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100 Episodes of Let’s Voltron: The Official Voltron Podcast!

Today marked the release of the 100th episode of Let’s Voltron: The Official Voltron Podcast! Four special guests joined us in celebrating, an announcement was made about a certain Blue Lion pilot’s date of birth, many listeners shared their thoughts about the podcast, and we gave away some great prizes, thanks to World Events Productions (the owner of the Voltron intellectual property) and DreamWorks (the studio behind Voltron: Legendary Defender)!

On behalf of podcast host Marc Morrell, and co-host… me… thanks to each and every one of you who has listened to the podcast. Here’s to 100 more episodes! Let’s Voltron!

Happy 1st Anniversary, Voltron: Legendary Defender!

On June 10, 2016, one year ago today, Netflix dropped the eleven-episode first season of Voltron: Legendary Defender, and Voltron was back. The program instantly became a hit with many longtime Voltron fans, as well as a new generation of fans that had not previously heard of Voltron.

The title of the feature-length premiere episode, “The Rise of Voltron,” was appropriately named on multiple levels, because even in the real world, this episode helped to raise Voltron from relative obscurity to being back in the pop-culture spotlight, where it remains today. As of today, two seasons — 24 episodes — have dropped on Netflix, and it’s almost certain that there will be more.

As co-host of Let’s Voltron: The Official Voltron Podcast, I’ve been privileged to have met and spoken with many of the creative, skilled, and talented people who have brought Voltron: Legendary Defender from idea to reality. To everyone who has worked and continues to work on this great program, thank you, and happy first anniversary!

In the days leading up to the June 10, 2016, premiere of Voltron: Legendary Defender, I posted a few “promo images” that I created to help excite longtime fans about the new show. I’ve decided to share them below.

To celebrate the first anniversary of Voltron: Legendary Defender, I encourage you to think about how much you’ve enjoyed the program, the cool tie-in merchandise (I love the toys… the hats… you name it… and did I mention toys?), and most importantly, the relationships that you have formed (like Voltron’s Sword!) or enhanced through mutual enjoyment of the show. And if you’re so inclined, enjoy a slice or two of vrepizza. (Say it out loud. I think it’s clever…) Let your fellow members of the real-world Team Voltron — fellow fans — how much you appreciate them.

Form Voltron!

Let’s Get to the Lions! (Voltron: Legendary Defender)

In every Voltron television program to date — Voltron: Defender of the Universe, Voltron: The Third Dimension, Voltron Force, and Voltron: Legendary Defender — the Castle of Lions has been the home and base of operations of the Voltron Lions’ pilots and their closest allies. In a crisis, each Lion’s pilot often needs to make a quick exit from the Castle’s control room to his or her Lion.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Voltron: Legendary Defender to see how the Lions’ pilots, or paladins, move from the Castle’s control room or bridge to the Lions’ hangars.

This article goes reeeeeeeeeeeally deep. Writing stuff like this is one of many ways that I celebrate Voltron: Legendary Defender and everyone who brings this great program to life.

Our first stop is the bridge. Around its periphery, the bridge has six known exits:

  1. Rear Center Exit: This is the main exit. It leads from the Bridge to basically anywhere else within the Castle.
  2. Floor Exit: This exit is located along the centerline of the room, in front of Princess Allura’s usual work area, and behind Coran’s usual work area. This exit leads to the hangar of Black Lion, as we’ll see shortly.
  3. Left Exit: This exit leads to the hangar of one of the non-black Lions.
  4. Right Exit: This exit leads to the hangar of one of the non-black Lions.
  5. Rear Right Exit: This exit leads to the hangar of one of the non-black Lions.
  6. Rear Left Exit: This exit leads to the hangar of one of the non-black Lions.

In “Some Assembly Required,” we see the paladins exit the Castle’s bridge and travel to the hangars of all five Lions…twice. Unfortunately, the only exit that is easily associated with a single Lion is the Floor Exit, which Shiro uses to travel to the hangar of Black Lion, as shown below.

In “Some Assembly Required,” we see shots from outside two bridge exits, looking into the bridge.

One “outside looking in” shot is from outside the exit to Blue Lion’s hangar, looking into the bridge. Lance dominates the image, but we can see enough features of the bridge to identify which bridge exit he’s using: it’s the Rear Right Exit.

The other “outside looking in” shot is from outside the exit to Red Lion’s hangar, looking into the bridge. We see far less of the bridge in this shot, but we can see one exit that is more or less straight across the bridge from the exit to Red Lion’s hangar. Based on the perspective of the exit across the bridge, that exit might be the Left Exit, which would make the exit to Red Lion’s hangar the Right Exit. This isn’t a 100% sure thing, but it’s a reasonable guess.

If the exit to Blue Lion’s hangar is the Rear Right Exit, and the exit to Red Lion’s hangar is the Right Exit, then based purely on symmetry, the exit to the other “leg lion” – Yellow Lion – would be the Aft Left Exit, and the exit to the other “arm lion” – Green Lion – would be the Left Exit.

To summarize, it appears that:

  • The Floor Exit leads to Black Lion’s hangar.
  • The Left Exit might lead to Green Lion’s hangar.
  • The Right Exit might lead to Red Lion’s hangar.
  • The Rear Left Exit might lead to Yellow Lion’s hangar.
  • The Rear Right Exit leads to Blue Lion’s hangar.

“Taking Flight” and “Eye of the Storm” seem to add weight to our guesses. In these episode, we see the paladins on the bridge, seated at workstations that have appeared from beneath the floor.

  • Shiro sits at a console that’s built in to the Floor Exit.
  • Lance is seated at a console that’s positioned along the path from Allura’s work area to the Rear Right Exit, which we’ve previously determined to be the exit to Blue Lion’s hangar.
  • Keith’s console is positioned along the path from Allura’s area to the Right Exit, which we’ve guessed is the exit to Red Lion’s hangar.
  • Hunk’s console is on the path from Allura’s area to the Rear Left Exit, which we’ve guessed is the exit to Yellow Lion’s hangar.
  • Pidge is at a console on the path from Allura’s area to the Left Exit, which we’ve guessed is the exit to Green Lion’s hangar.

The very crude “bridge plan” diagram below shows the positions of the five Lion hangar exits.

Each exit leads to a platform that descends like an elevator in a cylindrical shaft.

Once the platform reaches the bottom of the shaft, the paladin steps forward, holds onto a grab bar, and rides with the grab bar as it proceeds along what appears to be a long, straight-line tunnel that slopes downward.

At end of this tunnel, the paladin lets go of the grab bar and drops feet first through another tunnel.

At the end of this tunnel, the paladin drops into his or her speeder.

The speeder then travels in a seemingly horizontal, straight-line tunnel to a point directly beneath the Lion’s hangar.

The speeder then rides a platform that ascends until the speeder seemingly enters the sliding double-door hatch on the Lion’s chest.

In “The Ark of Taujeer,” during Keith’s dream sequence, we see the next step in a paladin’s journey to his or her Lion. The speeder stops rising once it reaches the platform on which the Lion rests, and it begins to move toward the Lion.

The speeder presumably enters the Lion through the double-door speeder hatch on the Lion’s chest, as we see happen in episodes such as “Return to the Balmera.”

For each paladin, the next thing we see is the paladin, seated in a chair, in a chamber behind the cockpit. A pair of sliding doors separates the chamber from the cockpit. The doors slide open, and the seated paladin moves forward and into the cockpit.

In “Some Assembly Required,” we can see that the Lion cockpit chair differs from the seat in the speeder.

This suggests that, after the speeder enters the Lion through the chest, the paladin exits the speeder and sits in a chair that raises into position behind the cockpit. (I point this out because, in Voltron: Defender of the Universe, the seat of the “speeder” actually became the Lion’s cockpit seat.)

Now that we’ve covered how the paladins access their Lions from the Castle of Lions’ bridge, let’s look at how the Lions exit the Castle.

The three shots below, from “Crystal Venom,” “Return to the Balmera,” and “Taking Flight,” show which Lion exits which of the Castle’s exit ports.

The shot below, from “Taking Flight,” contradicts the shots from “Crystal Venom,” “Return to the Balmera,” and even the “Taking Flight” shot showing the launch of Blue Lion, so this shot probably has an easily made animation error.

To summarize, assuming the erroneous shot from “Taking Flight” can be ignored:

  • Black Lion exits the Castle through a port at the bow of the main hull
  • Red Lion exits the Castle through a port at the bow of the top right (dorsal starboard) nacelle
  • Green Lion exits the Castle through a port at the bow of the top left (dorsal port) nacelle
  • Blue Lion exits the Castle through a port at the bow of the bottom right (ventral starboard) nacelle
  • Yellow Lion exits the Castle through a port at the bow of the bottom left (ventral port) nacelle

Interestingly, the arrangement of the hangar exit ports is inconsistent with the arrangement of the exits on the bridge.

The paths of Keith and Lance, and the paths of Pidge and Hunk, would need to “criss-cross” so that each paladin can reach his or her Lion. This wouldn’t be a big deal, because Keith and Pidge’s paths could easily be “higher” or “lower” within the Castle than Lance and Hunk’s paths.

We’ve now walked through the path that each paladin follows from the bridge to the hangar of his or her Lion. Let’s take a quick look at the hangars.

When the Castle of Lions is on the ground, in “Castle mode,” the hangars’ floors are aligned with the ground. In other words, for a Lion to launch out of the Castle, it flies up and out through an exit port in the “roof.”

When the Castle of Lions is flying and in “Castleship mode,” the hangars’ floors pivot ninety degrees so that when each Lion launches out of the Castle, it shoots forward and out through an exit port in the “front.”

