We’ve decided to take a break from new films on this week’s episode of The MovieByte Podcast because JOE AND CHAD HAVE NEVER SEEN GALAXY QUEST! In what universe am I the one who has seen more films than someone else? It’s been long established that I have a lot of catching up to do.
This gave me the chance to watch the film again, and it still manages to surprise me for how good it is. Sure it’s not serious at all, but it is an almost perfect parody. From the moment the film begins with the cheesy scenes from an old TV show, you’re promised a lot of “not taking ourselves too seriously,” and that is what is provided.
Starting with the obvious
The parallels to Star Trek culture are hard to miss. The film starts its story at a Galaxy Quest convention, and ends it there. Said convention is filled to overflowing with poorly costumed aliens from the show, fanatics who take the show way too literally, asking questions of aging actors who don’t care to try to find out how to make the illogic of the show make scientific and/or logical sense. They pack out showings of the old TV show and demand stage time of the original cast members. This all will most likely hit many a Trekkie a little too close to home. But that’s what really makes this film tick. You see, as the film unfolds, we find out that an alien race has intercepted all the transmissions from the show and considered it real, factual history. They then modeled their entire culture on the show, and built a ship to the exact specifications of the show’s ship, the NSEA Protector.
At one point in the film, one of the actors from the TV show shows disbelief, anger, and astonishment at the “chompy crushy” things in the middle of a corridor. Another cast member responds that it is this way because that’s how it was on the show.
Our cast is pretty much perfect. There’s the overly pompous and confident Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) who bears striking resemblance to William Shatner — or at least the way he is perceived. Shatner has seemed to mellow some in his older years, but there are many tails of how arrogant and pompous he could be. Tim Allen nails this role so well. It’s really quite incredible. In his mind, because of his starring role on the once popular TV show, he can do no wrong. He fraternizes with the ladies he likes in a just a bit schmoozy. And he loves to wow the fans of the show with tails of his bravery as the commander of the ship.
But it’s obvious he hasn’t had much good work since the show ended. It’s actually obvious that he may not have much acting talent at all. We see in one of the clips from the “show” that his deliver was less than perfect and had some very idiosyncratic ways about it. Still reminding you of anything?
And when he finds out there are aliens that modeled their life and technology after him and his show, it’s as if — as one cast member put it — they had poured gasoline on a flame. He is the hero and he can save them.
Sigourney Weaver is probably most notable for her role as Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise. Here she plays Gwen DeMarco and, frankly, I think this is the best role I have seen her in. Here she gives a terrific performance as a bit of a cast away female from another era of television. And while she complains that her interviews were pretty much only “about her boobs and how they fit into her uniform,” she has no trouble going through it again on stage just to get work and be known for something.
And then there’s what may be my favorite scene in the film. Her job from the show may be stupid, but darn it, she’s going to do it!
The heart and soul of this film is really Alexander Dane portrayed by Alan Rickman. Alexander is sick of it all. He used to be an actor but now look at him, LOOK AT HIM! Alexander is bitter about having played second fiddle to the “scene stealing hack” Jason Nesmith. He also considers the show something less than A level and he hates himself for it. But “By Grabthar’s hammer,” Alan Rickman’s dead pan and curmudgeonliness bring some of the best laughs. And he also brings us the most interesting character journey. At the beginning of the film he can’t stand to have his character’s lines repeated to him. But as the Thermians kindness and affection reached him, and as a particular character he had been getting close to was mortally wounded, he learned to embrace his character.
What would Galaxy Quest be without Tony Shalhoub? Tim Allen offers the over-acting comedic elements, and Alan Rickman the dead pan. But Tony Shalhoub’s Tech Sergeant Chen offers the a wonderfully cool and nonchalant performance that leaves me giggling wildly on several occasions. It’s the wonderful mix of quiet amusement, adventure, and brilliant thinking that works really well for the film.
Last one I’ll mention but not at all least is Sam Rockwell. The most recent thing I had seen him in before re-watching this film was The Way Way Back. It was no surprise to me that he was fantastic in that film because I had seen him in Galaxy Quest. Though he had no serious role in Galaxy Quest, his talent was obvious. His comedy is flawless and his role representing a red shirt mentality is flawless. He also brings up an interesting point. In Star Trek, people just go to and fro from all sorts of various planets, and they usually don’t deal with the idea that there needs to be a breathable atmosphere and the proper conditions to support human life. Guy is certainly thinking about it.
In the midst of the goofy and almost slap-stick comedy is one very menacing bad guy. Though not much is meant to be taken seriously in this film, Sarris is deadly serious. This is the element that makes the film work. There have to be some stakes and some drama or else it’s just a parody. Many of the costumes and makeup are not believable in the film. And with good reason: they aren’t supposed to be real. But when it comes to Sarris and his gang, it’s up there with the best of them. The ship he gets around in is gritty and realistic, and he projects a very dangerous presence. He’s not someone you want to mess with.
When interrogating “Cmdr. Taggert”, he learns that the crew are really just actors and takes evil delight in breaking the news to the trusting Thermians. Then destroying everyone on the ship (well that’s the plan anyway).
It’s a goofy comedy, what can you find not to like if the laughs are good? Certainly you can’t pick at the unrealistic qualities, can you? Well, yeah, I can a bit. The premise is that the actors aren’t good and they’ve lost all their dignity with the show. They’re wash outs. But they are also pushed into a setting where real stuff is happening. They’re supposed to be on a really ship fight a real war. Much of it is believable enough, but sometimes it’s a bit much. Again, this is so nitpick because it’s a comedy, but if I had to find something to complain about, that’s what it is.
By Grabthar’s Hammer, Watch This Film!
In all, this film is a must watch. If you haven’t seen it, what’s wrong with you? If it’s been a while, grab some popcorn and prepare to be entertained. And you know what, as always, it’s about the character journeys, and those are also present in this film. It’s not the best film in the world because comedies rarely are, but it’s a pretty good film anyway. Anthony Pascale mentioned to me on one of the MovieByte Podcast episodes he was on that he considers it one of the best Star Trek films even though it’s not one. And I tend to agree.