Optimus Primal is the leader of the Maximals in the animated series Beast Wars: Transformers and also Beast Machines: Transformers. He is a direct descendant of legendary Autobot leader Optimus Prime who, like his namesake, started from humble beginnings with no idea that his destiny would be tied to the fate of Cybertron and all Transformerkind. His personality is more "down to Earth" with Cybertron, than Optimus. He and his Maximals fight the Predacons led by Megatron who wish to use a Golden Disk to bring back the Decepticons (more importantly his own namesake) and ensure his own victory.
Optimus Primal is voiced by Garry Chalk.
Optimus was originally the captain of the Maximal exploration ship Axalon. While he and his crew were conducting a research mission in a previously uncharted region of space, they received word from the Maximal Council that a group of Predacon criminals had fled Cybertron aboard a transwarp-capable starship in possession of a relic called the Golden Disk. The Axalon was the closest vessel available to pursue Megatron and his crew, though it was ill-equipped for combat.
Primal followed the Predacons through a transwarp portal and appeared above a mysterious planet (which would later be identified as prehistoric Earth), but both ships were damaged in the ensuing space battle, and before both ships crashed into the planet's surface below, Primal ordered that the stasis pods carrying the rest of his crew to be ejected into orbit.
Primal and his active crew survived the crash and found that the planet was rich with crystallized energon. In this raw form and in such abundance, the energon radiation proved to be detrimental to the Transformers' functions. In order to remain functional, Primal and his crew scanned their surroundings, seeking to adopt partially organic alternate forms that would insulate them from the energon radiation. Primal himself took on the form of a gorilla.
With energon resources abundant on this planet, the Maximals feared that Megatron was planning to harvest it in order to start another Great War. They had no idea what his true intentions were. The Beast Wars raged as both sides fought over energon, stasis pods containing Maximal protoforms and strange alien relics left behind by unknown beings which would later be identified as the Vok. Among these alien artifacts was a disk similar to the one Megatron had stolen on Cybertron which contained information relating to the aliens' activities on the planet.
Not long after the discovery of multiple alien artifacts on the planet, both the Maximals and Predacons became aware of a significant threat. One of the twin moons orbiting the planet was artificial and was, in fact, a weapon of mass destruction powerful enough to destroy the entire planet. In order to protect the planet, Optimus used a stasis pod that had been converted into an escape ship by the Predacon Tarantulas, fitted it with a transwarp cell and attempted to fly it into the Vok planet-buster. The transwarp cell's detonation would be powerful enough to destroy the planet-buster, but Megatron remotely hijacked the pod's controls, keeping it sealed and preventing Optimus from ejecting. The pod collided with the false moon and detonated, destroying it and Optimus as well.
Optimus' spark had become one with the Matrix but it would not remain there. When the transwarp cell detonated, it created an opening into transwarp space. Rhinox attempted to exploit the transwarp window to project his own consciousness into the Matrix so that he could retrieve Primal's spark and place it into a blank protoform. His endeavour posed great risk, but he succeeded and Optimus was reborn in a new Transmetal body.
The Beast Wars would take another dramatic turn when Ravage - an agent of the Tripredacus Council - arrived on ancient Earth under orders to assist the Maximals in arresting Megatron. However, after Megatron was captured, the Predacon rogue showed Ravage the content of a fragment of the shattered Golden Disk: a partial message from the original Megatron, Ravage's old commander. The message was a back-up plan in case the Decepticons were defeated by the Autobots, which they were, and was intended to inspire Megatron's descendants into ensuring Decepticon victory by altering history. Realising that Decepticon dominance could yet be achieved, Ravage switched sides and joined Megatron, using his ship to attack the Maximals and destroy their base. However, Ravage and his ship were destroyed from within by the Maximal Rattrap.
Megatron had escaped from Ravage's ship before it was destroyed and Optimus and the Maximals followed, believing that the Predacon leader had discovered the location of the Ark, the original Autobot starship containing the inactive bodies of both the Autobots and Decepticons. The Maximals attempted to enter the vessel, but were kept out by its defensive cannons. This gave Megatron the chance to alter history by assassinating Optimus Prime who was still in stasis-lock, thereby assuring that the Decepticons would win the Great War. Primal was forced to take the great Autobot's spark inside himself to keep it protected. This caused his body to grow larger and stronger (seemingly roughly as large as his Autobot ancestors), gaining ground and air vehicle modes along with his previous gorilla form. Megatron sardonically dubbed him "Optimal Optimus". In his new form, he successfully protected Prime's spark until it could be returned to his repaired body, thus saving history and the future from destruction at the cost of the Axalon.
