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 science fiction action comedy film directed by Dean Parisot and written by David Howard and Robert Gordon. A parody of science-fiction films and series, especially Star Trek and its fandom, the film stars Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and Daryl Mitchell. The film depicts the cast of a defunct cult television series called Galaxy Quest who are suddenly visited by actual aliens who believe the series to be an accurate documentary, and become involved in a very real intergalactic conflict.
The film was a modest box office success and was positively received by critics: it won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (an award previously won by the original Star Trek series in the 1960s) and the Nebula Award for Best Script, and was also nominated for 10 Saturn Awards, including Best Science Fiction Film, Best Director for Parisot, Best Actress for Weaver, and Best Supporting Actor for Rickman, with Allen winning Best Actor.
Galaxy Quest went on to achieve cult status through the years, especially from Star Trek fans for its affectionate parody, but also to more mainstream audiences as a comedy film in its own right. Several former cast and crew members of Star Trek also went on to praise the film. It was included in Reader’s Digest‘s list of The Top 100+ Funniest Movies of All Time in 2012, while Star Trek fans voted it the seventh best Star Trek film of all time in 2013.
The cast members of the canceled space-adventure television series Galaxy Quest spend most of their days attending fan conventions and promotional stunts. Though the series’ former lead star Jason Nesmith thrives on the attention, the other cast members resent him and – to varying degrees – the state of their careers.
During a convention, Jason is approached by a group calling themselves Thermians, led by Mathesar, who request his help; believing this to be for a promotional appearance, he agrees to be picked up the next morning. Jason is hung over when he is picked up and does not grasp that he has been transported to a working recreation of the bridge of the NSEA Protector, the starship from Galaxy Quest. Believing that he is play acting, he gives half-hearted orders as captain, directing them to attack his enemy General Sarris, temporarily defeating him. When the Thermians transport him back to Earth, he realizes that it was real. He attempts to relate his adventure to the other cast members, but is rebuffed. When the Thermian Laliari appears and requests Jason’s help further, he convinces the cast to join him.
Once aboard the Protector, the group learns that the Thermians received transmissions of Galaxy Quest in space, and thought they were historical documentaries. Inspired by the crew’s adventures, the Thermians restructured their society to reflect the virtues of the show, including manufacturing a functioning replica of the Protector. When Sarris attacks the ship, the group flees through a field of magnetic mines. Though they escape Sarris, the ship’s beryllium sphere, its source of power, is damaged. They detect beryllium on a nearby planet, and the humans travel to the surface to retrieve a new sphere. After a series of mishaps, they are successful, but in their absence Sarris takes over the Protector. Jason confesses to Sarris that he is not the ship’s commander, and shows him the “historical documents” of Galaxy Quest; Sarris realizes what they truly are and forces Jason to explain them to a heartbroken Mathesar. Sarris orders the Protector’s self-destruct activated and returns to his ship, leaving the crew to die.
The humans formulate a plan to abort the self-destruct and defeat Sarris’ men left on the ship. With the aid of a Galaxy Quest fan on Earth named Brandon – using a genuine Thermian communicator Jason had accidentally swapped for Brandon’s prop – and his network of friends who possess intimate knowledge of the show, Jason and Gwen make their way to the ship’s core and shut down the self-destruct sequence, while Alexander leads the Thermians in fighting back against Sarris’ forces. The humans take back command of the Protector and fly to confront Sarris. With their renewed confidence in their abilities, the crew flies through the minefield again but evade the mines, causing them to drag behind the ship. The Protector flies straight at Sarris’ ship, maneuvering away at the last second, tricking him into flying into the mines and obliterating his ship.
The Protector travels to Earth to return the humans home, but Sarris, who escaped his vessel’s destruction, ambushes them and fatally wounds several crew members. Jason activates the “Omega 13”, a secret superweapon on the Protector that had never been used and never had its capabilities explained; the device causes a thirteen-second time warp to the past, giving Jason and Mathesar the chance to disarm Sarris before he attacks. The Protector‘s bridge splits from the main vessel to fly to Earth with the humans, while the main section departs with Mathesar leading the Thermians. With Brandon acting as a beacon, the Protector bridge crashes at the Galaxy Quest convention, where the crowd assumes it was a publicity stunt. As the humans climb out, Sarris revives and Jason shoots him, blasting him into atoms, and the cast basks in the adoration of Brandon, his pals, and their fans.
