Celebrating Galaxy Quest

It’s a pitch perfect parody of television sci-fi, obsessive fan culture, and a classic comedy in its own right. We salute 1999’s under-appreciated Galaxy Quest...

In the States this week, they’ve just put put an over-long YouTube video in cinemas. Not one of those funny ones, either, but the latest opus from two of the six writers of Scary Movie, wittily entitled Vampires Suck. Crucially, it doesn’t even look as funny as just watching the Twilight films they’re spoofing.

It pays to remember better parodies, like Airplane with its rapid-fire gag rate, or The Life Of Brian with its daring satire and eternal quotability, or any of Edgar Wright’s collaborations with Simon Pegg, for their on-the-nose homages to the genres they lovingly send up. Or maybe the one that seemingly few people remember, Galaxy Quest.

Is there a more underrated comedy than Galaxy Quest? Those who love it, really love it, but why isn’t it more widely remembered and acclaimed? Unlike those other parodies I mentioned, it’s not specifically spoofing Star Trek. Sure, there are plenty of nods to the perennial sci-fi series, but it’s more of a parody of the reality, the cast and the fans of Star Trek.

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To wit, a group of TV actors who once starred in the titular sci-fi series are shanghaied from the convention circuit by a group of fans. These fans happen to be Thermians from outer space, who believe the crew’s exploits in the series to be historical documents and recruit them to help negotiate a real conflict with a real narked-off alien warlord.

Also up for lampooning is William Shatner’s renowned hubris, in the form of the jaded Jason Nesmith. His co-stars resent him deeply for being the most instantly recognisable actor on the show, and the most sought-after booking for the conventions they now have to make a living from.

The script even pays tribute to the sequence Shatner had to cut from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier for budget reasons, by including a battle with a giant rock monster called Gorignak.

With tongue presumably in cheek, Shatner reacted by saying ,”I don’t know what Tim Allen was doing. He seemed to be the head of a group of actors and, for the life of me, I was trying to understand who he was imitating.”

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Quotes like that are just small examples of how perfectly this film hits its mark. It mocks its subject affectionately rather than resorting to snide piss-takery. The fans are, perhaps, of a type that some of us would rather not see propagated, but there’s an overwhelmingly positive spin.

The entire plot is a tribute to, not only the optimism of Star Trek, but of its fans. Hell, the message is that even viewers from another galaxy can entirely buy into something as hokey looking as the Galaxy Quest series, just because of what lies at its heart.

And in the end, it’s the geeks who save the day. The geeks who know the layout of a type 40 TARDIS or the calibration of the Liberator find that, after all the years of building up trivia, they’re the only ones who can save the day, because they’re the only ones who bothered with this stuff before the fate of the Earth actually depended on it.

Wish fulfilment at its least clumsy and most cathartic, quite simply.

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The film’s cast is quite simply a smorgasbord for the geek demographic too. How many other films boast a roster that includes Buzz Lightyear, Ellen Ripley, Hans Gruber, Adrian Monk and Justin Hammer?

They’re all on terrific form too, even in parodic terms. It’s hard to not take Alan Rickman seriously whenever he spits out that “By Grabthar’s hammer…” line.

To conclude: news of a terrifying recursive trend. While watching JJ Abrams’ Star Trek last summer, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d seen the interior of Nero’s ship, the Narada, somewhere before. Now I realise its greenish hues and dingy industrial interior are quite a bit like the big baddy Sarris’ ship. The parody is feeding the source!

And thus we had the series originally being mocked by Galaxy Quest evoking the parody itself. Now we should worry that if a Quest sequel should ever materialise, it will feature a young new cast enacting the adventures of the hapless actors in an alternate bloody universe, resulting in a universally head-sploding paradox. Somebody activate the Omega 13!

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Films like this are a love letter to geeks everywhere, and one that’s still highly accessible to people who don’t even like Star Trek. You have to wonder why a sequel never came to pass, actually. Goodness knows that Star Trek is still ripe for this brand of affectionate parody and I would gladly have spent another 100 minutes with this cast in this scenario. Couldn’t they have drawn Tim Allen away from the magnetic lure of, not one, but two sequels to The Santa Clause to give us another outing on the NSEA Protector?

Fans could make do with the comic book sequel Galaxy Quest: Global Warning, which was published by IDW in 2008, or they could join me in constantly whinging on Internet message boards until someone calls the cast and crew back together.

To those in the latter group, I cry, “Never give up! Never surrender!”