If I had to guess, I’d wager that even if you haven’t seen Star Trek on television — even for a little bit — you’ve seen some lampooning of it. Or your friends have made fun of it. Or something. I’ve never seen a single moment of the Star Trek TV show, and yet I’ve got a working knowledge of how it all plays out thanks to popular media and people around me. With that said, even if you don’t have any idea what Star Trek is, you’re not going to have any trouble getting into Galaxy Quest, which spoofs Star Trek to a large degree.
The film takes place 20 years after a TV show called Galaxy Quest finished its run. The actors on the show now have to make convention appearances in order to pay the bills. The cast included: Jason (Tim Allen), the ship’s commander; Alexander (Alan Rickman), an alien advisor; Fred (Tony Shalhoub), the engineer; Gwen (Sigourney Weaver), the sex symbol who repeats whatever the computer says; and Tommy (Daryl Mitchell), the ship’s driver. The TV show was very popular with fans, but not all of the actors are particularly thrilled with having to dress up 20 years later.
One day, a man named Mathesar approaches Jason and tells him that his species is in danger, and that he needs Jason — in character — to participate in negotiations with Sarris (Robin Sachs). Jason thinks it’s just a gig, but soon enough finds himself in outer space. Mathesar and his race of Thermians believe that Galaxy Quest is a series of “historical documents,” and that Jason and his crew are really the characters they play on the show. Soon enough, it’s up to the actors to play the roles they did in the show in order to save the Thermians — and maybe the entire universe.
That’s a pretty clever premise. Does it seem like it’ll be able to carry an entire movie? Maybe not, but it does. It works best when it points out the lack of logic found in the television show. And given that there are some 100 episodes from which to draw inspiration, the movie can’t help but fill its running time with a ton of ideas. Sure, it’s mostly a big-budget satirical Star Trek episode, but the jokes and the larger budget are what make it great.
The special effects are top-notch. There’s a large amount of practical effects, but even the CGI is mostly great. You’ll be impressed. Star Trek fans will laugh more than those who have never seen an episode, but the film is accessible for those people, too. We get to see a brief clip of Galaxy Quest at the beginning of the film, and that tells us just about all that we need to about what we’re making fun of for the rest of the running time.
Is it eye-rollingly stupid at times? Yes! But that’s kind of the point. There’s an amount of suspension of disbelief that you have to attain in order to like a TV show like Star Trek, and Galaxy Quest, sometimes, makes fun of that. But then there is also a lot of sincerity to the film, particularly with how it portrays the fans of the TV show. We know them as “Trekkies,” while in the show they’re “Questerians,” and they play a significant role in the finale. The film is funny, but it’s not mean-spirited. It treats people with respect.
The cast is a lot of fun, too. Perhaps the highlight comes from someone not even on the main crew, Sam Rockwell, who was a killed-off extra in the TV show who spends most of the film wondering if his time is up. Alan Rickman is funny as the dissatisfied crew member who wishes he could still do real acting — “I was in Shakespeare!” — while Tim Allen seems sincere about most of what he does. Sigourney Weaver gets a couple of funny scenes, too. Unfortunately, Tony Shalhoub and Daryl Mitchell often find themselves struggling for lines and screen time.
While it most definitely mocks a lot of what Star Trek had to offer, Galaxy Quest is a funny movie that isn’t mean-spirited and is far more sincere and genuine than you might expect going in. It works as a silly big-budget space movie, but it works best when it’s making fun of the illogical nature of the TV show. Its actors are game, it treats Trek fans with respect, and it’s a blast from start to finish.