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Return to the Balmera is the seventh episode of Season One.

Synopsis

Allura, Coran, and the Paladins return to the Balmera to free the natives, but the arrival of a Galra ship could force Voltron into action.


Plot

Suffering Planet

A Delicate Plan

The Castle of Lions is nearing arrival at the Balmera to free Shay and her people. Allura is well aware of how liberating them will not be an easy task and so the team will need a solid plan. Lance suggests going in guns blazing and imitates laser fire for show. Hunk thinks the imitation is incorrect and performs his own rendition; Pidge follows suit with an alternate sound. Shiro appears to end the trivial discussion of "bad sound effects", but then immediately corrects them with a dramatic laser gun act. The Paladins disagree with him; Allura finally reins the team in to focus on their mission.

Because the Balmera is a living creature in extremely poor health, Hunk decides they cannot use laser guns freely anyway as they should avoid risking more damage to the suffering being. Coran agrees and explains that the Galra Empire has been taking the creature's Crystals, its life force, without performing any sort of rejuvenation ceremony to replace what has been lost. Hunk reiterates how this situation made him understand how evil Zarkon truly is and that the Paladins have the power to end his cruel rule. Shiro suggests they draw the Galra soldiers up to the surface and fight them there instead of the mines; Hunk believes that attacking the mining equipment on the surface will do the trick, so they can head inside the mines after defeating the troops and free the Balmerans.

Keith brings up a problem: they will not know how many Galra soldiers will remain in the mine tunnels. Allura has a solution to this and informs the new Paladins about BLIP Tech: "Biothermal Life Indicator Point Technology". By placing BLIP drones into the shafts around the Balmera, the Castleship will be able to track any Galra soldiers or Balmerans; the Paladins already have BLIP sensors built into their armor. As the Green Lion has been modified to have a cloaking device courtesy of Pidge reverse-engineering the Training Deck's invisible maze, which will allow undetected flight, the Green Paladin volunteers to drop the BLIP drones into the living planet.

Coran is able to locate the Galra Empire's main power generator on the Balmera and instructs the Paladins to destroy it to weaken the enemy's defenses. He and Allura will have to stay in cloud cover and only give tactical support because the Castle of Lions is still weakened from Sendak's Galra Crystal. Otherwise, the Castleship will not be much help. Shiro decides to take up the task of destroying the power generator and asks the three remaining Paladins to attack the mining rigs.

Fire and Ice

The Paladins begin preparing for launch. Lance wonders if the Balmerans will hold a victory parade for them once they are freed. Keith reminds him that their mission is not about glory, but freeing prisoners from Zarkon. Lance claims he understand, but his victory musings are cut short when the Blue Lion takes flight with the rest of the Lions. As they descend, Galra structures begin firing an intense assault of lasers. Shiro commands everyone to focus and keep in mind they cannot harm the Balmera. Pidge splits from the group to cloak the Green Lion and begin dropping BLIP drones into the mines. Lance takes out several Galra laser cannons with pin-point accuracy from the Blue Lion's tail cannon. Hunk uses the powerful Yellow Lion to physically smash more Galra weaponry to pieces.

Shiro is left wondering how he can destroy the power generator; the Black Lion suddenly indicates its jaw blade on the display of the cockpit, and Shiro immediately understands. The Black Paladin summons the blade to the jaws of the Black Lion and flies along the arcs powering the generator, slicing each one until the structure explodes. Meanwhile, Pidge finishes deploying BLIP drones across the Balmera, enabling the Castle of Lions to have a map of all lifeforms inhabiting it.

The Paladins cannot rest at ease yet because the power generator's massive laser cannon is still functioning and attacking the Red Lion. Keith is able to dodge the blasts until suddenly, the Red Lion activates a heat ray from its mouth and melts through the cannon's tower entirely. Keith is excited by his Lion's new ability; Lance is jealous. There is little reason for either emotion because Keith has made a mistake: the weakened tower begins falling towards the Balmera's surface, threatening it harm. Hunk is quick to try holding the fallen cannon up using the Yellow Lion. As he struggles, Lance flies into action at the prodding of the Blue Lion, using its freeze ray to coat the fallen tower in ice and prevent its collapse. Lance gloats about his new power, thinking its "coolness" suits him.

