Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Dean Parisot|
|Story by||David Howard|
|Music by||David Newman|
|Edited by||Don Zimmerman|
Gran Via Productions
|Distributed by||DreamWorks Pictures|
|Box office||$90.7 million|
Galaxy Quest is a 1999 American comedy science fiction film directed by Dean Parisot and written by David Howard and Robert Gordon. Mark Johnson and Charles Newirth produced the film for DreamWorks Pictures.
Parodying television series such as Star Trek and its fandom, the film stars Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and Daryl Mitchell as the cast of a defunct television series called Galaxy Quest, in which the crew of a spaceship embarked on intergalactic adventures. Enrico Colantoni stars as the leader of an alien race who ask the actors for help, believing the show's adventures were real. The film's supporting cast features Robin Sachs as an alien warlord and Patrick Breen as another alien. Justin Long makes his feature film debut as an obsessed fan of the television show.
The film received critical praise and reached cult status through the years, becoming popular with Star Trek fans, staff, and cast members for its affectionate parody. It won the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, the Nebula Award for Best Script, 26th Hochi Film Award for Best International Picture and was also nominated for ten Saturn Awards including Best Science Fiction Film, Best Director for Parisot, Best Actress for Weaver and Best Supporting Actor for Rickman, winning Best Actor for Allen. The film was included in Reader's Digest's list of The Top 100+ Funniest Movies of All Time.
The former cast of the once-popular television space-adventure series Galaxy Quest spend most of their days attending fan conventions and promotional stunts. Though Jason Nesmith (Allen), who played the commander of the NSEA Protector, thrives on the attention, the other cast members—Alexander Dane (Rickman) as the ship's alien science officer, Fred Kwan (Shalhoub) as the chief engineer, Gwen DeMarco (Weaver) as the computer officer, and Tommy Webber (Mitchell) as a precocious child pilot—all resent these events.
During one event, Nesmith is approached by Mathesar (Colantoni) and others calling themselves "Thermians" and request his assistance, which he agrees to, thinking this is a planned and paying fan event. Later at that same convention, Nesmith becomes despondent after overhearing attendees speaking of him as a laughing stock by fans and his fellow actors, and he loses his temper with an avid fan, Brandon (Long). After Nesmith spends the night drinking heavily, the Thermians arrive to pick up a hungover Nesmith in the limo he had requested. Unaware that they are truly octopoidal aliens, using technology to appear human, the barely conscious Nesmith is oblivious to his limo being beamed aboard the Thermian's spaceship. Aboard their ship in deep space, Nesmith goes through the motions of commanding the ship and asks to be returned home. When they send him back to Earth via a transporter, Nesmith realizes that it is all real. He races to meet his cast, accidentally bumping into Brandon and exchanging a Thermian communicator Mathasar gave him with Brandon's fan-made replica. Nesmith eagerly relates his experience to the crew, who think he is drunk again. When another Thermian appears and request the entire crew's help, Nesmith manages to convince them, along with their handler Guy Fleegman (Rockwell), an actor who played a unnamed security officer on one episode before being killed off, to come along. They are all transported to a perfect reproduction of the NSEA Protector in deep space, and are shocked by the reality of the situation.
Mathesar begs the crew to command the Protector, as Nesmith's previous actions (namely, attacking the opposing ship) have enraged Sarris (Sachs), a reptilian humanoid that seeks to wipe out the Thermians. While they were able to recreate the ship from the broadcast episodes, the Thermians have no idea how to pilot it. The crew hesitantly take the controls, and despite their ineptitude, the Thermians cheer them on. After the second encounter with Sarris' ship, they barely evade his attack by flying through a minefield, severely damaging the ship. The humans take a shuttle to a nearby planet to find a replacement beryllium sphere as a new power source. They manage to secure the sphere after a run-in with the hostile alien species on the planet. Once back aboard the Protector, they find that Sarris and his soldiers have captured the ship.
Sarris interrogates the humans, discovering they are only actors, and recognizes that the Thermians have no concept of fiction, believing the show to have been real. Sarris sets the Protector to self-destruct and departs, leaving a few sacrificial soldiers to guard the humans. Nesmith and Dane use a gambit from the show to engineer their escape, and then Nesmith orders his fellow cast members to help rescue the other Thermians, finish repairs to the Protector, and prepare to engage Sarris in combat. Nesmith and DeMarco then set off into the bowels of the ship to stop the self-destruct sequence, using help from Brandon and his group of friends via the swapped communication device. Along the way, they encounter Omega 13, a plot device introduced in the final episode but never used; Brandon notes it could either destroy all matter in the universe or rewind time by 13 seconds, "enough time to undo a single mistake".
