Galaxy Quest

Galaxy QuestSynopsis: For four years, the courageous crew of the NSEA Protector — “Commander Peter Qunicy Taggart” (Tim Allen), “Lt. Tawny Madison” (Sigourney Weaver) and “Dr. Lazarus” (Alan Rickman) – set off on thrilling and often dangerous missions in space…and then their series was canceled!

Now, twenty years later, aliens under attack have mistaken the Galaxy Quest television transmissions for “historical documents” and beamed up the crew of has-been actors to save the universe. With no script, no director and no clue, the actors must turn in the performances of their lives in this hilarious adventure.

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Galaxy Quest 7.0

eyelights: its cast. its send-up of ‘Star Trek’. the first act.
eyesores: its loss of focus after the first act. its dated CGI.

“Whoever wrote this episode should die!”

I’ve always wanted to love ‘Galaxy Quest’. As a big fan of classic ‘Star Trek’, but as one who recognizes some of its flaws, I relish the idea of a movie that spoofs it. Sometimes, that helps cement your love for the original, much like ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s parodies served to fuel my fervor for certain songs or helped me discover new ones.

‘Galaxy Quest’, which was released in 1999, stars Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub and Daryl Mitchell as the primary cast of an eponymous science fiction adventure TV series. Cancelled long ago, the show has maintained an incredibly devoted fanbase that has kept the actors working at conventions and in adverts.

But it has also created tensions in the group, as the show’s popularity has typecasted most of them such that they can rarely get any other acting parts anymore. Most, but not Jason Nesmith, who played Commander Taggart, leader of the crew of the NTE-3120: he continues to get roles, but his arrogance has turned the others against him.

Sounds vaguely familiar?

To anyone familiar with the careers of the cast of the original ‘Star Trek’ and the ensuing public arguments that the various actors have had, this has a delicious ring to it. The fact that each character in ‘Galaxy Quest’ echoes a real actor and character in the ‘Star Trek’ franchise helps create the illusion that these are satirical doppelgänger.

But it gets better.

Not content with mere satire, the creators of ‘Galaxy Quest’ decided to introduce a wholly absurd “what if” scenario to the mix: that the TV show’s transmissions have been captured in space by a naïve alien race who believe them to be historical broadcasts – and proceed to engage the cast of “Galaxy Quest” to come save them from annihilation.

Mistaken identities, fish-out-of-water scenarios and deep-cut satirical content ensue.

You know, I’d expect to split my guts laughing.

But I don’t.

Though I have a wonderful time during the picture’s set-up, which is heavier on the ‘Star Trek’ spoof elements, the moment that ‘Galaxy Quest’ takes our characters into space with the Thermians, I feel that it loses much of its humour – in favour for a more traditional sci-fi comedy plot, at times barely distinguishing itself from the real deal.

A perfect example is when the crew goes to the rock planet to replace their beryllium sphere and wind up in mortal danger – first from the deceptively childlike natives and then from a CGI rock monster. There’s precious little here that’s funny, aside for a few exchanges between the crew and some subtle references to the original show.

In fact, I couldn’t help but wonder if a really diehard fan of ‘Star Trek’ would appreciate it more.

I mean, as a medium fan of the series, I rather enjoyed the more obvious nods, like the fact that most names were spins on the original (ex: ‘Star Trek’ vs ‘Galaxy Quest’), the long-lost two-part episode (akin to the original pilot, “The Cage”), the competitiveness between the two leads, or even Nesmith’s rebuke of a fan that “It’s just a show!”

I especially loved the recreations of the old “Galaxy Quest” episodes, all made to look produced in the early ’80s, purposely cheesy and over-the-top, with a crap set in the style of ‘ST:TNG’. We only get a few glimpses of the show, but they are a hoot. I almost wish that they’d shot a full episode and included it as a bonus feature on the DVD.

The ‘Star Trek’ fan in me would have loved that.

The cast is truly terrific when they played their characters performing on the small screen or for their fans. Allen emulated much of William Shatner’s bluster and cockiness, as well as some of his body language, Weaver is superb as a strong woman portraying a cartoon, and Rickman is perfectly depressed with his version of Mr. Spock.

They’re completed by Shaloub as Fred Kwan, an amusingly dim, but forever pleasant, background character, Mitchell as Tommy Webber, who was just a boy during the show’s run and can’t outgrow the part, and Rockwell as the deliriously paranoid Fleegman, who played nondescript roles equivalent to ‘Star Trek’s “red shirts”.

Meanwhile, Enrico Colantoni is an excellent counterpoint to them as Mathesar, the Thermian leader. He affected a weird tone and cadence in his voice and a vocal monotone to give his character an “alien” quality that is funny until it becomes annoying. The rest of the Thermians are filler that move with a strange sway in their arms.

Beyond the satire, unfortunately, the humour doesn’t hold up as well as one might hope. The very notion that the cast of “Galaxy Quest” should be mistaken for real spacefarers and that they’d have to crash-course their way into playing their parts for real is not fully tapped here – for suspense, yes, but not for comedy. It can get grim.

If not depressing.

So, while I understand why some fans of ‘Star Trek’ fans like to say that ‘Galaxy Quest’ is the non-‘Star Trek’ film most worthy of the series, by Grabthar’s hammer and by the suns of Worvan I wish that it were much funnier. There is so much about Trek that has been rightly made fun of through the years but rarely has it been done as well.

More would have been nice.

(Though, in all fairness, in not being enough of a Trekkie to go to conventions, I’m sure I’m missing a lot of references.)

Sadly, while there was talk of a sequel, Alan Rickman’s unexpected death has put a stop on that. It’s too bad: imagine if they’d followed up this story with a film set after the cast of “Galaxy Quest” had made six successful motion pictures and then gone their own merry way. Imagine the many possibilities of that scenario for just a  moment.

I’d certainly have paid to see that.

Date of viewing: September 7, 2016

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