Shiro praises the team on their work but the Balmera remains silent after the battle's end. No troops from the Galra Empire are in sight. Allura tells the Paladins that a hangar full of Galra fighter jets sits just below the surface and they should be stopped before they can launch. Shiro suspects the enemy is trying to lure them in but decides they have no choice. He instructs Keith and Lance to deal with the fighter jets while Hunk travels to the prison to free Shay and any other captured Balmerans. Pidge will assist Shiro in locating the other Galra soldiers. The team splits up for their assigned tasks.

A Trap

At Zarkon's Central Command System, Thace informs Prorok that the Voltron Lions have indeed appeared on the Balmera exactly as their "informants" had predicated. Prorok is pleased by the news and Thace wonders if they should inform Zarkon. The commander instructs Thace to contact Subcommander Ylvik, whose fleets are waiting for the signal to attack, while Prorok himself will inform Zarkon of the news.

Underground

The Hangar

The Paladins each leave their Lion at the bottom of mine shafts and navigate the tunnels using their speeder; to protect itself, the Black Lion activates its force field. Meanwhile, Keith and Lance scope out the Galra hangar. Keith notices how it is only being guarded by a few robot Sentries, leading him to nearly rush in for the attack. Lance is just as quick to remind him that the Balmera is already heavily injured, so they cannot risk more damage. The Blue Paladin suggests sneaking into the control room and trapping the fighter jets inside the hangar by closing the bay doors instead. Keith is ready to argue on instinct, but is surprised by Lance's tactical insight and admits that is a better plan.

Hunk is on his way towards the prison inside the mines using his speeder, but is unable to remember where it is because of how similar all the mine tunnels look. Coran is tracking everyone's location using BLIP Tech and directs him on the right path, but warns the Yellow Paladin that the prison appears heavily guarded, as evident by all the Galra indicators on the Castleship's map.

Lance and Keith are doing their best to cooperate, albeit with a little arguing; Keith uses his Bayard katar to slice a hole in the ceiling directly above a Sentry standing at the computer console of the hangar's control room. Lance then kicks the hole in, crushing the Sentry under the slab of the metal ceiling's weight, and begins tinkering with the console as Keith watches for any guards. The Blue Paladin is unable to make sense of "Galra gibberish" so Keith tries something: placing his hand on the computer console's hand print, which surprisingly activates the bay doors, perplexing them both.

The Tunnels

After reaching the prison, Hunk is assaulted with laser fire from Galra Sentries - although most appear to be fleeing. The Yellow Paladin leaves the safety of his speeder to blast the enemy with his Bayard cannon; Hunk is highly suspicious of how the fight ends so easily, but continues on. He uses a broken Sentry hand to unlock the prison doors and witnesses more Sentries fleeing, and also finds Shay's family happy to greet him. However, Shay herself is missing. Rax, the only one angered by Hunk's return, explains that the Galra took Shay to the core of the Balmera as soon as the Paladins began their attack, and they have no idea if she still lives.

Allura notices the odd movement of the Galra troops heading to the center of the tunnels. Hunk suspects they are gathering at the Balmera's core where Shay is being held; Shiro agrees that it is likely an ambush, but one they have no choice to face if they plan to save her. He instructs everyone to be prepared to fight and move to the core of the Balmera. As they leave to meet the other Paladins, Keith and Lance destroy the computer console of the hangar and damage the lock on the control room's door with their Bayards so no one can allow the fighter jets to launch.

