Though it was inspired by Star Trek, to call Galaxy Quest a simple spoof would mean belittling one of the greatest sci-fi comedies ever made. Written by David Howard and Robert Gordon and directed by Dean Parisot (Fun with Dick and Jane). While the film obviously has a lot of fun pointing out the silly conventions of Star Trek, Galaxy Quest in no way disparages them. In fact, the filmmakers pay homage to the series and the genre as a form of entertainment that has the power to bring people together in a way few others seem to be able to accomplish. That being said, I’m surprised Galaxy Quest received a lukewarm reception at the box office when it was released in 1999 but this new Deluxe Edition DVD will give Trek fans the chance to check out this excellent, underrated gem.
The premise is a simple one: what would happen if an alien race mistook episodes of Star Trek for actual historical documents, and then tried to form a civilization based on them? And what if they came to earth seeking the help of the Star Trek actors, thinking they were actual space explorers?
Of course, in this film there is no direct mention of Star Trek. Instead, it’s a cheesy early 1980’s show called Galaxy Quest. Years after being canceled, the show still has a loyal fan base that turns up for yearly conventions, dress up as the characters and spend hours discussing minute details of every episode. While it’s nice to be remembered so fondly, the actors haven’t been able to establish any credibility outside of Galaxy Quest and are forced to make personal appearances and bad commercials to make ends meet. Galaxy Quest star Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) who played Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, gets totally depressed when he overhears fans making fun of him in the bathroom at a convention.
The next morning Jason is visited by a group of real aliens with a leader named Mathesar (Enrico Colantoni) who asks him to help them save their world from a warlord named Sarris (Robin Sachs) The aliens have apparently received transmissions of Galaxy Quest and believe they are historical documents. As a result, they have built a full working model of the ship based on what they’ve seen on the show. Initially, Jason thinks this is all just another personal appearance; that is, until they beam him up to the ship.
After much cajoling, Jason is able to convince the rest of the cast to join him on the mission: Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman), a British actor who played Dr. Lazarus, and Gwen DeMarco (Signorney Weaver), the buxom actress who played the wonderfully named Lt. Tawny Madison, the TV show’s T&A factor–are fed up and bored with the rabid fandom in which they have been imprisoned. Alexander bemoans the fact that he once played Richard III on-stage while Gwen gripes that she still isn’t sure what her role on the show was (she repeated everything the computer said–her main purpose, of course, was to wear low-cut spacesuits), heavily medicated Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub) and former child star Tommy Webber (Daryl “Chill” Mitchell). Also along for the ride is Guy Fleegman (Sam Rockwell), who has made a career out of his brief appearance as nameless Crewman #6.
The quality casting is aided by a script that is full of hilariously quotable lines, all of which fit seamlessly with the storyline, lending realism to this sci-fi comedy that’s necessary to make it a great film. You can laugh out loud as Rockwell pulls off yet another brilliant one-liner, only to be smacked with emotion as Colantoni’s alien leader sees the ideals he built his life around get smashed before him. The believability is only enhanced by design and special effects work that is simply great, including fantastic sets and space vistas, some excellent CG animation and impressive animatronics and make-up.
Star Trek fans won’t miss the familiar references to that series but Galaxy Quest also works on its own merits. The characters are given a believable story within unbelievable circumstances. Through the course of the film, each of the actors behind the successful ’80’s sitcom that is portrayed gets a chance to play a real hero of sorts, learning the true meaning of Commander Peter Quincy Taggart’s catch phrase, “Never give up, never surrender.” Great stuff I tell you, great stuff.
This digitally remastered widescreen presentation looks incredibly good for a decade-old film. Just because it’s a comedy, Galaxy Quest doesn’t hold back from some pretty awesome looking visuals and all of that is delivered with impressive technical proficiency in this fine transfer. The image is smooth, clean and sharp. The color isn’t too degraded and the contrast remains strong. The CGI doesn’t look particularly dated and is well-integrated throughout. Just take a look at the spectacular view inside the Omega 13 core. This film probably hasn’t looked this good since it was released.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 English presentation is nicely separated and spacious. The majestic, brassy score has some nice flourishes from left, right and center. The space battles have also been designed with a 360 degree field in mind. Bass isn’t super heavy, but within an acceptable range. The disc also features a Spanish track in 5.1 and an unusual “Thermian” track in 2.0, which replaces all of the dialogue with the bizarre, throaty language of the aliens in the film.
This release has an impressive slate of special features:
• Historical Documents: The Story of Galaxy Quest (18 min) – a retrospective featurette about the making of the film and how those involved feel about the film almost a decade later. There are some interesting bits of info about the origin film, including notes about the movie’s original concept, as well as interviews with Allen, Rickman, Weaver, Shaloub, Rockwell, Mitchell, Colantoni, Pyle and Long, as well as director Dean Parisot, producer Mark Johnson and writers David Howard and Bob Gordon.
• Never Give Up, Never Surrender: The Intrepid Crew of the NSEA Protector (23:21). You get real insight on the cast and their roles, thanks to them talking mostly about each other rather than their own experiences. The conversations are so genuine and heartfelt that you can’t help but smile watching them, especially when Colantoni talks about how Shaloub found his character. The new interviews are supplemented with clips from 1999 sit-downs, adding some retro-perspective.
• By Grabthar’s Hammer, What Amazing Effects (7 Min) Devoted to the film’s special effects, provided by Stan Winston and Industrial Light and Magic. Much of the interviews here are from 1999.
• Alien School: Creating the Thermian Race (5:22) deals with developing the good aliens in the film, divulging how much influence Colantoni had on the Thermian concept, and how the actors helped sculpt this race on the set. This featurette, along with “Never Give Up, Never Surrender” and the following six-minute “Actors in Space” point out just how much this film is an actor’s film. “Actors in Space”, talks about the idea of the movie being about acting than much as anything else, with interviews with the cast.
• Sigourney Weaver Raps is intriguing enough for this particular extra to be advertised on the front of the box. It opens with Weaver explaining that she wanted to make a birthday present for her agent and employed the help of her co-star (and real-life rapper) Daryl “Chill” Mitchell. Shot on video, it features Weaver (“Siggy Blond Sig”) accompanied by Mitchell, Rockwell and Pyle on the set of the film. Yes, she raps. Yes, it’s just as woeful and wonderful as it sounds.
• Deleted Scenes – There are eight deleted scenes, seven of which were included on the previous release and one that is new. They are “Tech Talk with Sergeant Chen,” “Alex Tours His ‘Personalized’ Quarters.” (available with a brief intro), “A Running Spat Between Old Flames,” “Guy Gets Attacked,” “Alex’s Motivational Speech,” “Gwen Saves the Day,” “The Crew vs. Sarris” and “Sweet Serenity at Last” (which also features an intro longer than the scene itself).
• Theatrical Trailer