Galaxy Quest

Never give up, never surrender.
"The show has been cancelled... But the adventure is just beginning."

Hello all, welcome to the encore edition of this week's Tagline, where I actually post a second time in the week and don't just disappear into the internet for five days like a deadbeat! It's more Netflix today as I wait for the weekend and the coming of Drakul to kick off this most spooky of months, before I go into full spook mode for the duration. We aren't quite there though, so here's another Netflix revelation, Galaxy Quest was put up with the last batch of new arrivals and I knew immediately that I had to review it. Really how could I NOT?! So today we venture into the world of parody, though in this case it is an exceptional parody that becomes so well regarded that it becomes a sort of weird meta-commentary on the original work. So, for the unfamiliar Galaxy Quest is a 1999 movie that parodies not just Star Trek, but also the fandom and professional lives of the TOS main cast, mainly that they became the prototype for the modern idea OF fandom, and conventions held by fans featuring them as guests. Galaxy Quest stars Tim Allen (yeah you heard me Tim the tool man Taylor so what) as Jason Nesmith, who portrayed Commander Peter Quincy Taggart who commanded the starship Protector in the Galaxy Quest television show (which is imaginary and like Star Trek more or less). Alongside him is Gwen DeMarco (played by Sigourney Weaver) who played Lt. Tawny Madison, a character whose principal responsibility on the show seemed to be to repeat the computer, Alexander Dane (played by Alan Rickman) who portrayed the alien Dr. Lazarus (the Spock stand-in) Fred Kwan (portrayed by Tony Shalhoub) who played Tech Sgt. Chen, and Tommy Webber, who played child prodigy pilot Lt. Laredo. Also their guest appearances seem to be facilitated by Sam Rockwell's character Guy, who was a crew extra that died in the first five minutes of one of the show's episodes (so the equivalent of a Star Trek "red shirt").

Don't breathe too deep or that Beryllium will kill you.
So the movie opens on this group at a fan convention, none of them having had any real professional success since the cancellation of Galaxy Quest. In a setup familiar to Trekkies or generally people who follow pop culture history, Nesmith is a show-stealing prima donna who is entirely in love with his stage persona and is notorious for having slept with most of the minor female characters on the show. During a signing and appearance at a fan convention, Nesmith is approached by Mathesar, an envoy of the Thermians from the Klaatu Nebula, who request his help in saving their people from the attacks of a ruthless warlord named Sarras. Nesmith goes with them the next day, hungover and not realizing that they aren't fans (well they ARE fans) but are in fact real aliens, who have seen the Galaxy Quest TV show and mistaken it for a historical record rather than a tv show. This is because while the Thermians are technologically advanced, they lack any form of guile, and have only recently been acquainted with the concept of deceit (when Sarras has frequently lied to them so that he can more efficiently murder them). Eager for the opportunity to be idolized some more, Nesmith persuades the rest of the cast to join him on the Thermian replica of the Protector, before they realize that they've gotten themselves into some serious shit, and also that the Thermians have based their entire civilization around the TV show.

Lets all open our shirts whaddaya say folks?
This movie is remarkable and spectacular for a number of reasons, and I'm going to enumerate them to you now. As a parody, this film does an outstanding job of lampooning convention culture of the Trekkie variety, and also picking fun at the foibles of the TOS cast as they interacted with fans during that period, but it manages to do so without being mean spirited. While we might see the ridiculous sides of both fans and the actors they idolize, the movie is clearly made with care by people who can be counted as fans themselves, and this elevates the movie above being just a cinematic opportunity to take some cheap shots at an old TV show. The movie also manages to be consistently funny throughout, without ever really needing to resort to the kind of just really tasteless humor that you usually see parody movies resorting to, because they're made as cash-ins rather than as actual attempts to make a movie that is entertaining. Galaxy Quest highlights the flaws of its characters (and also in doing the flaws perhaps of the individuals these characters are analogues for) but it also shows that there is a reason they became idolized in the first place, and that they can pull together as a team again rather than becoming victims of their own success.

Some day he'll grow up to be a Mac.
The other thing to note is that in addition to being a funny parody of a sci-fi TV show, it is also an effective and entertaining sci-fi movie in its own right, effectively mimicking the style and setting of its source material even while it's picking fun at it. So you can really enjoy this movie on more than one level, basically coming for the jokes and staying for the space battle against some sort of evil lizard warlord trying to murder space squids. If that isn't quality entertainment I really don't know what is. I personally feel like my favorite character was a toss up between Guy, who was terrified constantly of dying because of his role on the show, and Fred, who in a stark contrast to the high strung Scotty of Star Trek, is really sedate about the fact that their ship's reactor is probably going to blow up. Overall the performances are just really great, and I can't recommend the movie enough if you haven't seen it. It was well received by critics and audiences, was enjoyed by the actors it spoofed, and in addition was voted by fans at a 2013 convention as being the "7th best Star Trek film" which I think is both a compliment to this movie and an insult to some of the shittier Star Trek films. Then again that same poll seemed to think that Into Darkness was the worst movie and that it was substantially worse than 2009's Star Trek, and I think that is actually insane.

What a handsome devil...lizard monster.
As a final note, you can catch Justin Long in his film debut as a turbo-nerd who saves the day using his obsessive knowledge of a TV show. I hope some day I can be that useful. That's it for this week! Join me again next week for vampires or something. Spooky ghosts maybe.

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