Finally, let’s look at the strut that connects each nacelle to the Castle’s main hull. As the shot below shows, the strut has multiple segments, and they appear to be articulated. A speeder traveling from the main hull to a nacelle might have a bumpy ride going through the strut! In all seriousness, I’d imagine the inside of a tunnel through the strut looking something like the inside of a jet bridge.

And… that’s it! The next time you visit the Castle of Lions, now you’ll know how to get to each Lion.

1980s Voltron Product Line Art Images by Kwikee

As described on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Page_layout), in the days before page layout software such as Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress, newspaper page layouts were created… by hand. In the 1980s, a page layout was created by physically pasting images and blocks of text onto a rigid sheet of paper. This “camera-ready” page was then shot on film, and through a process called offset lithography, the film would control ink placement on the printing press.

Newspaper ads often incorporated hand-drawn, black-on-white line art renditions of product photographs. Line art was often preferred over photographs because the images were often small on the black-and-white printed page, so high-contrast line art often represented products more effectively than grayscale photographs did.

Line art for newspaper ads was often created by specialized companies. One such company was Kwikee, then a division of Multi-Ad Services, Inc. Kwikee still exists today, and it still provides product images — although now mostly digital in nature.

What’s the Voltron connection? In the 1980s, there were Voltron toys — lots of Voltron toys. These toys were often advertised in newspapers, so line art was made of these toys, by companies such as Kwikee.

A few years ago, I purchased from a vintage toy seller a small collection of 1980s product image pages made by Kwikee. The pages in the collection included images of toys from several 1980s toy lines: MASK (by Kenner), Photon (by LJN), Thundercats (by LJN), Wrinkles (by LJN), Robotech (by Matchbox) — and Voltron, by Matchbox.

Below are the four Voltron Kwikee product image pages from my collection. No copyright infringement is intended in their display on this website. The pages are shared here to show to fellow Voltron fans these amazing newspaper advertising artifacts from days of long ago. Enjoy!

The first page, apparently page 118 of a 1985 Kwikee catalog of product images, depicts Matchbox’s Voltron I toys. As I mentioned in “It’s as “Easy” as I, II, III: Being a Voltron Fan in the 1980s,” Voltron I was the inital name of the super robot that would eventually become known as Vehicle Team Voltron. Note that each image is represented in three sizes, which offered newspaper layout artists more leeway in how they composed the ad, physically pasting an image of the desired size on what would become a camera-ready page layout sheet.

The second page, page 119 of the same catalog, depicts Matchbox’s Voltron II toys. This super robot was ultimately never featured in the Voltron: Defender of the Universe television program.

The third page, page 120, depicts Matchbox’s Voltron III toys. Voltron III would become known as Lion Force Voltron, the overwhelmingly most popular of the 1980s Voltron super robots.

The fourth and final Voltron page in my collection, page 100 of a 1986 Kwikee catalog of product images, depicts Matchbox’s Vehicle Team Voltron and Lion Force Voltron toys. The company’s Voltron I and Voltron III toys from 1985 were, for 1986, repackaged and renamed to Vehicle Team Voltron and Lion Force Voltron, respectively. Interestingly, each image on this page is rendered in a single size, rather than three sizes as in the 1985 catalog. Perhaps subsequent pages in the catalog, not in my collection, provide alternately sized images.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blast from the newspaper advertising past!

Voltron 101

(This article is based on material that I wrote for the “Voltron 101” episode of Let’s Voltron: The Official Voltron Podcast.)

Introduction

This article is a primer for all things Voltron. If you’re a new fan who was introduced to Voltron through the all-new series, Voltron: Legendary Defender, and you’re curious about what came before, then this article is for you. If you’re a fan from days of long ago – 1984 – and you’re curious about what came after, then this article is for you. If you’re the friend or loved one of a Voltron fan, or if you can’t tell Voltron from Optimus Prime, then this article is for you.

This article focuses only on the various Voltron television programs. It skips details about the making of these shows, and it skips some of the more arcane facts about the shows. That’s because the goal is to welcome as many readers as possible to the entirety of the Voltron universe, without overwhelming you with too much information.

Premise

Voltron is about a group of young heroes who protect all that is good from all that is evil, with the help of their incredible machines that can easily hold their own in battle. In times of great danger, these heroes can combine their machines into a super robot called Voltron. Just as the super robot Voltron is more powerful than its individual components, Voltron’s pilots, when working together, comprise a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts. In short, Voltron is fantastic sci-fi action that focuses on a very down-to-earth concept: overcoming incredible obstacles through the power of friendship and teamwork.

Voltron: Defender of the Universe (1984-1986)

On Monday, September 10, 1984, kids of all ages were captivated with amazing sights and sounds as a new animated television series first hit air waves. The series was called Voltron: Defender of the Universe.

Lion Force

The series’ earliest episodes focus on the Voltron Lion Force – a team of five, brave space explorers who operate five distinctly colored robot lions. Team leader Keith controls the Black Lion. The sarcastic Lance operates the Red Lion. The short, spectacled and smart Pidge flies the Green Lion. The brawny, tough, yet soft-hearted Hunk pilots the Yellow Lion, and the pensive, noble Sven controls the Blue Lion. The space explorers discover the Lions on a planet called Arus – a planet that had been devastated, and its population decimated, by prolonged conflict with the forces of the evil King Zarkon of Planet Doom. Among the casualties of this conflict was Planet Arus’ king, Alfor, leaving his daughter, Princess Allura, the only surviving member of the royal family. As the forces of Planet Doom – Zarkon, witch Haggar, and eventually Zarkon’s son, Prince Lotor – continue their attacks on Arus and other planets in the Far Universe, the Voltron Force defend the innocent using their mighty Lions. Often Zarkon would send a Robeast – an enormous, magic-enhanced, mechanical monster – and to defeat it, the Voltron Force would combine their Lions into Voltron.

Soon after the series begins, Blue Lion pilot Sven is seriously injured during a skirmish with Haggar. Sven is taken to the planet Ebb in order to heal, and Princess Allura succeeds him as pilot of the Blue Lion. As the Lion Force story progresses, Zarkon becomes an even more dangerous threat, Prince Lotor becomes increasingly obsessed with marrying the unwilling Princess Allura, and the Voltron Force continues to fight on behalf of the good people whom Zarkon seeks to conquer.

Vehicle Team

As the Voltron Lion Force defends the Far Universe, the Near Universe is protected by another group of space explorers – the Voltron Vehicle Team.

The Voltron Vehicle Team is assigned to the Stellar Ship Explorer, which explores the universe in search of knowledge, new allies, and habitable planets on which people of the overcrowded planets of the benevolent Galaxy Alliance can settle and establish new homes. The Voltron Vehicle Team’s 15 members are divided equally into three sub-teams – the Air Team, led by hot-headed Voltron Force captain Jeff; the Sea Team, led by the insightful alien Krik; and the Land Team, led by the level-headed geologist Cliff. Each team member operates an advanced, combat-ready exploration vehicle.

An additional function of this Voltron Force is defense against the attacks of the Drule Empire, a militaristic force that seeks to dominate the universe. Like Zarkon, the Drules often use their own Robeasts in their offensives against the Explorer and its allies. To protect the Explorer and the Galaxy Alliance, the Voltron Vehicle Team can combine the 15 vehicles into an entirely different Voltron.

As the Vehicle Team story progresses, the Drules discover that their obsession with war is destroying their own home planet. While Drule leaders stubbornly and relentlessly escalate their campaign against the Galaxy Alliance, Commander Hazar eventually goes rogue and pursues peace with the Galaxy Alliance, in order to save his people from the imminent destruction of his home world. Unfortunately, the peace-seeking efforts of Hazar and the Voltron Force are repeatedly thwarted by ongoing battles between the Drule military and the Galaxy Alliance.

Episodes

Voltron: Defender of the Universe consists of 125 episodes. 72 episodes feature the Voltron Lion Force, 52 episodes feature the Voltron Vehicle Team, and the final adventure, “Fleet of Doom,” features the Lion Force and Vehicle Team fighting side by side against the combined forces of King Zarkon and the Drule Empire.

Among television viewers, the Lion Force characters and robot proved to be much more popular than their Vehicle Team counterparts, to the point that the Vehicle Team has not yet been featured in any subsequently produced Voltron television program.

Anime Roots

Although most fans of Voltron: Defender of the Universe didn’t know it at the time, Voltron was produced using animation from two unrelated anime programs. Voltron’s Vehicle Team episodes were based on Armored Fleet Dairugger XV, and the first 52 Lion Force episodes of Voltron were based on Beast King Golion. The remaining episodes were animated specifically for Voltron. The Golion and Dairugger programs included violent content that Voltron’s producers thought to be inappropriate for children’s animation, so the material had to be heavily edited for Voltron.

Perhaps the most notable plot difference between Voltron and the original anime programs is the fate of original Blue Lion pilot Sven. In Voltron, Sven survives his battle with Haggar and eventually falls in love. In Beast King Golion, Sven is called Takashi Shirogane, and he dies as the result of his wounds from his battle with the witch, called Honerva.

Some other differences between Voltron and the original anime are in names of planets. For example, in Voltron, Allura rules Planet Arus, and King Zarkon controls Planet Doom. In Beast King Golion, the princess, named Fala, rules Planet Altea, and the emperor, named Daibazaal, controls Planet Galra.

The final episode of Voltron: Defender of the Universe first aired in 1986, but in 1997, some of the episodes – the 20 Lion Force episodes not adapted from Beast King Golion – were re-packaged as an entirely different series called The New Adventures of Voltron. This series has a flashy, computer-animated opening that gave its viewers a glimpse at what the next Voltron television series would be like.

