RogerBW's Blog

Galaxy Quest 16 December 2018

1999 science fiction comedy, dir. Dean Parisot, Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver; IMDb / allmovie. Galaxy Quest was a big SF show in the early 1980s, but by the present day the cast are reduced to convention appearances and store openings. Then some particularly odd fans turn out to be rather more into the show than anyone expected… Spoilers.

By now the story is familiar: these fans are aliens, they've built their culture round the "historical documents" i.e. the original show, and now they need the help of the original crew to deal with an interstellar conflict. The cast have to decide what to do about this, on a ship that's an exact copy of the sets they used to know inside-out… only this set works. And of course the cast have to do some growing up too.

The concept obviously owes something to Harry Turtledove's 1990 short Half the Battle, but it's played effectively, and this is mostly the humans' story; Allen manages the tricky job of making a very unlikeable character at least somewhat sympathetic, Weaver gets a remarkable amount of mileage out of being the person who repeats what the computer says, and Alan Rickman is, well, Alan Rickman, managing to parody himself, Leonard Nimoy and Patrick Stewart all at once. It's all very campy but never quite descends to the level of hating its source material; sure, one might say, the original Galaxy Quest series (and by extension the original Star Trek series) was often very bad, but look at the inspiration it gave people. (Even if this is based on the 1990s Trek orthodoxy of "tomcat" Kirk and constant redshirt deaths, which an analysis of the show itself rather than commentary on it doesn't really support.)

Similarly, although there's a Hollywood conception of the fans (most of them are in costume, most are socially awkward, quite a few seem to have trouble telling reality from fiction), they have substantial sang-froid and, indeed, turn out to be vitally helpful. (Contrast Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun from 1988, which uses its fans primarily as objects of comedy and contempt.)

There are certainly clunky bits of storytelling even in the parts that are supposed to work (I'm thinking particularly of Rickman's transformative moment), but overall this is a solid film… and, in retrospect, I suspect that without this we wouldn't have had The Orville.

Trailer here.

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