Why do I prefer Vehicle Voltron?

I guess it makes sense to start at the beginning.  If you're not interested in those details, feel free to skip to the good stuff

My history with Voltron

It all started in 1984.  I was 13 and in the eighth grade.  One of the neighborhood kids was totally into this show called VOLTRON.  My first response was very similar to that displayed by longtime Voltron fans to today's Power Rangers.  He'd make it a point to stop everything to watch this show whenever he was home, so if I happened to be there when it was on, I had to watch it too.  He was watching the Lion Voltron of course (then known as Voltron III), but quite frankly, when I first saw these robotic animals, I thought they were wolves or dogs or something.  After all, shouldn't lions (even robotic ones) have manes?  Somehow, I eventually became hooked myself (even though I immediately found that "Princess" gal extremely irritating, a feeling that would continue for years afterward).  My friend lost interest several months later, but mine never truly faded. 

What drew me to this show?  Well, most of all, it was the music.  True Voltron fans can hear this music and still get goosebumps to this very day, regardless of where they are or what they're doing.  I can honestly say that no music from any other movie or TV show moves or inspires me the way Voltron music ever did.  It may well be the most beautiful music I've ever heard, and Voltron always seemed to play just the right music for the situation.  You could tell just by the music whether the mood was happy, silly, somber, angry, dark, victorious, or defeated. 

Secondly, the characters.  The good guys at their best were truly heroic, and the bad guys at their worst were truly horrifying.  There's been much ado made about how the evil of the villains was diluted by WEP's editing (Footnote 1).  But if you have the very first episode of LV on video, go back and watch the sequence in which planet Doom was introduced.  Listen to that dark music.  The vultures cawing.  Look at that first shot of Castle Doom.  And that very first panoramic shot of King Zarkon in all his evil glory, starting at the top of his staff and meandering up to his face, ruthlessly smug in his apparent total conquest of the galaxy.  Then go to the robeast scenes.  Most of the carnage was edited out, but the monster was clearly making mincemeat of the hapless slaves.  Then go to the scene in which the young space explorers were dumped into the Pit of Skulls by the vultures.  Keith and even tough-guy Hunk were shaken into prayer.  Surveying all of the skeletal remains around him, Keith said, "I hate to think what this place means."  The words were never spoken, the violence never shown, but it was all too clear in these scenes.  To this day I get the willies watching this ep. 

Third, the animation itself.  To say the people at Toei know how to draw beautiful animation would be a gross understatement.  The Lions are poetry in motion.  A person's face (even that of Voltron or a robeast) articulates emotion fully and clearly.  Backgrounds are like master paintings.  I could go on, but right about now you're probably thinking, "When's this guy gonna get to Vehicle Voltron?!"  Hang on, there's just one more quick paragraph yet.  (Hey, I gave you the chance to skip all of this. :) 

Finally, the sound effects.  Think about the launch sequence.  Each VF member running into their respective door, spinning down that chute into their seats, sailing thru tunnels to their Lions.  The keys are inserted and finally, the Lions awaken and leap into action.  Then it's time to form Voltron.  Fans know this by heart:   "Activate interlocks!  Dynotherms connected!  Infracells up!  Megathrusters are go!  LET'S GO, VOLTRON FORCE!  Form feet and legs!  Form arms and body!  And I'll form the head!"  Finally, it's time to "Form blazing sword!"  When you hear that distinctive "CLANG!", you know the battle's as good as over, and Voltron's going to be the one still standing. 

What??  Another Voltron?!

(NOTE: More verbosity follows as I describe—in length—my reaction to my very first ep of VV.  If you just want to get to the freaking reasons why I prefer VV already, click here.) 

I discovered VV completely by accident.  I'd just heard from another friend that our local station was airing Voltron around 1am on Saturdays, in addition to our Monday-Friday fix.  At the time, I was already in the habit of watching the Three Stooges at around 11pm every Saturday on that same channel, and now to be able to top off 2 hours of Stooges with Voltron??  I'm there, dude!  I sat through the Stooges, eagerly awaiting Voltron.  Then, 1am finally came.  The music I knew and loved started, but I noticed that the opening scene was different.  Instead of the familiar sight of five Lions flying towards one another, I instead saw two planets.  Then I heard Peter Cullen's familiar narration:  "From days of long ago..." and was even more confused.  Then more unfamiliar scenes—a huge ship, what appeared to be a space station, a bunch of little ships flying towards the screen, THEN, a robot that was NOT the Voltron I knew and loved, forming a sword!  And yet, the narrator called this robot "Voltron, Defender of the Universe"??  Eventually though, I settled down—and something clicked.  I remembered a Voltron promo that my local station showed.  It showed mostly Lion Voltron scenes that I was familiar with.  But the very last scene of that promo showed another robot that was NOT Lion Voltron swooping down on a robeast.  I would always briefly wonder about this other robot, but then quickly forget about it.  Well, this other "Voltron" I was now watching was in fact that very robot from that promo. 