Some time later, Galaxy Quest is revived as a sequel series, Galaxy Quest: The Journey Continues, with the crew reprising their roles.
- Tim Allen as Jason Nesmith, who played Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, the commander of the NSEA Protector and main character of the series.
- Sigourney Weaver as Gwen DeMarco, who played Lieutenant Tawny Madison, the ship’s communications officer and the only officer aboard who can give orders to the ship’s computer.
- Alan Rickman as Alexander Dane, who played Dr. Lazarus, the ship’s science officer and a member of the Mak’tar, an alien species known for their super intelligence and psionic powers.
- Tony Shalhoub as Fred Kwan, who played Tech Sergeant Chen, the ship’s chief engineer.
- Sam Rockwell as Guy Fleegman, the cast’s handler at conventions, who also played a “redshirt” (a short-lived minor character) in a single episode, simply referred to as “Crewman #6”. In the revival at the end of the film, he gains a part as Security Chief “Roc” Ingersol.
- Daryl Mitchell as Tommy Webber, who played Lieutenant Laredo, a precocious child pilot.
- Corbin Bleu portrays a younger Laredo during the “original” TV series
- Enrico Colantoni as Mathesar, the leader of the Thermians.
- Robin Sachs as Roth’h’ar Sarris, the General leading the reptilian humanoids who seek to destroy the Thermians
- Patrick Breen as Quellek, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane.
- Missi Pyle as Laliari, a Thermian and love interest for Fred.
- Jed Rees as Teb, a Thermian and Mathesar’s second-in-command.
- Justin Long as Brandon, a dedicated fan of Galaxy Quest.
- Jeremy Howard as Kyle, Brandon’s friend.
- Kaitlin Cullum as Katelyn, Brandon’s friend
- Jonathan Feyer as Hollister, Brandon’s friend
- Wayne Péré as Lathe, Sarris’s second-in-command.
- Samuel Lloyd as Neru, a Thermian.
Galaxy Quest is the film debut of both Long and Rainn Wilson (as the Thermian Lahnk).
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 television series. Johnson purchased the script and had Bob Gordon rewrite it into Galaxy Quest. A fan of Star Trek, Gordon 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.
Rickman’s character was originally supposed to have been knighted by Elizabeth II before the events of the film. Rickman requested this to be changed, as he felt that it would not fit Dane’s sentiment of lack of recognition; the character is still credited as “Sir Alexander Dane” in the credits, although all mentions of being a knight have been removed from the film.
The Thermians’ native planet, Klaatu Nebula, is a reference to the name of the alien visitor in the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).
The name of Rockwell’s character, Guy Fleegman, is a homage to Guy Vardaman, a little-known Star Trek actor who worked extensively on Star Trek as either a stand-in or in minor roles.
The romantic relationship between Fred Kwan and the alien Laliari comes from a suggestion of Steven Spielberg, one of the owners of DreamWorks, impressed by Missi Pyle while visiting the set, to expand Missi Pyle’s role in the film.
Crew and casting
Since early in the production, Mark Johnson wanted Dean Parisot, who had directed Home Fries, another film he produced, to direct Galaxy Quest; however, DreamWorks favored Harold Ramis because of 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. About his role, Allen stated that he based his performance on Yul Brynner instead of William Shatner.
Linda DeScenna, production designer of the film, was interested in the project because it would not have the same aesthetics as other 1990s science fiction films, and “it didn’t have to be real, hi-tech and vacuformed”. The design of the Thermian station was influenced by the works of artist Roger Dean, especially his cover art for the Yes live album Yessongs (1973).
