- The Voyager Golden Disk is an artifact from the Beast Wars portion of the Generation One continuity family.
The Golden Disk from the Voyager probe is a recurring object throughout the Beast Wars. It plays a major role in the escalation of the conflict between the Maximals and the Predacons and leads to the death of Dinobot. It is eventually destroyed, but the Predacon leader, Megatron, recovers one of the shards and uses it to escape capture at the hands of a Cybertronian government agent.
Theft of the Golden Disk
Dawn of Future's Past
Beast Wars cartoon
Sometime within roughly a decade of when the Transformers aboard the Ark awoke in the eruption of Mount Saint Hilary (possibly earlier, possibly later), the humans of planet Earth launched a spacecraft to study the outer planets in their solar system. Attached to this spacecraft was a gold disk which contained information about Earth. Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons, acquired it at some point and encoded an additional message on the disk.
Megatron's message was even more of a "message in a bottle" than the disk itself, although the complete message was never revealed. He orders any Decepticons who might, in the future, come across the message to use transwarp technology to achieve some particular end.
At some point between Decepticon Megatron adding his message to the disk and the beginning of the Beast Wars, the spacecraft holding the disk—or perhaps only the disk—fell into the hands of the Transformers. It was seemingly considered a precious artifact, even though the general population of Maximals had no idea what it really was (and even some Predacons—like the reformatted Decepticon Ravage—didn't have a clue). The Maximal Elders were presumably aware of the Disk's origin.
The Predacons stole the Golden Disk from the Cybertron archives. Megatron claimed that the disk held the location of a vast store of energon, with which the Predacon commander believed he could reignite the Great War against the Maximals. However, due to the differences between the planet they had arrived on and their intended destination of Earth, it was concluded that the two ships had arrived on an unknown planet with greater natural energon deposits at the cost of being more unstable.
After spending several months trapped on this unknown world, the devastation caused by the Vok Planet Buster caused serious ecological upheaval, revealing that this planet truly was ancient Earth. With this revelation, Dinobot broke into the Predacon base and stole the Golden Disk. He then climbed to a high peak where he pontificated to himself about the potential power the wielder of the Golden Disk could hold, and the potential danger that came with it. On a personal level, he felt that it could either confirm or destroy his own reason for being. He needed to believe himself the master of his own fate, and if history could not be changed, then he could only believe himself a deterministic pawn. He eventually decided that the most prudent thing to do with an item of infinite power was to shove it under a large rock where it would be hidden from all who might use it.
Later, he noticed that the Predacons had been setting up installations around their base in a pattern that matched the shape of one of the symbols on the disk. Realizing that Megatron still meant to alter history, Dinobot rejoined him to discover the truth of his own destiny. He led Megatron to the location of the Golden Disk and presented it to him. Shortly afterwards, Dinobot defected to the Maximals once again, but Megatron escaped with the Golden Disk.Not long afterwards, Megatron began testing history's mutability, discovering through the images contained in the disk that he had the power to alter the timeline. The Predacons attacked the valley from which humanity's ancestors would emerge, but Dinobot launched a one-man berserker attack on the Predacons, single-handedly defeating them, shattering the Golden Disk with his last bit of energy. Thus preserving the future of mankind through his own sacrifice. Turning from a villan to the most influencial hero in the "Transformers" universe.
Megatron was captured by Covert Agent Ravage for violations of the Pax Cybertronia, but revealed that he still possessed a lone fragment of the Golden Disk, which contained a message encoded by the original Megatron. He played it for Ravage, convincing the former Decepticon to release and join forces with him.
The nature of the connection between the Golden Disk and the mysteriously similar Alien Disk is completely unknown.
The real Golden Disk
The Golden Disk that appears in Beast Wars is based on a real object: In 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft called Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, which flew by our planetary system's four gas giants. (Jupiter and Saturn were visited by both craft, Uranus and Neptune only by Voyager 2.) The Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft which preceded them had carried copies of a plaque depicting human beings and showing the location of Earth with respect to several highly-visible pulsars. For the Voyager mission, a more sophisticated message was composed.
The "disk" consists of a cover or canister—on which a set of pictograms are found—and a phonograph record inside the canister. The record, titled "The Sounds of Earth", has a "data" portion and a sound portion. In the data portion are over a hundred encoded images including photographs of the Earth and its lifeforms, as well as drawings of human biology and reproduction. The audio portion includes sounds of natural environments on Earth, wildlife, human voices, and music. The pictograms on the record's cover explain how to play the disc and decode the images.
As portrayed in Beast Wars, the Golden Disk seems to be an amalgam of the cover and the record itself. It appears to be at least a few centimeters thick and has the cover's pictograms on one side, but the record grooves and title "The Sounds of Earth" on the other. The indication is that the cover is one-sided, and we are seeing the record through the empty rear, as later episodes would present the disc in its real-life, thin, record form.