Galaxy Quest (1999, Dean Parisot)


Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

The middle-aged stars of an old sci-fi TV show get mistaken for their heroic characters by a group of aliens who need help in an intergalactic war…

Regulars: Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) is the cocky, overbearing, Shatner-like head of the cast, having played Galaxy Quest’s captain. When the Thermians first pick him up and take him to their space ship, he’s so hungover he doesn’t realise what’s going on. He assumes they’re fans who enjoy dressing up and building sets (he even flirts with Missi Pyle’s alien, Laliari). Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver) played the blonde eye candy on the show. Her character’s main traits were having cleavage and relaying the computer’s dialogue to the captain. She too is hit on by Jason (“It was cute when I didn’t know you,” she says, shrugging him off). Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman) is an English thespian – the surname is a Hamlet gag, I assume – who once did Richard III. As he likes reminding people, got five encores. He hates his alien character’s catchphrase with a passion – though by the film’s end he’d had a moment where it becomes touchingly appropriate. Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub) is dazed and confused most of the time and takes everything in his stride; he falls in love with Laliari. Guy Fleegman (Sam Rockwell) was in one episode of Galaxy Quest and has since become a super-fan who organises conventions. He gets dragged along on the mission, but worries that he’s the one who’ll end up being killed off. And Tommy Webber (Daryl Mitchell and Corbin Bleu) was a child actor in the TV show, so is played by a different actor in the clips we see of it.

Best bits:

* The spot-on incidental music (by David Newman).

* The clip from the TV show that opens the film – it’s in 4:3, there’s overacting galore, Jason has a mullet.

* The cast backstage at the convention – bitterness, resentment, Jason’s ego.

* During the signing session, Jason gets a big table all to himself, which is on a platform slightly higher than the rest of the cast.

* The Thermians turning up at Jason’s house. He’s in his pants, lying on the floor with a hangover.

* The limo levitating into the air.

* The other cast members getting involved so they don’t miss out on a gig.

* The actors seeing the space ship for the first time.

* The bumpy journey out of the space dock, the ship scraping along the dock’s edge.

* The actors get given food appropriate to their characters: so while Jason gets beef, Alexander is given a bowl full of live mini-octopuses.

* When the ship goes into emergency boost speed, Gwen repeats the computer’s dialogue then realises she’s behaving like her character.

* After the ship is damaged, Alexander wanders off. “Where are you going?” asks Gwen. “To see if there’s a pub!” he snaps.

* Fred’s group hug with his alien colleagues in the engineering department.

* The disastrous test ‘beaming’.

* Jason and Alexander staging a fight in order to escape their captors.

* “Maybe you’re the plucky comic relief…”

* Gwen and Jason turn a corner into a corridor full of dangerous pistons and fast-moving machinery, which they had to find a way through. “Well, screw that!” says Gwen. (Her voice says that, at any rate: her lips are clearly saying “Well, fuck that!”)

* The rock monster banging its way through the ship.

* Alexander’s droll grimace when all the Thermians *he’s* just saved praise Jason.

* The cutaways to a Galaxy Quest fan in his suburban home.

* Jason saving the day.

* The ship crash-landing into the convention hall.

* The credit sequence for Galaxy Quest: The Journey Continues.

TV tie-in: After watching a film spoof a TV show, I then watched a TV show spoofing a film. The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Our Man Bashir is an entertaining James Bond pastiche, which sees the regular cast have great fun playing clichéd characters in a holodeck fantasy.

Review: Galaxy Quest is a charming and often very funny satire of Star Trek, its actors and its fans. Never cruel, even if near-the-knuckle at times, it actually gets more affectionate the longer it goes on, and by the end there’s real warmth and heart. The smart script is based on a cute gimmick, but then character choices constantly drive the plot, the comedy, everything. As many others have noted, as well as being a piss-take it also feels like a drama in its own right. That’s a fantastic achievement for a spoof. The cast is really good too, especially Weaver and Rickman. Made in an era when Star Trek movies were taking themselves very seriously and were a bit on the bland side, this is the best ‘Trek’ movie in a 15-year period.

Nine Omega 13s out of 10.


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