Directed by Dean Parisot
Written by David Howard and Robert Gordon, based on
a story by David Howard
Starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman,
Tony Shalhoub, Daryl Mitchell and Enrico Colantoni
Rated PG, 102 minutes. (1999)
Simultaneously skewering Star Trek idolatry and providing
wish fulfillment for rabid Trekkies, Galaxy Quest is
a sloppy, amiable comedy with a few phaser-sharp laughs, especially
in its second half. For a Trekkie like myself, the idea of
thrusting the actors from a long-cancelled sci-fi series into
actual black holes to face truly slimy aliens (as opposed
to character actors buried under pounds of makeup) is irresistible.
It's such a rich comedic vein that I wish Galaxy Quest
had mined it for more laughs, but the movie is still appealing
- even if you've never donned a pair of Spock ears or waited
hours to get George Takei's autograph.
As this movie starts, the actors from the "Galaxy Quest"
TV show have been reduced to convention appearances and electronics
store openings. Trapped by geeky fans who pester them for
technical details about their missions, the actors accept
their pseudo-celebrity imprisonment with a combination of
resignation, anger, bitterness and jealousy.
Most of these negative feelings are focused on Jason Nesmith
(Tim Allen), the womanizing limelight hog who played the Kirk-like
commander. Bitterest and funniest of all is Alan Rickman as
Alexander Dane. His "Quest" role, the alien Dr.
Lazarus, requires him to wear a skullcap that makes him look
as if he's sporting a dorsal fin and purple gills. Dane is
pining for Richard III's hump and the five curtain calls he
took back when he was a "real actor" - albeit a
He's not the only one with something strange on his head:
Sigourney Weaver goes blonde to play Gwen DeMarco, who played
the requisite big-breasted bit of cheesecake on the "Galaxy
Quest" show. She's the polar opposite of the tough, capable
Ripley that Weaver embodied in the Alien movies, and
Weaver is a bit too smart to successfully play someone who
is playing dumb. Daryl Mitchell as the helmsman and Tony Shalhoub
as a chief engineer who is far from the brightest dilithium
crystal in the mine round out the cast.
Galaxy Quest really hits warp speed when these over-the-hill
thespians are recruited by a group of gullible, child-like
aliens who have mistaken their TV show for "historical
documents," i.e. the real thing. The aliens are led by
Mathesar (Enrico Colantoni, taking what must be a welcome
break from the idiot sitcom "Just Shoot Me.")
In order to battle the evil reptilian Sarris (Robin Sachs),
the "Quest" actors are forced to actually be brave,
daring, resourceful, etc. Needless to say, they've had more
experience checking their hair and calling their agents than
actually piloting a space ship or working in harmony, but
they eventually play their new/old roles surprisingly well.
Galaxy Quest gets it best laughs by playing off the
stereotypes that have become part of our shared media lore.
For example, the lead actors are accompanied on their inadvertent
adventures by Guy Fleegman (Sam Rockwell), a former bit player
who, like so many red-shirted security guards before him,
was killed off before the first commercial in the one episode
he appeared in. Fleegman is terrified not just because he's
actually being menaced by aliens but because, like the media-savvy
characters in the Scream films, he's watched enough
TV to know that the life span of a character as minor as he
is is extremely short. He's only comforted when Shalhoub says
"Maybe you're not the guy who gets killed. Maybe you're
the plucky comic relief."
Quest might have been even funnier had it come out
in the 1970s, in that dark period after the original "Star
Trek" series was cancelled. That's when the nerdy faithful
wandered in the wilderness, warily greeting each other with
the split-fingered "Live Long and Prosper" and wondering
why manual override never seemed to work.
Of course, it's easier to laugh now, after 10 Trek films
and three more TV series have vindicated the fans and turned
the once low-rated cult into a multi-billion-dollar franchise,
but a spoof like Galaxy Quest would have been fresher
then. Still, in its silliness, Quest provides a nice,
light fizz among heavier holiday fare.
(This article originally appeared in Films in Review, www.filmsinreview.com)