Galaxy Quest might be a kitsch homage to all things Star Trek and Star Wars, but that’s the secret to its unequivocal success. It stands on the laurels of its campy fun which it wears as a banner like all the Trekkies and Star Wars fanatics it looks to pay tribute to.
The film opens in the days before international comic cons and criss crossing social media connections when nerd culture was still highly prevalent, but perhaps not as refined, and dare we say trendy, as it is today. People dress up in costumes, dote over their heroes, and let the fantasy worlds flood into their lives. It’s like they forget those worlds aren’t real. Or are they?
The crew of the NSEA Protector have been off the air for well nigh 18 years, but they attend a Galaxy Quest convention in order to milk the franchise for all its worth. By now most parties involved are fed up with these shallow, superficial roles they were forced to dawn all those years ago.
Daryl Mitchell was the boy genius Lt. Laredo piloting the ship and has by now outgrown his part, only being remembered as the precocious kid he used to be. Alan Rickman is the intelligent klingon-like Dr. Lazarus, and yet by this point in his career he hardly deigns to play such a tacky part. He would be much more lauded on the Shakespearian stage, and he’s long been tired of his role as the only alien member of the crew. Tony Shalhoub is the crew’s even keel tech the very un-Asian Sgt. Chen. Meanwhile, Sigourney Weaver is the dumb blonde whose only job is relaying information from the computer to her commander, while in real life she’s assertive and miffed by Jason Nesmith’s cavalier attitude. She’s not the only one. And as the nucleus of it all is our Captain Kirk, our William Shatner, a pompous, showboating celebrity who doesn’t know when it’s time to hang up the towel, Jason Nesmith aka Peter Quincy Taggart.
The behind the scenes turmoil that they are going through is necessary and for these characters to find themselves they must go on a hero’s journey. They must actually go on a real galaxy quest and in the ensuing adventures they cease being actors donning roles begrudgingly, but they actually begin to believe in the parts they are playing. They grow closer to the people they portrayed on screen and as a result grow closer together as a real life television crew.
The peaceful Thermian people represent all those alien species in the vast galaxies who have ever needed a savior. The crew of the Protector, although caricatures, represent all the heroic ensembles that has ever graced the silver screen. They’re petty, insecure, and unskilled, but they still manage to succeed and we’re cheering for them all the time with dopey grins plastered on our faces. Even Sam Rockwell, a young, insecure extra who doesn’t want to die at the end of the episode gets his chance, and as an audience we wholly relate with the audacious nerd Justin Long who is able to help his heroes on their greatest mission yet.
Is this a tacky, sentimental, melodramatic space opera? Most certainly yes, and yet we would not want it any other way. What it goes out to do, it does very well and that is better than a great deal of other parody films floating around out there.
“By Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!”
R.I.P. Alan Rickman, you will be dearly missed.