Voltron: The Third Dimension (1998-2000)

On Saturday, September 12, 1998, Voltron: The Third Dimension premiered. This series is a “quasi-sequel” to the original Voltron program. Many of the recurring characters from the Lion Force episodes of Voltron: Defender of the Universe are featured in this series, and four of the original show’s voice cast members reprise many of their key roles in this series. The story begins about five years after a pivotal battle between the Voltron Force and Prince Lotor. Lotor had been severely injured during that battle, and his scarred body had to be augmented with cybernetic components in order to survive. The Voltron Force had disbanded and moved on with their lives. Zarkon had reformed and become minister of peace of the Galaxy Alliance, Haggar had disappeared, and the Galaxy Alliance’s 900 member worlds had entrusted governing duties to a robot called Amalgamus.

Voltron: The Third Dimension looks much different than its predecessor. Instead of traditional cel-based animation, The Third Dimension incorporates 3D-based computer generated imagery, or CGI. The animation was cutting-edge for its time, but it looks dated today.

In the first episode, Lotor escapes from a high-security prison, reconnecting with Haggar and resuming his attacks against the Galaxy Alliance. The Voltron Force reunites in order to stop him. As the story progresses, the Voltron Force often finds its hands tied due to Amalgamus’ reluctance to use the Lions, thinking it will cause unrest within the Alliance. Princess Allura learns more about the origins of the Voltron Lions. Eventually the Voltron Force has to save the entire Galaxy Alliance from Lotor, Haggar… and an ally who turns out to be less than trustworthy.

Although Voltron: The Third Dimension seems to be the least popular Voltron program among fans, it is entertaining, and it deserves more consideration than it often receives.

The 26th and final episode of Voltron: The Third Dimension aired in February 2000. Eleven years later, Voltron was needed once more.

Voltron Force (2011-2012)

On Thursday, June 16, 2011, Voltron Force premiered. Like Voltron: The Third Dimension, but unrelated to that show, Voltron Force is another “quasi-sequel” to the original Voltron program. Many of the recurring characters from the Lion Force episodes of Voltron: Defender of the Universe are featured in this series, although they are performed by different voice actors. The story begins several years after a pivotal battle between the Voltron Force and Lotor, now King of Planet Doom. Lotor was killed during the battle, and Haggar had disappeared. During a victory celebration on Earth, the Voltron Lions, minus their pilots, had inexplicably attacked a city, forcing Sky Marshall Wade of the Galaxy Alliance to lock up the Lions. The Voltron Force then disbanded and moved on with their lives.

In the first, feature-length episode, Lotor is brought back to life by a mysterious occult scientist called Maahox. Now infused with a dark energy called Haggarium, Lotor poses an even greater threat to the Galaxy Alliance than before, forcing the Voltron Force to disobey Sky Marshall Wade and reactivate the Voltron Lions. The Voltron pilots also take on three cadets: the impulsive Daniel, who dreams of piloting Black Lion and leading the Voltron Force; Vince, an intellectual but reluctant hero; and Princess Larmina, niece of Allura, who is highly skilled in hand-to-hand combat. Each Voltron Force pilot and cadet has a Voltcom – a gauntlet that can generate weapons catered to its wearer, as well as unlock long-hidden capabilities of Voltron, such as the ability of any of the five Lions to form Voltron’s torso and head, giving Voltron powers that are specific to the center Lion.

As the Voltron Force story progresses, Lotor and Maahox escalate their attacks, Sky Marshall Wade is revealed to be obsessed with power, Maahox is found to have his own evil motives, and the three Voltron Force cadets learn what it takes to be Voltron pilots.

The final episode of Voltron Force aired in April 2012. The series ended with a cliffhanger that has not been fully resolved, although a brief continuation of the plot is depicted in comic book form as the epilogue of a book called Voltron: From Days of Long Ago: A Thirtieth Anniversary Celebration. Let’s Voltron podcast host Marc Morrell was a co-author of this book. Check it out!

(Depending on one’s perspective, Voltron Force‘s episode count is either 26 or 24. As released on DVD in Region 4, Voltron Force consists of 26 half-hour episodes; however, when the series first aired on NickToons, the first three episodes were presented as a single, feature-length episode. The series is usually described as having 26 episodes.)

With twelve years between the end of Voltron: Defender of the Universe and the start of Voltron: The Third Dimension, and eleven years between the end of Voltron: The Third Dimension and the start of Voltron Force, one might have surmised that another Voltron television series wouldn’t debut until the mid-2020s. Fortunately, this time, Voltron was needed much sooner.

Voltron: Legendary Defender (2016-Present)

On Friday, June 10, 2016, Voltron: Legendary Defender premiered, with the entire eleven-episode first season being made available exclusively on Netflix. This series is an overt reboot of the Lion Force Voltron concept from Voltron: Defender of the Universe. The series’ showrunners have strived to make this new series as fun and entertaining as what long-time fans remember having watched over 30 years before. The characters were redesigned, but they were made to look similar enough to the original designs that they’d pass a “squint test.”

At a glance, the story begins much as Voltron: Defender of the Universe does: a team of five, brave space explorers find themselves becoming pilots of five distinctly colored robot lions. Some of the Lion/pilot assignments different in this series: although as before, Pidge flies the Green Lion, and Hunk pilots the Yellow Lion, Keith now controls the Red Lion, and Lance operates the Blue Lion. The Black Lion is now piloted by Shiro, the team leader, who is named after Takashi Shirogane from Beast King Golion – called Sven in Voltron: Defender of the Universe. As in previous Voltron programs, the Lion pilots – called Paladins in this series – can combine the Lions to form Voltron. The paladins are assisted by Princess Allura and her advisor, Coran. Their opponents are Emperor Zarkon, witch Haggar, and the Galra Empire.

Beyond the obvious similarities between Voltron: Legendary Defender and Voltron: Defender of the Universe, the two series are quite different. Most of the characters in the new series have compelling back stories and/or specific motivations that add depth and interest. One year before the events of the first episode, Shiro, and Pidge’s father and brother, had been exploring a moon of Pluto when they were abducted by the Galra. In the first episode, Shiro mysteriously returns to Earth with no memory of how he escaped the Galra – but Pidge’s family remains missing. When the future Voltron paladins discover Princess Allura and Coran, the pair had been in suspended animation for 10,000 years, during which time Zarkon had destroyed Altea and expanded his empire. Keith and Lance have a standing rivalry, and Pidge has a secret identity of sorts. Zarkon seeks not to destroy Voltron, but instead to capture it.

Voltron: Legendary Defender is a return to the original Voltron concept, with modern storytelling sensibilities, rich characterizations, high action, and top-notch writing and production values.

As of this writing, in April 2017, two seasons of Voltron: Legendary Defender have been released on Netflix, and a third season was officially announced at WonderCon 2017.

How to Watch

Here’s how can you watch Voltron.

Voltron: Defender of the Universe

  • Select episodes can be watched on the official Voltron YouTube channel (youtube.com/user/WEP).
  • All episodes are viewable on Amazon Video and iTunes.
  • In March 2017, twelve episodes were released on Netflix as part of a “series” called Voltron 84. Each episode is introduced by a cast or crew member from Voltron: Legendary Defender.

Voltron: The Third Dimension

  • Select episodes can be watched on the official Voltron YouTube channel (youtube.com/user/WEP).
  • All episodes are viewable on Amazon Video and iTunes.

Voltron Force

  • Select episodes can be watched on the official Voltron YouTube channel (youtube.com/user/WEP).
  • Voltron Force is occasionally available on Netflix, although it’s not available as of this writing.
  • All episodes were also released on now out-of-print DVDs.

Voltron: Legendary Defender

  • All episodes of Voltron: Legendary Defender are available exclusively on Netflix.

Beast King Golion

  • Select episodes can be watched on the official Voltron YouTube channel (youtube.com/user/WEP).

Armored Fleet Dairugger XV

  • As of this writing, the only way to watch Armored Fleet Dairugger XV is through now out-of-print DVDs.

Voltron 84 Survival Guide

On March 24, 2017, Netflix released the first season of Voltron 84 — a re-packaging of twelve episodes of Voltron: Defender of the Universe, the television series that introduced Voltron to the universe in 1984. Episodes of Defender of the Universe have been re-packaged before — in the mid-1990s, as The New Adventures of Voltron — and episodes are still available online through outlets such as YouTube and Amazon Video. The ubiquity of Netflix, and the popularity of the Netflix-exclusive series Voltron: Legendary Defender, make Voltron 84 uniquely positioned to introduce new Voltron fans to the original series, and to re-introduce old-school fans to the series.

Each episode of Voltron 84 is introduced by one of the creative talents behind Voltron: Legendary Defender, giving more “cred” to the original series in the eyes of fans who were introduced to the Voltron phenomenon through Voltron: Legendary Defender.

Unfortunately Voltron 84 has a few, minor hiccups. This article is an attempt to explain them in hopes of maximizing viewers’ enjoyment of the series.

Order

Voltron 84‘s episodes were numbered based on the Voltron: Legendary Defender production roles of the people who introduced each episode. For example, Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2, are introduced by Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos, respectively, both of whom are executive producers and showrunners of Voltron: Legendary Defender. Season 1, Episode 12, is introduced by Chris Palmer, one of the directors of Voltron: Legendary Defender.

The episode numbers are perfectly reasonable to a viewer who wants to sample select episodes of the original series.

Because the sequence of Voltron 84‘s episode numbers is inconsistent with the narrative sequence of Voltron: Defender of the Universe — and Beast King Golion, the anime series from which these episodes of Defender of the Universe were adapted — a viewer who wants to experience the original series in narrative sequence might find the numbering of the Voltron 84 episodes… confusing. Voltron: Defender of the Universe isn’t as serialized as Voltron: Legendary Defender is, but its first several episodes and last several episodes are very much serialized.