The makers of the film wanted only “science fiction virgins” who had never worked in this genre to audition for Gwen DeMarco’s role. Famous for science fiction roles such as Ellen Ripley in the Alien films and Dana Barrett in the Ghostbusters films, Weaver auditioned nonetheless because she wanted to work with both Allen and Rickman, and because she “fell in love with the script”, calling it “that great sort of Wizard of Oz story of these people feeling so incomplete in the beginning, and then during the course of this adventure, they come out almost like the heroes they pretended to be in the first place”; she was surprised when discovering she actually got the role.
Tony Shalhoub originally auditioned for Guy Fleegman, but Sam Rockwell won the role, and Shalhoub was cast as Fred Kwan instead. 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 role of Brandon. Paul Rudd auditioned for a role, while David Alan Grier was the second choice for Tommy Webber. The film was Justin Long‘s acting debut, and Rainn Wilson‘s film debut (his only previous credit was the soap opera One Life to Live).
According to casting director Debra Zane, finding an actress to play the role of Laliari was very hard, as they had “a difficult time finding a woman who could be Thermian in the same way as actors Enrico Colantoni, Rainn Wilson and Jed Rees”. Ultimately, when she auditioned Missi Pyle, she was so impressed that she sent the audition tape directly to Parisot, with a note stating “If this is not Laliari, I will resign from the CSA.” Steven Spielberg later asked for Laliari’s role to be expanded after being impressed by her performance as well. Jennifer Coolidge was the second choice for the role.
Both Allen and Rockwell almost dropped out of the film; Allen had to choose between Galaxy Quest and Bicentennial Man and chose the first, with his Bicentennial Man role going to Robin Williams instead, while Rockwell almost backed out of the film after obtaining a lead role in an independent film; Kevin Spacey convinced him otherwise.
Scenes on the barren planet where the crew stops to obtain a new beryllium sphere and Captain Nesmith battles a rock monster were filmed at Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. At the time, access to the park was partly by dirt road; fees paid by the production company were used to upgrade the entire access road to asphalt pavement.
According to Weaver, Allen hectored her to sign a piece of the Nostromo, the spaceship from Alien, in which she had starred; she ultimately did, writing “Stolen by Tim Allen; Love, Sigourney Weaver,” which she claims upset him greatly.
During the period of filming, the entire cast attended a 20th-anniversary screening of Alien. After filming wrapped, Weaver kept the wig she wore for the role.
In theaters, the first 20 minutes of the film were presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, before changing to a wider 2.35:1 ratio when the spaceship lands on Thermia to maximise the effect on viewers. David Newman composed the music score.
The film originally received an “R” rating, according to Galaxy Quest producer Lindsey Collins and Sigourney Weaver, before being recut. 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 Parisot, that line got a huge laugh. There is more profanity found in the shooting script.
Before the release of the movie, a promotional mockumentary video titled Galaxy Quest: 20th Anniversary, The Journey Continues, aired on E!, presenting the Galaxy Quest television series as an actual cult series, and the upcoming film as a documentary about the making of the series, presenting it in a similar way to Star Trek; it featured fake interviews of the series’ cast (portrayed by the actors of the actual film), “Questerians”, and critics.
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 on 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 Alexander Dane (played by Alan Rickman) has been typecast after his success on the Galaxy Quest television series; this reflects the lamentations of Leonard Nimoy, who had been typecast after his performance as Spock.
Additionally, the time between the original Galaxy Quest series and its sequel, Galaxy Quest: The Journey Continues is 17 years, the same amount of time that elapsed between the original Star Trek series and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The film’s visual effects were created by Industrial Light & Magic, which had a long history with Star Trek.
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.
