Metalhead – The Fifth Ninja Turtle
There have been a number of heroes associated with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to call themselves one of the team. Zach, April O’Neil, and Venus de Milo have tried or taken on the moniker of the fifth Ninja Turtle through the franchise’s many iterations. But there has always been another ally that resembles everything the turtles are, and fights by their side when needed: Metalhead. Metalhead is a powerful friend, and he stands as yet another warrior to be granted the honorary title of fifth turtle.
Wearing a yellow bandana and armed to the teeth with weapons, Metalhead is always ready to do as he is programmed. While not quite as tall as the other turtles, the tiny android still packs a punch, with saw blades, lasers, scanners, and other weapons at his control. In the comics, Metalhead is even able to transform into a small ATV vehicle capable of carrying a rider. He provides the right support when needed, and gives the turtles the support they need in the toughest of situations.
The original Metalhead was meant to be a weapon for destroying the turtles. In the 1987 animated series, one of Krang’s schemes involved using the turtles’ own prowess against them. To that extent, he imbued a robotic turtle with the thoughts, personalities, and skills of all four turtles, creating what he believed to be the ultimate turtle-crushing machine. Metalhead did his job well, but Krang could not have predicted that the personalities he programmed into the robot would interfere with one another, sending Metalhead out of control and unable to function. Fortunately for the turtles, these dissociative episodes allowed Donatello to reprogram Metalhead to be their ally for a time. However the personalities continued to cause problems, and the robotic turtle had to be deactivated and wiped clean, only serving as a cleaning bot in the future.
Metalhead reappeared in the 2012 animated series as Donatello’s invention, using Kraang technology to upgrade is weaponry. Donatello could remotely send Metalhead into battle, controlling all of its movements from the lair. The robot was an invaluable ally, but his bulk and general clunkiness left it a poor substitute for a true ninja. Additionally, Metalhead was too easily defeated, despite his power. The loss of his control antenna made him a sitting duck, and the Kraang were able to take over his power for a time. Fortunately, Donatello stopped his creation and shelved him until he could be reprogrammed. When he finally came out of retirement, Metalhead was able to help the turtles do small tasks, but Donatello also gave him a measure of artificial intelligence. That intelligence proved to be the robot’s final undoing, however, as he stopped a Kraang plot by sacrificing himself. He ended as a hero, and may possibly be rebuilt someday.
As a ninja, Metalhead is clearly lacking. He can’t have the stealth, he isn’t fast, and he fights with too much grandeur. He isn’t exactly what one would expect to find on a ninja team. But he does have useful skills, proven with his hacking ability and voice modification. He can fight, he has countless tricks that no flesh-and-blood ninja could perform, he embodies what it means to fight the good fight, and he is loyal at the very end. He even has his own color of eyewear. Metalhead is in every meaningful way a Ninja Turtle.
The metallic turtle has always been useful to his team. Even if he began as a villain or was easily manipulated, Metalhead still proved that he was a turtle to the very end. His fighting capabilities make him a force to be reckoned with, but his mind can make him a liability. Ultimately, Metalhead is a turtle through and through. After all, only a true hero would sacrifice himself for others. Without their robotic friend, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would have been in too many dangerous scrapes with no way out. Metalhead really is a member of the team, and makes a great case for himself as the fifth Ninja Turtle.