later reanimated and upgraded Megatron in the sequel movie Predacons Rising. You would have thought that would have been all about the Predacon faction, but no Unicron was the big bad. The later parts of Prime had some background confusion as to what to do, didn’t effect the show too much but you can see toys of characters that never got used.
Unicron was not involved in the Transformers live action movies until Last Knight where Bay shamelessly ripped off Primes Revelation. Fortunately everyone had realized how bad these films were (the fans having caught on much earlier) and with Bumblebee clearly being a different continuity we won’t have to endure Bay ruining Unicron.
But as you can see Unicron is the end of Transformers when it comes to villains. While G1 did continue after him in the cartoon nothing really felt as dangerous as the dark god who even as just a head was a threat. IDW seem to have understood this as its last story arc of its original continue was Unicron. Though here he was an ultimate doomsday weapon created by a race the ancient Primes had destroyed only gaining a transformation cog when some of Leige Maximos followers turned their Titan over to Unicron gifting him one and thus allowing him to turn into the Satan like figure we recognize.
Simply said with Transformers, you can’t get a bigger villain both metaphorically and literally than Unicron. An anti god, sure you can get powerful villains like Megatron and Beast Wars Megatron (they need to make more non Megatron main antagonists) or ancient threats like the Fallen, but Unicron remains the ultimate threat. As mentioned a new Unicron toy is now in the works, I considered getting him BUT I wasn’t willing to pay for £600 even if it is going to be the largest Transformer ever made, as it should be.