Some series can be influential on the generations of creators who grew up with them. Anime, which while known prior to 1995, exploded in popularity in the late 90s and continues to have a large audience. Western animation is now taking at least cues from anime, if not fully emulating it the way Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel, The Legend of Korra did. In the realms of fully CG animation, ReBoot is the forerunner.
Released by Mainframe Entertainment in 1994, ReBoot was the first fully CG animated TV series. The series covered the adventures of Bob, Dot, Enzo, Frisket, AndrAIa, and the citizens of Mainframe against the machinations of viruses Megabyte and Hexadecimal and against games sent by the User. The first season and most of the second was mostly episodic. The change to a continuing series had the seeds laid out during the second season and started with the episode “Nullzilla”, where a web creature invades Mainframe. The fight against the web creatures forces Bob and Megabyte to work together. The second season ends Megabyte turning on Mainframe’s defenders and sending Bob into the Web.
Season three breaks down into four four-part arcs. The first arc has Enzo taking over the role of Guardian, fighting off incoming games and Megabyte’s propaganda, both with the help of Dot, AndAIa, and Frisket. The arc ends with Enzo losing a Mortal Kombat-style game. The second arc starts with Enzo, AndrAIa, and Frisket already in a Mars Attacks-style game. When the game ends, the Enzo and AndrAIa having compiled up and him going as Matrix. The arc covers the trio’s search for a way back to Mainframe and Matrix’s growing doubts about his abilities, and ends with the return of a character. The third arc begins with re-introducing the Crimson Binome and the crew of the Saucy Mare, first seen in the first season episode, “The Crimson Binome”. The arc then shows Matrix, AndrAIa, Frisket, and the Saucy Mare reaching Mainframe and seeing the devastation Megabyte made in creating Megaframe. The final arc is the final showdown, as Guardian Bob, Renegade Matrix, and the survivors in Mainframe once and for all put an end to Megabyte’s reign as the virus tries to find a way out to go infect a new system.
The fourth season was done as two movies, each broken into four parts for rebroadcast. The first, Daemon Rising, introduces a new threat, Daemon, while Mainframe tries to get on with normal life. Daemon, as the characters learn, is a cron virus that will destroy the entire Net if not stopped, and ends with a second Bob appearing. The second movie, My Two Bobs is a bit lighter, with Dot trying to figure out which Bob is the real one, a wedding, and ends with the return of Megabyte and him taking over the Principle Office in a still unresolved cliffhanger.
Throughout its four seasons, ReBoot through in what fans call DYNs, for “Did You Notice?” Popular culture references can be found in almost every episode, with several eps based on something specific. Season two’s “Bad Bob” took the premise of Mad Max 2, aka The Road Warrior, and added a plot that was relevant to ReBoot. Season three upped the ante, making a number of direct comparisons to other works, including the *007* franchise in “Firewall” and The Prisoner in “Number 7”. The games themselves often referred to actual video games or films, including Pokémon in My Two Bobs, The Evil Dead in “To Mend and Defend*, and games like Crash Bandicoot and Sonic the Hedgehog with Rocky the Rabid Raccoon in “Between a Rock & a Hard Place” and My Two Bobs.
Of particular note is the use of Star Trek in several episodes. There are binomes based on Captain Picard, Captain Kirk, and Commander Riker that reappear throughout the series. Lines from Trek have come ffrom several characters, including the Crimson Binome and Megabyte. The third season episode, “Where No Sprite Has Gone Before” written by fan and later Trek scriptwriter and script consultant DC Fontana, is a parody of both Star Trek and silver age comics. The destruction of the Saucy Mare in “Showdown” is straight out of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, including the Crimson Binome’s lamentation, “What have I done?” and AndrAIa’s response, “What you had to do. What you have always done.”
In 2018, Mainframe in conjunction with Corus Entertainment1 produced a live-action ReBoot reboot, called ReBoot: The Guardian Code. The series starred Ty Wood as Austin/Vector, Ajay Friese as Parker/Googz, Sydney Scotia as Tamra/Enigma, Gabriel Darku as Trey/Frag, Hannah Vandenbygaart as the Virtual Evolutionary Recombinant Avatar or Vera, Bob Frazier as the Sourcerer, and Timothy E. Brummund as Megabyte, taking over the role from the late Tony Jay. The series is et twenty years after the events of the original ReBoot, with the Net and cyberspace far more developed, like today’s Internet is compared to when the original first aired.
