“A Royal A*s-Kicking” is low-budget and derivative, but the show’s laidback tone and energy to help see it through
This recap of Vagrant Queen Season 1, Episode 1, “A Royal A*s-Kicking”, contains spoilers.
Making for a nice Friday night fixture, SyFy’s new comedy-action adventure Vagrant Queen fills a very particular laidback sci-fi niche that’s currently missing from network television. It isn’t a bleak socio-political satire like HBO’s Avenue 5 or a spin-off from an established franchise like Star Trek: Picard, though its similarities to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and, in large part, Star Wars are difficult to avoid. But this is bloodier and more foul-mouthed than both those shows, working from source material – the Vault comic book series written by Magdalene Visaggio and illustrated by Jason Smith – that isn’t particularly well known and is just enough of its own thing to not feel like a total knock-off.
The titular vagrant queen, as we learn in “A Royal A*s-Kicking”, is Elida (Adriyan Rae), or Eldaya, the rightful queen of Arriopa who has been usurped by a ruthless Republic and now exists on the run, scraping a living as a no-nonsense gun-slinging space scavenger peddling scraps and artifacts and practicing cool one-liners. The opening scene of Vagrant Queen Episode 1 makes it clear that Elida is a capable fighter and isn’t above lopping off arms or putting bullets in alien heads, and also that the show’s budget was presumably scrabbled together by the production crew turning out their pockets – a lot of it looks really, really awful.
Luckily it’s awful-looking in a charming rubber-suit way, and the knockabout tone and comedic focus remind us constantly that we’re not supposed to be taking this too seriously. Even villains, like the creepily ridiculous Commander Lazaro (Paul du Toit), seem to be in on the joke; his threats and relationship with his henchmen tend to be played for laughs, and his sadism isn’t lingered over. Most of the focus of this opener is on Elida anyway, and especially her love-hate relationship with Isaac (Tim Rozon, channeling Jay R. Ferguson’s character in Briarpatch) and their teaming up with mechanic Amae (Alex McGregor) for a getaway and, one presumes, many adventures to follow.
The light banter between the characters is the engine powering Vagrant Queen, much more than any attempts at building a new or interesting world. Snarky arguments punctuated with the occasional bout of bloody action seems to be the way of things, the show obviously reveling in its lack of responsibility to a broader brand, franchise, or continuity. It’s daft and low-budget genre fare best enjoyed with low expectations, but if you meet it halfway there’s plenty here to enjoy.
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