In 1982, Galaxy Quest, a series very much likeStar Trek, was cancelled. Eighteen years later, its washed-up stars are fixtures on the fan circuit, though most of them despise the show, its fans, and each other. Only Jason Nesmith (played by Tim Allen), the egomaniac actor who played The Captain, is still enjoying himself — and the rest of the cast think he's a total jerk (again, very much like Star Trek).One day, a hungover Jason is approached by what he believes to be a group of fans who want him to star in an amateur film. Only when the "film" is over does he realize that it was all real. He had been abducted by real aliens, and taken to a real spaceship, a perfect copy of the show's Protector, where he'd fought a real space battle.When the aliens ask him to pay a return visit, Jason ropes in the rest of the main cast, plus one Red Shirt, for what Jason believes will be more ego-boosting fun. Instead, the actors find that they are the last hope of the Thermians, a race of naïve aliens fighting a losing war, who mistakenly believe that Galaxy Questwas actually a documentary. They now have to play their roles for real, defeating an alien warlord with nothing more than mediocre acting skills.This brilliant, loving parody of Star Trek (with aspects of the film ¡Three Amigos!) hangs a lampshade on most of its tropes. The film won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, and the writers accepted the award almost in tears because they were so pleased that the Sci-Fi community "got it" - that the film was a valentine, not a sneer. And some fans consider it an honorary Star Trek film to begin with (especially because including it in the timeline helps keep the Star Trek Movie Curse straight).
This film provides examples (and in most case parodies) of:
The good reviews weren't limited to Trek actors either; virtually every actor who's worked in sci-fi treats it like Citizen Kane at some point or another. For instance, the topic of Galaxy Quest comes up during a commentary track for Farscape, whereupon Claudia Black flies into hysterics over the ship's computer. ("No, there is no beryllium sphere onboard")
All Part of the Show: Inverted with the Thermians, who believe the show is a historical record of real events, but played straight with the cast members (especially Jason at first) who thinks that he is participating a fanfilm or photoshoot. Played straight at the end, when the shuttle crashes into the fan convention and Sarris is finally defeated, and the fans look very grateful for the big show put on for them.
Artistic License - Chemistry: The beryllium sphere. Doubles as a Mythology Gag—the Enterprise uses "dilithium crystals," which were originally called "lithium crystals" until someone figured out that lithium is a real element.
Bad News in a Good Way: "Heeey, guys. ...Listen, they're telling me the, uhh, the generators can't take it. Ship's breaking up and all that. Just FYI."
Bamboo Technology/Improvised Weapon: also lampshaded in the same scene. ("I know! You can make a weapon, look around you, can you construct some sort of rudimentary lathe?" "A lathe?!?Get off the line, Guy!") From the original Star Trek episode "Arena," in which Kirk made a cannon out of bamboo and gunpowder out of coal and sulfur and whatnot that he just happened to find lying around (though given the aliens had chosen a place of combat where either party could win and his opponent was much stronger, this likely wasn't just luck).
Bizarre Alien Biology: Alexander's room on the Protector contains a toilet designed for his character's biology: it looks like a confusing mess of tubes. The toilet also involves some spikes. The bed consists mostly of spikes that rise out of a block or hard, smooth material.
Bond Villain Stupidity: A classic example. Once Sarris has captured everyone, instead of just shooting them, he orders them to be thrown out of an airlock by just two guards.
Bowdlerise: A minor example. Watch Gwen's mouth when she sees the chompers and exclaims "Well screw that!" Clearly the filmmakers had a different second word in mind, which got altered after filming.
Also happens when Tommy tells Jason "You are so full of 'it', man!".
To get a lower rating, the filmmakers cut a minor scene which explains Fred and Guy's behavior throughout the movie. It works better for Fred, as his calm demeanor is a better Lampshade for Scotty's frantic behavior.
Break the Cutie: Sarris forces Jason to do this to Mathesar by revealing that Galaxy Quest is fiction.
This is also part of the backstory. The Thermians were about as peaceful a people as you could imagine, not even aware of the concept of intentionally speaking falsehood. And then they met Sarris.
Brick Joke: Bet you forgot about the alien shot out of the airlock.
Brandon needs to take out the trash.
The rock monster. ("It's the simple things in life you treasure.")
Brutal Honesty: One of the Thermians describes the pig-lizard's disintegration from the teleporter very matter-of-factly, much to Jason's dismay.
Buffy Speak: Happens during the first fight against Sarris
Guy: "Red thingy moving toward the green thingy... I think we're the green thingy."
Cannot Tell a Lie: The Thermians have no concept of lying or fiction in their culture. The protagonists learn this the hard way. It gets even worse in that they're beginning to learn about malicious lying from Sarris, but still have no concept of benign fiction not intended to deceive.
Chekhov's Skill: Midway through the film, Jason decides to practice his forward-roll maneuver (just like he did on the show) when the crew first lands on the rock planet. It comes in handy at the end, when he rolls out of the way to shoot Sarris.
Classically Trained Extra: Alexander Dane. He's not quite an "extra", but he still held a very low opinion of his role. The credits list him as "Sir Alexander Dane", which makes his appearances at Department Store grand openings all the more demeaning. (He once played Richard III, you know. There were five curtain calls.)
Clothing Damage: Gwen's costume gradually disintegrates over the course of the movie. Jason also tears his shirt just like William Shatner often did (which is lampshaded by Alexander), and Alexander Dane's facial appliances gradually deteriorate.
Command Roster: Done in classic tradition, with the actors slowly becoming these roles for real.
Cool Guns: Averted. Sarris' mooks' guns look like submarine sandwiches.
