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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
JJ Abrams once said that Galaxy Quest is the one of the best Star Trek movies ever made. He is not wrong with that assessment. It is such a wonderful, quirky film that not only lampoons Star Trek and its fandom, but also is incredibly sweet towards it as well. That is a difficult balance to find, but Galaxy Quest pulls it off terrifically. But what made this film work within the context of the Star Trek fandom?
For starters, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. Galaxy Quest plays with the idea of what would happen if the cast of a popular, but cancelled sci-fi TV show is thrown into a real sci-fi setting with the aliens thinking they are the characters they portrayed on the TV show. In other words, what would William Shatner do if he was really thrown into the captain’s seat of the Enterprise?
If this movie didn’t play up the goofy nature and was more straight-laced, then it wouldn’t have worked at all. The cast is perfect for their respective roles. Tim Allen in particular as the Shatner-like Jason Nesmith. Everyone is completely committed to their respective roles, and it clearly shows they are having a blast making the movie. They knew exactly what they were doing and were running with it. Because of that, they were able to sell it and make audiences connect with them.
The film does indirectly poke a lot of fun at the Star Trek fandom, but it is never malicious. Justin Long plays a hard-core Galaxy Quest nerd who, early on in the movie, is told off by Allen’s Nesmith. Long’s character is obsessive, overly technical, and has working knowledge of how things worked in the fictional world of the show. These elements are played for some light laughs, but interestingly enough, he is also the one who saves the day because of it. Again, that is another thing that sells the movie for the Star Trek fandom. They are the heroes.
Also, this movie came out in 1999. I usually pinpoint that Star Trek’s modern popularity peaked around 1996 before its downward spiral. By 1999, the franchise was still popular enough for this movie to be made and Trek fans and general moviegoers to see, get, and appreciate. If it was made any time after this, I doubt it would have flown. Galaxy Quest was the right movie at the right time.
While the potential was there, I am glad they never made a Galaxy Quest 2. What more could have really been done. Warring cast members between spin-offs? A reboot? I guess these ideas have potential, but I feel all that was needed to be said for Galaxy Quest was successfully done the first time around. This really is a great film – not just for Trekkies, but for anyone who has a sense of humor.