By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Currently available on Netflix Asia
I’m not sure which version of Cleopatra should appreciate more–the sci-fi action Cleopatra 2525 or animated Cleopatra in Space. Both involve the titular character getting thrown to the future with a despot wanting to rule the galaxy. Problem is, neither are ready to be involved in an ongoing conflict. The former is campy pulp action style fun in the style of Hercules The Legendary Adventures or Xena Warrior Princess. Jennifer Sky (who played the titular character) continued working in Hollywood after this series, but she never got that breakout role which would take her to the brightest stars.
The latter is DreamWorks adaptation of a children’s graphic novel series by Mike Maihack. The print series has terrific art and action sequences to admire. The character designs in the animation are subtly different and I’m curious as to why her side-kick Akila is made a robot than human. Perhaps the artists from Titmouse Production Studios can’t quite nail Maihack’s style. There’s a cuteness in this creator’s work and it’s not quite recreated in the animation.
At least I can admire the original works. Five volumes are available to date (with #6, Queen of the Nile due August 2020) and the series is an inspiring coming of age work. This princess is tomboy. Like Princess Aja in 3Below, both characters are dodging responsibility concerning matters of who is next to take the throne. Eventually, she will become the leader she needs to be. First, she has to learn about the value of being able to work with others and realize why she’s the Chosen One. This common storytelling trope feels overused these days, but I can go with it.
Season one makes the series just another science fiction television program. Not even the odd Ancient Egyptian influence in the vein of Stargate helps. Cats rule the Nile Galaxy and Khensu is Cleo’s guide to the future. He helps her as she goes through training. Pharaoh Yasiro’s Research And Military Initiative of Defense aka P.Y.R.A.M.I.D. is the only defense against an evil Xaius Octavian—a villain who looks like a cross of Mumm- Ra from Thundercats and Emperor Zerg of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.
Diplomacy is not her forte in “The Summit” and she really needs help if she’s to become Egypt’s last pharaoh. At least the program is like Masters of the Universe in regards to her learning in how to deal with different situations. The focus is often about how Cleo amusingly gets out of sticky situations, but in what she learns about herself as a result will no doubt pave her way to becoming the Queen she will eventually become when he returns home.