Picture this scene.
It’s tense. The Voltron Paladins are on the run from the enemy. Hunk and Keith sprint towards Pidge and Lance. They aren’t going to be able to make it!
“Security’s on our tail!” yells Keith. Lance and Pidge yelp in surprise and quickly join the other two in quick retreat.
The four look ahead. They’re on the top floor of the mall and are feet away from running into the railing. What are they going to do?
Thankfully Lance and Pidge have something to help. The one way to escape.
“You bought a cow?!” Exclaims Hunk.
“It was free with purchase!” Screams Pidge.
The Paladins leap onto the cow, which stands on an anti gravity sled, and they soar over the open pavilion. Varkon, the space mall cop, closely follows behind on his space segway but can’t catch up.
The day is saved thanks to a cow.
When Voltron was rebooted for Netflix as Voltron: Legendary Defender, no one could have suspected a scene like this would be included. It was just the end cap on a zany episode that featured the voice of the Shamwow guy, RCA cables, Hunk becoming a cooking legend, and Lance acting like a dolphin. Oh yeah, and a ton of Shiro angsting. It’s not all fun and games!
So where the hell did this treasure of an episode come from? Executive producer Joaquim Dos Santos says it was a total nostalgia trip for him,
“It had every pillar that I remember from growing up. Having to wait by the fountain for your friends. Not relying on any cell phones and meeting up randomly and getting into these random adventures in the mall.”
Many of the elements of the episode were an homage to the classic days of malls. The ’80s Graylien store was a loving homage to Suncoast Video, for one. Other elements were created completely by accident. Writer of the “Space Mall” episode and story editor for the series Tim Hedrick says that Hunk’s plotline was all thanks to a typo.
In the series, Zarkon’s evil forces often use “Vrepit Sa!” as a military salute. Well over time the writers accidental wrote, “Vrepit Sal.” Hedrick remembers, “I was like, what, Vrepit Sal is a delivery joint that goes around to all the ships?”
In the episode, Vrepit Sal’s was the name of the food court stand where Hunk ended up being forced to work. It was not only a genius idea but also helped to flesh out the world of Voltron. Zarkon’s reign over the galaxy is so immense and so normalized by the episode hey’ve even named a food joint after his military salute.
The episode’s light and fun tone was a real treat for the voice cast, who all cite it as their favorite outing for season two. Jeremy Shada (Lance) says, “we were just having a good time trying to make each other laugh.” Josh Keaton (Shiro) echoes the sentiment, “It was one of the more light hearted episodes. We joke all around in the booth anyway but when it’s a funny script the jokes just fly.”
Ironically enough, Shiro didn’t end up any time in the space mall, instead learning more about the Black Lion’s origin and how it was connected to not only King Alfor but Zarkon as well. As revealed at the Wondercon panel, in an earlier version of the episode Shiro was going to drive the Paladins to the mall but couldn’t find a parking space and ended up puttering around the parking lot. Along the way Lance would even park in a handicap spot.
As much as Keaton would have loved to get in on the space mall antics, he was glad to see Shiro get a few answers, even if it lead to more questions, “It was a heavy episode for Shiro but he comes back with a lot. He can approach the fight with a new vigor.”
Another character that didn’t end up at the mall was Allura, although actress Kimberly Brooks was happy with her scene in the episode.
“She does say, ‘bring me back something sparkly!’ That was kinda cute. That was a departure to see her like that. That was a great episode that was funny from beginning to end.”
As much as the episode was funny it also served as the lynchpin to the season, says Dos Santos, since it involved the team acquiring the Scaultrie lenses that played such a big role later on in the storyline. Writer Tim Hedrick also adds that, with the show being firmly established in season one, in season two they could “reset and break. You can have an episode like ‘Space Mall’ where everyone gets their own little solo moment. There’s just a little bit more color to all the characters.”
But the moment that everyone, fans, cast, and crew alike all loved? Varkon, the Space Mall Cop. He’s got a poster of Zarkon up on his wall, refers to himself as Zarkon’s “number two”, and drives around on a little segway.
Bex Taylor-Klaus (Pidge) says what was on everyone’s mind, “Varkon is totally Paul Blart.” The comparison is an easy one to make, but Tyler Labine (Hunk) has an outlandish theory about Varkon that takes the character in a whole other direction,
“What if he’s Zarkon’s brother? Who could like never live up to the standards of the family and just became this mall cop and that’s why he kneels at a temple of Zarkon. ‘I’ll show you, one of these days.’”
Josh Keaton sums up all the hopes and dreams of everyone involved with the show with his outlandish hope related to the character.
“I can’t wait till I see a Varkon cosplay on a segway.”
That’s the power of the “Space Mall” episode. Varkon cosplay on a segway. Make it happen, Voltron fans!
The “Space Mall” episode proves, as I’ve been saying since the show premiered, that Voltron: Legendary Defender is one of the best shows on TV right now. It can balance a wacky mall plot alongside deep world building revelations. That and it ends with the most horrifying revelation to RCA cables you’ll ever see.
Shamus Kelley needs to make a trip to Vrepit Sal’s ASAP. Follow him on Twitter!