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Starscream's intelligence and skill assured him the postition of second-in-command of the Decepticons. His agility and speed made him the Air Commander. Despite (or more likely as a result of) possessing so many talents, he was very insolent and sought to replace Megatron as leader.
Starscream was able to transform into an F-15 jet, and was the fastest flyer, as well as a high-ranking warrior. Despite all of his abilities, he was not always looked upon very favorably by his fellow Decepticons. They followed his orders, but believed him to be quite cowardly, demanding, and an ineffective commander. Starscream, however, merely believed the others envied his superiority. The thoughts of his comrades were also shared by Megatron, who especially resented Starscream's rebelliousness and belief that he would one day be the leader. Yet Megatron appreciated having a scapegoat around on whom to blame if things went wrong, and he also had to acknowledge that despite all his faults, Starscream was valuable to the Decepticon cause.
Starscream's origin is traced back to when he was a scientist and explorer from Cybertron. While on a mission with his fellow scientist and friend Skyfire to chart what was then a newly discovered planet--Earth--Skyfire was lost. After searching for him in vain, Starscream returned to Cybertron. Shortly thereafter he joined the Decepticons.
The Decepticons left Cybertron following the Autobots, and crashed into Earth. While departing the Ark and leaving the Autobots for dead, Starscream fired upon the ship, unwittingly causing them to be reactivated.
Some time later, the Decepticons discovered a strange robot frozen in the ice. It turned out to be Starscream's old friend Skyfire. At Starscream's urging, he was reactivated and incorporated into the Decepticons. However, Skyfire was not pleased with being a Decepticon, so he allied with the Autobots, an action that Starscream considered to be traitorous. Therefore, the old friends became enemies.
After Megatron tried to escape the Earth and his starship exploded, Starscream believed he was finally rid of him and proclaimed himself Decepticon leader. He allied himself with the Decepticon sympathizer Dr. Archevil and connected an exponential generator to a timer in the doctor's lab. This, he hoped, would destroy the Earth. Starscream then traveled to Cybertron to await the released energy and collect it. However, his plan was foiled by Megatron, who turned out to be alive and able to fire his bomb far away from Earth. A distressed Starscream returned to Earth to find out what went wrong, and was shocked to discover that Megatron lived and that his transient leadership was over. Despite that incident, Starscream was accepted back into the ranks of the Decepticons.
Perhaps Starscream's greatest legacy and contribution was that he created an awesome and powerful army that swelled the ranks of the Decepticons and helped them immeasurably--the Combaticons. That grand endeavor was conceived by Starscream while he was in exile. He had tested Megatron's patience to the limit, and was banished to a remote island. There he discovered the remains of several World War II vehicles. The brilliant idea came to him of creating them into his own forces. So he traveled to Cybertron and stole five personality components to install into the vehicles, thus recreating them into his personal army, to use against Megatron. Megatron discovered this and battled Starscream and his troops. They proved to be excellent warriors and combined to form the gestalt Bruticus. However, they were eventually defeated and all were banished to an asteroid.
The Combaticons proved to be just as rebellious as their creator, and resented Starscream. He couldn't stand them either and fled, while the vengeful Combaticons traveled to Cybertron to plot against all who they believed caused them harm. Starscream traveled to Cybertron as well, and was imprisoned along with Shockwave by the Combaticons. Megatron arrived on Cybertron and freed the two. He accepted Starscream back in the Decepticons, for his help was needed to stop the out-of-control Bruticus. Starscream volunteered the information on Bruticus's weak points and he was brought back under control--Megatron's control.
In 2005, after the great battle of Autobot City on Earth, the Decepticons retreated into Astrotrain. At Astrotrain's request to jettison some weight, Starscream suggested that the injured should be expelled. Along with several Seekers and Insecticons, Starscream himself expelled a damaged but still operational Megatron and declared himself to be the leader of the Decepticons. During his coronation, Megatron returned in the form of Galvatron and killed Starscream.
In 2006, Starscream returned as a ghost. He was inadvertently freed from his remains by the Decepticon Octane. He possessed Cyclonus and plotted revenge against Galvatron. He was discovered by Galvatron, though, and left Cyclonus's body to possess Scourge. Through the body of Scourge, Starscream reactivated Unicron's head. Unicron agreed to give Starscream a body in exchange for completing three tasks. First, he had to steal Metroplex's eyes. He did so, but one was broken in the process, so he went and stole one of Trypticon's. The second task involved stealing Trypticon and he did that as well. The third and final task was to connect Unicron to Cybertron. Starscream possessed Trypticon to do it, but was forced out of him before Unicron was connected. He couldn't finish the job without a body, so Unicron restored him to life. However, Starscream didn't keep his promise and double-crossed Unicron, telling him to finish the task himself. His joy at having a body again was short-lived. He encountered the enraged Galvatron, who blasted him (albeit non-fatally this time). Starscream was last seen adrift through space.
Beast Wars Addendum:
Somehow, during his stint as a ghost, Starscream met up with a group of Beast Wars Predacons who were stranded on a planet. Having seen a weakness in the Maximal base, he possessed Waspinator's body and offered his services to the Predacon commander, coincidentally named Megatron (Megatron II). Starscream lied about his demise, saying that he was killed by Unicron while defending Galvatron. Megatron II accepted him, and Starscream's plan worked perfectly. However, Maximal leader Optimus Primal was able to retake the base, and Starscream's retreat made him the enemy of Blackarachnia, whom he left behind. Between Blackarachnia and Primal, Waspinator's body was shattered in an energon explosion and Starscream's ghost (referred to as a "spark" by the Beast Warriors) was sent flying out into space.
Article contributed by Sarai Feria, with contributions from Pradeep Kumar Nair and Nick Peron.