|Zarkon is Dying|
"Zarkon is Dying" is the eighteenth episode of the lion series of Voltron: Defender of the Universe.
It is a dark and stormy night on Planet Doom; possibly a beautiful day by their standards. Deep in the dreary castle corridors stalks Prince Lotor, seeking a secret black and midnight hag named Zandra who doest a deed without a name; specifically reproducing a spell of the Weird/Wayward Sisters of Shakespeare's MacBeth using an elaborate chemistry set. The result -an enlarged rose developing claws, fangs, and the visage of an evil spirit- both impresses and frightens Lotor; he smacks it down yet seems to be considering taking his evil business to her rather than Haggar when one of his lieutenants appears with dire news: Zarkon is dying.
Lotor rushes to the chamber of the Dark Altar, where the Witch Haggar is already by his father's side. The King is suffering greatly, yet Haggar insists on treating him herself using her fell magic. She invites Lotor to accompany her to the Altar of Darkness and the Crown Prince does so; though he trusts Saundra as his own witch more than he does Haggar, he chooses to humour her to impress his father.
After climbing to the Dark Altar, Haggar pulls out a set of Buddhist(!) prayer beads and begins a foul incantation to entreat the demonic forces for a cure to King Zarkon's illness. Fire erupts, the string of beads shatters, and through the latter the forces of Hell reveal to her that Zarkon can be saved by a magical potion made from berries which grow only on Planet Arus. The Witch reveals this to the Prince, yet the latter does not trust the former and suspects that she merely wants him to battle Voltron again. Haggar entices Lotor with the suggestion that as Zarkon is so old and weak, even if he survives this ailment he might turn the Kingdom of Doom over to him in gratitude.Prince Lotor enters the hangar containing his personal craft to await his robot troopers. However, he is instead greeted by Zandra, who presents him with a large flask containing all the vile brew necessary to build him an army worthy of Voltron. Lotor leaves Doom more confident and lands undetected just over a mile from the Castle of Lions; as Haggar suggested, the Arusian airspace security is not at its best.
To provide the most stark of stark contrasts, it is a beautiful azure day on Planet Arus, where the members of the Voltron Force are building a new school for the children. While the men (Pidge included) perform carpentry and similar tasks, Princess Allura accompanies Nanny and a group of her maids into the forest to gather berries from the local flora, promising to feed them (the men, not the flora...yet) well. One falsetto-voiced maid claims that she can pick more berries than the others and will fill her basket first, to which Allura replies, "Don't play; the others are waiting!"
So is Prince Lotor; standing near his "Zarkon Zapper" craft 150-or-so-feet away from the jublilant women. The Zapper extends a nozzle and sneezes the Witch's brew onto a number of nearby trees, which morph into Evilroots while he delivers an incantation which may or may not be strictly necessary for the success of the effect.
Meanwhile, the women have gathered enough berries (in Allura's estimate), and not a moment too soon (albeit several moments too late)! The Evilroots, now with claws, thorn-teeth like spears, and gigantic bulging eyes, burst into the clearing inhabited by the female gatherers. The latter are terrified, and though the Princess cries that they must return to the Castle, they are hemmed in on all sides and can only huddle together. A prehensile vine even ensnares Nanny, and it takes all the combined strength of Allura and the maids to pull her free (bringing the large German-accented governess crashing down on top of them).
Fortunately, the birds have fled the forest and are spotted circling over the danger by the other members of the Voltron Force. Hunk notes that this must mean trouble, and Keith takes him and Lance with him into the forest to investigate, leaving Pidge behind (and admittedly, sometimes that does prove to be a good idea).
