Never Give Up, Never Surrender
a Galaxy Quest review

April 23 2000

"It's a rock - it doesn't have any vulnerable spots!"

            -- Jason Nesmith (TIM ALLEN) in big trouble, Galaxy Quest

True Confessions: I've been a Star Trek fan since I was 5.

Not just any fan, mind you, but one that watched the TV show, the movies, read the books, can tell you how warp drive works (or is supposed to), where Sickbay on the original Enterprise is (Deck 7, hang a right at Turboshaft A), owns a tailored Next Generation uniform, did the convention circuit, and started the Star Trek Fan Club in Singapore.

Oh yeah. I can see you guys edging away now.

Anyway, this is to let you know the background so that you know I approached Dreamworks SKG's latest SF offering, Galaxy Quest, with a bit of trepidation, preparing for fans like me to be mocked. The premise is a simple one - a bunch of has-been actors whose only claim to fame was a highly popular sci-fi TV show get recruited by aliens who believe that the TV episdes were "historical documents" and who want them to save their race from destruction. Sort of like The Last Starfighter with the Star Trek crew.

Because it is them. There's no mistaking the design of the ship, the stereotypes among the crew - the William Shatner-esque posing of Tim Allen's Jason Nesmith character (who plays the NSEA Protector's Commander Peter Quincy Taggart), the typecasting of Alan Rickman's alien Doctor Lazarus, or the psudeo-scientific beryllium spheres (for Trek's dilithium). All the women wear their uniforms unzipped to reveal cleavage - and non moreso than Sigourney Weaver's Gwen DeMarco, playing completely against type as the blonde haired officer whose sole job is to repeat everything the computer says - and all the cute aliens turn out to be menaces.

I won't go onto a list of what's parodied. There's tons of stuff - and not just limited to Trek, but SF fandom in general. The convention filled with your "get a life" fans (the film's producers apparently recruited real fans for the job), sex with aliens, the character who's convinced he's going to be killed because his role is simply "Crewman #6"... what's remarkable about the movie, and what drew me deeply into it, was that even though the fun was made, it was made with such obvious love, not ridicule.

Brief detour: When I, Andy Logam-Tan and Chris Ong got together and decided to set up the Star Trek Club locally, what we had in mind was a place where we could get like-minded people together, have a few laughs, play let's pretend for a while, and watch episodes like we'd always done. We'd grab a pizza, some chips and Coke, watch Picard do his shirt-tugging maneuver and cheer, make nasty remarks about Wesley, and wonder why whenever Star Fleet equipment blows up on the show, rocks are shown for debris. We like the show - we love the show, and there are moments of sublime drama that are beyond description - but part of the fun was to make fun of it as well when it got silly. And it was just as often silly as it was glorious.

And in the end, that love for the silly was one of the reasons that made me resign as Club President, to get away from the people who took it way too seriously, who glared at me each time I made a comment about Worf's complete uselessness as a security officer, or Counsellor Troi's knack for stating the obvious ("Captain, they're concealing something." "Of course they are, you stupid cow! Say something useful for once!").

What makes Galaxy Quest both a funny movie and a great movie from the fan's point of view is that it caters to both sides of the fan equation. First, we've got people who enjoy the silliness and like to poke fun at it, but love it to death anyway - despite and because of the silliness.

At the same time, it recognizes that at its core, shows like Trek attract loyal and fanatical followings because, despite what people like me and Jason Nesmith in the movie might sometimes say, it's not just a TV show. It's not just mere entertainment, but it's about loyalty, about sacrifice, camaraderie, facing down superior odds together, and cheating death by sheer ingenuity instead of sheer firepower. Because being a hero is simply being scared to death, but doing it anyway because it's the right thing to do.

And of course, there's people who understand both.

I'm not saying that you have to be a SF fan to enjoy Galaxy Quest, but it helps. However, given the way Star Trek has grafted itself into the collective consciousness of mankind since its debut in 1966, that shouldn't be a problem. Even if you're not a Trek fan, as long as you remember stuff like Space: 1999, or Battlestar Galactica, or hell, even Jason of Star Command, you'll find enough to keep you rolling with laughter.

If there's a lesson to be learned from this movie (and don't you just hate lessons?) it's that fans will eventually save the day. So next time someone makes fun of you liking an obscure - or not-so-obscure TV show - stand fast. Never give up, never surrender. And if you fall, by Grabthar's Hammer, by the Sons of Warvan, you will be avenged.

Okay, you can come back into the room now, guys. Guys?


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