(It turns out that many of the less serialized “middle” episodes of Voltron: Defender of the Universe originally aired out of sequence with respect to the narrative sequence of the Beast King Golion episodes; however, this presents no significant continuity issues.)

Missing Episodes

Apparently Lion Force episodes 3 and 5 from Voltron: Defender of the Universe aren’t favorites of the Voltron: Legendary Defender creators who are featured in Voltron 84. That’s fine, unless a viewer wants to watch the entire origin story.

Below is my recommended sequence for watching Season 1 of Voltron 84. I’ve added links to official YouTube videos of Episodes 3 and 5, so that viewers can watch Voltron’s origin story “gap-free.”

Golion
Episode #
Title Voltron 84
Season #
Voltron 84 Episode #
1 Space Explorers Captured 1 7
2 Escape to Another Planet 1 3
3 A Ghost and Four Lions NA; YouTube video
4 The Missing Key 1 6
5 Princess Joins Up N/A; YouTube video
6 The Right Arm of Voltron 1 8
7 The Lion Has New Claws 1 4
8 The Stolen Lion 1 2
10 Secret of the White Lion 1 9
13 The Witch Gets a Facelift 1 10
15 Give Me Your Princess 1 12
28 The Treasure of Planet Tyrus 1 11
30 The Sleeping Princess 1 1
35 Doom Boycotts the Space Olympics 1 5

Visual Stutters

Before I began to watch Voltron 84, it was pointed out to me by fellow Voltron fan SGB that the Voltron 84 episodes have an odd stuttering effect in the video. Camera movements and the overall animation seem “jerky” rather than smooth. At first I thought this might be due to issues with (1) upconverting Voltron: Defender of the Universe, which was edited for the mid-2000s DVD releases in standard defintion, to Netflix’s high definition, and (2) issues with possibly resampling the videos from the NTSC standard of 29.97 frames per second down to a more film-like standard of 24 frames per second. Having said that, I’m no expert in video resampling or conversion, so the cause might be something else entirely.

Inconsistent Audio Speed

SGB also pointed out to me that the audio track of Voltron 84 Season 1, Episodes 3 and 12 (Voltron: Defender of the Universe Episodes 2 and 15, respectively) seem to speed up, slow down, and even skip in places. This is most noticable during portions of episodes consisting of mostly music and no dialogue. The cause of the inconsistent timing of the audio might also be the cause of the stuttered video.

Missing Clips

SGB’s recollection of the shots and dialogue of each Voltron: Defender of the Universe episode greatly exceeds my own. As a result he noticed this issue, and I did not. Voltron 84 Season 1, Episode 3 (featuring Voltron: Defender of the Universe Episode 2) has been trimmed in places. Partial lines of dialogue and some shots are missing when compared to the Voltron: Defender of the Universe DVD release. So far I’ve watched only three episodes of Voltron 84, and I didn’t notice the trims myself, so hopefully all cuts were minor. I am curious about why the episode was trimmed.

Conclusion

It’s great to see Voltron: Defender of the Universe on Netflix. I’m excited that newer Voltron fans can watch the original show for the first time, and that old-school fans can “taste it again for the first time.” Unfortunately the odd issues with Voltron 84 do hinder the viewing experience somewhat. I hope the second season of Voltron 84, if one is made, will be free of these issues, so that Voltron: Defender of the Universe can be enjoyed as much as possible.

Special thanks to SGB for inspiring this article. Check out SGB’s website!

Let’s Try Literally Building Voltron: The LEGO Ideas of Lendy Tayag

In the second episode of Voltron: Legendary Defender, “Some Assembly Required,” the paladins of Voltron struggle to figure out how to combine the Lions and form Voltron. At one point, Keith suggests, “I mean, let’s try literally building Voltron, like, stacking on top of each other.”

That episode was released on Netflix in June 2016. Two months prior, Lendy Tayag was already way ahead of Keith and the other paladins, because he had assembled his own Voltron… from LEGO!

On April 11, 2016, Lendy’s model, called “Voltron – Defender of the Universe,” was posted to the website of LEGO Ideas. LEGO Ideas allows anyone to submit an original LEGO creation, and if within a certain period of time, that creation gains 10,000 supporters — that is, people who register with the site, vote for the project, and answer a short questionnaire about the project — than a LEGO review board will consider making an actual LEGO building set from that creation. Exciting, huh?

Later in April, Lendy’s Voltron model caught the attention of Gizmodo and then Nerdist. Even better, in just 22 short days, Lendy Tayag’s Voltron model reached the 10,000 supporters that it needed for LEGO to consider producing that model as a licensed building set!

To celebrate this achievement, and to introduce Lendy to fellow Voltron fans, Marc Morrell and I welcomed Lendy as a guest on Let’s Voltron: The Official Voltron Podcast. Marc and I enjoyed chatting with Lendy, learning more about him as a person, how he became interested in Voltron and other giant robots, when and how he began designing them in LEGO, and what the experience was like of submitting his Voltron model to LEGO Ideas, seeing it gain so much support so quickly, and ultimately seeing it reach 10,000 supporters in such a short time.

By February 28, 2017, LEGO had reviewed Lendy’s Voltron model, plus eleven other projects that had reached 10,000 supporters between May and September 2016. On February 28, LEGO announced its Second 2016 Review Results:

  • Maia Weinstock’s Women of NASA project would move forward and become produced as an official LEGO building set
  • Lendy Tayag’s Voltron – Defender of the Universe project is still under consideration. An update will be given during the announcement of the Third 2016 Review Results.

Would we all like to have heard that LEGO had decided to produce a Voltron building set? Absolutely! On the other hand, working with a licensed property — especially one that is new to LEGO — is not always a simple, straightforward activity, so the fact that LEGO announced that it is still reviewing Lendy’s Voltron model shows that they are very much interested in the possibility of producing a Voltron set. Congratulations again to Lendy Tayag for this astounding achievement!

Lendy has since submitted more Voltron-themed projects to LEGO Ideas. None of these has yet achieved 10,000 supporters, but perhaps they will. And even if they don’t, if LEGO ultimately obtains a license to produce Voltron models, then perhaps LEGO will still consider these other Voltron projects.

Lendy’s models are incredibly cool. As an enthusiast of all incarnations of Voltron, I like all of his Voltron robot designs. As a supporter of the underdog that is Vehicle Team Voltron, I give special kudos to Lendy for representing that robot in LEGO form. Lendy’s Vehicle Team Voltron robot even separates into all 15 vehicles!

Lendy’s Castle of Lions model, with a full interior, is effectively a play environment that rivals the amazing Panosh Place Voltron Castle of Lions playset from 1985. It certainly rivals any LEGO Star Wars play environment.

Lendy has also submitted some non-Voltron giant robots as LEGO Ideas: Voltes V and Grendizer.

Congratulations again, Lendy! Voltron fans across the universe salute your enthusiasm and your LEGO model designing and building skills.

For more information about Lendy Tayag’s LEGO creations, check out the Len_d69 Creations Facebook page.

Let’s all show our support for all of Lendy Tayag’s great LEGO Ideas!

Cub Club: Voltron TeamForce

Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit Envelope

In the pre-Internet era, fan clubs were fun ways for kids to feel more connected to their favorite TV programs, radio programs, and even toy lines.

  • Little Orphan Annie, a children’s radio program that aired between 1931 and 1942, had a fan club known as the Little Orphan Annie Secret Society.
  • Star Wars, which premiered in movie theaters in 1977, was accompanied by The Official Star Wars Fan Club.
  • G.I. Joe, which premiered on television in 1983, had a fan club that became known as the G.I. Joe Fan Club.

When Voltron: Defender of the Universe was originally in syndication, from 1984 to 1986, its viewers could join an official Voltron fan club called Voltron TeamForce.

Yes, TeamForce. The term is sort of like “possegang” or “Sahara Desert.” In defense of the club’s name, “TeamForce” is probably an awkward portmanteau of “Team” from “Vehicle Team” and “Force” from “Lion Force.” Whatever the case, who cares? The Voltron TeamForce was a club for fans of Voltron!

In the interest of full disclosure, as a kid I was never a member of the Voltron TeamForce — or any other fan club. It cost money to join fan clubs, and I chose to spend my allowance money on toys. Still, as a kid I was fascinated by fan clubs, and I remember reading ads for them and wishing I were a member.

When the 2011 debut of Voltron Force re-ignited my enthusiasm for Voltron, I began to collect all sorts of Voltron memorabilia — including two Voltron TeamForce membership kits. Let’s take a look at these kits and see what a member of the Voltron TeamForce received in the mail.

Each Voltron TeamForce membership kit arrived in a large, colorful envelope.

Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit Envelope (#1, Front)
Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit Envelope (#1, Front)
Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit Envelope (#1, Back)
Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit Envelope (#1, Back)
Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit Envelope (#2, Front)
Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit Envelope (#2, Front)
Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit Envelope (#2, Back)
Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit Envelope (#2, Back)

I’ve blurred the text of the first envelope’s mailing label. The second envelope’s mailing label is long gone.

Here are the contents of both envelopes. The first envelope contained everything shown in this photo except for the large, bagged, gray sheet in the lower center of the photo.

Voltron TeamForce - Contents of Both Envelopes
Voltron TeamForce – Contents of Both Envelopes

I purchased both envelopes in a single lot. Collectively the two envelopes appear to contain one complete membership kit, plus most of a second membership kit, although most of the contents had been stored inside just one of the envelopes. I suspect the kits’ original owners were siblings.

Here is the welcome letter. It was shipped folded in half. The front panel reads “WELCOME VOLTRON TEAMFORCE MEMBERS,” and the illustration includes the five Lions, a spacey background, and a stylized “V.”

Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit - Welcome Letter (Folded, Front)
Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit – Welcome Letter (Folded, Front)

The back panel features the 1980s Voltron: Defender of the Universe logo, plus a copyright notice.

Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit - Welcome Letter (Folded, Back)
Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit – Welcome Letter (Folded, Back)

Here is the unfolded welcome letter. Most welcome letters would be printed on simple, rectangular sheets of paper, but simple rectangles aren’t good enough for the Voltron TeamForce!

Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit - Welcome Letter (Unfolded)
Voltron TeamForce Membership Kit – Welcome Letter (Unfolded)

The welcome letter reads:

We send you greetings from Galaxy Garrison, headquarters for all of us in the Galaxy Alliance! We are so glad that you have joined us. Being a TeamForce member is a very important job. We all have a TeamForce Mission. Your mission is to keep your home, family, friends and neighborhood happy and safe. This kit will tell you many secrets on how you can become a good defender of your universe. And…there are fun things to do, too!

Because you are now a member of the Voltron TeamForce, we will send you a very special letter just for TeamForce members. It’s called TeamForce Tales. It iwll tell you about the exciting things we and kids like you are doing to defend the universe. Maybe we’ll even write about you! Just let Voltron know how you are working to help him with the TeamForce mission at home. Write to:

Voltron TeamForce
P.O. Box 8719
Clinton, Iows 52736

Now that you are a member of the Voltron TeamForce, be sure to join our adventures every day on your local TV station. We’ll be looking for all of our members!

LET’S GO VOLTRON TEAMFORCE!

WELCOME VOLTRON TEAMFORCE MEMBERS

Here is the most essential item in any fan club membership kit: the ID card! Here is the front of the card:

Voltron TeamForce - ID Card (Front)
Voltron TeamForce – ID Card (Front)

The card front reads:

Voltron: Defender of the Universe

I, COMMANDER KEITH,
DO HEREBY DECLARE
__________________
AS A MEMBER OF
THE VOLTRON TEAMFORCE

Presumably the name was left blank so that kids could invent a cool code name for themselves, like… uh… Pidge.

Here is the back of the card. Who doesn’t love this? It’s a full-color illustration of a Lion key! I wonder which Lion this key activates. The keys looked identical on TV, and yet each pilot seemed to know which Lion a given key would activate. Oh well.

Voltron TeamForce - ID Card (Back)
Voltron TeamForce – ID Card (Back)

The card back reads:

VOLTRON
TEAMFORCE

OFFICIAL MEMBER OF THE VOLTRON TEAMFORCE

The membership kit also contained this single-sided flyer, which announced the forthcoming new batch of Voltron: Defender of the Universe episodes that would feature the Lion Force.

Voltron TeamForce Flyer
Voltron TeamForce Flyer

The flyer reads:

Hey kids!!

Brand new Lion Force Voltron episodes are coming to your local TV station this fall…lots of new, exciting adventures that will begin the week of October 20.

* Don’t miss the return of Sven!…
* Haggar’s new Robeast…
* The magic of King Alfor…
* And Lotor’s revenge!

Watch us battle 4 Robeasts that assemble to form an evil Super-Robeast!

Meet Lotor’s new evil assistant Cossack! And from the darkest regions of the Doom Empire, Lotor’s cousin Merla!

This September watch your local TV station for details on how you could win big Voltron prizes.

Commander Keith and Princess Allura and Pidge are coming to meet you at toy stores in your city this fall. Stay tuned for all the details.

The text in the flyer dates the Voltron TeamForce membership kit to sometime in early to mid-1985. By this point, all 52 Lion Force episodes of Voltron: Defender of the Universe that had been adapted from Beast King Golion would have aired, as well as all 52 Vehicle Team episodes, which were adapted from Armored Fleet Dairugger XV. (At that time, we kids knew nothing about Golion or Dairugger.)

The final 21 episodes of Voltron: Defender of the Universe would begin to air on October 21, 1985. Twenty episodes featured only Lion Force Voltron, and the final, double-length episode, “Fleet of Doom,” would feature both Lion Force Voltron and Vehicle Team Voltron. The twenty, Lion Force-only episodes featured everything described on the flyer — everything, that is, except the “4 Robeasts that assemble to form an evil Super-Robeast.” These Robeasts were featured in “Fleet of Doom.”

It’s interesting that Vehicle Team Voltron is featured on the flyer, when it’s clear that the flyer is reasssuring kids that Lion Force Voltron will return in the fall. By this point World Events Productions almost certainly knew that Lion Force Voltron was more popular than Vehicle Team Voltron, because this is the only reference to Vehicle Team Voltron in the entire membership kit.

This flyer was also printed in many Voltron coloring and activity books of the time. The coloring and activity books were published by Modern Publishing, a division of Unisystems, Inc., so it’s likely that Modern Publishing also published the Voltron TeamForce kits. (Modern also published the three-issue comic book mini-series.)

The kit also included a fold-out poster of Lion Force Voltron. The art on the poster is really cool!

Voltron TeamForce Poster
Voltron TeamForce Poster

Another item in the kit is this… thing. It was packed flat in a plain, white envelope.

Voltron TeamForce - Rules for Good Defenders (Flat, Top)
Voltron TeamForce – Rules for Good Defenders (Flat, Top)

In any case, the… thing is best described by what’s printed on the top face:

Voltron: Defender of the Universe

Rules for Good Defenders

Here’s the bottom face.

Voltron TeamForce - Rules for Good Defenders (Flat, Bottom)
Voltron TeamForce – Rules for Good Defenders (Flat, Bottom)

The bottom face reads:

Let Voltron know you are a good Defender. Write to:

VOLTRON TEAMFORCE
P.O. Box 8719
Clinton, Iowa 52736

(c) W.E.P. 1984

The… thing pops up into a twelve-sided, three-dimensional shape. I don’t know what a shape of this kind might be called. Because it contains rules for Good Defenders, I’ll call it a gooddefenderhedron.

Voltron TeamForce - Rules
Voltron TeamForce – Rules

Let’s examine each of the gooddefenderhedron’s six illustrations and associated captions.

The first of the six images features Keith presenting flowers to Princess Allura. The caption reads: “A Good Defender Shares With Family And Friends”

Voltron TeamForce - Rules (Side #1)
Voltron TeamForce – Rules (Side #1)

Keith and Allura, with a caption about family and friends. Were Keith and Allura married in this photo? Were they just friends? Let the fan fiction commence!

The second of the six images features Pidge sitting near a recently planted tree. The caption reads: “A Good Defender Loves His/Her Planet”

Voltron TeamForce - Rules (Side #2)
Voltron TeamForce – Rules (Side #2)

It makes sense that the pilot of Green Lion would have a green thumb. As an aside, I love that this caption is inclusive of boys and girls. Then again, the writers of the caption might just be confused about Pidge’s gender.

The third of the images features Hunk helping a girl across the street at an intersection. The caption reads: “A Good Defender Looks After Others”

Voltron TeamForce - Rules (Side #3)
Voltron TeamForce – Rules (Side #3)

Where are Hunk and the girl? On Arus? Outside the Castle of Lions and the Lion Dens, is there even electricity to power traffic lights? In the TV series, much of Arus is shown to resemble ancient Greece.

The fourth image shows Pidge putting a garbage bag into a trash can outside of what appears to be a house. The caption reads: “A Good Defender Helps Around the House”

Voltron TeamForce - Rules (Side #4)
Voltron TeamForce – Rules (Side #4)

In all of these images, Pidge is missing his headband. In this image he’s breaking a sweat from carrying the garbage bag. What’s in that bag? Lead? Robot Lion litter box… stuff? Maybe it’s better that we don’t know.

The fifth image shows a girl — or a boy with a mullet — holding a flower while standing in front of Coran, who is sitting in a chair. The caption reads: “A Good Defender Makes People Smile”

Voltron TeamForce - Rules (Side #5)
Voltron TeamForce – Rules (Side #5)

What would make Coran smile? The flower? The mullet? The chair? Or simply having a few seconds away from Nanny?

The sixth image shows Pidge once again, this time throwing a paper cup into a waste basket. The caption reads: “A Good Defender Keeps Neighborhoods Clean”

Voltron TeamForce - Rules (Side #6)
Voltron TeamForce – Rules (Side #6)

I’m just glad that throwing a paper cup doesn’t make Pidge sweat.

I’ve been picking on Pidge an awful lot, but in all honesty, I’ve always liked him. Having said that, in his honor I’d like to propose a seventh image for the gooddefenderhedron — a picture of Pidge with a guilty look on his face. The caption would be: “A Good Defender Avoids Inhaling Helium”

The final item in the Voltron TeamForce membership kit is a game and a glossary! These elements are printed on a single, glossy sheet of paper with perforations around each piece.

Voltron TeamForce Game & Glossary
Voltron TeamForce Game & Glossary

The game consists of a game card, 25 tokens, and instructions. The game card resembles a 5×5 Bingo card.

Voltron TeamForce Game Card
Voltron TeamForce Game Card

The text in the game card reads:

Red Lion | Bendor | Lotor | Castle Doom | Yellow Lion
Zarkon | Lance | Castle of Lions | Sven | Coran
Allura | Blue Lion | Voltron | Keith | Black Lion
Alfor | Mice | Green Lion | Haggar | Romelle
Nanny | Yurak | Pidge | Blue Cat | Hunk

Each token is a circle that contains a small illustration of one of the items described on the game card.

Voltron TeamForce Game Tokens
Voltron TeamForce Game Tokens

Here are the instructions:

Voltron TeamForce Game Instructions
Voltron TeamForce Game Instructions

Instructions

1. Punch out all of the circles on this card to use as your game tokens.

2. As you watch an episode of Voltron, Defender of the Universe, listen for the words shown on your game card.

3. When you hear one of the words shown on the game card, place a game token over it.

4. You win when you have five game tokens placed in a straight line across the game board, straight up and down on the game card, or diagonally on the game card.

