Galaxy Quest Review Part 1: Bumbling Actors in Space
The 1999 Tim Allen movie is a true Star Trek spoof. It's not perfect, but it is entertaining and agenda free
After spending an extended period of time reviewing an abysmal Star Trek parody, The Orville Season Three, I wanted to review a parody I actually remembered enjoying. Galaxy Quest, a movie starring Tim Allen, which came out in 1999, has been referred to as a true Star Trek spoof, and watching it again all these years later, I tend to agree. Now, I should preference this review by saying that this is not a perfect movie. It suffers from plot holes and one big trope I despise, The Liar Revealed. But what it lacks in continuity it makes up for through lack of pretension. There are no sneaky social commentaries, no grand themes the writers are trying to sell. It’s just a simple comedy meant to entertain.
The movie starts at a convention, where one of the main characters, simply referred to as Guy throughout the film, is introducing the cast of the old sci-fi series Galaxy Quest. However, there is problem, the lead, Jason Nesmith, who plays Commander Peter Quincy Tarrart, is running late. This is a common problem, and the cast is fed up with it. Jason finally walks into the green room, oblivious to the cast’s ire, and the entire group finally arrives on stage to greet the audience. They begin signing autographs, and while Jason is using the restroom, two fans walk in and explain that they heard the rest of the cast complaining about him and mock him as they leave. This upsets Jason, and he eventually snaps at one of the fans and storms off.
During this convention, a group of people dressed as aliens had shown up and asked for Jason’s help, but he mistook these people for cosplayers and assumed they wanted him to appear at an event the next day. However, when he wakes up the following morning—after leaving the convention and drinking himself to sleep—Jason sees these same cosplayers standing outside his window. Figuring he’d slept in and is late for their event, he goes with these “fans” and they take him to the set of a ship, where he is supposed to be negotiating with an evil alien named Sarris.
Eager for his next gig, Jason orders all the weapons to be fired at Sarris and decides to leave. But as he is standing in the middle of some vacant room, wondering where his limo is, he’s covered in a translucent goo, and the room turns out to be some sort of hanger. The doors open to reveal a massive planet and Jason is shot into space. The next scene shows Jason shivering as he is standing by his pool, steam swirling around him.
Realizing he’s just encountered aliens, and has presumably killed some villian, he rushes to find his friends who are delivering a pitch for a local store.
I must pause here to compliment the late Alan Rickman. He plays the movie’s caricature of Spock, Alexander Dane, and like Spock, he has been given a catch phrase which he’s supposed to repeat during various events, “By Grabthar’s hammer, by the sons of Worvan, you shall be avenged.” He’s shown repeating this catchphrase at an event. The amount of contempt Alan Rickman displays for the foul phrase is simply amazing.
Jason finds his friends—once again, signing autographs—and begins to tell them what happened. Naturally, they don’t believe him—even when the aliens arrive to inform Jason that he failed to kill Sarris. However, the aliens also tell Jason that the evil tyrant wishes to negotiate a surrender. Figuring that the next mission will be relatively safe, Jason begs the crew to join him. At first, they storm off, but they soon conclude Jason is really talking about a gig, and because they’re starving actors, decide to tag along.
The rest of the crew is covered in the translucent goo and sent to the ship where they join Jason. It quickly becomes apparent that they are out of there depth.
Once they are on their way to Sarris’s ship, the aliens begin to elaborate on the situation, and here is where the major issues with the movie become apparent.
The aliens explain that they’ve taken the episodes of Galaxy Quest to be historical accounts of Earth’s history, and because they are impressed by the cast’s perseverance through adversity, they’ve remodeled their technology to mimic the ship on the show. This is ambiguous enough to not be distracting but for two details. The first is the energy source for the ship, called a Beryllium Sphere. I was surprised to learn that Beryllium is an element, and a metal as well, so I’ll give the writers credit for that, but it was still difficult for me to believe that these aliens could find Beryllium in the form of a sphere, and not only did this particular race of aliens find it, but other races had found these spheres as well, which we’ll get to later.
The second problem is the Omega-13 which is a special device mentioned in the last episode of Galaxy Quest. The trouble with this invention is that nobody knows what it does. So, how could these aliens create the device without understanding it’s function? I will confess I found these two plot holes distracting. And the trouble is that the story falls apart without these two items. So, these inconsistencies are difficult to ignore, and they do damage the believability of the film, even though it’s a comedy.
The next issue is that the film revolves around the dreaded Liar Revealed Trope, but I will give the movie credit for dealing with the trope in a unique way. Jason obviously knows he’s lying, and this does damage his likability in the eyes of the viewer, but when it comes to the rest of the crew, who is eager to get out of the situation, they encounter a unique problem. The aliens are unfamiliar with the concept of lying; therefore, they have no forms of entertainment on their planet. Since these actors are not philosophers, they can’t figure out how to explain the miscommunication. To make matters worse, the aliens have devoted all their resources to modeling their culture after the series, so if they find out that the show isn’t a documentary, then they will have no clue how to fend off Sarris.
It’s a clever way to deal with the problem and forces the characters into their predicament, and as I’ve said before, the worst part of the Liar Reveled Trope is the ten minutes of moping which puts the whole story on hold after the Lie is revealed. In Galaxy Quest, when the truth comes out, there simply isn’t time to for an existential crisis, and the story is allowed to move on, so the trope isn’t nearly as frustrating as it can be. We’ll continue this review next time.