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The Vok were first introduced as an unnamed, mysterious alien race in the Beast Wars cartoon, in which they were responsible for the presence of huge amounts of Energon and several alien artifacts on the planet that would eventually be identified as prehistoric Earth. These mysterious are revisited throughout the first season of the series, with the Maximals wondering at the true nature and intent of their alien "landlords" while Megatron seeks to usurp their power. Eventually the Vok arrived in person to confront the Transformer interlopers, and after scanning Optimus Primal created an avatar of Unicron in order to communicate with him, as he lacked the ability to comprehend their physical form. Feeling that the presence of the Maximals and Predacons had "contaminated" their experiments on Earth, they reformatted the false moon in orbit of the planet into a machine that would ignite the planet's Energon deposits, thus "sterilizing" the planet. Optimus' pleas to stop them fell on deaf ears, as the Vok felt that their actions were justified by the danger posed by the continued presence of the Transformers, and the aliens returned to their home realm of Nexus Zero.
A combination of Maximal and Predacon ingenuity destroyed the planet-buster weapon before it could destroy the Earth, and a quantum surge was released that mutated many of the Transformers into partially or wholly Transmetal forms, creating a link between them and the Vok. This rendered them immune to the Vok's Energon based weaponry and made them undetectable to Vok defenses, as demonstrated when the two groups discovered yet another Vok weapon hidden on Earth. It was also revealed that Tarantulas, for reasons unknown, hated the Vok and wished to annihilate them. The Vok also abducted Tigatron and Airazor, whom they would later combine into the mighty warrior Tigerhawk.
The exact nature of the Vok was never disclosed in the series, but the creators held two separate theories: that they were either a highly evolved form of the human race from the distant future, or that they were a reborn version of the Swarm.
The Swarm were introduced in the Marvel Comics as a monstrous force born from the Transformer process of reproduction known as budding, in which Transformers produced new members of their kind through an asexual process similar to mitosis. Somehow, this created the Swarm, a multitude of beings whose lack of purpose left them with a hunger that drove them to consume everything that they came across, including Transformers such as Mindset. Eventually their reign of terror was brought to a halt by Optimus Prime, who used the Matrix of Leadership to make the error of the Swarm's ways to clear to it.
Beast Wars: Primeval Dawn takes the angle that the Vok are indeed the Swarm, having been purified by the Matrix's energies and now seeking to atone for their past misdeeds. Their involvement in the Beast Wars was an effort to safeguard the history of the universe, and their continued efforts to do so lead to the creation of Primal Prime and the recreation of Tigatron and Airazor as Transmetals in order to combat the machinations of Tarantulas. This process granted Tigatron the use of Vok power for battle, and the Vok later combined their forms with Primal Prime in order to grant him the power to battle Tarantulas after the vile Predacon stole the Matrix of Leadership.
The Vok are mentioned by Swindle in "Society of Ultimate Villainy," where he mentions having obtained some technology from them in an arms deal and recommends that a human criminal look them up "if you're ever in the Nexus Zero area."
Ask Vector Prime
The Vok were featured or mentioned in various "Ask Vector Prime" installments, including one in which it was revealed that they were not involved in the events of a Unicron Trilogy-based Beast Wars. Another account revealed that the Tigerhawk who became Razorclaw in the Transformers: Universe line was created by the Vok in a reality where the displacement of Silverbolt enabled the Predacons to kill the Maximals and prevent Optimus Primal's return to life as a Transmetal; as a result, he was not present to prevent Razorclaw from killing Transmetal 2 Megatron and thus creating a time storm that all but destroyed that reality.