5. If you like, you can match the pictures on your game tokens to the words shown on the game cards, too!

So the game is basically Bingo — or a drinking game, minus the drinks.

Finally, let’s look at the Glossary. As a Voltron encyclopedist (Let’s do lunch, anyone in charge of Voltron licensing!), I like this sort of thing.

Voltron TeamForce Glossary
Voltron TeamForce Glossary

Let’s learn all that there is to learn from this glossary!

Alfor: The ghost of the good king and former ruler of Planet Arus.

Allura: The daughter of Alfor and pilot of the Blue Lion.

Bandor: Cousin to Allura and brother to Princess Romelle.

Black Lion: Piloted by Commander Keith and forms the head of Voltron.

Blue Cat: Haggar’s evil pet.

Blue Lion: Piloted by Allura. Forms Voltron’s right leg.

Castle Doom: The Black castle where the evil Zarkon lives.

Castle of Lions: Home of King Alfor and Princess Allura on Planet Arus.

Coran: The good counselor to King Alfor and protector of Princess Allura.

Green Lion: Piloted by Pidge and forms Voltron’s left arm.

Haggar: The witch who helps the evil Zarkon make robeasts.

Hunk: One of the Voltron Force and pilot of the Yellow Lion.

Keith: Commander of the Voltron Force and pilot of the Black Lion.

Lance: Member of the Voltron Force and pilot of the Red Lion.

Lotor: The evil Prince.

Mice: Allura’s furry friends.

Nanny: Allura’s nursemaid.

Pidge: Member of the Voltron Force and pilot of the Green Lion.

Red Lion: Piloted by Lance and forms Voltron’s right arm.

Romelle: Cousin of Princess Allura.

Sven: An original member of the Voltron Force before the defeat of Planet Arus.

Voltron: A might robot who defends the universe against the forces of evil.

Yellow Lion: The evil general on Planet Doom.

Zarkon: The evil monarch of the fearful Planet Doom.

I couldn’t help but notice some inaccuracies in the glossary. Maybe I should write to Voltron in Clinton, Iowa, and let him know. Maybe my corrections will be published in TeamForce Tales. I bet they would be if I took my letter to the post office in a garbage bag, while I broke a sweat and was dressed like Pidge.

On a serious note, this membership kit looks like a lot of fun. I imagine that, as a kid, I would have been thrilled to have received something like this as a gift. I don’t know what it cost to join Voltron TeamForce, but the full-color poster alone is really nice, the ID card is a must-have, and the rest of the goodies are fun, too!

Let’s go, Voltron TeamForce!

Greg Tyler, Member, Voltron TeamForce!
Greg Tyler, Member, Voltron TeamForce!

Encyclotron: Men in Black: Shiro, Sven, and the Shirogane Brothers

“Encyclotron” articles are nuggets of information about Voltron lore. This is the first of those articles.

If you’re a fan of Voltron: Defender of the Universe, then you almost certainly remember Sven, the original pilot of Blue Lion.

If you’re a fan of Voltron: Legendary Defender, which you can now watch on Netflix streaming in many countries, then you can’t help but know Shiro, leader of the Voltron paladins, and pilot of Black Lion.

What do Sven and Shiro have in common? Some of the more obvious similarities are:

  • Both characters fly Voltron Lions
  • Both characters are quiet, level-headed, and pensive
  • Both characters wear black uniforms. (Each person is the “man in black” on his respective team.)

Most of our heroes from Voltron: Defender of the Universe were translated more or less directly to Voltron: Legendary Defender. Both shows have a Keith, a Lance, a Hunk, an Allura, a Pidge, a Coran, an Alfor, and even the mice. In contrast, Shiro’s origins in Voltron lore are less obvious to the casual fan.

Both Shiro in Voltron: Legendary Defender, and Sven in Voltron: Defender of the Universe, are based in part on Takashi Shirogane in Beast King Golion, the anime program from which many episodes of Voltron: Defender of the Universe were adapted. Eagle-eyed fans of Voltron: Legendary Defender probably noticed, in “Tears of the Balmera,” that Shiro’s full name is Takashi Shirogane.

Let’s examine each “man in black” from Voltron lore.

Takashi Shirogane (Beast King Golion)

In Beast King Golion, Shirogane is one of five astronauts from Earth of the year 1999. (Golion first aired in 1981-1982, so 1999 was… the future!) Returning from a space mission, the team discovers that, during their absence, Earth has been devastated by nuclear missiles in a third world war. The team also discovers a Galra slave ship capturing any surviving humans, including the astronauts.

The team soon finds itself imprisoned in Slave Castle on Planet Galra. While his teammates banter as they try to devise an escape plan, Shirogane says little, justifying his nickname: Quiet.

After the team escapes Galra, they land on Planet Altea, where they meet Princess Fala (Think: Allura) and learn of Golion (Think: Voltron). Royal advisor Raible (Think: Coran) tells them that they’ll reactivate the Lions that combine into Golion, and he gives them combat uniforms. For reasons never made clear, Shirogane’s uniform is trimmed with black.

When the team reactivates the robot Lions, Shirogane operates the Blue Lion — again, for reasons never made clear. Kogane (Think: Keith) flies Black Lion and continues to the lead the team, as he had during the astronauts’ original space mission.

In Golion‘s sixth episode, Shirogane rescues Kurogane (Think: Lance) from Galra witch Honerva (Think: Haggar). Shirogane fights Honerva alone, a task made more difficult when Honerva creates several duplicate images of herself, and she and her duplicates circle around him, laughing. (This moment was recreated with Shiro and Haggar in the Voltron: Legendary Defender episode “The Black Paladin.”)

Then Honerva blinds Shirogane with light from her staff, but the blinded pilot uses his mind’s eye to locate the true Honerva. Shirogane tries to attack, but the witch blocks his sword, Honerva’s cat bites his left ear, and then a Deathblack Beastman (Think: Robeast) strikes him multiple times. Shirogane dies in the arms of his friend, Kogane (Think: Keith).

Although Princess Fala (Think: Allura) begins to pilot Blue Lion in the next episode, Takashi Shirogane is not forgotten.

Ryou Shirogane (Beast King Golion)

In Golion‘s 41st episode, Princess Amue (adapted as Romelle in Voltron: Defender of the Universe), a slave on Planet Galra, is saved from a Galra firing squad by a mysterious Earthling. The princess’ savior is Ryou Shirogane, the younger brother of Takashi Shirogane. Ryou is aware that Takashi had become the pilot of Blue Lion, but Amue informs Ryou that Honerva subsequently killed Takashi.

Ryou Shirogane and the princess form an alliance to fight their common enemy: the Galra Empire, and over time they develop feelings for one another. In Golion‘s 52nd and final episode, Ryou Shirogane stabs the Galra Prince Imperial Sincline (Think: Lotor). Sincline slashes Ryou across the chest, and both fall to their deaths. Ryou Shirogane dies avenging his heroic older brother, and in so doing, he helps the Golion team to destroy the Galra Empire.

Technically, Ryou Shirogane isn’t a “man in black,” as it has been defined in this article, but Ryou’s role in Golion is directly tied to someone else who is.

Sven (Voltron: Defender of the Universe)

Long-time Voltron fans might recall the “Sven Lives” T-shirts that were first sold in the 2000s, as a reaction to Voltron fans’ recent discovery, through the just-released Beast King Golion DVD sets, that Sven’s Golion counterpart dies in that program. The “Sven Lives” shirts are fun, but there was never a need to assert that Sven lives, because in Voltron: Defender of the Universe, he does.

In Defender of the Universe, in an unspecified year of the distant future, Sven is one of five space explorers sent by the Galaxy Alliance to Planet Arus. As in Golion, the space explorers are captured and imprisoned, but in Voltron, they’re imprisoned in the Castle of Dungeons on Planet Doom.

The space explorers escape, meet Allura on Planet Arus, and become known as the Voltron Force. As in Golion, Sven dons a black-trimmed uniform and becomes the pilot of Blue Lion, for reasons that are never explained.

In Defender of the Universe‘s sixth Lion Force episode, Sven rescues Lance from Haggar. A battle unfolds between Sven and Haggar, Haggar’s cat bites his left ear, and a Robeast strikes Sven multiple times. Unlike in Golion, Sven survives the fight. Sven is seriously injured, to the point where he is taken, off-screen, to Planet Ebb for medical attention. Allura succeeds Sven as the pilot of Blue Lion.

Sven’s next significant appearance is in Defender of the Universe‘s 41st Lion Force episode. Sven, by now an escaped slave on Planet Doom, rescues Princess Romelle from Lotor’s firing squad. (The writers of Voltron: Defender of the Universe, noticing Ryou Shirogane’s strong resemblance to his older brother Takashi, cleverly chose to continue Sven’s story rather than introduce a new character.)

In the 52nd Lion Force episode, Sven and Lotor fight and fall from a great height, as Golion‘s Ryou and Sincline had, but in Voltron, both fall into water and survive. Sven’s bravery helps the Voltron Force defeat Zarkon’s forces — for the time being, anyway.

In Voltron: Defender of the Universe, the tales of the Lion Force would extend beyond the last episode of Beast King Golion, with 21 newly animated episodes. In these episodes, Sven has relocated to Princess Romelle’s kingdom on Planet Pollux, where he lives in a humble cabin from which he can watch over Romelle’s castle. Haggar soon destroys Sven’s cabin, but he remains on Pollux. Sven and Romelle admit their feelings for one another, but they don’t act on their feelings, since Sven is but a pilot. On the other hand, they do discuss pursuing a relationship once Zarkon is defeated.

