Friday nights, or Saturdays during High School football season, were movie nights at our house. More often than not, my dad would pull out his VHS box-set of the Star Trek movies and inevitably we would end up watching Star Trek IV: The Journey Home, the one with whales, or Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the one with the Hoth ripoff, I liked to say as a much more avid Star Wars fan. My dad absolutely loved Star Trek, and I remember being able to watch some of the old episodes on cable back when it was the “Sci-Fi” channel, not Syfy.
Galaxy Quest, the 1999 Sci-Fi comedy from director Dean Parisot, is essential viewing for any Star Trek fan, but especially those who would consider themselves a “Trekkie”. Heck, the movie was even voted, by Trekkies, as the seventh best Star Trek at the 2013 Star Trek Convention in Lax Vegas. It has gained a cult following and has been fully embraced by Trek fans because of its delicate balance of making fun and paying homage to the series and movies that inspired it.
Following the exploits of the crew of the NTE-3120 (the NTE stands for “Not The Enterprise”) on the fictional Sci-Fi TV Show, Galaxy Quest, the movie kicks off with the crew anxiously waiting for Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), the actor who played Captain of the ship, Commander Peter Quincey Taggart, to show up for their signing at a convention. The aged group of stars, eighteen years removed from the cancellation of the show, include Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver) as Lt. Tawny Madison, the “sex appeal” of the show, Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman) as Dr. Lazarus, a Spock spoof who hates his famous one-liner, Fred Kwan (Tony Schalhoub) as Tech Sgt. Chen, and Tommy Webber (Darryl Mitchell) as child pilot Lt. Laredo, except he is now grown-up since the show was cancelled. When they are contacted by Mathesar (Enrico Colantoni), leader of the Thermian race, a real alien species, the crew gets dragged into a real space adventure to help the Thermians avoid extinction at the hands of General Sarris (Robin Sachs), an evil alien warlord. The Thermians view the Galaxy Quest TV show as “historical documents” and the crew as intergalactic heroes, and it is up to the the actors to take on their fictional roles and assist the hapless Thermians.
What makes this movie essential viewing for Star Trek fans is all of the tips here and there to the TV Show, the movies, and all the little plot holes and inconsistencies that have made Star Trek worth debating over, going to conventions about, and generally obsessing over. It’s playing up the inconsistency when a complicated maze of pistons stands in the way of our heroes (“Whoever wrote this episode should DIE!”), or the fun trope of the “red shirt” in Sam Rockwell’s character Guy Fleegman. First of all, his name is Guy, it doesn’t get more generic than that, but he also realizes his own fate and spends the whole movie fretting over his impending doom as “Crewman Number Six”. It’s a genius touch that is only made better when it is circumvented later in the movie.
The real fun comes from the main trio of Allen, Weaver, and Rickman. Rickman is the superlative “jaded TV actor” who has been unable to find “serious work” since his days on the show. He bemoans his lot yet is incredibly bitter at Allen’s Nesmith for stealing all the good lines and action on the show. Allen, as Nesmith, loves the attention and being the captain but is depressed he has been unable to regain the success and adoration he once had as a TV star. He’s egotistical yet incredibly sad, and it is impossible to not see Shattner in his swagger and when his shirt comes off to the eye rolling of Weaver’s DeMarco. She, on the other hand, feels she only was on the show to spout stupid lines and show cleavage, but will still do it since she has no other choice as an actress. She is not going to have her dialogue cut or her scenes cutoff, and she is just as bad as Nesmith but is more self-aware and assertive outside her role on the show. All three play these characters with an uncanny likeness to their spoofed predecessors, and even give them little moments of pathos amidst the silliness.
This movie, overall, is just a comic book geek, sci-fi nerds dream movie. It even has Justin Long in his big scree debut and Rainn Wilson as one of the Thermians! The strength of the movie lies in not taking its satire too far, and the ending elements incorporating the fans of the fictional Galaxy Quest show a certain reverence for the cultural magnitude and excellence of Star Trek and other well-known Sci-Fi properties, like Star Wars. I highly recommend checking this out if you would consider yourself a fan of Star Trek or any Sci-Fi, but you certainly don’t need to be one to enjoy this movie.