The series begins with Austin, Parker, Tamra, and Trey arriving at the Alan Turing High School, a magnet school for computer science. Tamra is a social media guru. Trey is a basketball star. Parker is a natural at coding. Austin is the son of Adam Carter, who developed new technology that was never released, especially to the Department of Internet Security. The four students get a late notice that their homeroom as been moved to room zero, in the school’s basement. Room zero is hidden behind a hologram of a wall. Inside is Adam Carter’s technology.
Turns out, the four students already knew each other by code names in a video game, which was used to find candidates to become a new type of Guardian. Carter’s technology would let users transport themselves into cyberspace, with Guardian code to keep them safe from the dangers of the Net. Their first mission is to stop the Sourcerer and his dark code locusts, who have caused a power outage.
The Sourcerer realizes the new Guardians are a threat and brings back a virus with experience fighting them, Megabyte. Megabyte is given an upgrade reflecting the twenty years that have gone past since he was last active in Mainframe. However, the Sourcerer has also done his research and adds extra code to the virus, a delete routine. Failure to obey orders and the Sourcerer can delete Megabyte with a press of a key.
Megabyte’s first act of his own volition is to set up his own base of operations, replacing Silicon Tor with a new castle. He sees cyberspace as a realm to be corrupted and brought under his silicon fist. There is a war of wills between the main villains, with the Sourcerer having the upper hand thanks to the delete routine. However, Megabyte does find a way to equal the odds, possibly even give himself the upper hand.
In a brazen act, Megabyte breaks through the outer walls of Mainframe and finds his sister, Hexadecimal, voiced again by Shirley Millner. While tracking Megabyte, Vera and Parker realize that the system he’s infecting is close, as in practically inside room zero. Parker finds an old computer and flips the switch marked “Reboot Mainframe”. The new Guardians go into the old system, only to be stopped by Bob, voiced by the original Bob. Dot and Enzo join the group, explaining what is happening and what, exactly, Lost Angles is and who Hex is. However, the User notices that Mainframe is back online and downloads Starship Alcatraz, last seen in the original season one episode, “The Tiff”. Bob, Austin, and Parker are trapped inside the game and must stop the User from winning. This time around, Austin and Parker use their knowledge of the game as users to squeak out a win.
The Sourcerer, though, has other plans. Ultimately, he wants the destruction of cyberspace. He eventually makes a deal with Megabyte to gain information, removing the delete code from the virus. the Department of Internet Security gets more involved as they recognize both the Sourcerer’s dark code, the Guardian code, Megabyte’s viral code, and how often they appear near each other. And the Guardians have lives outside the Net, including teaching Vera, who transitioned from cyberspace to the real world, how to act human, crushes, academics, and other foibles of existence.
Back in 2018, I did a preview of the series. The trailer then wasn’t promising. Turns out, trailers lie. The series is worth a watch. The question, though, is, “Is it ReBoot?”
The elements from the original that do make it in are done well. Unlike the first glance, Megabyte isn’t an attack dog. He has his own goals, restricted by the Sourcerer’s foresight. Hexadecimal is very much recognizable, helped greatly by having Millner and her cackle return for the role. While Megabyte doesn’t have his heavies Hack and Slash, he does have his army leader, the Alpha Sentinel. He has a series of them; being promoted to Alpha Sentinel usually means being destroyed, most likely by Megabyte.
However, the rest of the series might be better off without the ReBoot label. The idea of users in a computer system isn’t new; Disney did it with Tron in 1982. The Sourcerer’s plot and the fight to stop him doesn’t really touch on Mainframe, though someone had to program the viruses, the sprites, the binomes, everything in the original.
At the same time, the series leans heavily on the ReBoot mythology, using terms like Guardians and using the original series’ iconography. The Sourcerer could have coded his own virus, but instead upgraded an existing one. Sure, a new virus character out to corrupt and dominate cyberspace, but that is Megabyte’s wheelhouse. Why create a pale copy when the original is around. That goes double with Hexadecimal; the Queen of Chaos is one of a kind, and having the pair brings the spectre of Gigabyte, their combined, upgraded form, into the audience’s mind. The reboot brings back two of the greatest viral villains in entertainment.
The cast of the series is strong. The Guardians and Vera have feel like a natural group, despite being thrown together, sort of, at first. The late Tony Jay is a hard act to follow, but Timothy E. Brummund is up to the task. Bob Frazier is creepy as the Sourcerer and puts in a credible work playing two different characters in one body late in the second season. Bringing back Shirley Millner as Hex is the icing on top of the cake.
