I’ve heard the argument made, online, that “Galaxy Quest” is the best big-screen “Star Trek” movie. “Star Trek” reboot director J.J. Abrams apparently said as much. While I think the claim is made somewhat facetiously, there’s a lot to be said for the light-hearted 1999 sci-fi comedy.
Beyond the trappings of the movie, which looks at a group of has-been actors living off the fame of their cult TV show 20 years later, there are a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle nods to “Star Trek” the show, its cast and fandom.
The movie, directed by Dean Parisot, shows us the cast of the former “Galaxy Quest” series in the only setting in which they can thrive: Fan conventions. While the show’s captain, played by Tim Allen, basks in the glory of his adoring fans, the rest of the crew – Sigourney Weaver as the ship’s eye candy, Alan Rickman as the Spock stereotype, Daryl Mitchell as the kid actor grown up, Tony Shalhoub as the perpetually befuddled and hungry engineer and Sam Rockwell as a glorified extra who comes along for the ride – seethe with jealousy.
From convention appearances to openings of electronic stores – where Rickman, so dry and sarcastic, has to trot out a modified version of his catchphrase: “By Grabthar’s Hammer … what a savings!” – the actors bicker and scramble for jobs.
When an oddball group of fans – led by Enrico Colantoni of “Veronica Mars” and including Rainn Wilson of “The Office” in a small role – asks for their help, they think they’re appearing in some elaborate fan-made performance. Soon enough they learn that the “fans” are aliens, come to Earth to find the heroes of the “historical documents” they’ve been watching in space. They’re seeking help in fighting off an evil alien conqueror.
“Star Trek” fans will find a lot that’s amusingly and comfortingly familiar here, from the perils of guiding the huge ship out of space dock to the ridiculous design of the craft itself.
Not to mention the ghettoized duties and personalities of the crew – Weaver’s character gets to repeat the computer’s pronouncements -and the backbiting behavior of the actors, all of who are resentful and jealous of Allen’s very Shatner-esque commander.
It’s easy to overlook Allen’s laid-back performance, but he really captures the bravado of a once-hot actor who still expects to be treated like a star.
Rickman is so good as the irritated Alexander, whose resemblance to Leonard Nimoy and his frustration at always being identified as Spock is dead on. Tony Shalhoub has some of the movie’s biggest laughs as the bemused engineer and Rockwell is wonderful as a bit player who would have given anything to have what even the cast of this cult TV show has.
“Galaxy Quest” might not be the best “Star Trek” movie ever made, but it sure is the best movie about “Star Trek” ever made.