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I've been rewatching Season 1 of G1, and Starscream is constantly undermining Megatron. He is so indiscreet about it though... he'll openly discuss his plans to mutiny against Megatron. Megatron frequently threatens to take out Starscream, but never seems to do so.

Why didn't Megatron ever kill Starscream?

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    I've little to back this up, but I'd be willing to bet that it was because cartoon characters just weren't killed off back then. To my memory, Optimus was the first major character killed in a cartoon series franchise, and it was received so negatively that they had to change the ending of the GI Joe movie in post production (Duke was originally supposed to die.) – phantom42 Jan 30 '14 at 4:14
  • @phantom42 Granted, Starscream was then killed off five minutes later by ---Megatron--- Galvatron. Also granted that this comment is two years late. – Slacklord the Terrible Jan 18 '16 at 23:17
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    It bears mentioning that Starscream is listed as the leader of the Seekers (the jet transformers) and the Seekers made up half of Megatron's forces in G1. Could be, he didn't want the other Seekers to rebel – geewhiz Apr 19 '18 at 15:29
  • @phantom42 - By the end of the macross saga in Robotech every character in the whole show except maybe 7 is dead. That was on the same time as Transformers, albeit of non-american origins. It still played in the US. And it was awesome because it was willing to do what no other cartoons did. – Kai Qing Apr 20 '18 at 16:15
  • ... also, the majority of the population of earth dies in the force of arms episode. Plus the crews of the 4 million ships in space. – Kai Qing Apr 20 '18 at 17:36
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From the Transformers Universe book:

Megatron overlooks the potential threat Starscream represents for one very good reason: Starscream is very good at his job.

Online entry: Starscream.

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    And it also seems that promotion by regicide is an acceptable practice among the 'cons. – System Down Jan 30 '14 at 15:09
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The main reason behind this is Megatron's own ability to perceive the attributes of StarScream . Perhaps he sees a little of himself in StarScream , if not the physical part, at least the "cunning part" definitely. This prompts him to re consider his decision of killing StarScream. For he thinks, StarScream may inadvertently come up with a useful idea to demolish the autobots , which Megatron then can use at his own discretion.

Having said that, Megatron is in a dilemma, he is constantly toying with the idea of either having StarScream terminated or banished , but he seems just not able to make up his mind, due to his past association with StarScream. Also, due to the same reason he may think, that StarScream will never be able to outwit him.

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Megatron simply can't afford to be without Starscream

At this stage in the Transformers canon, the Deceptions are fairly few in number and substantially outnumbered by the Autobots. Compare the list of troops on both sides here.

The Decepticons are typically outnumbered in G1 Season 1 but compensate in other ways, such as with their ability to fly.

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