Never ones to be boring, the Evilroots have by now sprouted snapdragons in the most literal sense; deadly flowers as large as a human head and with far longer teeth! Fortunately for the Princess and her huddled entourage, the impressive plants obey Prince Lotor's command and stand down so that he may confront, intimidate, and do the punthinkable to her.The Prince never has the chance to get past his second bout of dastardly laughter, however, as Keith fires a warning shot with his blaster and knees him in the face, causing him (Lotor) to fall from his branch rather ungracefully. The leader of the Voltron Force continues his swoop and sweeps the Princess off her feet...literally; he swings in on a vine and carries Allura off in a manner that would be the envy of Tarzan. Hunk and Lance follow suit with the falsetto-voiced-maids, leaving Nanny alone to face Lotor's chloroplastic wrath. Keith orders Princess Allura to go to her Blue Lion; she has thanked him and asked him to go save Nanny. He does so, carrying her from vine to vine in a manner that would be the envy of Spider-Man until one of the snapdragons snaps the one to which he is currently clinging with its lightning breath weapon!
Fortunately, Keith and Nanny land close to Allura and they flee the forest with the others. Also fortunate is that Pidge has gone to his Green Lion and is prepared to do battle in/with his own element whilst the other pilots retreat to theirs.
Despite contributing to the overall pun and games with a cry of "Timber!", Pidge finds himself swiftly overwhelmed by the Evilroots (at which point Lotor punts him with the line "A bouquet of roses for you!").
By this point, however, the other Voltron Lions have reached the fray and are ready to slash and burn. Lance does the obvious and launches his flamethrower at the fell trees, but Lotor -complete with dramatic/exaggerated gestures in his cockpit which would be the envy of Team Rocket- claims that their puny weapons cannot compete with his powerful magic; he combines the Evilroots into one giant super-beast!
Hmmm, who else around here can do that?
Nevertheless, Keith -perhaps not yet wanting to bring Voltron's full power to bear against what is essentially a colossal treant- instead elects to take this opportunity to showcase some yet-undisplayed ordnance of the individual lions. He opens with his own Black Lion's Magma Missiles, and Hunk follows up with "a good shot in the mouth" from Yellow Lion's prominent cannon, giving the Evilroots "heartburn". Pidge fires Green Lion's Macro-darts into the tree beast's evil eyes, yet the Evilroots responds by ensnaring it. Allura attempts to come to Pidge's rescue by firing off her "Blue [Lion's] Claw(s)", but even they cannot pierce the monster's tendril and it responds by whipping another around her! The Evilroots then slams the two lions together; its force causing their electricity to shock their respective pilots. Prince Lotor gloats that the team is now unable to form Voltron, and that the Princess is his!
Allura and Pidge are unable to free themselves, but Keith and Lance have a plan. Lance has the Red Lion burrow under the Evilroots' right foot while Keith has the Black hit it from the front. This fells the tree-beast, causing it to release its leonine prey. Now at last the team is ready to form Voltron!
Voltron is formed and descends in such a manner to allow it to kick the Evilroots right in the face/trunk. The monster recovers quickly, however, and while Voltron evades its tendrils our hero's legs are caught in its claws. The Evilroots repeatedly spins Voltron about its head and slams it into the ground, intermittently dousing it with a grenade-like missile filled with a huge dose of its foul sap. This missile may in fact sap in every sense of the term, for Keith alerts the team that Voltron is running low on stored energy.
This time it is Hunk who has a plan. He suggests to the Princess that she "hit fireblasters" and Allura complies; together they send gouts of flame shooting from the mouths of their respective lions and engulfing the Evilroots in its elemental weakness. As the tree-beast writhes, Voltron forms its Blazing Sword and cleaves the monster in twain.
Lotor is frustrated at another defeat, yet promises not to give up. Returning to Planet Doom and Saundra's little shop of horrors, he decapitates a particularly-nasty cobra and, telling the witch of the failure of her experiment, threatens to force her to drink the cobra's venom. Zandra suggests that he instead give the poison to Zarkon, and that he claim it to be the medicine which he sought (and perhaps found) on Arus.
In the Chamber of the Dark Altar, Lotor offers the King of Doom a very similar-looking liquid from a very similar-looking flask. However, drinking it benefits Zarkon greatly, and he energetically springs to his feet as Lotor and Haggar kneel in obeisance. King Zarkon is grateful for the potion, yet he assures his ambitious son that if it had been poison it would not have affected him -due to a spell of immunity placed on him by Haggar- and that he would rule Doom for a long time to come.
