Mark Watches ‘Galaxy Quest’

In the film Galaxy Quest, I wasn’t ready. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Galaxy Quest.

I’m glad I watched this when I did. It might not make much sense stuck between two Voyager episodes, but after consuming hundreds of episodes of Star Trek at this point, it felt appropriate to finally watch the film that so many of you have been recommending to me. I’ve got a lot to say, so let’s get into this.

  • It’s always weird to me to talk about what I expect from something I’ve not seen and am not spoiled for. I only knew the three main cast members of this film and that Galaxy Quest made fun of Star Trek. So I expected the kind of parody like Pratchett’s Discworld series! It would be a humorous take of a specific show, yet it would be within the same genre. Like Spaceballs! Thus, the opening lured me into thinking that’s what I was getting.
  • The film manages to make a ton of direct references to Star Trek without making it a direct thing. I imagine that if you were just a general fan of genre television, there’s still a lot here that you can enjoy. However, I can’t ignore just how much of this truly is a loving parody of Star Trek. The costumes! The ship! The vague and obvious references to Starfleet! The fact that Alexander Dane’s character is meant as a stand-in for Spock/Leonard Nimoy! NESMITH IS CLEARLY SHATNER. HIS SHIRT CAME OFF AT ONE POINT AND GWEN COMMENTED ON IT. IT’S REAL, IT HAPPENED, JUST BASK IN IT.
  • I don’t think the movie is a masterpiece as much as it’s an experience. As I thought about how I’d explain or describe each of the five main cast members, as well as Guy, I found that they don’t have much development on their own. Sure, you could argue that Nesmith learns not to be a dick, and Guy finds a place within the Galaxy Quest family. Actually, Dane experiences some growth, too, when he learns to embrace the affect his character has had on others. For the most part, though, these people are compiled of references. Gwen’s character came off as a reference to Janice Rand and Uhura. Webber was a reference to Wesley. Fred Kwan was… look, I am actually fine with him not being a reference to anyone and instead just being fucking weird.
  • I’ve been to a lot of conventions, from fan-run SF/F cons, to huge Harry Potter events, to smaller thematic cons like Crossings Con, to mega-media productions like Comic-Con. THIS MOVIE IS TOO REAL. IT CAPTURES TOO MUCH OF THIS IN GREAT DETAIL. I don’t think I could ever catch every single thing the film does in those scenes, from the cosplaying to the shippers to the overenthusiastic fans who seem to forget that writers are a part of the television process, to the jaded celebrities who treat fans like shit while simultaneously doing everything they can to make money off them, to the fans who ignore other castmembers because they’re not the “favorite,” to…. LOOK, I COULD KEEP GOING, Y’ALL. It’s incredible. Astounding. This film had to have been written by Star Trek fans. IT HAD TO BE.
  • Even then, I thought the opening fifteen minutes were pretty funny, but I wasn’t grabbed by Galaxy Quest until the Thermians retrieved Nesmith from his home. Again, I thought they were a parody of obsessive fans! I ACTUALLY REMARKED ON VIDEO THAT I THOUGHT THE THERMIANS WERE JUST REALLY COMMITTED TO COSPLAY.
  • Sometimes my brain does weird things. I hope it entertains you.
  • Once Nesmith is transmitted to space, this movie becomes something utterly special. It’s a satire and a parody with MULTIPLE LEVELS OF HUMOR OPERATING AT THE SAME TIME. Nesmith’s first time in the command chair of the Thermians’ Protector is a parody of Star Trek, but it also builds on the absurd situation of an actor being asked to demonstrate the same expertise as their character. IT’S ALSO MAKING FUN OF SHITTY ACTORS WHO DON’T CARE ABOUT THEIR APPEARANCES IN PUBLIC.
  • Again, all of this is in one single scene.
  • You know what else is a Star Trek joke? The Thermians. The explanation of why they thought that Galaxy Quest (and the rest of Earth’s television output) was a “historical record” sounded exactly like the ridiculous premises that Star Trek put forth over and over again. A culture of aliens who don’t know what a lie is or how to tell one. THAT IS A NEXT GENERATION PLOT IF I’VE EVER HEARD ONE.
