Ben 10 is an American animated television series created by "Man of Action" (a group consisting of Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, and Steven T. Seagle), and produced by Cartoon Network Studios. The pilot episode aired on December 27, 2005, as part of a sneak peek of Cartoon Network's Saturday morning lineup. The second episode was shown as a special on Cartoon Network's Fridays on January 13, 2006. The final episode aired on April 15, 2008. The theme song for the show was written by Andy Sturmer and sung by Moxy. In April 2008, Ben 10 was succeeded by Ben 10: Alien Force.
In the first season, the plot mainly focuses on the villain Vilgax, an evil alien warlord who wants to use the Omnitrix to conquer the galaxy. Injured at the start of the season, he sends various drones to get the Omnitrix until he is healed. After he is fully healed, he attempts to retrieve it himself, only to be stopped by Ben, Gwen and Max. Furthermore, it is hinted throughout the season that Max knows more about aliens than he lets on, culminating in the revelation that he and Vilgax had fought previously. A more subtle plotline involves Ben being forced to "grow up" and learning to use the Omnitrix responsibly, with particular emphasis on that point in the episode "Kevin 11".
The second season mostly follows a "villain of the week" format. The few plot-centric episodes focus on Kevin, a super-powered teen with the power to absorb different types of energies, who meets Ben in the first season. Having inadvertently allowed Kevin to absorb the Omnitrix's ability during their first meeting, Kevin serves as an antithesis to Ben. A sociopath, Kevin eventually morphs into a hideous amalgam of Ben's original ten forms and blames Ben for it. Vilgax also returns in the finale, teaming up with Kevin in the hopes of succeeding where he failed originally. Again, he fails, and both he and Kevin are trapped in an alternate dimension, the Null Void. Another important event during this season is the destruction of Ghostfreak, one of Ben's original ten forms. Having escaped from the Omnitrix, he plans to possess Ben and use the power of the Omnitrix to begin his own legacy of conquest. However, he is defeated and destroyed by Ben.
The third season has a similar yet darker plot layout. Its few plot-centric episodes focus around aliens styled on traditional horror monsters that Ben acquires as new forms through their contact with the Omnitrix. Purple-colored lightning, caused by a teleportation device created by the Frankenstein-esque alien Doctor Vicktor, heralds their appearance. Vicktor, in turn, is loyal to Ghostfreak, who is resurrected later in the third season. He plots to shroud the earth in darkness with the use of a corrodium beam projected from a space station and expanded across the earth using a transmitter in New Mexico, thus allowing him to be at full power and rule over the planet. His attempt, however, is thwarted by Ben; he dies once more from direct exposure to the sun, but not before his DNA is re-added to the Omnitrix.
The fourth season revolves around Ben's last adventures as summer vacation ends. The few plot-centric episodes revolve around the leader of the Forever Knights organization, Forever King, and his plans to deal with the Tennysons himself. He gathers many of Ben's enemies to serve as members of his group, the "Negative 10" to both battle the Tennysons and steal a powerful energy from the Plumber base at Mount Rushmore. Ben eventually defeats the Forever King, destroying the Mount Rushmore faces in the process, though it is implied that a hologram is used to recreate the faces. Ben 10: Secret of the Omnitrix is set shortly after this point.
The series' final episode shows a possible take on Ben's return to normal life following the end of his summer vacation, and ends with the reveal of his secret powers to his father and the general public, after a final climactic battle with Vilgax. The film Ben 10: Race Against Time portrays a similar situation, the difference being that Ben fights an original character created for the film and his secret remains safe.
The main focus of the series is the Omnitrix, a watch-like alien device found by Ben in the first episode. Using it, Ben can transform into a number of different aliens, which he uses to battle the various villains in the series. As explained in the show, the Omnitrix works by binding alien DNA to Ben's, transforming him into the alien of his choice for ten minutes and then reverting him back to normal. As revealed in Ben 10: Race Against Time, the time limit is a failsafe designed to keep the alien DNA from overwhelming the user.
To prevent the obvious problem of someone simply stealing the Omnitrix from Ben, the Omnitrix is depicted as quite difficult to remove, being more or less integrated into Ben's skin. Furthermore, when anyone tries, it emits an omni-directional energy burst to discourage such attempts. When people have actually removed the device, it seems to take them a very long time or complicated machinery to accomplish the task. Despite its mechanical appearance, the way it works makes it seem more organic in nature, even possessing a mind of its own. The Omnitrix also adapts for the gender of the user and any illnesses the current user may be afflicted with also spread to all of the aliens as well. It appears to grow along with the user, as Ben 10,000's Omnitrix is at least three times the size of the ten-year-old Ben's, and the aliens age along with the user as well.
