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Galaxy Quest

****
1999

‘…the concept is so well developed that it’s a crime not to mine this particular land any further…’

It may not travel well internationally, but comedy is part of the beat of this blog; good ones are hard to find, and the best should be celebrated. But for one reason or another, I’d missed the rise to cult stardom of Dean Parisot’s ingenious spoof on Star Trek and sci-fi generally; Galaxy Quest wasn’t a hit on initial release, and dropped on UK Netflix this weekend in time for a deliberately familiar voyage in space and time.

Back in 1999, fan-boy events like Comic-Con were on the rise, but Galaxy Quest’s take on an ancient trope fused the growing phenomena with an old-school narrative. Much like Bob Hope in Son of Paleface, or the sombrero-sporting protagonists of Three Amigos, there’s been plenty of fun made from the idea of ingénues mistaken for professionals; The Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai is specifically a springboard. So here we have the regulars of the Galaxy Quest tv show, anchor Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), comms-lag lady Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver), pompous alien Dr Lazerus (Alan Rickman) and an unidentified spare wheel (Sam Rockwell) who are nothing but a bunch of washed-up thespians after their show has been cancelled. The group still have some relevance, to fans queuing up for autographs at conventions, but also to a group of real aliens who worship them. These aliens believe that the Galaxy Quest tv series is an artefact of a real space war, and that the crew can save their species from attack…

Rumours of reboots and remakes have followed in the wake of Galaxy Quest, tamped down after Rickman’s death, but the central idea here would work with any well-chosen cast; the expanded gag is that the alien civilisation have based their technologies around the old tv show, and so the cast can actually work all devices, but only with the help of the fan-boys who understand how the tech works. Galaxy Quest nails this idea, but also has a lot of fun with turning genre clichés inside out; the various alien creatures encountered all have an original spark, from the cannibal children to the rock monsters. And the cast clearly have fun with their roles; Allen parodies William Shatner’s clenched-teeth, often shirtless acting style, Weaver enjoys playing against type as an airhead, and Rickman plays a sardonic, slumming actor in a way that plays nicely off his own public image post Die Hard and Robin Hood.

Galaxy Quest maybe doesn’t have enough big laughs for classic status, but the concept is so well developed that it’s a crime not to mine this particular land any further. There’s so few good ideas around, and Galaxy Quest’s melding of a tired Hollywood with enthusiastic fandom seems more relevant every year. Streaming services looking to pick up an established, returnable idea should look no further; it’s been a long time coming, but fans of Galaxy Quest simply should not give up their dream; to quote their captain, Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

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  1. Just saw Love Actually again and forgot how brilliant Alan Rickman is in the morally wrong but still likable husband role, and, yes, this ‘99 overlooked gem has him stealing the show here as well. Did you ever see that slight but entertaining doc, Trekkies?

    • Didn’t see that but will check it out. Think Truly Madly is his best, but he’s awesome in most things, including Love Actually.

  2. I’ve seen Galaxy Quest so many times. Loved it ever since I was a 4 years old. Even when I hadn’t seen a single Star Trek show or movie. It works that well on its own! I just recently watched the entire original series and The Next Generation. So I felt it was time to rewatch Galaxy Quest with a fresh perspective. Still the flawless affectionate parody it always was.

    • And that really is the key; no prior knowledge is required, and knowing Star Trek is just a bonus. Still works as a good old fashioned story!

    • I dodn’t want to break the fragile internet, but I’m less of a Spaceballs fan than many, and feel that Galaxy Quest is a more unified, less scattershot film. Will head over for your Star Trek review, saw that one on the big screen and was ….will save the punchline for later!

      • I didn’t review it on my blog though hahha feel free to spoil me with your opinion on it! I found Spaceballs one of the weakest Brooks movie and Star Trek: TMP interesting but incredibly dull pacing wise, especially with its”trophy showcasing” for signature elements 😂

        • …correct on all counts. And yes, I was bored rigid at 11 watching The Motion Picture, first time I was really bored in a film!

  3. One of my all-time favourites. Saw it in the theatre in its original run, and picked it up as soon as it came out on DVD. It’s one of my go-to films when I need a pick me up.

    • Well, you’re 20 years ahead of me, so kudos to you. I’ve been aware of the affection people have for this film, and I’m glad to finally catch up! Thanks for the comment!

  4. I came to this quite late and loved it. A brilliant cast, an entertaining and clever story, and I remember being surprisingly moved by it aswell. Rickman is so good here. Actually, they all are!

    • I’m a fan of Rickman, and it’s amazing that he gets so many moods out of this character, while never removing that ridiculous costume for a second. And if you know Rickman, wearing ridiculous costumes is SO not his thing…

      • I am not a big fan of learning about actors and their “real” lives. Much like authors, I wish actors to perform a specific function (act in a movie, nothing else!) and we both go our way happy. Them paid, me entertained.

        • Sure. I enjoyed meeting many performers and creatives, but knowledge of them should not have any bearing on assessing the quality of their work. Nothing worse than an artist giving us something of themselves…

          • What springs to mind is Shia Labouf (or however his name is spelled). I liked him in Holes and in Transformers and in the one or two other movies he was in. Then I saw him doing some crazy stuff like rapping in an elevator for 24hrs on a live stream and I thought to myself “This kid has gone off the rails” and I was never tempted to check out another movie with him in it.
            And even the movies I did like before are now tainted with that association…

            • Yup, but I feel sorry for anyone who has to grow up in public; they can’t have understood what they were signing up for as kids. So I feel free to shun gossip magazines and the like; who cares?

  5. Good movie that actually (if I remember right) got very good reviews. Maybe people thought something about the concept was too small screen for it to become a hit.

    • Which would make it ideal for streaming; watching Prom right now on Netflix, and it’s more CBS holiday special than movie…

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