With the location of the Ark revealed and Megatron now desperate to end the war at any cost, Primal was forced to move his Maximals into the volcano where the Ark's hull lay. This new, defensive war was much more difficult to fight, and disadvantaged the Maximals severely, even with Optimus' new four-mode body and enhanced firepower. With the loss of their defence system, Sentinel, the arrival of the rebellious and embittered Depth Charge, the awkward and violent maturation of Cheetor, proto-humans to guard, the theft of the original Megatron's spark and the ensuing mutation of Megatron II (which Optimus had been unwillingly responsible for due to Tarantulas and Quickstrike's brainwashing him with a mechanized suit as he possessed the access codes for the Ark and thus Megatron), the introduction of the previously treacherous and morally ambiguous Blackarachnia into their ranks and her imminent Transmetallization, Optimus Primal had more than his share of problems to deal with.
The tide was finally turned when the Vok resurrected and combined Airazor and Tigatron into the mighty Tigerhawk, who obliterated the Predacon base. In the end, Primal's forces defeated Megatron's, and with the captured Predacon leader strapped to the roof of a borrowed Autobot shuttle, the Maximals at last headed home. Leaving the planet and memorializing his fallen comrades, Optimus Primal declared that the Beast Wars were over. Little did Primal know, however, that he had merely traded one war for a nightmare worse than he could imagine.
Seemingly minutes after the shuttle departed for transwarp space, Optimus Primal suddenly found himself back in his original, organic gorilla body and thrust into a dangerous situation on an eerily deserted Cybertron, unfamiliar with how he arrived there and pursued by an army of Tank Drones. Unable to transform, he was forced to flee in his ape mode and began experiencing visions, which lead him one-by-one to Rattrap, Cheetor, and Blackarachnia, before leading them to a chamber deep within Cybertron—the access point for the powerful and legendary Oracle. As the other three Maximals watched, Primal entered into the bowels of the computer, within which he was granted visions he could not yet comprehend, including the prophetic statement that "the seeds of the future lie buried in the past". Reformatted by the Oracle, Primal emerged in a new, techno-organic beast mode and urged the other dying Maximals to complete their "reformatting" as well. Shortly after this was achieved, the group was attacked by an underground army of Cycle Drones. During the ensuing fight, Primal plunged into a deep pit, but as he fell, was able to master the "art" of transformation and regain his robot mode. Flying out, Primal grabbed the nearest drone and demanded answers, but lost his concentration, causing him to revert to beast mode.
Primal began to teach the three other Maximals the lost art of transformation, which was mastered by achieving an inner calmness and finding their spiritual centers. Though Cheetor and Blackarachnia were successful right off the bat, Rattrap was unable to transform at all. The search for answers lead them to the Council Citadel, where Optimus encountered the mastermind behind the empty Cybertron—Megatron! Megatron claimed he had united Cybertron into one unified machine controlled by his mind, and purged his beast form from himself, however the combination of the Maximals besting his Vehicon drones and Optimus's goading increased Megatron's rage until he involuntarily transformed into his dragon mode. Recovering quickly, Megatron gloated that he had done away with the millions of Transformers inhabiting the planet, and Optimus demanded to know what he'd done with them all. Primal had to be dragged physically from the Citadel by the other Maximals, yelling Megatron's name as he went. Later, Optimus told the others that he blamed his own failure to stop Megatron for the downfall of Cybertron.
Investigation of the Cybertron Archives revealed that they'd been erased clean. Optimus was so furious, he singlehandedly trashed an entire phalanx of tank drones, and later lectured his troops for their poor performance in combat. When Rattrap and Blackarachnia risked their own lives consulting the logs on the shuttle they arrived in, only to be attacked by Megatron's new Vehicon generals, Optimus came to their aid with Cheetor, but was even more furious at the loss of the ship and the fact they'd endangered themselves. With the memories of Silverbolt and Rhinox reawakened, Optimus promised to find their lost friends. Sensing a spark, Optimus led his men on a search, only for them all to be captured when Rattrap used a transformation enhancer to transform, alerting the Vehicons to their location. Taken to the Citadel, the Maximals were able to break free. Primal reached out to Tankor's spark, turning the Vehicon general to their side so that he helped them escape the building. Unfortunately he didn't remain their ally for long, as Megatron was subsequently able to erase his memory and lock Optimus out. Optimus told the others that he had sensed something... familiar about the Vehicon's spark.
