Celebrating 20 years since it beamed into UK cinemas, “Galaxy Quest” remains the finest “Star Trek” movie made since 1991 and probably has almost as good a claim to siring “The Orville” as “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.
Eighteen years after its abrupt cancellation, the cast of the cult TV series “Galaxy Quest” are glumly schlepping from convention to store opening to convention, strip-mining the dwindling remains of their fame. That is until lead actor Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) is contacted by a group of what he thinks are hardcore fans to help them with their urgent project. That project turns out to be a faithful, real-life recreation of their televisual spaceship, constructed by aliens who have interpreted the TV signals from Earth as historical documents.
“Galaxy Quest” succeeds first and foremost as a satirical look at the real-life behind the scenes petty intrigues of “Star Trek” which became Hollywood legend over the years that followed the series’ cancellation and resurrection as a movie franchise. Obvious nods to the intra-cast antagonism abound, and there are sly references to William Shatner’s watershed ‘Get a life!’ moment on SNL too. The thing is, the movie embraces these factors with enormous affection and for all the arrogance and bluster of Allen’s Nesmith, the movie still loves him, as people continue to love Shatner and Kirk. Allen delivers a more restrained performance than his usual grunting “Home Improvement” schtick, recognising the need to play both the asshole actor and nascent hero straight down the line. In doing so, he generously provides room for his illustrious co-stars to stretch their comedic muscles. Rickman is superbly sardonic as Nimoy/ Spock surrogate Alexander Dane/ Dr Lazarus while Sigourney Weaver concocts a winning blend of Uhura, Beverly Crusher and just a soupcon of Ellen Ripley as Gwen DeMarco who played communications officer Tawny Madison. With a supporting crew containing the likes of Tony Shaloub, Sam Rockwell and Daryl Mitchell, the fictional TV series certainly had a cast to die for with Enrico Colantoni heading up the hilariously earnest Thermians (along with Missi Pyle and Rainn Wilson, making his feature debut too), there’s even an early appearance by Corbin Bleu for all you “High School Musical” fans out there.
As affectionately as it portrays the behind the scenes reality of vintage TV shows, it’s even fonder and wonderfully empathetic to the trials and tribulations of being a superfan of these kinds of genre shows. Featuring Jason Long’s feature debut as a “Galaxy Quest” mega-fan, it’s a delightful conceit that the fans and their forensically detailed knowledge of the shows minutiae are instrumental in saving the day.
Add to those the fact that it’s also a pretty good sci-fi action-adventure and it’s clear that “Galaxy Quest” is something really special. Here and there you can still see hints of its original darker, more adult original intention (some obviously redubbed swears and its trimmed down but still quite shocking, “Blake’s 7”-homaging bridge massacre) but its hard to argue against it finding its best self as a family-friendly sci-fi comedy.
Deceptively sharp but never cruel, affectionate but never affected and never patronising of its subject or the fanbase, “Galaxy Quest” manages to pack a lifetime’s worth of fandom into its 100-minute runtime and succeeds in not only honouring those fans and the shows they love but giving them something new to love as well.