Deep in the tunnels, Pidge is on her way to the Balmera's core in her speeder but reaches a tunnel too small for the speeder to access. Proceeding through on foot, Pidge comes across Balmeran children she nearly attacks after mistaking them for Galra troops. The fragile living planet suddenly begins to cry in pain and rumble, causing the tunnel ceiling to collapse; Pidge proves she is no enemy: the Green Paladin fearlessly saves a fallen Balmeran child from being crushed by the massive rocks. Pidge relays to the team how unstable the Balmera has become just in time: Lance and Keith have run into a squadron of Galra Sentries bombarding them with laser fire and harming the creature further.

The two Paladins hide behind mining structures to avoid being hit and Keith is adamant they stop the Sentries quickly; Lance knows that shooting back will only make the situation worse. As the Balmera groans in pain from the laser blasts, the Blue Paladin looks around and devises a plan. He tries motioning it to Keith instead of speaking. The Red Paladin cannot grasp Lance's directions, but also takes in their surroundings and understands how they can win without doing more harm. Keith climbs a nearby ladder to sneak above the Sentries as Lance dances in front of them to draw their attention. They take the bait, firing lasers at him as he defends himself with his shield. With the Sentries distracted, Keith easily overtakes them using his Bayard katar. Lance gives his fellow Paladin a thumbs-up for teamwork well done.

Caught

Hunk has rushed to the core of the Balmera and releases a battle cry as he enters, prepared to fight for his life to save Shay. However, no one but the Balmeran girl is inside. It is no ambush. Shay has been left hanging from the ceiling as bait; when the other Paladins arrive, all the doors to the Balmera's core seal shut, trapping them inside. After being freed, Shay explains that the Galra knew the Paladins were coming to rescue her, but does not know where they got that information from. Hunk suspects it could only be Rolo and his crew who tipped the enemy off.

Lance tries asking Allura to come save them, wondering if the Alteans have teleporters on board, but the princess and her advisor are equally trapped under heavy fire by massive squadrons of Galra fighter jets and unable to retaliate with their weakened ship. By every passing moment, their particle barrier threatens to collapse and leave them defenseless. Allura demands her Paladins return to their Lions as soon as possible. Lance falls into a depressed state, lamenting how he will soon die and not get a victory parade after all. His team is unimpressed.

Shay suggests that the other Balmerans can free them. By placing her hand on the Balmera's core, the petrified beast can sense her vibrations and send a message to the other Balmerans in the tunnels. Keith is skeptical, but the Balmera groans transmits her message to her brother Rax and their family. Upon learning his sister still lives and the Paladins are trapped with her, Rax admits the guilt he feels for conspiring against his sister, Hunk, and Coran early on, believing the entire mess is his own fault. He begins insisting to his family that they must take action to be free; his father is hesitant to rise against the Galra Empire. Rax claims that the Empire thinks their lives are worthless now that the Balmera has been stripped of all its Crystals. His father still hesitates, as Balmerans as a peaceful people have never fought. Rax is adamant to fight, and reminds him how his father always believed that without family, they have nothing. Therefore, they have no reason to remain passive while Shay is taken captive and the Paladins have sacrificed all they have to save their people.

To the Skies

Glory and Power

As the plan is proceeding smoothly, Prorok kneels before Zarkon in the throne room of the emperor's Command Ship and informs him of the good news: the Paladins are trapped on the Balmera, and soon the Lions will be captured and the Castle of Lions destroyed. Unexpectedly, the emperor is angered that his commander would undertake such plans without informing him beforehand. Prorok is slightly shaken by this development and tries to paint his actions as taking an opportunity for the glory of the Galra Empire. Zarkon is not swayed, suspecting the Galran only sought glory for himself, and he warns his commander about the massive power Voltron wields - something he knows Prorok has zero understanding of.

Desperation

As the Castle of Lions continues to sustain heavy fire from the fleet of fighter jets, saved only by the dwindling power of the Castleship's particle barrier, a few of the fighters split off from the group. Coran tracks their movements and realizes they intend to steal the Voltron Lions left unguarded on the Balmera. Allura tries warning the Paladins of the plot and urges them to escape immediately. The Castleship's alarms suddenly blare, indicating something has locked on to the desperate Alteans. The situation could not have become more dire—Allura is frozen in fear at the sight of the massive Galra warship that appears out of the abyss of space, dwarfing her Castle with its size.

