“Never give up, never surrender,” so goes the motto of Galaxy Quest, the fictional series that serves as the basis for the 1999 cult film. While the movie did okay at the box office, Star Trek fans and lovers of all things science-fiction glommed onto it after it appeared on home video. Their reasoning was simple - it’s one of the best sci-fi comedy movies and one of the best Star Trek movies that (technically) never existed.
Galaxy Quest follows a group of washed-up actors who are famous for a TV show that was canceled years ago; it’s basically the life story of everyone from the original Star Trek series. When those actors are abducted by aliens, they suddenly have to go on a real adventure. The movie could have been full of schlocky jokes at the expense of Star Trek and its fans, but it turned out to be a soulfully interesting take on fandom, celebrity, and science fiction.
Whether you didn't know about Galaxy Quest until now or you’re a long-time fan, you’ll find the people behind the film all loved making the movie, and that’s why it still works decades later.
Trekkies are a classically maligned fan base. They were into science fiction before it was cool and are unapologetically dorky. In Galaxy Quest, fans of the series are desperate for information about their favorite episodes and they expect the cast of the show to be as interested in the technical aspects of the story as they are.
While Galaxy Quest definitely shines a light on how dorky sci-fi fans are (specifically Trekkies), it doesn't make them look stupid. Instead, it shows how much they love their favorite show, and celebrates their lack of concern for how goofy it makes them look to normies in the outside world.
Star Trek: The Next Generation alum Wil Wheaton blogged about the way in which Galaxy Quest absolutely nails how fans acted at conventions, noting:
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. When I saw Galaxy Quest, I remembered how much fun I used to have at conventions, and I missed it. I missed the interaction with the fans.
While Galaxy Quest treats its source material lovingly, it sharply skewers both the fandom around Star Trek and the way the original actors sniped at one another during both the filming of the series and the subsequent films. While some actors might take issue with a movie poking fun at them, the Star Trek cast actually includes a few Galaxy Quest fans.
When asked if he's seen Galaxy Quest George Takei responded:
I think it's a chillingly realistic documentary. 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 Tim Allen had that Shatner-esque swagger down pat. And I roared when the shirt came off, and Sigourney [Weaver] rolls her eyes and says, 'There goes that shirt again.' How often did we hear that on the set?
At the 2013 Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, NV, Trekkies ranked their favorite films in the canon covering everything from movies featuring the original cast of Next Generation to the Kelvin timeline. If you're a fan of Trek then you probably have an idea of how the ranking shook out, although there was one fascinating break from protocol.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is number one on the list, and Galaxy Quest comes in seventh out of 13, with 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness bringing up the rear.
Alan Rickman gave a ton of amazing performances in his lifetime. Throughout his filmography, he's put a unique and subdued spin on a variety of science fiction and fantasy characters (as well as mustache-twirling baddies). However, the apex of his career is arguably his performance as Alexander Dane/Dr. Lazarus - essentially the Dr. Spock of Galaxy Quest.
In the film Rickman makes Dane seem like someone who's completely over being famous while still carrying around a huge chip on his shoulder. He does this without ever being overtly hammy; it's a true master stroke only Rickman could pull off.
Rickman wasn't just worried about his acting in the film, he also gave input on the prosthetics he wore. In 2000 he told Starburst Magazine:
I thought it was important for it to be good enough to convince the aliens who believe we’re the real thing, but also cheesy enough to imagine that it was something he applied himself.