VAGRANT QUEEN – created by Jem Gerrard from a comic by Magdalene Visaggio – SPOILERS (not too many)
The dethroned Queen Eldaya of Arriopa (Adriyan Rae) is not exactly a vagrant. She makes a living as a scavenger (scav for short), a finder of hard-to-get things (mostly bits of used technology) by any means necessary. The first thing we see her do is fend off an attack by two other scavs (Nigel and Carl, played by Johann Vermaak and Anthony C Hyde) who have her at gunpoint but for some reason decide to gloat over her apparent helplessness instead of simply shooting her and taking what they want. Elida (that is the pseudonym she uses as a scav) seems to derive great satisfaction from killing them. El daya means “blood money” in Arabic. El ida means “unless”.
Elida/Eldaya really doesn’t want to be Queen, and seems to enjoy doing what she does, and she has two accomplices, Isaac (Tim Rozon) and Amae (Alex McGregor). Isaac is from Earth, and came to Elida’s galaxy inadvertently, leaving behind a pregnant wife in Winnipeg. (His character is a bit like CONTINUUM‘s Kiera Cameron, who was accidentally transported into the past, leaving her family in the distant future and making it nearly impossible for her to become romantically involved.) Isaac is very funny at times as he attempts to disguise his sadness. Amae is a spaceship mechanic whose home planet was destroyed by the same folks who deposed Eldaya. Her favourite expletive is “Oh, my crackers.” (If this were Star Trek, the three of them would be Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov.) The adventures of Elida, Amae, and Isaac take place in a galaxy about 3 million light years from the Milky Way. (There are several small galaxies at about that distance.)
This is a great show for cinephiles. It has a Star Wars feel to it at the start, but quickly begins to reference other films. Episode Two is titled “Yippie Ki Yay” (from DIE HARD). Episode Five is “Temple of Doom” (From the Indiana Jones film). “No Clue” (Episode 8) is one long homage to Jonathan Lynn’s 1985 CLUE movie, and there is one scene in the seventh episode that strongly brings to mind Tim Burton’s BIG FISH. With every re-watch of an episode, one uncovers more such allusions.
In the second episode, Amae meets an underemployed S82K which she describes as “a highly advanced AI pairing system”. After our three heroes survive the perils of Planet Griebos (Dutch for “flu forest”) where they had gone to refuel their ship (named The Winnipeg by Isaac, and which apparently runs on gasoline), Elida brings the mobile Artificial Intelligence onboard as a thinly disguised gift to Amae, who names it Winnibot. (The bot is voiced by Robyn Scott, who also plays Admiral Rykal and another character in Episode Eight named Agent Leslie).
Season One’s principal villain is Lazaro, played by Paul du Toit in such a way that one is never given cause to doubt his insanity. There is enough backstory to generate some sympathy for the fellow, though, and one gets the impression that he manages to accidentally do some good, even while pursuing his evil ends.
The series has a strong but lighthearted horror element. (Danishka Esterhazy, who directed the third and fourth episodes, also directed THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE, which has a similar approach to horror.) All ten episodes of the series were written and directed by women.
VAGRANT QUEEN has aliens who look convincingly alien, and the budget for that must have been large. In the Season One finale, there are indications that the second season (which really needs to happen, but hasn’t been confirmed yet) will see Elida, Amae, and Isaac travel to Earth (quite possibly Manitoba), and that will mean fewer non-human characters.
The Fangirl Zone Podcast has been covering VAGRANT QUEEN episode by episode. Below is their take on Episode One, with lots of interesting information about the cast.
Bonnie Mbuli (Xevelyn) is Jasmine Hadley in NOUGHTS + CROSSES, a six-episode series based on the first of the Noughts & Crosses novels by Malorie Blackman, The show is set in an alternate universe where the UK and Europe were colonized by Africans hundreds of years ago. Descendants of the African colonizers (The Cross) rule over the descendants of the conquered natives (The Noughts). Sephy (Masali Baduza), a privileged cross girl, and a poor nought boy named Callum (Jack Rowan) fall in love and begin a dangerous and forbidden romance. The series first aired in March on BBC One, and is currently available on BBC iPlayer. A trailer is available on YouTube.
Paul du Toit (Lazaro) will be Detective Henrich Theron in Delon Bakker’s crime drama SHAFT 6. The film is set in the South African mining town of Carletonville in 2006, and follows two police officers as they investigate the discovery of a body in an abandoned mineshaft. The miners go on strike, and Sergeant Bo Mazibuko (Vuyo Dabula) is sent to defuse the situation. Director Bakker told Kyle Zeeman of Times Live that the film derived no conscious inspiration from the 2012 Marikana massacre. “It is not about Marikana,” he explained. “Unfortunately you put miners and policemen in a story and the natural assumption is that it is about Marikana. Maybe subconsciously there are parallels but these were not intentional.” SHAFT 6 is expected to be released in South Africa early next year.