As a running gag, as well as an occasional plot point, the Omnitrix tends to work in ways contrary to Ben's wishes. This is because Azmuth created it to do so as a security precaution. It will transform him into the wrong alien, shut down at inopportune moments, or simply not activate at all, actually resisting Ben's attempts to push the face back down. This has yet to occur in Ben 10: Alien Force, except on one occasion, meaning Ben Tennyson has, to some extent, mastered the functions of the Omnitrix, though not as entirely like his future self in the episode "Ben 10,000". Various episodes in the original series show that at least part of this behavior is Ben's unfamiliarity with the device, and several episodes showcase people (or aliens) whose knowledge of the device allows them to operate it with much greater ease than Ben. When used to its full potential, the Omnitrix is shown to allow the user to become any alien by merely thinking about it, stay in alien form indefinitely, and even switch from one alien form straight to another at will, commonly referred to as the Omnitrix's "Master Control" function.
The Omnitrix's origins are explored in Ben 10: Secret of the Omnitrix. Its creator, Azmuth, explains that he built it to provide the various species of the universe a better understanding of each other—the proverbial 'walk-a-mile-in-another's-shoes'. To that end, the Omnitrix absorbs and integrates the DNA of aliens for use by the one wearing it. Because of the combat potential in some of the aliens, particularly those Ben commonly transforms into, it came to be seen as a weapon by Vilgax and others. Afraid that it would be used for the wrong purposes, Azmuth installed a self-destruct feature into the Omnitrix, which served as the central plot point in Secret of the Omnitrix.
At some point in the years between the original series and Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben managed to remove the Omnitrix by an unknown but difficult process. When Ben puts it back on, the Omnitrix reconfigures into a more watch-like shape, giving Ben access to a new set of alien forms and a holographic alien display, rather than merely presenting the silhouettes of the aliens. Also, Ben has lost his previous alien transformations; this is noted in "Ben 10 Returns", when he first uses the new Omnitrix and states that he doesn't recognize anyone in his selection, in "Everybody Talks About the Weather", when he told Alan Albright that he used to turn into Heatblast, and in "Pier Pressure" when he saw a Galvanic Mechomorph and told Julie that he used to be able to turn into Upgrade. Ben himself also retains any injuries suffered by his alien forms, although this has not been shown to be any real problem as of yet. Also, Ben is able to transform multiple times in succession, but it will eventually shut down to recharge. In addition, the Omnitrix has the ability to repair genetic damage, such as that caused by DNAlien mutation. It uses a previously unseen speech function to inform Ben of this feature.
Two Ben 10 movies have been released at different times during 2007 & 2008. The first is a regular animated feature called Secret of the Omnitrix, in which the Omnitrix is accidentally set to self-destruct and Ben must track down its creator to stop it. A trailer of the movie was released with the movie Billy & Mandy: Wrath of the Spider Queen, and it aired August 10, 2007. Michael Ouweleen described the film's villain, which was actually Vilgax, as "like Darth Vader without the sense of humor." A different version of Secrets of the Omnitrix, which introduced a different alien (Eye Guy) to the one in the original (Heatblast), aired on September 1, 2007. A third version (in which XLR8 was featured) aired on October 20, 2007. It was stated during the premiere of Alien Force that Secret of the Omnitrix was intended to be the finale of Ben 10, even though it was broadcast long before the last episode.
The second is a live-action film titled Ben 10: Race Against Time which aired November 21, 2007. The plot presumeably takes place before Goodbye and Good Riddance, it revolves around Ben, Gwen and Grandpa Max returning to their hometown of Bellwood and attempting to adjust to being 'normal' again. Unfortunately, their lives are once again disrupted by a mysterious alien known as Eon, who has an unexpected connection to the Omnitrix. It premiered on Cartoon Network on November 21, 2007. The film was directed by Alex Winter. Winter stated at the 2007 upfront presentation that he wanted "this thing to look like X-Men," an epic adventure that will be "more cinematic than cartoony" and appeal to all ages. Production on the film finished in October and premiered November 21, 2007.
Cartoon Network announced at their 2008 upfront that they are currently developing a sequel to Ben 10: Race Against Time. A teaser shown during the premiere of Star Wars: The Clone Wars showed it will be based on the Alien Force series.
Ben 10: Alien Force is the sequel to the show set five years after the original series. The series premiered on Cartoon Network on April 18, 2008. It will also premier in Canada in the Fall on Teletoon. It will soon have its own video game as well.