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First impression: ‘Vagrant Queen’ is corny . . . and that’s alright

First impression: ‘Vagrant Queen’ is corny . . . and that’s alright

First impression: ‘Vagrant Queen’ is corny . . . and that’s alright
April 07
14:30 2020

“The revolution destroyed everything. And guess what? I got over it!”

Years after fleeing a revolution in her kingdom, heiress Elida (Adriyan Rae) survived as a scavenger, taking odd jobs and relying on her finely-honed pragmatism to survive. After completing a job with little payoff, Elida encounters a former comrade of hers, Isaac (Tim Rozon), with information about the mother she thought was dead. Escaping a hostile invasion of a space station,  Elida sets out toward her former home with Isaac and engineer Amae (Alex McGregor) on Isaac’s ship, the Winnipeg, to go looking for answers . . .

“Vagrant Queen” is the newest spacefaring show from Syfy, based on the comic of the same name written by Magdalene Vissagio and illustrated by Jason Smith. Cards on the table, I’ve been following the production of this series for a while, as I’m a pretty big fan of Mags Vissagio. The “Vagrant Queen” comic is not one I read, but I still got pretty hyped to see just one of her comics get an adaptation.

So, what’s the first impression of this one?

Kind of rough . . . but I liked it.

First things first, this show knows what it is and what it wants to be — a fun and colorful space opera that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Of course, what will almost make sure a show sticks around for the long run are the characters and cast, and I think I’ll like these guys. Adriyan Rae does carry the show as ex-royalty bounty hunter Elida, with the “devil may care” attitude one gets when they’re living from bloody paycheck to bloody paycheck. She’s also clearly not as tough as she looks, getting exasperated and irritated over not being able to come up with a snarky one-liner, and she survives on cold pragmatism over open violence when she can.

Tim Rozon is also entertaining as Isaac, another snarky, if more hopeful and clumsy, kind of mercenary who is basically her sidekick. He’s an idiot and I loved him. McGregor is decent as Amae, a socially awkward engineer, with some good makeup and prosthetics (though it’s hard to see some of it due to the lighting).

As for the sets, they look pretty good, being set in a grungy, run-down looking facsimile of Knowhere from “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The show, as well as the comic, clearly has a “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Star Wars” thing going on, but not to the point of ripping them off. It’s transparently trying to do something different and interesting with these elements and not just rehash them.

The colors this show chose are also a treat, being mostly shades of neon purple, blues and greens. It’s an odd mix and the lighting can be kind of harsh, but they’re still pleasing to the eye and indicative of how little seriously the show takes itself. The CGI is also not too intrusive, aside from establishing shots and lasers, with the show relying mostly on practical effects like rubber prosthetics and makeup to create its aliens. As someone who finds rubber aliens oddly charming, it’s definitely a big plus.

As for criticism, there’s some. I know it’s a given with most pilots, but some elements need ironing out — the action, the comedy and the antagonist. For one, the action is shot inside what’s clearly a factory, which I get is common in these kinds of productions and I didn’t really mind it, but I hope it’s not a common location for the show. I don’t think anyone wants “Space Mutiny” flashbacks. As for the comedy, again I chuckled, but the show goes for punchlines a bit too much and it is again feeling try-everything-see-what-sticks.

Then there’s the villain, Commander Lazaro, played by Paul du Toit. He looks like a space Nazi, has an appetite for playful sadism and carries a weird-looking laser razor. You can guess what kind of villain he is — soft-spoken, carries a big stick and a bit flamboyant. Which fits the show, don’t get me wrong, but I think he’s just meh so far. However, this is only the first episode, and it looks like he has nine more to prove me wrong.

As this is an impression of the very first episode and not the whole series, I feel giving it a rating doesn’t work here. In summary, “Vagrant Queen” may not be some new potential epic like “The Expanse” or “Battlestar Galactica,” but it wants to be a fun cornball of a show closer to Syfy’s previous “Killjoys.” I’ve honestly missed sci-fi like this. Aside from “Doctor Who,” it feels like there’s been a shortage of these cheesy space operas for a good while.

Overall, I’m confident I’ll be following the rest of “Vagrant Queen’s” first season to its conclusion, and I recommend curious viewers give it a spin as well.

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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