An Alternative Guide to Great Movies: Galaxy Quest (1999)

Galaxy Quest affectionately spoofed the world of Star Trek and obsessive fans. It starred Tim Allen,

Galaxy Quest affectionately spoofed the world of Star Trek and obsessive fans. It starred Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Daryl Mitchell as actors weary of their on-screen alter-egos. Picture: DREAMWORKS - Credit: Archant

Movies that tell a good story and have engaging characters provide that all-important re-watch value necessary for a great film. Arts editor Andrew Clarke presents a series of idiosyncratic suggestions for movies which may entertain if you are in the mood for something different.

Galaxy Quest affectionately spoofed the world of Star Trek and obsessive fans. It starred Tim Allen

Galaxy Quest affectionately spoofed the world of Star Trek and obsessive fans. It starred Tim Allen and Alan Rickman as actors weary of their on-screen alter-egos. Picture: DREAMWORKS - Credit: Archant

Galaxy Quest, dir: Dean Parisot; starring: Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Daryl Mitchell. Cert: PG (1999)

One of the major considerations when selecting films for this series of contemporary great movies is time. Time helps create great films. It eradicates the flashy overnight sensations and allows the really good films to continue to shine.

Re-watch value is an important element of a great film, the ability to return to a movie time and again and discover new things, can only happen with the passage of time. For the purpose of this series no film released in the last ten years can really be considered as time hasn’t had a chance to wash away the trappings of contemporary film fashion.

Galaxy Quest affectionately spoofed the world of Star Trek and obsessive fans. It starred Tim Allen,

Galaxy Quest affectionately spoofed the world of Star Trek and obsessive fans. It starred Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Daryl Mitchell as actors weary of their on-screen alter-egos. Picture: DREAMWORKS - Credit: Archant

While it is usual to revisit old favourites, films you enjoyed on release, to see how they have stood the test of time, it’s not that common to find yourself returning to a film, that you merely thought was okay 20 years ago and now regard it as a modern gem.


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This was my surprising discovery when I returned to the orbit of Galaxy Quest. When I first reviewed it on release, I dismissed it as a lightweight but entertaining send-up of Star Trek and its mad fans, I thought that the all-star casting probably leant it more cultural clout than it deserved but on a second visit nearly two decades on, I happy to report that not only has time been kind to this sci-fi satire but I was too grudging in my appreciation of the film. Galaxy Quest has matured into a very fine, and, dare I say it, perceptive take on the world science fiction and its armies of fan followers.

The film remains hugely entertaining but the object of its satire, obsessive fandom, has grown increasingly relevant in the 21st century with the return of series like Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, films like Twilight and Harry Potter and immersive new series like Game of Thrones.

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While Star Trek itself seems to be taking a breather at the moment, the annual summer blockbuster season has stepped in to fill the breach with endless supply of superhero movies which exist in a complex universe with characters crossing over between movies – ideal for the superfan.

Galaxy Quest affectionately spoofed the world of Star Trek and obsessive fans. It starred Tim Allen,

Galaxy Quest affectionately spoofed the world of Star Trek and obsessive fans. It starred Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Daryl Mitchell as actors weary of their on-screen alter-egos. Picture: DREAMWORKS - Credit: Archant

The phenomenon of conventions like Comic-Con has grown up to service this fan industry and has grown so powerful that major studios and TV producers run test screenings at these events to judge how their wares are likely to be received – and it gives them the opportunity to fine-tune or reshoot sequences if necessary.

So it’s against this background that we now view Galaxy Quest and it now seems funnier than ever. The script and performances are razor-sharp and what I really didn’t appreciate at the time is the fact it also functions as a decent science fiction movie in its own right.

Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver and Tony Shalhoub are actors who are struggling to re-ignite their careers 20 years after the cancellation of their cheesy cult-series Galaxy Quest. Alan Rickman, who played a Spock-like alien doctor, and Sigourney Weaver, who played an air-head communications officer with a plunging neckline, are particularly resentful. Only vain Tim Allen seems to relish revisiting his years as the square-jawed, heroic captain.

Then everything gets turned upside down when a group of Thermians – real aliens who think the actors are a real ship’s crew – kidnap them and ask for help to battle the evil Sarris. The beauty of the film is to be found in actors being forced to become the characters they have so long resented playing – and for Allen’s Jason Nesmith he discovers that a hero has to do more than take his shirt off.

In a movie filled with star-turns, Sigourney and Weaver and Tim Allen both extract the maximum amount of fun from their scenes, the stand-out performance has to be the one conjured up from the depths of his soul by Alan Rickman.

He makes his sardonic, frustrated Shakespearean stage actor Alexander Dane feel completely real. Even though he is clearly a self-obsessed luvvie, Rickman allows you to feel sympathy for his character. Although Rickman was never trapped by such a role, looking back now, his performance is prescient for the attention he would receive as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films.

The real achievement for director Dean Parisot is that he manages to both send-up science fiction series like Star Trek/Galaxy Quest while at the same time acknowledging the affection that we all have for a series which can capture our imagination – and the secret to that is good writing and excellent characters which Galaxy Quest has in abundance.

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