In one of the later episodes, Sven temporarily returns to pilot Blue Lion in one desperate battle.

Since Voltron: Defender of the Universe never shows the Voltron Force definitively defeating Zarkon, it’s never revealed whether Sven and Romelle ever pursued a romantic relationship.

Sven (Voltron Force)

Voltron Force is a quasi-sequel to Voltron: Defender of the Universe. It takes place some years after the Voltron Force had defeated the forces of Planet Doom, but the story conflicts with several story points in the original Voltron show. One aspect of Defender of the Universe that does find its way to Voltron Force is the existence of Sven as the former pilot of Blue Lion.

In “Rogue Trip,” Voltron Force cadets Daniel and Vince meet Dudley, who describes himself as “Voltron’s biggest fan.” Because he “knows a guy who knows a guy,” Dudley has amassed a huge collection of Voltron artifacts. Daniel, himself a Voltron aficionado, identifies one of the artifacts as Sven’s uniform. Sven’s typical off-duty outfit is also shown to be in Dudley’s collection.

In “Ghost in the Lion,” Blue Lion is stolen and taken to the ice-cold planet Crydor. The Voltron Force discovers that Sven is the thief! Sven had made a deal with Lotor and Maahox, to give them Blue Lion in exchange for Lotor and Maahox curing Sven and his infant son of a haggarium infection, which Sven had contracted years ago from having been bitten by witch Haggar’s cat. Maahox alters the deal, planning to raise Sven’s son and train him to operate Blue Lion in the service of Lotor. Double-crossed, Sven briefly pilots Blue Lion as the team forms Voltron in order to rescue Allura and Sven’s son from Lotor. The Voltron Force offers to treat Sven’s haggarium infection back on Arus, but Sven declines the offer, saying his infection has progressed too far for it to be treatable. The Voltron Force has no choice but to leave Sven on Crydor, but they save Sven’s son, leaving him in the care of Allura’s childhood nanny.

The mother of Sven’s son is never identified.

Shiro (Voltron: Legendary Defender)

Shiro, full name Takashi Shirogane, is an experienced space explorer of the Galaxy Alliance. While on the first manned mission to Pluto’s moon, Kerberos, Shiro and his crewmates, Professor Holt and his son Matt, are abducted by aliens. The government of Earth covers up the Kerberos incident, claiming that the ship was lost due to pilot error.

One year later, Shiro returns, crashing on Earth in a small, alien spacecraft. He remembers very little about his time in captivity, and his escape, but he does remember that the Galra are a threat to Earth, and that the Galra are searching for a super weapon called Voltron.

Shiro has three visual reminders of his experience with the Galra — white hair in his bangs, a scar across his nose, and a cybernetic right arm.

Soon after crashing to Earth, Shiro is surrounded by Galaxy Garrison scientists and soldiers who want to quarantine him and render him unconscious before he can warn them about the Galra. Fortunately, three cadets from the space academy — Lance, Pidge and Hunk — and academy dropout Keith rescue Shiro. They discover a robot Blue Lion, which takes them to Planet Arus, where Shiro and the others discover Princess Allura. Allura tells them of the Galra threat, and she tasks them with reactivating all five Lions, combining them into Voltron, and stopping Galra emperor Zarkon.

Recognizing that Shiro is a natural leader, Allura tells him that he will lead this new team of Voltron paladins, and that he will fly Black Lion. And the adventure begins!

Over time Shiro learns more about what had happened to him when he was a Galra prisoner. His body had been altered by the Galra, and he became a champion gladiator for Zarkon’s amusement.

At the end of Voltron: Legendary Defender‘s first season, Shiro learns that Zarkon himself had been the previous paladin of Black Lion. During a battle against Zarkon’s witch Haggar — a battle reminiscent of Takashi Shirogane’s final fight in Beast King Golion — Shiro is injured.

In Voltron: Legendary Defender‘s second season, Shiro survives his wound, and he strengthens his bond with Black Lion. He learns that his escape from the Galra had been aided by Oolas, a rebel Galra, who noticed Shiro’s potential to one day help overthrow Zarkon.

Shiro also tells Keith that, should anything ever happen to Shiro, Keith should succeed him as the leader of the Voltron paladins.

In the final episode of the second season, during a climactic battle between Voltron and a heavily armored Zarkon, Shiro unlocks a new ability in Voltron, as Shiro flies Voltron through Zarkon as if Voltron were immaterial, and Shiro recovers the Black Bayard. The paladins use their bayards to unlock a new super weapon of Voltron: a blazing sword that impales and possibly kills the Galra emperor.

Although Voltron defeats Zarkon, the price is high. The paladins discover that Shiro has vanished from the cockpit of Black Lion. Only the Black Bayard remains.

As of this writing, Voltron: Legendary Defender‘s third season has not yet been announced. Many questions remain with respect to Shiro. Where is he? What happened to him? Will he ever return? Hopefully time will tell.

Men in Black

Voltron’s men in black — Takashi Shirogane from Beast King Golion, Sven from Voltron: Defender of the Universe, Sven from Voltron Force, and Takashi “Shiro” Shirogane from Voltron: Legendary Defender — are exciting and inspirational heroes who courageously defend their corners of the Voltron “multiverse.”

Addendum: Keith wore a black uniform in Voltron: The Third Dimension and Voltron Force, but Keith is better known for wearing red. A future article will cover the Voltron pilots who wear red.

It’s as “Easy” as I, II, III: Being a Voltron Fan in the 1980s

In 1984 Voltron: Defender of the Universe became a favorite TV program of countless children of that time. These days, between the Internet, Google, online discussion forums, and social networking, it’s often easy to forget that it was a bit challenging to be a Voltron fan in the mid-1980s’ days of long ago. But it’s not because kids didn’t have what we today call modern technology. It’s because, in many ways, Voltron was confusing.

Why? Hop into my imaginary time machine, and I’ll take you back in time to my childhood. Our destination: Monday, September 10, 1984.

TV

I’m a third-grader. Another day of school has come to an end, and I’m riding Bus 23 home. The bus is noisy, and the barely padded, seemingly ancient vinyl seats are uncomfortable. Although the ride seems eternal, the bus eventually stops in front of my house.

I step off of the bus and then race into the house. I run through the front door, I run into the living room, where the only color TV in the house is, I walk up to the TV, and I pull the power/volume knob until it clicks loudly. I turn the VHF dial, from detente to plodding detente, to U, and then I turn the less resistant UHF dial through ten or twenty clicks until it reaches 45 — the UHF station that airs all of my favorite afternoon cartoons. Finally I plop myself onto the garish sofa across the room.

What comes on, for the very first time, blows my mind. It’s Voltron: Defender of the Universe.

Voltron: Defender of the Universe (1984)
Voltron: Defender of the Universe (1984)

From days of long ago, from uncharted regions of the universe, comes a legend — the legend of Voltron: Defender of the Universe, a mighty robot, loved by good, feared by evil. As Voltron’s legend grew…

A voice that I would soon associate with Optimus Prime narrates the intro to a show about a giant robot with mechanical lion heads for feet, hands, and helmet. The robot has twin red wings, and it wields the strangest-looking, non-glowing sword that I remember ever seeing. The robot’s limbs are asymmetrically colored, the robot is operated by heroic human beings, and the villains are scary-looking aliens, including a cackling witch with yellow, pupil-less eyes and charcoal skin. To top it all off, the show has the best opening theme music that I’ve ever heard.

The show is amazing — amazing enough that I overlook that the opening narration seems to treat universe, galaxy, and solar system as synonyms.

Over the course of that school week, each journey home is rewarded by the unfolding, epic tale of five brave, strangely dressed space explorers — Keith, Lance, Pidge, Sven, and Hunk — who in Monday’s episode are captured by minions of King Zarkon of Planet Doom. The space explorers escape, only to be shot down over Arus, a planet devastated by war against Zarkon.

In Tuesday’s episode, Keith and his team enter a mysterious castle, and once inside they meet Princess Allura and royal advisor Coran. The team learns that the legendary super robot Voltron still exists, albeit in five, independently operable components that resemble lions — lions that could still be activated and reassembled into the mighty robot.

In Wednesday’s episode, Coran reveals that the lions can’t be activated without special keys that were entombed with Princess Allura’s deceased father. The space explorers enter the king’s tomb, where the ghost of the king appears and tells them to take the lion keys from his coffin. They open the coffin, but find only four of the five keys. The team activates four of the lions and engages Zarkon’s attacking forces — but then an enormous coffin falls from the sky, smashes into the ground, and opens to reveal an enormous monster — a Robeast — that quickly incapacitates the lions and knocks our heroes unconscious.

In Thursday’s episode, the space explorers return to the castle, find the key to the fifth lion, combine the five lions into Voltron, and destroy the monster that had so easily defeated the four lions in the previous attack.

In Friday’s episode, Zarkon sends another attack fleet, and another Robeast, to Planet Arus. Zarkon’s ships destroy the castle, but a new, high-tech, heavily armed fortress emerges from the ruins of the old castle. Voltron and the new castle defeat Zarkon’s forces and win the day.

What a week! I almost look forward to going back to school on Monday, so that I can see what happens next with my favorite new heroes.

Week 2 Begins

It’s Monday. I’d had fun on the playground, and maybe even in class, but my mind is on what will reappear on my rabbit-eared TV after school: more Voltron! When I finally get home and the show comes on, Zarkon’s witch Haggar severely injures Voltron Force pilot Sven, forcing the team to take him (off-screen) to another planet in order to heal. In Tuesday’s episode, Princess Allura replaces Sven as the pilot of the blue lion. Allura brings new hope to the team — and to me. I can’t wait to find out what will happen tomorrow.

