Comic-book adaptation combines cheese and sass
Series a blend of Star Wars tropes with echoes of '90s fantasy TV shows
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/03/2020 (1036 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The new SyFy TV series Vagrant Queen is an oddball hybrid worthy of a mutant monster: half space opera, half lark.
Adapted from a 2018 Vault Comics publication by Magdalene Visaggio, it follows the space adventures of Elida (Adriyan Rae), a tough-but-gorgeous scavenger who flies all over the galaxy in her junk-heap of a spacecraft with the unlikely name: the Winnipeg.
That’s her cover story, anyway. In reality, she is an exiled queen, intent on keeping a low profile since she is the target of the ruthless Comm. Lazaro (Paul du Toit), a glibly brutal representative of The Republic, the fascistic galactic government intent on eliminating Elida’s bloodline.
With her ship suffering a few mechanical failures, Elida heads to a grimy industrialized planet, where she enlists the help of plucky female mechanic Amae (Alex McGregor) to help fix her ship, even as she is confronted by her former scavenging partner Isaac (Tim Rozon of Schitt’s Creek), once the owner of the Winnipeg, named after his hometown.
When Lazaro and his men land on the planet looking for Elida, she, Isaac and Amae escape off the planet and head for a safe space, sought by both Lazaro and some of the queen’s loyal followers, who are intent on bringing Elida back into the royal fold.
From its first episode, it is apparent the show is very much influenced by the Star Wars universe. (While she toils in Rey’s profession, Elida combines characteristics of Han and Leia; disposition-wise, she would have been a more likely offspring of that couple than Kylo Ren.)
Esthetically, it is more reminiscent of a Star Wars rip-off, with the candy-coloured palate of Starcrash and the cheapo production ingenuity of Battle Beyond the Stars.
In fact, the show is probably more beholden in its inspiration to ‘90s fantasy television shows, especially Xena: Warrior Princess, but really any show that embraced cheesy production values and generously let the audiences in on the joke. (Where Xena was shot in New Zealand, Vagrant Queen was shot in Cape Town, South Africa.)
The downside to all the cheapness is in the dialogue, which far too often sees characters react to unforeseen events with an arched eyebrow and a tart: “Really?”
For all that, the show is very contemporary in its sensibility. There are more sexual sparks flying between Elida and Amae than there are in the more obvious pairing of Elida and Isaac. Communication devices have a tendency to act like smartphones. The set-up for a death match in the first episode resolves in the most unexpected competition imaginable.
The show boasts an all-female contingent of directors, including Winnipeg’s own Danishka Esterhazy. It is anchored by creator Jem Garrard, who establishes a redeeming lightness of tone that hews to the wisdom of Cyndi Lauper: Girls just wanna have fun.
Just now, that’s just what we need.
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.