The Film: Galaxy Quest (1999)
The Principals: Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Rockwell and Justin Long.
The Premise: Twenty years after their show was cancelled, the cast of Galaxy Quest gather at a convention for their latest attempt at holding on to their past glory… as well as cashing in their latest paycheck. A group of aliens, who have mistaken the TV show as real “historical documents”, approach the actors for their help. Once in space, the has-beens soon find themselves in the middle of an intergalactic war.
Is it Good: In every way, Galaxy Quest is a perfect riff on the Star Trek fan culture, and how wonderfully insane it can all be. Being a huge Trek fan myself, I was extremely wary when I first saw the trailer back in ’99, thinking it was going to be a righteously dumb Tim Allen vehicle that took unnecessary pot-shots at the fandom.
I was wrong: Galaxy Quest was an absolute blast, and turned out to be a surprisingly respectful play on Trek.
All of the elements that are instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with Star Trek are here. From Tim Allen’s excellently heightened portrayal of the Kirk-like character (who himself is already heightened enough), to the set and model design, and right down to the boisterous music. In a lot of ways it’s a good Star Trek movie in its own right!
The fact that it hits so many familiar points is the real reason why Galaxy Quest turned out as good as it did. Yes, Allen has the Shatnerian attitude and ego down pat, but all the other crew members are equally splendid. Rickman is fantastic as the tortured Shakespearean actor trapped behind his Spock-like character, doomed to repeat the same lines over and over again. Weaver’s character basically repeats everything the ship’s computer says, and in fact she never really discovers just what she’s supposed to do. Tony Shalhoub is the engineer, and my favorite in the movie because of how easygoing and unfazed he is about all of the extraordinary events that occur. He spends the entire film in a perpetual state of mellowness, taking everything in stride. Plus, he gets the “girl” in the end.
From Sam Rockwell’s constantly nervous portrayal as an extraneous crew member, to Justin Long’s energetic super fan, everyone in the film does a great job of supporting each other, and you can tell how much fun all involved had making it.
The silliness is very contagious, and even if you don’t like any of the incarnations of Trek so much is covered here that it should still be somewhat familiar to you. And it’s an accumulation of these touches that help make Galaxy Quest the enjoyable romp that it is.
Random Anecdotes: Director Dean Parisot would go on to work with Tony Shalhoub in his TV show Monk a few years later, as well as helming the Jim Carrey disaster Fun With Dick and Jane.