The princess informs the Paladins about the impending threat: if the warship fires its ion cannon, the Castle of Lions will likely not survive. Lance is the one to receive her transmission and seems oblivious to the seriousness of her voice as he rambles at length about Shay's attempts to contact her fellow Balmerans that he does not quite understand the mechanics of. Shiro questions if Shay's message is really being sent. Unbeknownst to him, Shay's family has gathered on the other side of a doorway to the Balmera's core. As they place their hands upon it, the Balmera reacts by crushing the doorway open. Shay is surprised but happy to see her family, including Rax, has come to rescue them. Rax intends to show the Paladins a shortcut to the surface, and Shiro lets Allura know they will soon assist her.

Victory

The Galra fighter jets are using tracer beams to raise the Lions from the mining shafts of the Balmera. Shiro arrives just in time in his speeder to witness the Black Lion being taken. All is not lost, as the Black Paladin launches his speeder at the Lion and its force field opens a small hole for him to slip through underneath, allowing his speeder to re-enter the Black Lion and Shiro to take control. He frees the precious machine from the Galra Empire's grasp and wonders if the other Paladins were just as lucky. None of them have failed to regain their Lions and Lance gloats that they are not amateurs - right before his distraction causes the Blue Lion to fly into a mining structure.

The Paladins take flight towards the massive fleet of Galra fighter jets and engage in fierce battle with them using mouth cannons, the Black Lion's jaw blade, and the freeze ray and heat ray of the Blue Lion and Red Lion. Hunk prefers to use the sturdy body of the Yellow Lion to physically smash his way through the fighter jets but his slow pace leaves him vulnerable to attack from above. Pidge is quick to read the threat and uses the shield of the Green Lion to defend Hunk from laser fire as Shiro destroys the remaining fighter jets with the jaw blade of the Black Lion. Hunk is grateful for his team's assistance.

They have little reason to be at ease: the Galra warship is charging its ion cannon, and all Coran and Allura can do is focus the entirety of the Castle of Lions' particle barrier to the bow of the ship to meet the destructive blast. In a panic, with the Castleship struggling to survive, Allura calls for the Paladins' aid. The Paladins form Voltron immediately and slam into the hull of the Galra warship to divert its cannon from the Castle of Lions. Coran sees their chance, and Allura orders all power from defense to offense. The Castle of Lions blasts the Galra fleet with its own cannon, a bright white light that blazes across the sky of the Balmera and witnessed by Shay and Rax.

With the warship tilted and its hull exposed, the blaster of the Castleship runs it through and decimates the Galra warship in single strike, and all surrounding fighter jets are caught in the resulting explosion that covers the skies. The Paladins celebrate their victory, Lance believing he will finally get his parade of glory.

Unending Threat

At Zarkon's Central Command, in the throne room of his Command Ship, Zarkon's eyes narrow when a soldier relays the news of the Galra's defeat at the Balmera. Prorok is panicked by this development and claims he will do everything he can to capture Voltron for the Empire. Zarkon silences him, merely stating that he has plans that Prorok cannot possibly comprehend.

On the Balmera, the Paladins land Voltron carefully on the creature's surface as the Castle of Lions slowly descends above them. Keith declares the mission accomplished and Allura agrees that they succeeded just in time. The Castleship's defenses are severely depleted and need to recharge. Unfortunately, the mess they had found themselves in was simply the calm before the storm. Alarms blare, indicating that a massive Galra spacecraft is about to impact the Balmera just as one did on Arus. The dying planet must helplessly suffer the blow from the spacecraft holding another of Haggar's vile Robeasts. The Paladins stand Voltron at the ready before the new surprise, not knowing what is inside, but Shiro decides it can only be one thing: trouble.

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