Now curiosity set in.  "Another Voltron?  What the heck, I'll give it a try", I thought to myself.  I'd learn later this episode—my very first taste of VV—was "Try this world for size" (ep 5).  I watched the ep, taking everything in.  The story was that our heroes were on a mission to find uninhabited new worlds to relieve the overcrowded worlds of the Galaxy Alliance.  This "Voltron" was made of 15 ships, instead of LV's 5 Lions.  Not only that, but this Voltron Force was subdivided into Air, Sea, and Land Teams with 5 ships on each team.  The Explorer was the name of the ship that led this expedition, and it was home to this VF, like the Castle of Lions was to the LVF.  The Explorer, led by Commander Hawkins and Captain Newley, had discovered a new planet.  Newley ordered the Land Team to launch and investigate, but were intercepted by the "bad guys", a blue-skinned race known as Drules, whose military was headed by someone named Hazar.  Hawkins then ordered the Air and Sea Teams to launch.  The combined force quickly sent the enemy running.  Meanwhile, some guy in a lab coat (Professor Page) was grumbling about how the VF was fighting over a dead planet, even though Land Team hadn't even begun their exploration yet.  When the battle was over, the Air and Sea Teams returned to the Explorer while the Land Team resumed its expedtion.  When the others arrived at the mess hall, a big guy named Rocky (whose build and hair reminded me of Big Boy, the mascot for the famous restaurant chain of the same name) was talking about food.  "Ah", I thought, "A Hunk clone!"  Prof. Page was in the mess hall as well, and gave the teams a stern lecture about fighting the Drules over a "worthless planet."  Jeff, the leader of the Air Team (and the entire VVF) was livid, and told Page he couldn't possibly make such a determination before Land Team had even made a report.  Page explained that he'd done tests from the Explorer that "convinced me that it's a dead planet, a moon."  Jeff wasn't so convinced, though—and neither was the rest of the team.  I was troubled, too.  I wondered if maybe this Page guy was some kind of spy trying to sabotage the Explorer's mission from within.  He stopped just short of calling our young heroes trigger-happy buffoons, then walked away.  Jeff and the rest of the team vented their feelings about Page, wondering why he was even on board in the first place.  Finally, Jeff decided that he wasn't about to listen to this arrogant scientist, especially over Cmdr. Hawkins. "Cmdr. Hawkins says this is a good world, and I'd rather believe him", Jeff said.  Jeff was determined to prove Page wrong as soon as Land Team returned. 

Meanwhile on the planet, Land Team conducted their research.  Unbeknownst to them Malvor, the Drule commander who'd ordered the earlier attack, was also lurking nearby.  The Explorer crew was unaware that the Drules had discovered the planet first and had their own plans for it.  Malvor wasn't about to let the enemy take the planet from them and had subsequently ordered the first attack.  After the attack failed, he'd then decided to lay low and forego further fighting unless the VF stumbled onto the secret that made an ostensibly barren planet so desirable to the Drules.  The Drule commander hoped that the enemy would find only desert and move on.  His hope would be short-lived, though.   Land Team touched down and went to work, indeed finding only barren desert.  They were just about to give up when two of the explorers (Sinda and Modok) suddenly found an oasis of lush vegetation.  Land Team leader Cliff didn't know what to make of it, but told the team to keep exploring.  Eventually Modok found another oasis, and an old rocket in the middle of it all!  They immediately reported back to Hawkins, who immediately deduced that someone else had obviously found the world before they themselves did—someone else who might "have a very valid claim to it."  Hawkins nonetheless ordered Land Team to continue exploring, all the while wondering, "Is that somebody Hazar?" 