The Maximals discovered that someone had survived Megatron's planet-wide purge, a Maximal named Nightscream who seemed to suffer from the same transformation lock virus that the Maximals had upon arrival. Nightscream led them to an underground tree he had been living off. Optimus told the other Maximals they should eat the fruit, but the fruit caused their beast instincts to overtake them. Complicating things, Jetstorm picked this moment to attack. The Maximals snapped out of it when Cheetor destroyed the tree. Following the battle, Primal showed a new talent granted by the Oracle, reformatting Nightscream into a new, technorganic body. Optimus was critically weakened by the effort and requested the over-eager Cheetor to take command in his absence.
During his rest, the other Maximals managed to drive Rattrap to Megatron's side. Optimus later convinced Rattrap to rejoin his friends, and reminded the others not to underestimate their comrade's strength in the face of adversity. The hunt for what happened to the inhabitants of Cybertron took another step when the Maximals discovered the empty shells of hundreds of Transformers, their sparks torn out. Inevitably Vehicon drones arrived and a battle began. The other Maximals became separated from Blackarachnia and were forced to search for her, even as it became obvious that the factory they were in was on the verge of exploding. After the found her, Optimus froze at the sight of the desparked bodies, anguished at all he'd allowed Megatron to do, and Cheetor was forced to take command from him in order to mount a retreat. As they fled, Blackarachnia revealed that the Vehicon Generals contained the sparks of their missing comrades.
Optimus became increasingly withdrawn, demanding the other Maximals leave him alone and spending all of his time with the Oracle, experiencing visions. Confused by what the Oracle was showing him, he nonetheless persevered, and was rewarded with a meeting with Rhinox in a vision. Unfortunately their talk did not go well, Rhinox siding with Megaton's ideal of a technological Cybertron and openly hostile to the idea of reintroducing the organic. Optimus awoke and rejoined his fellow Maximals, who had awakened Rhinox's spark within Tankor, only to find the same thing Optimus had—their old friend had changed. Primal confided to the others that he had realised the true mission which the Oracle intended for them to carry out: to make Cybertron organic once more.
While they were in search of the fruit tree Nightscream had originally lead them to, the Maximals were attacked by the Vehicons and Nightscream kidnapped. During the rescue, Nightscream discovered a cave lined with fossils, and Primal realised this proved that Cybertron was once organic. Optimus and Cheetor would continue to butt heads over what course of action they should take. The discovery of a green goo from Cybertron's core which caused plants to spontaneously sprout appeared to justify Optimus's opinion they should concentrate on restoring the organic to the planet. When a subsequent attack by Tankor left Nightscream in a technomatter state, more disagreement over the proper course of action ensued. They eventually stole a mole drone at great risk, and Optimus was able to guide it downwards, unleashing a torrent of green goo which cured everyone. Following the victory, Cheetor told Optimus that he refused to be treated like a kid any more, but grudgingly accepted Optimus's leadership.
Believing Tankor to be dead, the Maximals were finally able to hold a memorial for Rhinox. Tankor, however, still functioned and plotted to have Megatron use the Key to Vector Sigma to purge all organic life from Cybertron. Hoping to force Megatron's hand, Tankor surreptitiously provided Rattrap with a catalyst to increase the plant growth, and Optimus and the other Maximals subsequently had to rescue Rattrap from the marauding vines. Though Optimus turned down Cheetor's suggestion that they use the rapidly-growing vines as a weapon, Cheetor went ahead and tried it anyway, almost spelling doom when the plan backfired. Quick work by Optimus saved the orchard, and he scolded Cheetor before breaking the news that he believed the Oracle had been tampered with.
Despite the apparent tampering, Optimus continued to follow the Oracle's visions, leading the Maximals to the Plasma Energy Chamber, capable of wiping out everything technological on the planet. The Oracle had bestowed on Optimus the power to open the chamber, however Cheetor managed to talk him out of opening the chamber outright, and the Maximals set about finding a way to deactivate the Keys instead. Rattrap, hacking into Megatron's computer, was disabled by Tankor. Optimus sensed something was wrong and rushed in to confront Megatron directly. As the pair fought, Megatron revealed the defeat of the other Maximals, but Optimus wouldn't yield, attempting to reformat his opponent. Tankor arrived in time to use a Key to turn Optimus into technomatter, lecturing the Maximal on sporting behavior, only to be promptly captured by Megatron, who took the opportunity to gloat over Optimus. In desperation, the Maximal leader finally opened the Plasma Energy Chamber. At the same time, Megatron ordered his Tank drones to fire the Key, the energies released creating a planetwide storm. Optimus's body began to crumble before his eyes.
