Story by David Howard
Written by David Howard and Robert Gordon
Directed by Dean Parisot
Starring: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shaloub, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, Sam Rockwell, Enrico Colantoni, Justin Long and Star Trek
Subject: Sci-fi fandom, and sci-fi television in general.
GUY: Did you guys ever watch the show?
There has only ever been one film that I have watched at the cinema and enjoyed so much that I’ve immediately bought another ticket and watched it again the same day. Galaxy Quest is that film. The premise of a washed-up sci-fi TV cast, with the help of their dedicated fans, saving an alien race who think the TV show was real is a fun parody of all things Star Trek and fandom on one hand, and a great comic sci-fi film in its own right on the other.
Galaxy Quest works for me because it manages to strike the right balance between poking fun and making fun of its source material. And yes: there is a subtle difference. One is done with love and the other with a certain amount of underhanded sniggering. For me, Galaxy Quest remains very much in the poking side of the fence and because of that it feels like an homage as well as a parody.
The main homage is, of course, to Trek and sci-fi. The structure of the crew of the Protector is the first thing: we have the Boy Wonder in pilot Loredo (Daryl Mitchell), the Risk-Taking Action Commander in Taggart (Tim Allen), the Resident Alien in Doctor Lazarus (Alan Rickman), the Chief Engineer in (Tony Shalhoub), and the Sexy Female in communications officer (Sigourney Weaver).
Weaver is wonderfully cast in a role so opposite to her famous turn as Alien’s kickass Ripley that it makes a statement all of its own. She actually gets many of the funniest lines, and delivers them beautifully. “This episode was badly written!”
All the actors do a great job of not over-playing their roles. Given the material, there might have been a danger of them hamming it up, winking at the camera, and going over the top; instead, they all play it straight.
The late Alan Rickman, for example, who camped his way through Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves so delightfully, here delivers a measured performance as slumming thespian Alexander Dane, and actually brings the audience to tears when reacting to his alien friend’s death, despite his hatred of the catch-phrase: “By Grabthar’s hammer, you will be avenged.”
Enrico Colantoni as Mathesar, the Thermian commander who enlists the crew’s help, pulls off the monotone and innocent naïveté really, really well, making the Thermians charming and engaging. Even Robin Sachs as the villain doesn’t overdo Sarris’s evil archness. Indeed, even though I’m not a particular fan of Tim Allen, I will admit, as self-aggrandizing actor Jason Nesmith, he does a brilliant job.
Equally a delight is Sam Rockwell as Guy, the “red-shirt,” who tags along and expects to get killed at any moment. One of my favorite sequences is when they go to get the beryllium sphere and Guy objects to the plan because it’s taken from the episode where his character died. Of course, Guy also gets to be the voice of the audience. He’s the one that points out the cute little alien guys are no doubt about to turn ugly and dangerous, and the one that suggests reasonably that Jason try to make a rudimentary weapon when fighting the rock monster.
There are a lot of these in-jokes about Trek and sci-fi throughout the film: from Jason losing his shirt and rolling around the floor to the obstacle course on the way to the self-destruct to the self-destruct stopping at one second – it’s all very familiar and perfectly judged.
There are also a lot of in-jokes about fandom, from the convention with the dressed-up fans to the shipper who faints when Gwen and Jason kiss to the arcane knowledge of the techies who have blueprints for the ship and theories about the mentioned-but-never-seen Omega device. Again, the film walks a fine line between poking fun at the fans and celebrating their dedication. It’s successful, in part, by elevating a group of geeks led by Brandon (Justin Long) to heroes as they help Nesmith and co. stop the self-destruct, and return safely home.
That’s not to say there’s nothing wrong with the film at all. It does take forever (as in f-o-r-e-v-e-r) to get going. The set-up with Nesmith’s realization that he’s not universally beloved, and the initial foray into space with the Thermians, drags some, and the film doesn’t really get going until all the cast are on the alien version of their TV spaceship. The CGI is also a little shaky from this distance of years. Despite this, the plot still delivers a cohesive story and the movie becomes so much more than just a parody with an endless stream of in-jokes, but a good film in its own right. One that JJ Abrams deservedly calls “one of the best Star Trek movies ever made.”
In fact, the only thing that truly disappoints me about it is that there hasn’t been a follow-up of some kind – either another movie or a TV show. Maybe I should start an online petition…or start writing Taggart/Madison fanfic. So sign me up as a Questorian and let me know when the convention is on, because I will so be there.