Prince Lotor: "You must rest!"
King Zarkon: "I can't conquer the universe that way!"
O dark spirits, you who rule the Netherworld!
You who control the destiny of the evil forces which are unleashed upon the universe!
If you are within this chamber,
If you hear my plea,
Look upon him with favour.
Free him from his suffering.
Reveal to me a formula for a cure of his mysterious ailment.
O great dark spirits,
You who have created the slimy snakes (Editrix's note: Snakes aren't slimy.)
And hairy spiders,
You who do the work of evil,
Show me a way; send me a sign! (Zarkon groans in agony)
Aniyostra, aniyostra, aniyAAAAA!
Aye yai yai yai (etc. as the string of beads shatters, the Witch falls and hears the dark spirits speak to her in the beads.)
- Haggar's hellish litany
Lance: Hey, we're gonna have the new school finished for the kids in no time!
Hunk: When it's finished, I'm gonna be in charge of the football team!
Pidge: Good thing you won't be in charge of the food; they'd all starve!
Now we'll try out the magic brew!
Let the trees be turned into giant monsters,
And let them protect me,
That I may gather the life-saving fruit,
And return safely to my father!
*The trees morph into Evilroots, gaining vague facial features*
It works! Now I can take anything from this planet!
- Lotor's dramatic incantation (apparently his involvement with witches is rubbing off on him)
Lotor: Hold off for a moment, plant-beasts; let me see what prizes you've collected for me in the forest!
Lotor: Ah, look at the lovely wild creatures we've cornered...and they've picked baskets of berries for me!
Allura: I order you to call off these creatures and leave this planet at once!
(Lotor hops from his dramatically-high branch to a somewhat lower branch)
Lotor: So, you're frightened by my tree-beasts! I'll simply have to ask them to turn over a new leaf. Mu hu haha hahahahaha ha ha ha!
(Editrix KatnissEverqueen literally gasps at the audacity of this pun.)
Allura: Just like your father!
Lotor: Thank you; I hope to be much worse someday! (More maniacal laughter)
Notes and Goofs
- When the Witch Zandra tells Prince Lotor the ingredients which she used to create her Evilroots "rosebeast", she quotes the Second Witch's lines (14-17) from Act IV, Scene I of Shakespeare's MacBeth word-for-word. This would not be the last time Voltron: Defender of the Universe was educational.
- For the second time in as many episodes, Haggar speaks of how a king is old and will soon be gone; this time she refers to King Zarkon.
- However, Zarkon remains a rather sprightly "old block" in the series' sequel Voltron: The Third Dimension!
- Lance's voice actor Michael Bell referred to this episode as his most-embarrassing performance on Voltron. Specifically he cited the scene in which Allura and the other women giggle together whilst gathering berries; he and the other male actors voiced all those present save for Nanny and Allura herself!
- However, he erroneously called the women with Allura "princesses", when they are in fact handmaids.
- Though Hunk escaped the forest and reached his lion with the other members of the team, at no point is he shown during the entering-and-activating-the-lions stock footage in this episode.
- This is the best episode since "Surrender" in terms of showcasing and identifying the weaponry of the individual Voltron Lions.
- In one shot, Yellow Lion is shown even though Red Lion's pilot is the one speaking.
- It is never made entirely clear whether Prince Lotor actually gave his father the proper medicine or whether King Zarkon simply had a very positive reaction to cobra venom!
- In the Golion version, Zandra has a distinctly male voice.
- In Golion, Prince Sincline grabs Zandra by the throat and actually does force him to drink the poisonous King Rade blood, causing the old wretch to fall down, clawing at his throat as he chokes to death. This was edited out of the American version, for obvious reasons.
- Golion also clears up the mystery cure: Prince Sincline DID give poison to his father, but Daibazaal didn’t die because “Father truly is the devil embodied!”