Galaxy Quest

Delivered with affection and tongue-definitely-in-cheek, “Galaxy Quest” is one big grin of a movie. Arriving amidst the Holiday rush of heavy, dramatic Oscar-contenders, “Galaxy Quest” breaks through with great performances and sharp, witty dialogue.

galaxyquestThe film begins with a sight familiar to anyone who knows the difference between a Klingon and a Romulan: a Science-Fiction convention. It is here where fans converge to meet and greet their favorite small and large screen heroes and villains, and to buy and trade memorabilia. The floor of the convention center is crowded with fans in costume who have come from far and near to hear former television stars recite old dialogue.

It’s a world unto itself, one that sustains the former cast members of the television series “Galaxy Quest.” Like “Star Trek” before it, “Galaxy Quest” was a moderately successful show that has proven more popular in syndication, where it has taken on a life of its own.

The fans have come to see Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), who played Cmdr. Peter Quincy Taggart, and his fellow crew mates Dr. Lazarus (Alan Rickman), played by disgruntled Shakespearean actor Alexander Dane; Tawny Madison (Sigourney Weaver), the gorgeous Lieutenant, whose real life counter part Gwen DeMarco constantly complains that T.V. Guide was only interested in her boobs; Tech Sergeant Chen (Tony Shalhoub), played by the laid back Fred Kwan; and Laredo (Daryl Mitchell), the young black navigator played by Tommy Webber.

Even though they deplore their current situation, the former television stars depend on their convention appearances and store openings to sustain their egos and pocketbooks. Picture the cast of “Star Trek” after their cancellation and before the movie series. Except for some minor “B” movies, the cast made their living at Sci-Fi conventions.

“Galaxy Quest” may have gotten its origins from a Saturday Night Live sketch lampooning one of these conventions. In the sketch, William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk on “Star Trek,” makes an appearance, and fed up with the fan’s irritating questions, tells them to “get a life.”

That moment is replayed in “Galaxy Quest.” Nesmith, fed up with fans at a convention, tells them the whole thing is fake. It’s not so much a revelation for the fans, but it is for Nesmith himself. It’s at that moment he realizes he’s not only living off old memories, but fake ones at that. The revelation comes at a pivotal time in his life.

It’s at that moment Nesmith finds himself transported to a real spaceship, where aliens believe that he really is Cmdr. Taggart. The aliens have been monitoring reruns of the show, believing them to be historical documents. With Taggart and his crew’s help, the aliens hope to stop their nemesis from destroying them.

Skeptical at first, Taggart finally rises to the occasion, and convinces his comrades from “Galaxy Quest” to play the role of their lives. The aliens have made this possible by designing their spaceship from the blueprints of the one on the show. Every room, corridor and crawlspace has been duplicated with perfection. Now only if the actors can just remember their lines.

What I really appreciated about “Galaxy Quest” was that the writers found humor in the situation instead of making fun of it. Attacking convention fans is too easy, and at first, you wonder if writers David Howard and Robert Gordon are up to the challenge. The writers approach their targets with reverence and affection.

I’ve been to several conventions, and I’ve seen the events in “Galaxy Quest” firsthand. Director Dean Parisot does an outstanding job of capturing the very essence of these microcosms. The utter boredom of the performers, as they wait patiently on stage for their two minutes of fame. The frenzied atmosphere that permeates the room when someone significant takes to the stage to recite his one big line. It’s all here, and more.

The film really blasts off when the actors find themselves living their former show. Parisot shows a real knack for comedy. It’s always hard mixing comedy and splashy special effects, yet Parisot never loses touch of the human elements in the script.

Allen is delightful as the dry docked commander who can’t pass up the opportunity for one last starring role. With just the right amount of ego and heart, Allen totally possesses the character. Alan Rickman has a lot of fun with his role, tossing off great asides with what looks like a cabbage on his head.

Weaver looks sensational as a blonde, and gives the sexy Tawny more depth than expected. Tony Shalhoub, who usually excels in comedies like this, is relegated to the background, while Daryl “Chill” Mitchell finds enough laughs as a former child star without a future. My favorite running gag belongs to Sam Rockwell, who played an extra on the show who died before the first commercial break.

Recruited along with the others, Guy (Rockwell) finds himself in the awkward position of being the most extinguishable crew member. He’s the unknown crewman on “Star Trek” who beams down with the landing party, only to meet his doom moments later. It’s a funny bit that’s been done to death, yet here it seems fresh and original.

I liked “Galaxy Quest” because it was everything I wanted it to be. It was fun and exciting, with lots of action and inviting dialogue and situations. There isn’t a bad performance in the bunch, and technically, the film is as sound as they come. “Galaxy Quest” isn’t just a movie for science-fiction fans. It’s for everyone who never got a chance to realize their dreams or potential.



Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, Daryl Mitchell in a film directed by Dead Parisot. Rated PG. 102 Minutes.


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