  • I love really good physical comedy, and every person in this cast deserves medals for the brilliance of that scene where the remaining crew of the Protector is shot across space and realizes that Nesmith wasn’t lying. IT’S INCREDIBLE. ALSO, KWAN DIDN’T REACT AT ALL. WHO IS HE. WHAT IS HIS SECRET.
  • I also appreciate that the Thermians weren’t actually bipedal, but had TENTACLES. Yes!!! MORE WEIRD ALIENS.
  • Part of the fun of Galaxy Quest is its pervasive genre-savviness. Not only do the jokes rely on some pre-knowledge about this genre of television, but the characters themselves are aware of the absurdity of the very show they starred in. It’s exacerbated by the fact that the Thermians believe that what the actors did was real, so they designed the systems of the Protector to operate as they did on the show. It is so wild I have a hard time wrapping my head around it, but oh my god, IT’S SO FUNNY.
  • Like the scene where Sarris’s ship attacks the Protector and no one is ready for how much being shot at is INCREDIBLY CHAOTIC AND PAINFUL.
  • Or how about that entire sequence on the planet where they try to retrieve a beryllium sphere? EVERYTHING ABOUT IT IS AMAZING. Like Guy freaking out in the shuttle about whether or not he’s going to die. Or Guy recognizing that those creatures looked cute, thus that meant they were EVIL. He’s right, too! HE KNOWS! HE IS TRYING TO STAY ALIVE.
  • Oh my god, when Nesmith gets separated from everyone and they make nothing but terrible suggestions to him to defeat the rock monster… incredible. Because on Star Trek, those suggestions would have led to ENTIRELY UNBELIEVABLE SOLUTIONS.
  • And then a really interesting thing happens: Galaxy Quest becomes the very thing that it parodies. It’s an incredible thing to witness because suddenly, this stopped being funny. I felt heartbroken as Nesmith and Gwen explained to Mathasar that they weren’t who he thought they were. THE MOVIE GOT DARK. EVERYTHING SEEMED DIRE.
  • It’s a familiar formula. The three-act structure is obviously common all over the world of fiction, but it’s pervasive within television. It has to be! Television writers are constrained by time. They’ve got to grab the audience’s attention, keep it, and bring us to a point where we have to know how it all ends, and they’ve generally got less than an hour to do so. So watching the film do the same thing was fascinating to me! Both within the story itself and externally, this still captured the sense of wonder and the thrill of this kind of tale.
  • That’s not an easy thing to pull off. And I’m actually going to leave a comment I made above within the review to demonstrate a bit of my craft, because sometimes, as I write reviews, I have epiphanies. As I’m constructing my thoughts on Galaxy Quest, I’m realizing that each of these characters had to find confidence. It’s how Kwan was able to rescue Nesmith from the rock/beryllium planet, but it’s also how all of these people escape the fears of being a fish out of water. Laredo teaches himself how to fly the Protector by watching old episodes of the show; Nesmith learns how to become a real commander; Gwen finds her usefulness within the team; Dane accepts who he is.
  • That being said, there is a definitive favorite scene for me: Gwen angrily damning the writers of her show for creating that absurd obstacle course in the Protector. There is nothing more beautiful or incredible than that. NOTHING.
  • It’s so good I’m willing the handwave away concerns that the Protector crashed into the Galaxy Quest con and no one got hurt, nor did anyone question how that was possible?
  • Good satire knows which direction to aim its jokes. In the end, the superfans of Galaxy Quest saved the Thermians and brought their “characters” back home. Yeah, the film does poke fun at them, but at the same time, I’d argue that it celebrates the joys of science fiction, particularly the kind which captured many of our hearts by getting us to imagine life beyond the stars.

Thank you for convincing me to watch this. What a treat!

The video for Galaxy Quest can be purchased here for $1.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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