Though his body was destroyed, Primal's spirit was transported into the Matrix, the Transformers' afterlife. As he and Megatron fought in the void, he pondered if this was his destiny, to fight his nemesis for eternity. Before him, he saw the faces of his comrades, the Maximals, berate him for his poor leadership and near-genocidal behavior. He then found himself back on prehistoric Earth, where a red-eyed copy of Primal attacked him, scolding him for his fanatical behavior. Floating in space, he saw the collective sparks of Cybertron.
Meanwhile, the other Maximals journeyed downwards once more, speaking to Optimus via the Oracle. Primal refused to lead the Maximals, asking only for their forgiveness, but they merely told him there was nothing to forgive—without his guidance, they'd never have made it this far. Preparing to become one with the Allspark, Optimus realized his mistake: his mission was not to create an organic Cybertron, but to restore the balance between the technological and the organic. As he chose life and was returned to the other Maximals, the Oracle congratulated him for passing his greatest test. A forest of technorganic trees sprang up in the chamber around the Maximals, as the Oracle vanished.
Believing their next task was to find the missing sparks, the Maximals headed for the Council Citadel, only for a giant head with the likeness of Megatron to hover into view. When the giant head failed to do anything, Optimus attempted to contact Megatron's spark directly, but received only confused images which didn't even come from a sentient mind. Meanwhile the other Maximals had discovered two more beings roaming the city—an intelligent and sensitive wolf named Noble and a bestial dragon dubbed Savage. With Primal's help, they trapped Savage, only to discover that Savage and Noble were one and the same—a Transformer with two beast modes. Optimus vowed to do all he could to help their new friend.
Optimus ordered Noble and Nightscream remain outside the Council Citadel while he and the others ventured inside to look for clues to the lost sparks. His orders were, of course, disregarded, and it soon transpired that Noble was actually Megatron, attempting to access his control harness. After using a spark extractor on himself, Megatron took control of the giant floating head, reactivating the drone armies and forcing the Maximals underground. While rescuing Nightscream, who'd gone to try and find Noble, Optimus and Cheetor were pulled up to the Grand Mal with a tractor beam. Megatron demanded information on the Oracle, attempting to take it from them by force, but they were rescued by Silverbolt, who had been reformatted from Jetstorm by Blackarachnia.
After a series of gruelling battles, Optimus and the Maximals were able to commandeer the Grand Mal, the floating fortress that housed Megatron's spark. Megatron was believed to be dead after his spark had been expunged from the Grand Mal's systems, but he had actually been transferred into the form of a Diagnostic Drone. In control of the Grand Mal and the sparks within, the Maximals failed to convince Optimus they should give the sparks new bodies. He was worried it would leave the sparks vulnerable to recapture by Megatron, and they needed to reformat Cybertron first. With Megatron back in control of the drone armies, the Maximals soon found themselves under siege in the Grand Mal anyway. Rattrap's gamble to save Botanica's life backfired, leaving them vulnerable to the drones, who managed to penetrate the fortress' shields. Despite the best efforts of the Maximals, the ship plunged to the ground.
Down, but not out, the Maximals began preparing their defences for the impending Vehicon assault. The shields did not hold long, and the Maximals found themselves fighting against hordes of drones. Outnumbered, the Maximals used spark power bestowed on them by the Oracle to decimate the drones, until Megatron took the Oracle from them. Finally, Optimus was confronted by Megatron in a new form—a replica of Primal's own "Optimal Optimus" body—while the other Maximals had their sparks ripped from their bodies.
Enraged, Optimus struck out at Megatron, and their battle raged across the city. As the moved from location to location, Optimus found the bodies of his Maximal friends, and found the technorganic orchard ravaged. Returning above ground, Megatron unveiled a huge throne, drawing all of the sparks into himself, despite Primal's protests. Megatron began to reformat Cybertron's core using the Key to Vector Sigma, but Optimus managed to distract him long enough to throw him off balance. Together, the two enemies plunged into the heart of Cybertron and ushered in the reformatting that returned the deactivated population to life and gave birth to the new, technorganic Cybertron. As the surviving Maximals looked out over their new home, Primal and the Oracle spoke to Cheetor, and Primal departed with the words "Transform, and Transcend", as his Spark joined the Matrix.