The Worldbuilding of Voltron: Legendary Defender

Writer Tim Hedrick guides us through the show's process of balancing character development and world building.

Voltron: Legendary Defender features the kind of science fiction world building that you’d normally associate with the Star Trek franchise at its peak. In only two seasons the Paladins of Voltron have traveled across the galaxy, visited several alien races, and we’ve even gotten a look at everyday life under the fearsome Zarkon. Spoiler, he’s got fanboys and a food joint is named after his military salute.

How does a show go about building such a unique and fun universe while still servicing such a large cast of characters? After all there are five paladins, Allura, Coran, Zarkon, Haggar, the upcoming Lotor, and even the space mice. Voltron: Legendary Defender story editor Tim Hedrick says the world building and characters feed off each other. He gives an example of coming up with a new planet for the paladins to visit.

“Let’s say you’re going to visit a new planet and see a group of aliens we’ve never seen before,” Hedrick told us. “You automatically think how each one of our characters is going to interact with this race. When you think about the Olkari race who are this race of scientists obviously this is a Pidge episode where obviously she’s gonna be attracted to this.“

Hedrick says no one will be interested in a new planet if you don’t see the lead characters interact with it.

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“You want to see the paladins get in there,” he says. “It’s always based on what the paladins are up to. They have to drive the show. If they aren’t into I’m just not interested in it.”

It’s here where, in our interview, Hunk actor Tyler Labine jumped in with a question about creating new worlds. “Do you guys design a lot of those worlds just so we can explore parts of the Paladins? I wonder if you think, ‘well what kind of world would we want to see Pidge explore? What would work with her character and make the most sense and be entertaining?’”

Hedrick says they don’t exactly work that way; instead they start each season thinking about the arcs and where they want characters to go.

“At the same time we’re always taking in things,” he says. “Watching Cosmos or whatever and being like, what if we saw the star explode? Then automatically thinking of a plot that gets us to that point. It kind of builds. If you come up with a really cool world but there’s not an episode you just throw it away. It’s a card that goes on the board and stays there for the next thing.”

He then turned to Labine and laughed, “I like your way too.” Labine solemly nods much like if Hunk had taken a bite out of a sandwich. “That’s how I’d do it.”

With four more seasons a lock for Voltron: Legendary Defender, we can’t wait to see the kinds of worlds the team behind Voltron can create.

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 Shamus Kelley needs expanded universe novels for Voltron ASAP. Follow him on Twitter!