Space May Days: No Royal Treatment

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Lance The (OMG!) Obscure Movie Guy

It is Sci-Fi month here at The Mustache and The Beard, and I couldn’t be more excited. I was stoked when the Mustache asked me for a blog post for this month because I knew immediately what I wanted to tell the world about. A little lonely show that was dead before it ever even aired. A show that was never given a fair shot to try and stand on its own two feet. In the Land of Obscurity, it stands out for me, Lance The OMG!

The show was kind of a throwback to old school sci-fi shows from the 50’s and 60’s, but with a modern-day attitude. Imagine taking Princess Leia and Han Solo mixing them with The Fifth Element and add a dash of Star Trek. On paper it sounds
amazing. The show I’m referring to is Vagrant Queen.

Vagrant Queen premiered on the SyFy channel on March 27th, 2020. It ran for 10 episodes before it was promptly canceled on June 26th of that same year. The show was co-produced by Blue Ice Pictures and was based on the Vault Comic book series of the same name, written by Magdalene Visaggio and illustrated by Jason Smith.

The show starred Adriyan Rae (Chicago Fire, The Game) as Elida, an alien Queen on the run from her home planet after seeing revolutionaries kill her family. Tim Rozon (Wynonna Earp, Schitt’s Creek) is Isaac who is the only “human” on the show, is lost in space during a space mission gone wrong, he’s trying to get back home to his wife and newborn son.

Alex Mcgregor (Blood Drive, Cape Town) played Amae Rali who would end up being Elida’s love interest. And finally, Paul du Toit (Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell) as Commander Ori Lazaro who was commissioned with bringing Elida home but ultimately sought the Throne for himself.

Though the show only lasted 10 episodes it left a standing impression with not just me, but its small, very passionate group of fans. SyFy claimed a lack of viewership and low ratings were the reasons for canceling the show. But I think ultimately it was bad scheduling and poor time slots.

The show was announced on May 17th of 2019. They also announced Tim Rozon, Adriyan Rae and Paul du Toit as main cast members at the same time. In July 2019,
principal photography started filming in South Africa. On Sept 23rd, 2019, SyFy released a teaser trailer for the show. However, as stated earlier, the show didn’t air until March 27th of 2020. Nearly 7 months after its trailer first aired. That probably didn’t do much to help the promotion of the show.

And then there was the time slot issue…

Vagrant Queen premiered on a Friday night at 10:00pm which on the big 3 networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) is a dead time slot. It’s where they put shows to die and run out their season before being canceled. Now, I will give SyFy some grace in this regard, because sci-fi as it is, is a vast, but niche market. So, I do believe given some consistency the show could have garnered an audience.

However, the episode that was set to air on April 17th of that year was moved to Thursday April 23rd at 11:00pm and it is there, where the show would finish out its run, thus sealing the fate of the show. If Fridays at 10 are a dead time slot, then Thursdays at 11 was certainly the nail in the coffin. No surprise then on June 26th SyFy officially announced it would not be getting a second season. And even though we only got 10 episodes it is worth the watch for a lot of reasons.

The thing I loved the most about the show was the practical special effects. While the show did use a lot of CGI for long shots of spaceships and planets, everything else was built with practical special effects. Sets were built in conjunction with some green room shooting.

Make-up artists brought creatures and humanoid aliens to life via prosthetics. Puppeteers would bring larger creatures to life for some closeups to give the show a sense of realism. The costumes and outfits were made of actual material. Not a motion capture suit, a la Iron Man. And everything looked really good.

The lighting for the show was entrenched in neon and black lighting, and the soundtrack for the show was a mix of current and retro synth-wave music that was a throwback to 80’s futuristic shows (Knight Rider, Airwolf) but made it sound and feel like something we’ve never heard before.

They had what could only be referred to as a mannequin challenge scene every episode. To explain: this is a freeze frame, if you will, of an action sequence in which the camera pans around the ongoing action while everyone is in a form of suspended animation, a nod to the show’s origins of being a comic book. It was as if they were bringing a page out of the comic book to life.

Then there was the chemistry on set between the actors. Tim Rozen was the most famous and seasoned actor of the main cast. But he never showed any type of superiority over the other actors and characters. His character, Isaac, was a con artist/smuggler who never could find the right group of people to fit in with because he was the only human on the show. Presumably the only one in the galaxy.

Isaac often had you thinking one thing when in fact he was doing something completely different. He was a bit of an anti-hero. Always trying to do the right thing… but in the wrong way. Adriyan Rae as Elida was a pleasant surprise.

Ardiyan doesn’t have a lot of acting credits to her name and hasn’t been doing it very long, but she came off as a true professional and veteran of the art. Elida was a bit guarded and trusted no one. Making her money as a treasure hunter and never having to stay in the same place for very long, she befriends Isaac, almost unwillingly as he tries to con her out of a ship.

Alex McGregor was another surprise. Again, she too doesn’t have many acting credits to her name and was a bit of an unknown. She was cast months after Tim and Adriyan were, and after principal photography had already started. But the lack of time she had to prepare never came across on screen.

Alex would play Amae who would become the ship’s mechanic and Elida’s love interest. She played the part perfectly. Strong willed as a mechanic and an independent “woman”, she played the part with an innocence and naivety when it came to her feelings for Elida.

Finally, Paul du Toit as Commander Ori Lazaro who would go on to become Grand Supreme Leader of Elida’s home planet. Paul played the character with just the right amount of intensity and enthusiasm to keep the character on the edge without going over the top. Just the right amount of seriousness with a splash of comedic styling that showed the character took himself more seriously than the other characters did.

All in all, it’s one of those shows that have an underlying charm that will allow it to live on as a cult favorite. Much like Firefly or The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., it was a show that was never given a chance to survive but left a big impression in the short time that it was here.

Sadly, the SyFy channel seems to be struggling the last couple of years as they have killed off a lot of good shows: Wynonna Earp, Vagrant Queen, and Krypton just to name a few. Hopefully it’s not a foreshadowing of things to come.

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