GALAXY QUEST - It's Just a Television Show
“Galaxy Quest” parodies “Star Trek” but also speaks to fandom in general
Realease Date: December 25th, 1999
Date of My First Viewing: May 22nd, 2019
I grew up a Trekkie, and I’m proud to say it. I watched every iteration of “Star Trek” that I could get my hands on in the 1990’s. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is still one of my all-time favorite TV series, and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” is right behind it. I went to a Star Trek convention at a mid-range hotel in Birmingham, Alabama. My “Star Trek” credentials are being presented now to give you a base of operations for what I’m about to say regarding “Galaxy Quest”, the 1999 comedy from Dean Parisot that serves as an affectionate parody of “Star Trek: The Original Series”. The film does an admirable job of poking good-hearted fun at the “Star Trek” universe, and the fans that comprise it.
For those who might not know, “Galaxy Quest” is about a fictional television show of the same name. The cast of the long-cancelled show is now resigned to performing the same song and pony routine at conventions, and the act is wearing thin on them. The cast consists of the Captain Kirk-esque Jason Nesmith playing Commander Peter Taggart (Tim Allen), Gwen DeMarco playing eye candy and communications officer Tawny Madison (Sigourney Weaver), the jaded and reduced to a catch-phrase Alexander Dane playing Lazarus (Alan Rickman), Fred Kwan as Tech Sergeant Chen (Tony Shalhoub), Guy Fleegman as a nameless redshirt (Sam Rockwell), and Tommy Webber as Lieutenant Laredo (Daryl Mitchell), who was a child when the series was broadcast.
As the cast, especially the hilariously defeated Dane, struggles with what their careers have become, a group of aliens happen to bring Nesmith to their ship. It turns out these aliens have seen the “Galaxy Quest” broadcasts and have taken them for real. This results in the entire cast ending up on the ship and having to remember their roles on the television show to save the aliens from destruction.
The plot is straightforward. Cast is introduced, aliens show up, cast ends up in space and in total shock, cast comes together to save aliens. It is simplistic because the linear nature of the plot really isn’t the point of the movie. The point of the movie is to show the absurdities of “Star Trek” while also celebrating them. One scene during the climax of the film hilariously touches upon this. As Nesmith and DeMarco are trying to save the day, they run into a trap aboard the ship that makes zero logical sense. I had to let out a belly laugh when the line, “This show was badly written”, was dropped in frustration. Sometimes the truth hurts, and sometimes the truth hurts in hilarious fashion.
I don’t really want to focus on the plot of “Galaxy Quest” as much as I want to focus on the concept of fandom the film presented. I avoided the movie all these years because, frankly, I just didn’t like the way it looked. I knew it existed as a “Star Trek” parody, but nothing really hooked me beyond that. In 1999, I was looking for more “critically acclaimed” films because, hey, I was trying to look smart and all that jazz before going off to college. “Galaxy Quest” seemed like cheap studio fare at the time.
The reason I watched the movie in the first place was because of its entry in the very enjoyable book, “Best. Movie. Year. Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen”, by Brian Raftery. Raftery presents “Galaxy Quest” in the same chapter as “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace”. He does so to bring up how both films really explored the concept of fandom, especially toxic fandom, in different ways. The analysis really hit me and caused me to finally turn on the movie.
“Galaxy Quest” playfully pokes fun at obsessed “Star Trek” fans and convention culture, but a big plot point involves those fans actively saving the day. The movie shows that the fans really did know more about the show than those who were actively involved. The obsession of the fans gets rewarded in a positive light in both the film and the real world. “Galaxy Quest” is saying it is ok to be fully into something that you like. It might even stop an intergalactic super-villain.
On the flip side, the actual fandom issues that came from “The Phantom Menace”, hordes of “Star Wars” fans being disappointed with what the first prequel presented, snowballed into a monster that still rears its ugly head. It is the monster that causes people to lose their minds when movies or TV shows don’t go their way. It is the monster that causes them to go online to rant, rave, and try to get attention on social media. It is the monster that causes them to create petitions and fundraising drives to try and re-do a movie or TV series. “Game of Thrones” fans, and, yeah, “Star Wars” fans… I’m looking in your direction. I say that as a fan of both franchises.
What I liked most about “Galaxy Quest” is that the film is saying, “It is just a television show… but you can still enjoy it if you remember that”. It is perfectly okay to enjoy and be a fan of something. What we love, though, might disappoint us. It might fall short of our expectations. It might hurt us emotionally. When people can’t handle that is when problems erupt. This is a big reason why I love what I love but can’t stand to be around many others who love the same things.
I’m sure the bulk of you weren’t expecting a review of “Galaxy Quest” to go this direction, but fandom really is the biggest thing I took away from the film, even more so than just the direct “Star Trek” parodies.