Do you remember waaaaaay back when having a day off meant Saturday, and Saturday meant waking up at the crack of dawn to plop yourself in front of the television set with a bowl of sugar based cereal substitute to watch Saturday morning cartoons? Yeah, me neither. But that’s okay. Let’s get NOSTALGIC!
Join me now in the year 1984. Ghostbusters is a top 10 movie. When Doves Cry by Prince is a hit song. Robert Bruce Merrifield wins a Nobel Prize for “his development of methodology for chemical synthesis on a solid matrix.” (I’m sure that’s more interesting than it sounds.) Also airing for the first time, on September 10th, was the animated series Voltron: Defender of the Universe.
You can find a really great article addressing the somewhat complicated history of Voltron here, but I will attempt to summarize it for you. American animation distributors wanted their own version of a popular Japanese cartoon, Battle of the Planets, which was itself largely a clone of Star Wars. What they got was a completely different cartoon from the one they asked for, Battle King Golion instead of Mirai Robo Daltanious, stripped of gore, with redubbed and oddly translated dialogue, and recycled animation sequences from other cartoons. Other Voltron series followed Defender of the Universe with varying levels of success, including a 2016 reboot by Netflix. The important thing to remember is that five lion robots come together to form one super-robot with a flaming sword. Everything else is just details.
What I Remember
I owned one lion bot. A friend of mine had another. Together we had two lion bots. This is the exact number of lion bots one needed to not build a megalion bot. Still, you know, lion bots. They were neat. (Did you know that Google Docs considers “megalion” to be an actual word? I didn’t until I typed it just now and waited for spellcheck to tell me that it was misspelled. Now I need to find an active game of Scrabble and play the word “megalion”.)
“This is the story of the super force of space explorers…” With the aid of Voltron, a giant robot with a flaming sword, Evil (with a capital “E”) is defeated. A time of peace spreads across the galaxy and the Good planets (with a capital “G”) band together to form an alliance called the Galaxy Garrison. Then giant monsters start showing up under the command of a vicious space pirate, Zarkon.
Episode 1 starts with our five heroes responding to a distress call from the planet Arus. They arrive too late to prevent any destruction on Arus but just in time to get blasted by a laser beam themselves. The heroes are captured by Zarkon’s forces and transported to a gladiator arena. With minimal effort, the heroes are able to escape, steal one of Zarkon’s prison ships, and flee, but not before causing extensive property damage by flying the ship right into a tower. Zarkon’s forces quickly catch up with the prison ship and nearly destroy it with a laser blast, because clearly it was designed to survive crashing into buildings but not protected from lasers. By an amazing coincidence, when this happens the prison ship is passing by the Castle of Lions, home to the secret of the location of Voltron, AND the castle is equipped with a tractor beam, which it uses to save the ship. Here we learn, by plot exposition, that Voltron only disappeared ages ago because Zarkon’s witch companion disguised herself as a space goddess, lured Voltron close, and placed a curse upon the robot. (How many of us can’t say we were there once, right? Dating is complicated.) This curse could not destroy Voltron but it did break him into five parts, with each part being a robot lion. (How much of a secret was the downfall of Voltron anyway, if all of that was common knowledge?) The heroes decide that if they had Voltron’s assistance, should they be able to recover all five pieces, they could defeat Zarkon. Having acknowledged this, and instead of doing that, the episode ends with the team continuing to fly away from the castle, where they could have learned the secret to accomplishing the very thing they were discussing.
Voltron: Defender of the Universe has some issues. Based on the voice acting, you’d think that the Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show and one of the chipmunks from Alvin and the Chipmunks are active members of the team. Beyond that, some of the dialogue itself is really cheesy. (“We’re space explorers and we need space!”) Overall, it holds up for the sake of nostalgia, given the 30+ years since I last watched it, but I’d almost recommend the 2016 remake instead of the 1984 original.
More to come (live, from what I remember about the 80’s!) as this story continues.
If You Liked Voltron
Voltron : from days of long ago : a thirtieth anniversary celebration
Voltron Force. Vol. 1 : shelter from the storm
Voltron Force. Vol. 2 : tournament of lions
The Paladin’s handbook : official guidebook of Voltron legendary defender
Also Check Out
I’ll Form The Head” by MC Frontalot – I’ve seen him perform it live and it’s all kinds of awesome!
For more on Saturday Morning Cartoon Rewatch by Kevin
Saturday Morning Cartoon Rewatch two – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Saturday Morning Cartoon Rewatch three – The Herculoids
Saturday Morning Cartoon Rewatch four – Hong Kong Phooey
Saturday Morning Cartoon Rewatch five – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Saturday Morning Cartoon Rewatch six – Valley of the Dinosaurs
Saturday Morning Cartoon Rewatch seven – Thundarr the Barbarian
Saturday Morning Cartoon Rewatch eight – Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels
Kevin Wadlow is 100% a real human being and definitely not a murder of crows wearing a person suit. He is an avid reader of horror, tabletop gamer, and drinker of coffee who enjoys drawing things of strangeness along the way. When the zombie apocalypse comes, he will probably be eaten first after saying something about how he fully expected to go out like this.