It’s a testament to the extreme quality of Voltron that, when interviewing executive producers Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery, we had what Dos Santos referred to as a “Voltron therapy session” about one of its more controversial characters. Lotor.
Initially presented as a villain for the Voltron team, Lotor slowly ingratiated himself into the group. While his tactics were at times extreme, you could always see the logic behind them. Plus, Lotor was always trying to be better than his father Emperor Zarkon. There were some good sides to him and that was always the intention of the writing staff.
“From our intial internal pitch, we wanted an air of truth to everything that he said,” explains Dos Santos. Initially that was shown from a more manipulative standpoint, where his “bad” actions could be reasoned away through technicalities and careful wording. Soon though, “it transitioned to more of an emotional version of that. His intentions were true. They were.”
Montgomery adds that, “it came from a place of wanting to do good, but just maybe not going about in the best way.”
In the middle of season 6 there was a huge turning point with Lotor. At the moment he had gotten closest to the team, especially Allura, his past was found out. He had murdered Alteans to support his own agenda. He had a reason for it of course but the team quickly turned on him. There was no discussion if Lotor was justified, they just went right to kicking his ass.
Montgomery explains that because the Paladins have been dealing with a desire to “save life completely if they can” so it was of course a united decision that Lotor’s actions were a no go. “There’s no way Allura especially was ever gonna be down with that.”
To Dos Santos, the Paladins had to make a spur of the moment decision when the consequences were that high but also thinks it all could have gone differently if Lotor had, “just put down his hands and said, ‘okay, take me in.’ That could’ve undone everything but (it all) went a little crazy.”
So what then was Lotor’s ultimate downfall? Why didn’t he put his hands down? Why did he continue to fight against the Paladins? It’s a combination of a lot of factors but the most important is his upbringing, according to Montgomery.
“It was a very bad hand. That deck was stacked against him in every way in his upbringing. If he had this amazing accepting family that Allura had, he probably would have been a magnificent person. He had to live his life the only way he could, and a lot of that was through manipulation and doing things the only way he could get them done. It’s tragic.”
An unintentional parallel the behind the scenes team recognized was between Keith and Lotor. Keith had his own difficult upbringing, never meeting his mother and losing his father at a young age. He was very angry and combative and, as Dos Santos explains, “(he) could’ve gone the same way (as Lotor) but Shiro was that positive light in his life.”
“Keith had better people around him,” adds Montgomery, “and Lotor didn’t have that support system, so we see how it ended up.”
Lotor should’ve technically been at the advantage, with his half Altean side making him physically stronger than Keith but, “ultimately it’s not what you’re made of, and that’s kind of a theme we had in our show.”
“The nature versus nurture argument,” clarifies Dos Santos.
Fans will continue to debate Lotor’s actions for years to come and that’s another sign of why Voltron is so great. Its characters are so deeply layered and complex that, even if you don’t like them, you can at least have a length debate (or therapy session) why that’s the case.
Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. Follow him on Twitter!