Starring: Adriyan Rae, Tim Rozon, Alex McGregor, Paul du Toit
Genre: Space Opera, Comedy
First Aired: 2020
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A renegade royal in hiding, a brilliant mechanic, and a charming rogue team up to fight an evil space empire. On the face of it, there’s nothing original about that premise. The scoundrels on a spaceship story has been done dozens of time, from TV shows like Firefly, Dark Matter and Killjoys, to books like Dark Run and Embers of War. Vagrant Queen slots neatly into that style without any announcement, so that was enough for me to check it out even if by the time I did, it had been axed after a single season.
Oh, but what a season it is!
Vagrant Queen is clearly intended to fill the gap left by Killjoys. It’s fun space opera that’s female-led and incredibly diverse, and the opening episode ladles in heavy doses of humour. Right from the start, the limited budget shows. Spacecraft are pastel-bright and boldly rendered, the sets are often just regular buildings (at one point I’m pretty sure they visit a paintballing range), but while this would sink a show that tried to take itself too seriously,Vagrant Queenleans into it’s limitations, creating a programme that’s far more entertaining than it has any right to be. The first episode is so-so, and I could understand viewers who bailed then and there. But if you stick around for episode two, you get one of the best scenes in the whole show. Captured by cannibals, the heroes are forced to battle a rabbit-faced alien to the death. But this is no gladiatorial combat. This is something far worse. Karaoke. And it was as a six-foot bunny belted out Starship’s ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ that I realised I was in love with this show.
In an age where prestige TV is often confused with dark, gritty, nastiness, Vagrant Queen isn’t afraid to be fun. It’s a bright, weird spot in a genre that’s littered with shows that took themselves far too seriously. And look, I love The Expanse, Battlestar Galactica, and the like, but I enjoyed Vagrant Queen so much more. It’s colourful, it’s hilarious, and it has so much heart. Where else could you get a train robbery one episode, and a parody of Cluedo the next? There are heartfelt moments in there too, but what I will take away from watching this bizarre little show is the overwhelming joy it brought me.
Vagrant Queen is based on a comic, which I haven’t read, but I can’t imagine any other cast taking on these roles. Adriyan Rae is the closest thing the show has to a straight man, the Queen of the title now living as a scavenger, and she does most of the emotional heavy lifting, all while searching for (and hilariously failing to pull-off) the Galaxy’s best one-liners. Alex McGregor brings an earnestness as mechanic Amae, proving that a character doesn’t have to be edgy to be interesting. Not a single thing about her is anything other than wholesome, and if anyone embodies the spirit of the show, it’s Amae. Rounding out the heroes is SyFy regular Tim Rozon, who’s deadpan delivery of lines like ‘I should have stopped drinking a few murders ago’ is spot on as a modern-day Buck Rogers, the only human in the Galaxy who just want to go home. providing a dramatic foil to these three if Paul du Toit, who channels an even campier version of Kerr Avon as the sadistic face of the Admiralty.
This is one of those shows that only comes along once every few years, and I think in a decade it will have a cult following to rival Firefly. Even if it didn’t reach the audience it deserved, Vagrant Queen is proof that you don’t have to be dark to be good TV, and it’s nothing short of an outrage that it has ended so soon.