Galaxy Quest (1999)

Untitled-1Galaxy Quest is about a bunch of has-been sci-fi TV actors who find themselves meddled up in the real life drama of an alien race. But there’s a catch: The aliens don’t know they are actors. They think that they are real astronauts, going on real adventures in a real spaceship. This might seem like a silly concept, but when the leader of the acting troupe, Jason Nesmith, explains to the leader of the aliens, Mathesar, that they are in fact actors, the sudden realisation and disappointment on Mathesar’s face is a powerful reminder that there are really people like him here on Earth, who swear blind that shows like Star Trek are real.

Galaxy Quest, after all, is a spoof of Star Trek, and it makes no effort to conceal this. It attacks the fans, conventions, stereotypes, acting abilities, special effects, and everything Star Trek related, but it does so in such a way that it might be paying homage, instead of just being critical. In one of the movie’s many funny scenes, Sigourney Weaver and Tim Allen run through the bowels of their starship while a nerdy boy guides them via an interstellar vox (a kind of space age walkie talkie). They come across a chamber of senseless chomping and stomping machines that requires some sort of special timing to cross. When the Weaver character starts freaking out, the Allen character tells her that the chomping things are there because they were in the show. After they clear the chamber, Weaver shouts “Whoever wrote this episode should die!”. Of course, when the episode was written, everyone thought it was a cool idea.

The plot involves the group of actors helping the aliens defeat their long time enemy and bully, an alien general called Sarris, sneakily named after the movie critic, Andrew Sarris. But the plot is not important. Good versus bad. Good wins. It always does. Why Galaxy Quest is such a successful movie is because it spoofs Star Trek incredibly effectively, with a lot of charm, intelligence, and wit. It isn’t just the name of the movie, but also of the TV series that the actors belong to (it is essentially just a synonym for “star trek”). It opens with a clip from the series that could very well have been stolen from the first season of Trek, with William Shatner. The acting is atrocious, the effects are laughable, and Commander Taggart (Jason Nesmith, played by Allen) orders the activation of a device known as the Omega 13, without really knowing what it is or what it does. Shatner and the entire Trek cast didn’t know what they were doing most of the time either.

The movie is funny, of course. In fact, it’s very funny. The cast does a splendid job of knowing what their roles are on their TV show, as well as on the bridge of the real spaceship. Laredo (Daryl Mitchell), for example, knows how to pilot the ship because he pilots it on the show. And Tawny Madison is the only crew member who can communicate with the ship’s computer. It’s a useless job, but it’s the only one she’s got. They work well together and produce some really funny moments that tend to be funnier if you’ve seen a few episodes of Star Trek. They are all in on the joke, and whether their characters are meant to be serious or not, they come off looking rather pleased with their mayhem.

To get involved with a franchise like Star Trek means having to sacrifice a lot of your time and energy in order to work and pay for merchandise, attend conventions, collect memorabilia, watch the episodes, etc. It isn’t an easy life, but the Trekkies love it. It has become their life. The actors in Galaxy Quest are fast becoming sick of it. They don’t want to be signing autographs at conventions anymore, nor do they want to be promoting grand openings of electronics stores. Their acting career is over, and that’s the only reason they decide to visit the aliens. Maybe Shatner and Nimoy should work together and head out into space for one last adventure too. Mathesar would be pleased to meet them.

Best Moment | There are way too many moments. Nesmith tumbling and somersaulting around boulders; the chompy thing; Guy smiling at the camera in the last scene. You name it, and it’s funny.

Worst Moment | Nope.

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