A Weird Wednesday

On Wednesday, after school, after I park my posterior once more in front of that tinny-speakered, faux wood-decoed box that magically projects slightly snowy, animated awesomeness, Voltron comes on. Or does it? What I begin to hear seems right, for the most part — the same music and Optimus Prime-voiced narration, albeit in a more subdued voice — but what I see is something altogether different.

Gone is the lion-handed, lion-footed, lion-helmeted super robot. Gone are the robot’s pilots and their friends, gone are the villains, and gone is the castle.

Instead there’s a completely different robot, with a pointy head, a red jet stuck on its chest, and mismatched car feet that give the robot the appearance of wearing roller skates. And this robot is called… Voltron.

Nowhere in this episode do I see or hear of the lion-based robot that I had grown to know and love over the course of the last week and half. This robot also has pilots — 15 of them, and this episode starts with all 15 sitting around, bored out of their minds, in a lounge on a spaceship.

The ship’s captain orders the 15 pilots to board a bunch of crazy-looking vehicles. Just before the pilots launch, the captain orders them to abort their mission. They return to the ship’s lounge, bored yet again, until they’re once again ordered to launch, for real this time. The pilots begin to explore a planet, but a fleet of non-Zarkon-like villains attacks. The lead pilot almost brushes off the invaders, as enemies that the pilots have battled and defeated many times before. Still, once the attackers dispatch a Robeast, the 15 pilots combine their 15 vehicles into the pointy-headed Voltron — a robot that can fight for only five minutes before it runs out of power. During its last minute of power, Voltron destroys the Robeast.

By the time this episode ends, I have no idea what I’ll see tomorrow. Will this 15-piece robot and its 15 hopefully-not-always-bored pilots be back, or will Keith, Lance, Pidge, Princess Allura, and Hunk return with the lion-based Voltron that had previously caught my attention and made me want to run to the local Kmart or Harts or Murphy’s Mart or G.C. Murphy & Co., and try to find toys?

The pointy-headed, jet-chested, roller skate-equipped Voltron would hang around for another week or so, and pop in again a time or two after that, but otherwise the robot lions and their pilots, friends, and foes would be back to stay…

…until November. Then demolition derby aftermath Voltron would return, and he would stay on TV for a loooooooong time. During the rerun period that wouldn’t end until the next fall, episodes with both Voltrons would air. In fall of 1985, new episodes featuring only the lion-based Voltron would appear on the magic box in my family’s living room.

Throughout all of this, at almost no point would a story featuring one Voltron acknowledge the existence of the other Voltron. The shows would have the same visual feel, the same sound effects, the same music, the same name for the giant robot, and seemingly also the same voices, but the setting, the heroes, the villains, and the Voltron robot would differ, making the TV series as a whole seem to have multiple personalities.

But I love it all the same.

Toys

Late in 1984, during a trip to the local Murphy’s Mart, I finally find them: Voltron toys! Unfortunately, like the TV show, the toys are also confusing.

The toys are made by Matchbox, the company that makes small toy cars. The Voltron toys look great in the photos on the boxes. The lions’ legs are shiny chrome, and the toys have metal parts.

But why do the lions come in boxes labeled Voltron III: Defender of the Universe? In the cartoon, the lion-based robot is just called Voltron. The vehicle-based robot is also just called Voltron, but its toy boxes are labeled Voltron I: Defender of the Universe. I eventually rationalize that it makes sense to try to give each of the three robots some kind of distinct name.

Three? Who said anything about three?

In addition to six larger-boxed toy sets associated with Voltron III and Voltron I, there are five separately sold, six-inch tall robots:

  1. Miniature Voltron III – The lion-based Voltron, but one that doesn’t seem to be able to separate into the five lions
  2. Miniature Voltron I – The vehicle-based Voltron, but again, one that might not be able to separate
  3. A red-colored Voltron II “miniature gladiator space robot” that I’ve never seen on TV, despite the fact that the box states that this robot is “FROM THE TV SERIES”
  4. A black-colored Voltron II “miniature gladiator space robot” that, again, I’ve never seen in the cartoon
  5. A blue-colored Voltron II “miniature gladiator space robot” that… you know the routine

What is Voltron II all about, and why are there three robots called Voltron II? The toy boxes are my only sources of information.

A flap sticking out of the sides of the mini-robots’ boxes describes each robot:

FROM THE TV SERIES

The VOLTRON Trilogy…Interstellar heroes…from the far reaches of space…three super robots who protect a group of daring young space pioneers.

Voltron I — the magnificent mechanical warrior who is guardian of the near universe.

Voltron II — the intrepid protector of justice in the middle universe.

Voltron III — the spectacular super robot who battles the forces of evil in the far universe.

The cartoon is a trilogy? Since when? What is the near universe near to — the local Speedway gas station? What is the far universe far from? What’s the middle universe? Didn’t the Charlie Brown ‘Cyclopedia state that the universe is… everything? How do you divide everything by three?

Most importantly, what the heck is going on in that Voltron II image, and… why haven’t I seen Voltron II on the TV show?!!

A large toy photograph on the back of the miniature robots’ boxes does little to explain the situation. It features:

  • Voltron I Deluxe Warrior Set
  • Voltron II Deluxe Gladiator Set — a six-armed monstrosity that looks like it’s an awkward combination of the small red, black, and blue mini-robots
  • Voltron III Deluxe Lion Set
  • Miniature Voltron I
  • Miniature Voltron II — Again, three of them, distinctly colored
  • Miniature Voltron III

As a kid I would never own any of the miniature robots, so I didn’t have much opportunity to study that photograph and try to figure it all out, or to read and commit to memory the illustrated descriptions of Voltron I, Voltron II, and Voltron III.

What I would own — eventually — were the lions that could be assembled into the Voltron III robot. I would love these toys lions a lot, even though Red and Green Lions look kind of like short-snouted Dachshunds, and Black Lion is built more like a black bear. I would reeeeeally love Yellow and Blue Lions, and I would love what the five lions combine into, even though I wouldn’t be able to do much with the robot but put it together, shoot its fists, take it apart, chip the paint, and wear off much of the silvery chrome.

The backs of the three Voltron III boxes, and the backs of same-sized boxes of the strangely named Voltron I Air Warrior, Land Warrior, and Space Warrior toys, all feature the same photo. I would stare at this photo for hours. The photo shows:

  • Miniature Voltron I
  • Miniature Voltron II (Black), Miniature Voltron II (Red), Miniature Voltron II (Blue) – At least in this photo the robots are given unique descriptions
  • Red and Blue Mighty Lion Robots Set Voltron III
  • Giant Black Lion Robot Voltron III
  • Yellow and Green Mighty Lion Robots Set Voltron III
  • Land Warrior Voltron I
  • Air Warrior Voltron I
  • Space Warrior Voltron I

It’s neat to see the three Voltron I warriors in this photo, although I’m far from certain that a large, weird-looking vehicle made up of five smaller weird-looking vehicles constitutes a warrior, and I still didn’t know what’s up with Voltron II. Why hadn’t I seen the Voltron II robots on TV yet?

Matchbox also sells all five lions in a single Voltron III Deluxe Lion Set, all three five-vehicle “warrriors” in a single Voltron I Deluxe Warrior Set, and all three “miniature” Voltron II gladiator robots in a single Voltron II Deluxe Gladiator Set. As a child, I would never own any of these sets, and I would very rarely have the opportunity even to glimpse at their boxes. The local Harts store would be the only store in town that would sell them, and these toy sets would be so expensive — $70 or so — that they would be stored under lock and key in the sporting goods section — with the handguns!

My confusion over the toys doesn’t stop here. About a year after the Matchbox toys appeared in stores, their packaging changes. No longer is the lion-based robot called Voltron III — now it’s “Lion Force Voltron.” The vehicle-based robot is no longer Voltron I — now it’s “Vehicle Team Voltron.” The gladiator-based Voltron II is no longer… anywhere in stores, except on the backs of the toy boxes, where it’s still called Voltron II. The Voltron logos on the toy boxes have also changed from all-yellow characters to characters with a rainbow-gradient fill. The change in logos is jarring, as the toys’ logo now bears even less resemblance to the TV show’s logo than it did before.

At about this time, Voltron toys from other companies begin to appear on store shelves. Fortunately these toys followed Matchbox’s lead in using the “Lion Force” and “Vehicle Team” descriptors. Voltron II isn’t part of any of the new toy releases.

Curiously the other toy companies seem to be making more merchandise for Lion Force Voltron than for Vehicle Team Voltron. One company in particular, Panosh Place, offers an impressive set of Voltron action figures, combining lions, enemy vehicles, and even a playset of the heroes’ castle — all mysteriously based on only the Lion Force episodes of the TV show, and the robot is simply called Voltron, not Lion Force Voltron or Voltron III.

Over the course of about a year, the Voltron toys have shifted from being an all-inclusive assortment based on three robots — one of which might not even be in the cartoon — to a larger assortment that spans only the two robots that I remember seeing on the show, with one of the robots getting more of the new toys than the other. Meanwhile, any given episode of the awesome TV series continues to highlight just one of the two robots, ignoring the other robot, and calling the robot of that episode Voltron, as if it’s the only robot named Voltron.

It’s confusing, but it’s cool. And I love it all the same.

Back to the Present

As I look back on my childhood in the mid-1980s, considering the schizophrenic television program and the incoherently and inconsistently named toys, it was sort of a mind bender to be a Voltron fan at that time. Eventually most of my childhood questions about the Voltron TV show and toys would be answered, but those answers would be years or even decades in coming.

Still, as it stands now, over 30 years after the broadcast television and retail store premieres of Voltron: Defender of the Universe, I love it all the same… and more.