Jeff, armed with the new information gathered by the Land Team, went to Page's lab, eager tell the scientist to his face how wrong he was.  Page and his assistant Debbie were examining the samples themselves, trying to make sense of it.  Jeff started to tell Page that he was clearly wrong about the planet being dead, but was rebuked once again.  Page explained that even with the nascent vegetation, the planet was a long way from being livable.  He explained the evolutionary process:  First, the plants would replace the planet's carbon dioxide with oxygen.  The atmosphere would then release much of its ultraviolet radiation.  The cooler temperatures would cause water vapors and rain to form.  The rain would finally cause new plants to grow and lower forms of animal life to emerge.  Unfortunately, this whole process would take a few hundred years, and Jeff's heart sunk—the Alliance couldn't wait that long.  Page still couldn't understand how those plants got there in the first place, though.  "An impossible condition—evolution in reverse," he mused.  Hawkins came in with similar questions and told Page about the rocket.  Finally, he understood:  Someone was trying to boost the planet's evolution by "seeding" the planet with vegetation.  Earth scientists were trying to do the same thing on Venus.  Hawkins immediately the Land Team to investigate further. 

Malvor saw what was happening, and immediately ordered a new attack.  Drule tanks exploded from the surface of the planet and attacked Land Team.  The Explorer responded by launching the Air and Sea Teams again.  The VF engaged the enemy on the surface, while the Explorer fought the Drule fleet in space.  The VF quickly overpowered the surface fleet, but the Explorer was on the verge of defeat by the space fleet.  In desperation, Newley ordered the Explorer to plow right into the enemy forces, much to Hawkins' dismay.  Hawkins called off the order and instead ordered a retreat.  Page then came to the bridge, concurring with Hawkins.  Clearly the Drules had found the planet first and the Alliance had no right to it, regardless of Hazar's motives.  Hawkins then ordered the VF to retreat as well, and to form Voltron only if there were no other way to escape.  Just then, the Drules launched a robeast.  At that, Jeff decided to form Voltron.  I then watched Voltron form as Jeff said what I'd heard Keith say so many times before:  "Form feet and legs!  Form arms and torso [not body]!  And I'll form the head!"  But this Voltron wasn't done after the head formed: One last ship, a red plane, descended towards the robot and attached to the chest.  Then we zoomed away from Voltron until the entire body was in view.  At this point, the robot punched the air once with each fist, then jumped into battle.  This "other" Voltron attacked the robeast with a variety of weapons, some of which LV also wielded, such as Spinning Laser Blades.  Then, "Form Blazing Sword!"  Voltron did just that, by combining the two SLBs.  As I'd seen so many times in LV, this "other" Voltron destroyed the robeast with his sword.  Just then, Hawkins called in, ordering them once again to retreat.  Jeff argued at first, but Hawkins informed them the Drules found the planet first, and "we have no right to it."  Finally, Jeff reluctantly complied and VV returned to the Explorer. 

Malvor was confused by the retreat at first, since the enemy was winning.  But he realized why:  They were obeying "the basic law of the universe".  Back on the Explorer, Jeff was still fuming.  "Basic law of the universe!  Why should WE observe it?  When did Hazar observe any laws?"  Once again, Page was there to rebuke the young explorer and affirm that they'd indeed done the right thing.  Finally, Jeff reluctantly agreed—and took comfort in the hope of finding a new planet soon—"with the help of our giant robot—Voltron, Defender of the Universe!" 

VV grows on me

It took me some time to form a definite opinion on VV.  I watched it the next two Saturday nights.  Right around then, LV was wrapping up its first run on our station's M-F slot.  My curiosity would be even further piqued by the 3-part LV finale, in which the Drules and even the VV force themselves made brief appearances.  Even more, it turned out that LV's Pidge and VV's Chip were twin brothers!  Finally, VV started running in LV's M-F slot while LV starting running in VV's Sat. night slot.  Now watching VV 5 days a week, I got to know the show rather quickly.  And quite frankly, I didn't care too much for it early on.  I think the thing that annoyed me the most was Jeff's impulsive leadership, at least in the early eps.  He picked a fight with a non-VF officer on occasion, attacked Cliff on another, and generally tended to rush into confilict, shooting first and asking questions later.  As far as I was concerned, he couldn't carry Keith's jock when it came to leadership.  I fumed to myself, "How did this hotheaded punk become leader of the VF, anyway??  Cliff or Crik could do SO much better!" But I stuck with it anyway because it was still Voltron—even if the theme music and the Galaxy Alliance were the only things the two shows had in common. 