Having finally accepted their roles on the ship and gained confidence in themselves, Nesmith and his crew use the minefield as a weapon against Sarris' ship, destroying it. They prepare to head to Earth when Sarris, who has transported over at the last moment, starts killing the crew. A desperate Nesmith activates the Omega 13, which reverses time far enough for him to knock out Sarris. They near a wormhole to return the humans home via the command module, and Nesmith assures Mathesar he has the ability to command the Protector along with the other Thermians. The humans, along with Laliari (Pyle), a Thermian that has fallen in love with Kwan, return home. Guided in by fireworks set by Brandon and his friends, the command module makes a crash landing near a fan convention and comes to a stop after bursting through one wall, which the audience takes as part of the show. As the crew exits the module, Sarris wakes up and tries to fire on them, but Nesmith reacts faster, and disintegrates Sarris with a phaser-like weapon. The crowd, believing that this is also part of the show, erupts into cheers. The buzz from the event leads Galaxy Quest to be revived as a new series, starring the same cast along with Fleegman and Laliari.
- Tim Allen as Jason Nesmith (Cmdr. Peter Quincy Taggart)
- Sigourney Weaver as Gwen DeMarco (Lt. Tawny Madison)
- Alan Rickman as Alexander Dane (Dr. Lazarus)
- Tony Shalhoub as Fred Kwan (Tech Sgt. Chen)
- Sam Rockwell as Guy Fleegman (Crewman #6 / Security Chief "Roc" Ingersol)
- Daryl Mitchell as Tommy Webber (Lt. Laredo)
- Enrico Colantoni as Mathesar
- Robin Sachs as Gen. Roth'h'ar Sarris
- Jed Rees as Teb
- Justin Long as Brandon
- Missi Pyle as Laliari
- Patrick Breen as Quellek
- Jeremy Howard as Kyle
- Samuel Lloyd as Neru
- Rainn Wilson as Lahnk
- J.P. Manoux as Excited alien
- Dian Bachar as Nervous tech
- Heidi Swedberg as Brandon's mom
The original script by David Howard was titled Captain Starshine and written on spec. Producer Mark Johnson, who had a first look deal with DreamWorks, did not like it, but was still fascinated with its concept featuring space aliens who misconstrue old episodes of a TV show. Johnson purchased the script and had Bob Gordon rewrite it into Galaxy Quest. Gordon, a fan of Star Trek, was hesitant, believing Galaxy Quest "could be a great idea or it could be a terrible idea" and initially turned it down. He submitted his first draft to DreamWorks in 1998, which was immediately greenlit. Johnson wanted his Home Fries director Dean Parisot to direct, but DreamWorks favored Harold Ramis for his experience. Ramis was hired in November 1998, but departed in February 1999 because of casting difficulties. He wanted Alec Baldwin for the lead role, but Baldwin turned it down. Steve Martin and Kevin Kline were considered, though Kline turned it down for family reasons. Ramis did not agree with the casting of Tim Allen as Jason Nesmith, and Parisot took over as director within three weeks. After seeing the film, Ramis said he was ultimately impressed with Allen's performance.
Tony Shalhoub originally auditioned for Guy Fleegman, but Sam Rockwell won the part, and Shalhoub was cast as Fred Kwan instead. Rockwell almost backed out after winning the lead role in an independent film, but Kevin Spacey convinced him otherwise. Justin Long said he was nervous auditioning as an unknown actor at the time, competing against Kieran Culkin, Eddie Kaye Thomas, and Tom Everett Scott for the part of Brandon. Paul Rudd auditioned for a role, while David Alan Grier was the second choice for Tommy Webber, and Jennifer Coolidge for Laliari.
Scenes on the barren planet where they stopped to get a new Beryllium Sphere and Captain Nesmith battled a rock monster, were filmed at Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. At the time, the access to Goblin Valley State Park was partly by dirt road; the fees paid by the production company were used to upgrade the entire access road to asphalt pavement.
The film originally received an "R" rating, according to Galaxy Quest producer Lindsey Collins and Sigourney Weaver, before being re-cut. Shalhoub did not remember any darker version of the film. There were numerous edits in the film that show some lines were changed in post-production. In one scene, Gwen DeMarco's line "Well, screw that!" is clearly dubbed over "Well, fuck that!" According to the director, Dean Parisot, that line got a huge laugh. There is more profanity found in the shooting script.
On Rotten Tomatoes, it received an approval rating of 90% based on 115 reviews and an average rating of 7.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Intelligent and humorous satire with an excellent cast – no previous Trekkie knowledge needed to enjoy this one." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 70 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
The New York Times's Lawrence Van Gelder called it "an amiable comedy that simultaneously manages to spoof these popular futuristic space adventures and replicate the very elements that have made them so durable". Roger Ebert praised the ability of the film to spoof the "illogic of the TV show". The Village Voice offered a lukewarm review, noting that "the many eight- to 11-year-olds in the audience seemed completely enthralled".
The film also proved quite popular with Star Trek fans. At the 2013 Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, Galaxy Quest received enough support in a Star Trek Film Ranking, and was included with the twelve Star Trek films that had been released at the time on the voting ballot. The fans at the convention ranked it the seventh best Star Trek film.
The film was financially successful. It earned US$7,012,630 in its opening weekend, and its total U.S. domestic tally stands at US$71,583,916; in total it has grossed US$90,683,916 worldwide.
