Lowdown: Members of a Star Trek replica TV show are called to save a real alien race involved in intergalactic war.
Given the genre and the talent involved in Galaxy Quest, I’m more than a bit surprised at how this 1999 film managed to slip under my radar. I stumbled upon it a few years later on TV and watched it several times since; suffice to say I truly love this Star Trek parody, perhaps even more than the original.
Our story starts at a fans’ convention, where the aging stars of an old TV show that’s more than incredibly similar to Star Trek are gathered before their admirers. Only that they’re sick of doing the same tricks for a living and they don’t get along well anymore. In particular, no one likes Jason (Tim Allen), the old series’ starship captain and an obvious William Shatner spoof, who behaves as if he really is the commander in chief.
Things change when some mysterious fans contact our ex TV heroes with an assignment that turns out real: their alien race is at war with a particularly nasty and violent insect like race, and having received the “historical documents” that are the old TV series’ episodes they’re here to recruit our heroes to save them. After all, if they managed to get away from so many tight spots before, always winning the day, what’s another intergalactic war to fuss about? Heck, the aliens even built a replica of their TV starship, and it’s really real. The question is, can the crew unite, this time for real, and do something worthwhile for a change?
Galaxy Quest works and works so very well for two main reasons. First there is the enabler, which is the talent at hand here – the talent that makes this spoof of a film work better than all the rest of the Spy Hard and Hot Shot like movie parodies. What I'm trying to say is that films sporting Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver and Sam Rockwell are films that are off to a very good start. Having them together as crew members offers great potential, and Galaxy Quest makes the most of it.
The second factor in favor of Galaxy Quest is the script, a script that’s smart enough to have a laugh at every Star Trek joke out there: Kirk always losing his shirt, Kirk’s silly jumping, shooting and fighting motions, the dispensable member of the away team that always dies, and much more (I don’t want to ruin them for you!).
The greatest thing? It all works, the formula, the story and the cast. It works much better than the Star Trek films ever did: Galaxy Quest is both a big joke on Star Trek’s behalf as well as the biggest compliment Star Trek could ever get.
Best scene: The very earth bound teenager (Justin Long, aka “I am a Mac”) that knows the old Star Trek like TV show by heart is helping the noble captain sort out the soon to explode ship reactor. Only that at the key moment, with seconds to go before the ship explodes somewhere way out in space, the teen’s mother is forcing him to go out and empty the garbage. Star Trek mockery could not come any better than this!
Overall: I find Galaxy Quest utterly addictive. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
P.S. Given the idea behind Galaxy Quest, and in particular Sam Rockwell’s part of the expandable crew member, I have to add I cannot wait till John Scalzi’s new book Red Shirts comes out. Check out its book cover to see what I'm talking about.