We all know the stereotype. Science fiction actors, pigeonholed by that one role, who can’t find work except convention appearances. So many cast members of Star Trek have been painted in this light over the years, prior to the current popularity of nerd culture and the phoenix-like ability of certain actors to reinvent themselves ironically. This stereotype is at the centre of Galaxy Quest.
In the world of the movie, Galaxy Quest is a popular science fiction TV program that has been off the air for years but still engenders a huge, obsessive fan following. The Galaxy Quest cast regularly do conventions to make money and stay in the public eye.
That’s where the similarities to the stereotype end. The cast ends up being dragged into space by a group nebbish aliens who are being persecuted by a warlord. The catch is that they have seen broadcasts of the show, believe the cast to actually be space fairing heroes and ask them to face the warlord.
The crux of this film is taking the cast and thrusting them into a real life version of what they played at on TV. The aliens have even recreated their ship down to the last bolt.
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Tim Allen is outstanding, a statement I am not accustomed to making, as the Shatner-esque lead actor of the fictional series. He perfectly embodies the swagger of Captain Kirk while simultaneously hamming up his version of the real life man who played him. Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub and Daryl Mitchell brilliantly play members of his cast. In particular, Sam Rockwell turns in an intriguing performance as a ‘red shirt’ desperately trying to move up the ranks in their little circle.
The cleverness of Galaxy Quest as film comes from its ability to simultaneously skewer Star Trek and the convention community, both incisively and affectionately. As witty and sarcastic as the movie is, it’s also a love note to both the fans and the actors of the original Star Trek series.
A solid science fiction film through and through, Galaxy Quest also provides an interesting window in to the convention world. And anyone who has been to a Star Trek convention, comic book convention or the like immediately recognizes the details being portrayed in the film. Dean Parisot, the film’s director, did a fantastic job of portraying the role these kinds of actors take at conventions and how fans respond to them.
That being said, I’m sure there are many fans who would disagree with the representation.
One of the really telling benchmarks for the film was the response of people involved in Star Trek to it. Patrick Stewart, William Shatner and George Takei, actors to careers are inexorably tied to Star Trek, have all reputedly applauded the film. J.J. Abrams, architect of the venerable franchise’s resurrection, apparently referred to Galaxy Quest as one of the best Star Trek films that has been made. It even picked up more than a few awards, including Best Actor for Tim Allen at the Saturn Awards, the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Nebula Award for Best Script.
Beyond all of its science fiction success, Galaxy Quest is also filled with some big laughs. It pulls a lot of humour from the science fiction homage it depicts. It’s funny and intelligent, well-written and well-executed, a must watch for virtually anyone if you haven’t seen it already. And if you have, now is a great time to watch it again.
Ian Goodwillie is a columnist for the Spectator Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at@ThePrairieGeek and on Tumblr at iangoodwillie.tumblr.com.
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