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Wednesday, May 13, 2009
  DVD Review: Galaxy Quest

Galaxy Quest is the minor 1999 comedy classic about the cast of a defunct, Star Trek­-like sci-fi show thrown in the middle of an actual intergalactic conflict. It’s an excellent premise – in the special features, the original screenwriter refers to the obvious Star Trek influence as an “in-joke with everyone on the planet” – and the movie was a pretty huge success in its day, developing a devoted cult audience. And now Paramount is rewarding the fans with a loaded 10th anniversary DVD.

I’d seen Galaxy Quest when it first came out on video about 10 years ago, and I remembered liking it okay (I also remembered that a lot of people seemed to like it way more than I did), but my memory was more than a bit foggy. So I was eager to take another look at Galaxy Quest with this new DVD. Turns out I’d forgotten how awesome this movie is .

The plot follows the cast of a sci-fi show called Galaxy Quest that ended 15-20 years earlier, now reduced to making the rounds of the convention circuit. Their captain, Tim Allen, is accosted by what he assumes are just particularly whacked-out fans who claim to be aliens who desperately need his help. It turns out they are aliens, and somehow managed to find broadcasts of the old Galaxy Quest show, mistaking them for “historical documents.” The Thermians, as they’re called, have based their space-faring technology entirely on a cheesy old sci-fi show, and don’t realize the bickering actors they eventually bring into space to help them fight off a savage reptilian race are not actually intergalactic heroes.

The movie makes no bones about the old Galaxy Quest show basically just being Star Trek, and several of the characters – Tim Allen as the supercool, two-fisted captain, Alan Rickman as the Spock-The (incompetent) crewlike alien Dr. Lazarus, Sam Rockwell as a random crewman who was killed off in a single episode who now happily milks his brief TV appearance more than a decade later, and Tony Shaloub as the almost comically ethnic chief engineer – are lifted just about completely from that iconic show.

The brilliance of Galaxy Quest is that, like the best films of its kind, it’s an effective spoof of the sci-fi genre while actually also working as a sci-fi adventure flick (the evil aliens are cooler and scarier than anything in any of the Star Wars prequels). It just happens to also be really, really funny. There’s such a genuine love and affection for not only Star Trek and the sci-fi genre in general, but also to the fans (Trekkies/Trekkers/whatever) – which is the easiest group to make fun of – that it’s really infectious. Galaxy Quest manages to make you feel for what are, on the surface, completely ridiculous characters, particularly Enrico Colantoni, who injects genuine pathos into Mathesar, the Thermian leader.

The cast of Galaxy Quest is brilliant from top to bottom; Sam Rockwell is hilarious as Crewman No. 6, a.k.a. Guy, who’s all too aware of the fate that usually befalls nameless crewmen. Tony Shaloub was also amazing as a guy playing an Asian guy (chief engineer Kwan), who remains totally unfazed by any of the crazy outer-space stuff the crew comes across. Justin Long (the Mac guy) also turns up in a small but eventually crucial role as a teenaged Galaxy Quest nerd (Rainn Wilson The Office fame also turns up in a tiny part as one of the Thermians). Sigourney Weaver deserves praise for playing aging sexbomb Gwen DeMarco as the complete opposite of her iconic character of Ripley from the Alien movies. And I can’t leave out Rickman as the bitter, theatre-trained thespian trapped in his fame as a purple-prose-spouting alien scientist.

Galaxy Quest is a wonderful little gem of a movie. If you haven’t seen it in years, like I had, I heartily recommend you pick up this new DVD. If you’re a fan, this is the package you’ve been waiting for. Great stuff.



There’s a great retrospective mini-documentary called ‘Historical Documents: The Story of Galaxy Quest,’ which features new interviews with the entire cast and cThe Thermiansrew. I’ve said before how much I enjoy featurettes that look back on a movie, as the passage of time usually gives the people involved more perspective (and cuts down on the usual PR shilling that comes with interviews meant to promote an upcoming movie or DVD). Everyone involved reflects fondly on the Galaxy Quest experience, especially Justin Long and Sam Rockwell, who were pretty much unknowns at the time.

There’s also a segment specifically on the cast, a look at the special effects, a piece about the creation of the Thermian race (apparently Colantoni basically came up with their bizarre speaking style himself), and some deleted scenes. There are a couple of silly extras as well, like a short video of Sigourney Weaver “rapping” in a video she sent to her longtime agent for his birthday while she was filming, as well as an audio track in Thermian, which is fun to watch for a few minutes, but I can’t really imagine someone watching the entire movie that way. Still, it’s fun. Overall this is a great DVD package for a great movie. Highly recommended.

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