Relation to Star Trek
Galaxy Quest is an acknowledged homage to Star Trek; therefore a variety of elements in the former correspond to those of the latter. The television program within the film, Galaxy Quest, is set around the starship NSEA Protector, an instrument of the National Space Exploration Administration, which are parodies of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) and Starfleet respectively. The prefix of the Protector’s registration number NTE-3120 ostensibly alludes to some sort of similar space federation, but in reality stands for "Not The Enterprise", according to visual effects co-supervisor Bill George in a 2000 interview with Cinefex magazine.
This homage also extended to the original marketing of the movie, including a promotional website intentionally designed to look like a poorly constructed fan website, with "screen captures" and poor HTML coding. The homage even parodied the effect that Star Trek had on the social lives of its cast members, such as how Alex Dane (played by Alan Rickman) has been typecast after his success in the Galaxy Quest television show; this reflects the lamentations of Leonard Nimoy, who had been typecast after his performance as Spock.
Reaction from Star Trek actors
Several actors who have had roles on various Star Trek television series and films have commented on Galaxy Quest in light of their own experiences with the franchise and its fandom.
"I had originally not wanted to see Galaxy Quest because I heard that it was making fun of Star Trek, and then Jonathan Frakes rang me up and said "You must not miss this movie! See it on a Saturday night in a full theatre". And I did, and of course I found it was brilliant. Brilliant. No one laughed louder or longer in the cinema than I did, but the idea that the ship was saved and all of our heroes in that movie were saved simply by the fact that there were fans who did understand the scientific principles on which the ship worked was absolutely wonderful. And it was both funny and also touching in that it paid tribute to the dedication of these fans." — Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard on TNG)
"I thought it was very funny, and I thought the audience that they portrayed was totally real, but the actors that they were pretending to be were totally unrecognizable. Certainly I don't know what Tim Allen was doing. He seemed to be the head of a group of actors, and for the life of me I was trying to understand who he was imitating. The only one I recognized was the girl playing Nichelle Nichols." — William Shatner (James T. Kirk on TOS)
"I loved Galaxy Quest. I thought it was brilliant satire, not only of Trek, but of fandom in general. The only thing I wish they had done was cast me in it, and have me play a freaky fanboy who keeps screaming at the actor who played 'the kid' about how awful it was that there was a kid on the spaceship. Alas." — Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher on TNG)
"I think it's a chillingly realistic documentary. [laughs] The details in it, I recognized every one of them. It is a powerful piece of documentary filmmaking. And I do believe that when we get kidnapped by aliens, it's going to be the genuine, true Star Trek fans who will save the day. … I was rolling in the aisles. And [star] Tim Allen had that Shatner-esque swagger down pat. And I roared when the shirt came off, and [co-star] Sigourney [Weaver] rolls her eyes and says, 'There goes that shirt again.' … How often did we hear that on the set? [Laughs.]" — George Takei (Hikaru Sulu on TOS)
Merchandising and tie-ins
- In November 1999, Galaxy Quest was novelized by science fiction writer Terry Bisson, who stayed very close to the plot of the film.
- In December 1999, the US entertainment channel E! featured a mockumentary entitled Galaxy Quest: 20th Anniversary, The Journey Continues, concerning the making of the Galaxy Quest television show.
- In 2008, IDW Publishing released a comic book sequel to the movie entitled Galaxy Quest: Global Warning. In January 2015, IDW launched an ongoing series set several years after the events of the film.
- On May 12, 2009, a Deluxe Edition Blu-ray was released.
Proposed sequel or television series
Talks of a sequel have been going on since the film's release in 1999, but only began gaining traction in 2014 when Allen mentioned that there was a script. Stars Weaver and Rockwell mentioned they were interested in returning. However, Colantoni has stated that he would prefer for there not to be a sequel, lest it tarnish the characters from the first film. He said, "to make something up, just because we love those characters, and turn it into a sequel — then it becomes the awful sequel."
In April 2015, Paramount Television, along with the movie's co-writer Gordon, director Parisot, and executive producers Johnson and Bernstein, announced they were looking to develop a television series based on Galaxy Quest. The move was considered in a similar vein as Paramount's revivals of Minority Report and School of Rock as television series. In August 2015, it was announced that Amazon Studios would be developing it.
I'm not supposed to say anything — I'm speaking way out of turn here — but Galaxy Quest is really close to being resurrected in a very creative way. It's closer than I can tell you but I can't say more than that. The real kicker is that Alan now has to be left out. It's been a big shock on many levels.
Speaking to the Nerdist podcast in April 2016, Sam Rockwell stated that the cast had been about ready to sign on for a follow up with Amazon. However, Rickman's death as well as Allen's television schedule proved to be obstacles, and they ultimately did not. Allen's TV schedule cleared up with the cancellation of his Last Man Standing. However, a competing new 2017 TV series may preclude launching a series in the near future, with the launch of The Orville on FOX, having a similar premise to Galaxy Quest, both being space sitcoms on starships.
- Trekkies – a documentary film about Star Trek convention attendees
- Fanboys – a comedy about Star Wars fans
- Free Enterprise – a comedy about Star Trek fans
- ¡Three Amigos! – a comedy about actors mistaken for their characters
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