I attended the panel at Wondercon where Dreamworks debuted a first look at VOLTRON: LEGENDARY DEFENDER. Unlike the two prior follow up shows, it is not an attempt to tell a future point after the original Lion series (though VOLTRON THE THIRD DIMENSION and VOLTRON FORCE clearly are not the same timeline) but rather a retelling. I’m going to try my best to sum up my thoughts on the new series based on what we know so far.
A few things I think are crucial for people interested in the new show to understand:
– The five pilots are going to start out as Keith, Lance, Hunk, Pidge, and Shiro (which is based on Sven’s original character name, as he was not Norwegian). They’ve taken a twist on the idea of him dying early on, and instead Shiro reappears unable to account for a year of his life and with a cybernetic arm. Allura and Coran are around, but I’ll get to that later in more detail. They’ve apparently been in cryogenic sleep for 10,000 years. No idea if everyone else on Arus is dead. We’ll have to watch the show to figure this part out.
– Not all the lions are hidden on Arus. The adventure begins on Earth where they find one of them. It’s probably leaked elsewhere but I’m not saying which one. If you want to spoil that, you’ll have to dig yourself. This will obviously change the dynamic of the setup of the show.
– Pidge’s family is missing, a twist to him being separated from his family when his home planet is attacked in the original show. Where in VOLTRON THE THIRD DIMENSION he did find his family on another world repopulated as “The New Planet Balto,” here where they are is part of the arc. There were also hints the rest of his family were on the same mission that Shiro was on, but Shiro is the only one who has returned.
– Tying into the above, other than the Galaxy Garrison which is mainly a Vehicle Voltron idea since that is the more military-structured show, there’s no plans to tie in anything from Vehicle Voltron. This leaves the fate of Chip up in the air, since Pidge’s twin brother was on the Vehicle Voltron team. So will Chip even be referenced on the new show? How about their kid sister Paula? (She’s referred to in one episode, called “Surrender” in the original U.S. series, the one with the red rain). No idea.
– Throw out the idea of the Drule Empire. Zarkon is not a renegade tyrant from the Drule race as mentioned by Hazar in Vehicle Voltron and re-iterated in the FLEET OF DOOM SPECIAL. From one reference made, it appears that Zarkon’s people are going back to being the Galra as they are named in Go-Lion.
– Montage footage has tons of shots of Yurak (though not sure what they will call him), along with Haggar. No sign of Lotor. I suspect since this is 13 episodes, Yurak will be the big bad throughout as he only had 14 episodes in Lion Voltron/GoLion before he met his end. Lotor’s probably for a later season, should they get one.
– They’ve promised Zarkon will be far worse than we’ve known him, and it seemed that perhaps maybe he’d be even worse than in GoLion.
– One thing not brought out well in the panel is the scope of Allura’s role. She will not be Piloting a lion for the foreseeable future. However, it looks like we may get the Flying Fortress from the outset, and from an article at THE NERDIST Allura may actually be the navigator for that. That made me feel better, because it seemed quite odd for a team that successfully came off a multi-year show with a female lead to relegate the only main female to a smaller role than she previously had. If not for a glimpse of her in the overall final video at the panel in a uniform, the panel made it seem her role had been greatly reduced and in turn the overall representation of women. As a female fan, I’ve wanted to see more strong women in the revivals since the beginning, and I don’t just mean Allura being stronger. For those not familiar with my history, I am well known for having created a second female pilot and a sixth White Lion in the 1980s as the pitch that got the attention of World Events Productions Head Writer. VOLTRON FORCE actually did a more plausible take of what I was realizing as a teenager; the idea that there should be some plan B if a lion were disabled. Logistics of that aside (not sure I’d do that now), I confess with every new incarnation I’d try to come up with a way to work that character into the show given the chance sans the lion premise; however, I’m realist and don’t see that happening, but the kid in me needs to hold on to that dream I suppose. I guess I’ve always wanted to counterbalance Allura with someone a bit more tomboyish and brash, not confined by the Princess’ proper upbringing. There was even a brief moment at the panel where because Pidge is now voiced by a woman and Lauren Montgomery used “her” to describe Pidge (in hindsight I think she meant the actress), that it looked like we might actually have a geeky athletic woman on the team… and for the record, I would have been fine with that and disappointed when it wasn’t the case. We know Haggar is around, but the development as presented seems to shut out the possibility of introducing Romelle later, and given the team seems to be focused only on the original GoLion episodes odds seem very slim that we’ll see Queen Merla show up.
– Lastly, while not definitively stated, I think it’s safe to say throw away the Denubian Galaxy starmap as you know it. And yes, it does hurt me to say that. It’s the biggest thing to me that we are totally in a new world to know that doesn’t apply.
My summation: bring to the table what you love, throw away what you know, and yet be open minded.
If you want a better sense of why I’m saying that, when I did the LET’S VOLTRON podcast last year on VOLTRON THE THIRD DIMENSION, one thing that came up were my thoughts on the storylines since VOLTRON FORCE contradicts a lot of it. My response then applies here as well. One thing that VOLTRON THE THIRD DIMENSION established toward the end – possibly to justify their show title better as well as expanding the toy line – was the idea that different VOLTRONs and teams existed in different dimensions. Think of it this way. This take is just another “dimension,” another way to tell the story.
I read somewhere someone felt that “Legendary Defender” was not a good subtitle. Actually, I’d argue that it is. VOLTRON: DEFENDER OF THE UNIVERSE, in its over 30 years as an American property (not counting its origin as GO-LION: KING OF BEASTS), has actually become a story about a fictional legend that is now a media legend since its debut. Over time, in legends, things change. Properties are added and removed, and the story doesn’t completely resemble its origins. Perhaps that aptly indicates where we are now.
I’ll be waiting with everyone else on June 10th, 2016, to see how the legend stacks up.