We’re all about comics here at Panels on Pages, but a geek cannot live on comics alone. Outside the Longbox is our chance to spotlight something outside our typical four-color realm – be it movies, music, TV or whatever.
An affectionate parody can be difficult to pull off. Not enough bite and it comes off like a bad MAD Magazine entry about boy wizard Harry Pooper. Without any heart it’ll be a trainwreck like the Blank Movies. (You know the ones: Epic, Date, Disaster, etc.) Mel Brooks is definitely the golden standard. But when it comes to tweaking the original Star Trek series, the film Galaxy Quest is the crown jewel of the fleet.
Blasting off from 1999 by writers David Howard & Robert Gordon and director Dean Parisot, the film told the tale of the cast of the cancelled show Galaxy Quest, forced to make ends meet by attending sci-fi conventions and store openings. Both the actors and the characters they play are pastiches of the original Trek cast. Egotistical Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) was Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, and the allusions to William Shatner’s Captain Kirk are numerous. Classically trained Sir Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman) is bitter about only being known for portraying the alien Dr. Lazarus, echoing Leonard Nimoy’s occasional frustrations with his character Mr. Spock. Aging pin-up girl Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver) played Lt. Tawny Madison, who’s job boiled down to repeating what the ship’s computer said. Rounding out the show’s cast are laid-back Fred Kwan/Tech Sgt. Chen (Tony Shalhoub) and grown-up child actor Tommy Webber/Lt. Loredo (Daryl Mitchell), pilot of the NSEA Protector.
The fun begins with the arrival of the alien Thermians led by Mathesar (Enrico Colantoni). Believing all the episodes of the show to be “historical documents,” they come to Earth to enlist the crew’s help against the despotic conqueror Sarris (Robin Sachs). They take the cast, along with tag-along former red-shirt Guy Fleegman (Sam Rockwell), into space and onto an exact working replica of the Protector. Luckily for Nesmith, he’s able to call on über-Quester Brandon (Justin Long) for advice on how things in the ship work.
The entire film lambastes the original Trek, but without an ounce of venom or malice. The pointless inner ship designs, the trip down to an alien planet, the mixture of antagonism and friendship between Nesmith and Dane; it’s all familiar to Trekkers. At the same time, it lampshades the many of Trek‘s tropes as well. Fred’s easy-going demeanor and casual acceptance of the fantastic is a great antithesis to James Doohan’s excitable Scotty. And the romance that blossoms between he and the Thermian Laliari (Missi Pyle) is adorably squicky. Guy’s paranoia that he’ll be killed because he’s not one of the main crew is a hilarious running gag (with a really funny pay off towards the end if you pay attention) and Rockwell nearly steals the whole flick. The chemistry between the cast is evident, and the attraction between old flames Nesmith and DeMarco is played very believably. But where the film really succeeds is it’s accessibility for non-Trekers. I’ve never seen an episode of the original series, and yet was able to catch all the film’s jokes. I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it. Galaxy Quest gets the rare 5 out of 5 giant rock monsters.
But that’s not all. Did you know that IDW recently published a comic sequel? By Grabthar’s Hammer, check out a review.