Review: Galaxy Quest

by Tom Ingram

Galaxy Quest was a little film from 1999. It got fairly good critical reception at the time, and made quite a bit of money, but since then it’s faded into obscurity. The film centres on the lead actors from a Star Trek-like TV show, going around the convention circuit years after the show has ended. The star of the show was Jason Nesmith (played by Tim Allen), who played the hotshot captain who slept with all the women and took his shirt off a lot. Nesmith slowly comes to realize that the fans think he’s delusional and his colleagues all hate him. He’s accosted by some very strange fans dressed up as aliens, who refuse to break character and offer to bring him aboard “their ship” to negotiate with the alien overlord Sarras. Nesmith thinks they’re offering him an acting job, so he comes along and does the negotiation, not realizing until he leaves that it was all real.

What follows is a charmingly affectionate satire of Star Trek and similar shows, a tale of adventure, explosions, shirtlessness, and the wholesome love between a man and a freaky alien octopus-woman. In particular, Alan Rickman is hilarious as the sneering Alec Guinness-style British actor. Tony Shalhoub plays a preternaturally calm chief engineer as a deliberate contrast to Trek‘s Scotty.

Give him a hand, he's British

The special effects are kitschy, and the acting on the show-within-a-show is terrible, but these are both on purpose. It’s when Nesmith and friends aren’t portraying their characters that they really shine. The first episode of the “revived series”, after the characters have all learned their lesson, is noticeably better.

Galaxy Quest also pokes fun at the obsessive Trek fandom. The fans know every detail about the technical workings of the fictional starship, and expect the actors to clear up any arguments. It calls to mind Wil Wheaton’s anecdote about a fan who asked him a series of obscure Trek trivia questions, and then snorted when he didn’t know the answers. Despite this, the fans are integral to the resolution of the plot. That’s the best thing about this movie–it’s a great parody, but it never feels mean-spirited. Especially for fans of long-running sci-fi shows, watching Galaxy Quest is a fun way to spend an evening.