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
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
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
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,
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.
If you came here from the "My History" section, click
here to return.
If you came here from the "VV grows on me"section, click
here to return.