Galaxy Quest received positive reviews from critics, both as a parody of Star Trek, and as a comedy film of its own. On Rotten Tomatoes, it received an approval rating of 90% based on 116 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”.
|List of awards and nominations|
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result|
|Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival||April 13, 2000||Silver Scream Award||Dean Parisot||Won|
|Artios Awards||November 1, 2000||Best Casting for Feature Film, Comedy||Debra Zane||Nominated|
|Blockbuster Entertainment Awards||May 9, 2000||Favorite Actor – Comedy||Tim Allen||Nominated|
|Favorite Actress – Comedy||Sigourney Weaver||Nominated|
|Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Film||April 1, 2000||Silver Raven for Best Screenplay||David Howard||Won|
|Pegasus Audience Award||Dean Parisot||Won|
|Hochi Film Awards||December 27, 2001||Best Foreign Language Film||Dean Parisot||Won|
|Hugo Awards||September 4, 2001||Best Dramatic Presentation||Dean Parisot, David Howard and Robert Gordon||Won|
|Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards||January 18, 2000||Best Visual Effects||Bill George||Nominated|
|Nebula Awards||April 28, 2001||Best Script||David Howard and Robert Gordon||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||June 6, 2000||Best Science Fiction Film||Galaxy Quest||Nominated|
|Best Director||Dean Parisot||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Tim Allen||Won|
|Best Actress||Sigourney Weaver||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Alan Rickman||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Younger Actor||Justin Long||Nominated|
|Best Music||David Newman||Nominated|
|Best Costume||Albert Wolsky||Nominated|
|Best Make-up||Stan Winston, Hallie D’Amore and Ve Neill||Nominated|
|Best Special Effects||Stan Winston, Bill George, Kim Bromley and Robert Stadd||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||August 6, 2000||Choice Movie – Comedy||Galaxy Quest||Nominated|
Impact and legacy
The film 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 to be 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.
Harold Ramis, who was originally supposed to direct the film but left following disagreements over the casting choices, notably Allen as the lead, was ultimately impressed with Allen’s performance. Tim Allen later stated that he and William Shatner were “now friends because of this movie”.
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.
I’ve had flashbacks of Galaxy Quest at the many conventions I’ve gone to since the movie came out. I thought it was an absolute laugh-a-minute.
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 Michelle Nichols.
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.
Yes, I have seen Galaxy Quest and no, it’s not really like that.
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]
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 titled Galaxy Quest: 20th Anniversary, The Journey Continues, concerning the making of the Galaxy Quest television series.
- 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.
- On September 17, a 20th Anniversary Edition Steelbook Blu-Ray was released exclusively in Best Buy Stores
- On November 5, a 20th Anniversary ‘Never Give Up, Never Surrender 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 revealed that the cast had been about ready to sign on for a follow up with Amazon, but that Rickman’s death, together with Allen’s television schedule, had proved to be obstacles, and that he believed that Rickman’s death meant the project would never happen.
However, the plans were revived in August 2017, with the announcement that Paul Scheer would be writing the series. Speaking to /Film, Scheer said that in his first drafts submitted to Amazon in November 2017, he wanted to create a serialized adventure that starts where the film ends, but leads into the cultural shift in Star Trek that has occurred since 1999; he said “I really wanted to capture the difference between the original cast of Star Trek and the J. J. Abrams cast of Star Trek.” To that end, Scheer’s initial scripts called for two separate cast sets that would come together by the end of the first season of the show, though he did not confirm if this included any of the original film’s cast.
Following the dismissal of Amy Powell as president of Paramount Television in July 2018, Scheer stated that the Galaxy Quest series had been put on hold while Paramount’s management was being re-established, but anticipated the show would continue forward after that. Scheer further said that they were making the series to allow the introduction of new characters while extending the setting, similar to what Star Wars: The Force Awakens did for A New Hope.
Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary was produced by Fandom to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary. It features interviews with the movie’s cast and crew, including Allen, Weaver, Rockwell, Shalhoub, Long, Pyle, Wilson, and Mitchell, along with director Parisot and writer Gordon, as well as celebrities including Wil Wheaton, Brent Spiner, Greg Berlanti, Paul Scheer, and Damon Lindelof. The film is scheduled to have an initial limited theatrical showing at about 600 screens through Fathom Events on November 26, 2019, which will include a screening of deleted scenes as well as the debut of Screen Junkies‘ “Honest Trailer” for Galaxy Quest.
- Fanboys – a comedy about Star Wars fans
- Free Enterprise – a comedy about Star Trek fans
- Trekkies – a documentary film about Star Trek convention attendees
- Three Amigos – a comedy about actors mistaken for their characters
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