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August 08, 2018 at 12:00 PM EDT

The Paladins are about to learn just how cold and dark outer space is.

The last time we checked in with the heroes of Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender, they were getting ready to embark on a long journey back to Earth. When the animated series’ seventh season picks up, we’ll immediately see that the road home won’t be an easy one. For example, check out the exclusive clip from season 7 above, which shows the Paladins getting stranded in space without their lions. Alone in the vast emptiness of space, the Paladins’ unity will be tested in ways it hasn’t before.

“Now that they have this time together as they’re traveling, where they couldn’t get away from each other if they wanted to, there is time for them to kind of strengthen their bond and strengthen their team dynamics,” executive producer Lauren Montgomery tells EW. “They’re going to have to face things about themselves, about each other, and work together to get through this crazy journey.”

In fact, the lions’ disappearance in the clip is indicative of what viewers can expect from the season as a whole. In the wake of their climactic battle with Lotor at the end of season 6 — which destroyed the Castle of Lions — the lions are running low on power, and thus the Paladins are unable to form Voltron to solve every problem. (There’s another hiccup of sorts that keeps Voltron on the sidelines later in the season as well). You might think that not having the titular almighty space robot around for much of the season would be a problem, but the writers actually found it quite liberating.

“It’s freeing because as easy as it is to default to ‘Voltron fights thing and heroes win,’ you really want to sink your teeth into what the characters are going through, and that’s something we have sort of hung our hat on,” says executive producer Joaquim Dos Santos. “Even though the show is called Voltron, it’s really about these characters and their relationships and their evolutions. It’s challenging, but it’s also something that I think we were excited to lean into.”

Speaking of evolution, that’s actually the theme of the series’ penultimate season, which reaches yet another climax. “There’s a lot of character and tonal evolution in this season,” Dos Santos says. “But we’re going back to these 13-episode drops, which were our original intended delivery drops. So I think more than the previous couple seasons, this one feels a bit more natural in its delivery. There’s an overall arc that you can see through.”

The entire seventh season of Voltron: Legendary Defender will be available Friday on Netflix.

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