Still, is it ReBoot? Yes and no. The series does work as a sequel after a gap of twenty years, and if the original split prior to the second season episode, “Nullzilla”, when a web creature infects Hexadecimal. The reboot doesn’t answer the cliffhanger at the end of My Two Bobs. Some fan favourite characters don’t appear at all, but some, like Mike the TV wouldn’t fit the new tone. The action moves from systems into cyberspace, but the Internet has evolved greatly since 1995, and even since 2001. The series also shows what a battle between Guardian and virus in a game looks like from the user’s perspective. It may be up to the individual to decide if ReBoot: The Guardian Code is a proper adaptation.
The latest buzz about Reboot comes from the trailer for the new Netflix series, Reboot: The Guardian Code. It’s the first major work in the franchise since the cliffhanger end of the fourth season. Let me paraphrase Luke Skywalker from Star Wars: The Last Jedi here.
“Everything in that trailer you just watched is wrong.”
Let’s back up a bit. Reboot was the first fully computer animated series, produced by Mainframe Entertainment in Vancouver, British Columbia. The series aired on ABC in the US for almost two full seasons beginning in 1994 and YTV in Canada for its full run, including the fourth season comprising of two TV movies. The opening credits set up the entire premise of the show – Bob, a Guardian, is in Mainframe to protect the city from viral threats, including Megabyte and Hexadecimal, and from incoming games. Helping him are Dot and Enzo Matrix, Phong, Frisket, and the entire population of Mainframe.
The first two seasons were episodic, thanks to ABC’s requirements. Each episode featured Bob dealing with plots by the series villains. Megabyte’s machinations were of a system conqueror, looking to expand his base using his neo-Viral armies. The would-be viral overlord maintained a veneer of civility over his brutality, much like a mob boss. Hex, though, was random, pure chaos. Of the two, she had the greater power, but because she is random, she doesn’t have the focus to be the threat Megabyte is.
Once ABC was out of the picture, Reboot went to an ongoing story arc*. Beginning with “AndrAIa”, which introduced the young game sprite of the same name, the threat of a Web invasion became the ongoing plot through to the end of the second season, ending with Bob being tossed into the Web and Megabyte trying to turn Mainframe into Megaframe. Season three broke down into four arcs, Enzo becoming a Guardian, Enzo and AndrAIa travelling through the Net by game hopping, Enzo searching for Bob, and Enzo returning to a badly damaged home. The first of the season four TV movies introduced a new villain, Daemon, who was first mentioned in season three’s “The Episode With No Name”. The second of the TV movies had a second Bob appear and ended with Megabyte in control of the Principle Office.
Through the four seasons, several characters outside the leads were introduced – the hacker Mouse, Megabyte’s heavies Hack and Slash, software pirate The Crimson Binome, and perpetual annoyance Mike the TV – all of whom had their own development. Reboot expanded beyond Mainframe and sister city Lost Angles to include the Net, the World Wide Web, and other systems with their own unique looks.
What’s wrong with Reboot: The Guardian Code? There is almost nothing of the original series in it. The Guardians aren’t programs; they’re users sent into the computer. The villain is a hacker, not a virus. Megabyte, the only character from the the original to appear in the trailer, is the hacker’s heavy, not the dangerous system conqueror who took over Mainframe twice. The computer characters don’t look like the sprites or binomes. This isn’t what fans of the original series were waiting for.
The other problem is that the show might be worth watching for its own merits. But being tied to Reboot, fans are already turning away. If The Guardian Code was its own thing, not attached to an existing series, it may have had a chance at a fan following. The potential is there; young adults defending cyberspace from within and without against a deranged hacker, may not be the most original concept but there is a foundation to build on. Characters could develop without expectation. As it stands now, Tamara will now be compared to Dot, Mouse, and AndrAIa, and that is tough competition. With three changes, though, The Guardian Code could be an original work.
Reboot: The Guardian Code as it appears in the trailer is what /Lost In Translation/ is trying to highlight as something to avoid. There is only superficial connections to the original series, and that will drive fans of the original away.
* It’s said that Reboot went darker once ABC was out of the picture, but the first season episode “The Medusa Bug”, where Hexadecimal introduces a bug that turns all of Mainframe to stone, would fit in with the post-ABC episodes.