Voltron: Legendary Defender

Tagged: TV

US animated tv series (2016-current). Dreamworks Animation/Netflix. Executive producers: Joaquim Dos Santos, Bob Koplar, Ted Koplar and Yoo Jae Myung. Writers include May Chan, Tim Hedrick and Joshua Hamilton. Directors include Steve Ahn, Eugene Lee and Chris Palmer. Voice cast includes Kimberly Brooks, Rhys Darby, Josh Keaton, Tyler Labine, Neil Kaplan, A J Locascio, Jeremy Shada, Cree Summer, Bex Taylor-Klaus and Steve Yeun. 65 episodes of 23 minutes to date. Colour.

Voltron: Legendary Defender is a reboot of the US animated series Voltron: Defender of the Universe (1984-1985), itself largely an edit of the Japanese Anime series Hyaku Jūō GoLion ["Hundred Beast King GoLion"] (1981-1982). All concern five manned Mecha lions which can combine to form a giant humanoid robot called Voltron and in this form fight Zarkon, the Witch Haggar and Zarkon's son Lotor.

Five space pilots from Earth – upright Shiro (Keaton), angsty loner Keith (Yeun), jerky Lance (Shada), geeky Pidge (Taylor-Klaus), and food-loving Hunk (Labine) – discover the Blue Lion on Earth and are taken to the Castle of Lions (also a Spaceship) on the planet Arus, where they meet Princess Allura (Brooks) and her advisor Coran (Darby), plus four mice. The pilots are persuaded to become the paladins of the lions and oppose Emperor Zarkon (Kaplan), who rules the very evil Galran Galactic Empire with the support of his chief advisor Witch Haggar (Summer) – a user of both Magic and Technology. Princess Allura, Coran and the paladins battle to build alliances with the Alien inhabitants of the planets they free, to bring down Zarkon. Meanwhile, Zarkon's son Lotor (Locascio) has his own agenda.

A key to the Galran Empire's success is Quintessence, a Power Source which has the "highest known energy per unit volume in the universe" and is also a magical force (see Science and Sorcery): it powers the Galran Empire, keeps Zarkon and Haggar alive, and was also used to create Voltron.

Though the initial characterization does not wander too far from central casting, some growth does occur and there are many revelations. One that is no surprise to anyone – excepting Lance but not the viewer – is the discovery that Pidge is a young woman. The show also allows some moral complexity: in one episode the paladins enter an Alternate-World reality where Princess Allura's people – previously depicted as noble freedom fighters – had quickly defeated Zarkon and then imposed "peace" on their universe by removing the free will of opponents and potential opponents, and now plan to spread this Dystopian version of peace to all realities.

Despite some eyebrow-raising narrative elements – apparently the lions combining to form Voltron is not part of their original design but just happened one day – and the Humour being hit or miss, Voltron: Legendary Defender is an enjoyable, visually appealing show in which the viewer can be carried away by the story. However, some patience is required: we are not told the history of how Voltron came to be and how Zarkon created his empire until the end of season three. [SP]


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