Eventually, I came to like VV.  I guess what won me over was the running storyline—most particularly the fact that it wasn't as black-and-white as LV's was:  In LV the Good Guys were purely good, and the Bad Guys were purely evil.  I cited this as a strength above, but in some ways it was also a weakness as some characters (esp. Bad Guys) seemed one-dimensional.  In VV, on the other hand, some of the Drules—including Hazar himself—would eventually abandon their malevolent ways.  In one ep, a young Drule was even brought on board the Explorer and eventually befriended by the entire VF.  Even hotheaded Jeff seemed to mature with each ep.  Few people were the same at the end of the series as they were at the beginning.  People actually CHANGED and GREW.  (Yes, I know; they did in LV too, but not quite as much IMHO.  And NONE of the bad guys did except for Merla, and she was a 2nd season character.  I don't count Zarkon's "reform" in V3D, of course, because it was bogus.  Nor do I count Lotor's consideration of reform, however sincere, in 2nd season since it was only considered as a possible means to win Allura.)  And I REALLY came to appreciate VV's female pilots, Ginger, Lisa, and Sinda.  After watching Princess "I faint at the drop of a hat" Allura do her imitation of a sack of potatoes for the 97th time during LV's run, these ladies were a refreshing change of pace.  VV's ladies were gentle during down time but dangerous in battle.  Even the ostensibly ditsy Ginger kicked major booty.  Also, VV's sound FX just grew on me somehow.  It wasn't until after VV completed its first run and LV returned to my station's M-F slot that I realized, "Hey I MISS those sound FX". I only recently learned from watching clips of both shows in their original pre-dubbed Japanese form that WEP apparently dubbed its own set of sound FX into LV but left VV's original Dairugger FX more or less untouched (Footnote 1).  I don't know why WEP re-FX'd one and not the other, but my guess would be because Golion's FX editing  (at least in the clips I've seen) was AWFUL.  Dairugger was released after Golion, so maybe the better FX indicates that Toei learned a thing or two between Golion and Dairugger.  Anyway, I just like VV's sound FX better.  I guess they seem more realistic to me than LV's.  Finally, I always dug VV's battles.  The action was usually faster and more intense than in LV's battles.  There also didn't seem to be as many pauses in the course of battle in a VV fight.  (Maybe because there were no Space Mice or Nanny to distract our heroes? :)  Also, I always thought it was cool that even VV's lesser weapons (e.g., Solar Combat Spears, Spinning Laser Blades) actually did appreciable damage.  On the other hand, when LV used anything other than Blazing Sword I often wondered if Keith was trying to bore the robeast to death:  Form Electrosabre.  Toss at robeast.  Bounces off.  Again.  Repeat with Spinning Laser Blade.  Yawn.  If only LV had some Electro-Thermo-Blasters, hmm? 

Footnote 
1) Diehard Voltron fans are well aware that the Voltron series was actually a redub-and-re-edit of two unrelated anime series produced by the Japanese animation company Toei Co., Ltd.:  Hyakujuuou Goraion (tr. Hundred Beast King Golion) became Lion Voltron, and Kikou Kantai Dairugger XV (tr. Armored Armada Dairugger XV) became Vehicle Voltron.  Golion and Dairugger, like most anime series, contained many graphic depictions of violence and death which had to be edited out before they could be broadcast on American TV.  More info on Golion and Dairugger (and other animes that didn't quite make the Voltron cut) can be found at DMD's Voltron Page (currently inactive), Arus' Unofficial Voltron Home Page, Shannon Muir's Voltron site, and SGB's Golion site
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Voltron I/Vehicle Team Voltron/Vehicle Voltron, Voltron II, Voltron III/Lion Force Voltron/Lion Voltron, and all associated characters and images are the property of World Events Productions, © 1984 (also © 1997 for Lion Voltron).  Voltron:  The Third Dimension is the property of World Events Productions, Mike Young Productions, and Netter Digital Entertainment, Inc., © 1998.  Kikou Kantai Dairugger XV (tr. Armored Armada Dairugger XV), Light Speed God Algebas, and Hyakujuuou Goraion (tr. Hundred Beast King Golion) are the property of Toei Co., Ltd., ©'s 1982, 1983, and 1981, respectively.  Future Robo Daltanius is the property of Toei Co., Ltd. and Sunrise Productions, © 1979. 

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