Cool Starship: The Protector, obviously. It's design is also a Fridge Brilliance reference to the Enterprise: instead of a disk-like primary hull and a cylindrical secondary hull, it has a cylindrical primary hull and a disk-like design for its secondary hull(s).
Cut Short: In-Universe example. The final episode of Galaxy Quest set up for the upcoming episode (Taggart stating when ambushed that they have to activate the Omega 13.), but that was the last episode.
Death Course: Again, lampshaded and parodied. Jason and Gwen have to navigate a death course complete with jets of fire, giant crushers, and tiny air vents, despite the fact that there is no rational reason for any of those things to be there. Why are they there? Because they were on the original TV show, so the Thermians have replicated them.
Decon-Recon Switch: Many of the tropes involved are mocked on their first appearance and used straight later on.
The Face: Parodied like everything else in the movie. The fact that Gwen has no technical speciality is lampshaded: Her 'social skills' amount to "repeating everything the computer says."
The Chick: Gwen really spoofs this. She gives a rant early in the movie about an interview that ended about "My boobs and how they fit into my suit." Her character in the in-universe original series plays it straight, for the actress it's an Enforced Trope because the aliens copied her function from the show.
Fake Nationality: Parodied with Arab-American Tony Shalhoub playing Chinese-named Fred Kwan/Sgt. Chen, a reference to Japanese-American George Takei playing totally not Japanese-named Sulu on Star Trek, Englishman Patrick Stewart playing French Jean-Luc Picard on TNG, and Canadian James Doohan playing Scotty.
Kwan isn't even his real name. He visibly squints for the camera in an attempt to make his eyes look Asian.
Fanboy - The convention attendees and the Thermians.
Gwen Demarco is definitely Counselor Troi and Commander Uhura. Other female leads had more active roles and this was before Linda Park. The bit about the interview references an actual interview with Jeri Ryan, the actress playing Seven of Nine, had.
Fred Kwan was easily the most laid back of the group and seemed to just go with everything. Much like James Doohan who not only enjoyed being recognized as Scotty, but definitely enjoyed meeting fans and going to conventions. His only real problem with Star Trek was William Shatner.
The big one: The Captain is all Kirk and Jason Nesmith is all Shatner. The relationship between Nesmith and the rest of the crew and the arc it follows in this series mirrors Shatner's relationship with the original series actors and his eventual reconciliation with them.
A Form You Are Comfortable With: The Thermians in their natural form are pink, squid-like entities. However, with "appearance generator" technology, they are able to change their appearance to appear less foreign to the humans.
Freak Out: Alexander's panic attack at every convention. You can set your watch by it.
Sarris: (shows the head of his lieutenant mounted on a stick) Better than my lieutenant!
Genre Blindness: Everyone except Guy. Played doubly straight with the Thermians. Sarris defeated them soundly in the backstory because of it, which he uses to hurt them again in the Break the Cutie moment.
Completely averted with Sarris, whose defeats tend to come because he has absolutely zero chance of knowing something (Omega-13, or that the Thermians had based their beliefs on another culture's entertainment), or because he's an actual military leader, not merely pretending ( and thus didn't expect a deft maneuver that'd be suicide for any but the best pilots, from a pilot who nearly crashed the ship as they disembarked. Plus said maneuver was Crazy Enough to Work but would never be tried in real life; the actors did it because that would be the TV method of doing it).
Genre Savvy: Guy Fleegman, who berates the others for their Genre Blindness. Ironically, he is the only character who is not mortally wounded before Jason activates the Omega-13.
Guy: Didn't you guys ever watch the show?!
Wrong Genre Savvy: On the other hand, Guy goes nearly the entire film believing himself to be a Red Shirt because he played one. He's not the only one.
Gwen: Let's get out of here before one of those things kills Guy!
In possibly one of the most well done moments of villain genre savviness ever, once shown the "historical documents" Sarris is the only nonhuman character who realizes that he is dealing with actors who have been mistaken for real explorers. This implies that unlike the Thermians, his own race produces entertainment.
Sarris: How adorable. The actors are going to play war with me!
Glory Days: Jason Nesmith hasn't done anything sinceGalaxy Quest. Alexander Dane bemoans that he was a 'proper' Shakespearean ActorbeforeGalaxy Quest.
Godzilla Threshold: What's that? Sarris is killing your crew and the only thing that could stop him is a device that could possibly destroy the universe? Well, turn it on!
On a slightly more minor level, teleporting the rock monster on board the ship had to count.
Hellish Pupils: Sarris's eyes are yellowish-green with dual pupils (one large one and a smaller one next to it).
Heroic Sacrifice: Guy suggests doing this to deal with some of Sarris's mooks, reasoning that if he's going to die anyway it might as well be a worthwhile death. Fred talks him out of it.
Human Aliens: Subverted when it turns out that the cephalopod-like Thermians use "appearance generators" to put the visiting Earthlings at ease (and presumably, to man the Protector II prior to their arrival). Much to Fred's delight and Guy's dismay.
Humorless Aliens: The Thermians appear to be like this (until the end, at least).
I Knew It: In-universe, this is Brandon's reaction when Jason tells him it's all real.
I Know Mortal Kombat: Tommy Webber at the helm, Fred Kwan on the Digital Conveyor, justified because the controls were designed by the Thermians replicating them from the "Historical Documents". In Weber's case, he had worked out in his head what the controls did and applied that consistently throughout the original television show. Also a Shout Out to Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher, as he did the same thing on the set of Next Generation.
Ironic Echo: Alan Rickman's character hates his Catchphrase, but says it with real feeling for the first time in decades after Quellek is shot.
Irony: Guy spends the whole movie complaining about being a Red Shirt. When Sarris sneaks on board the bridge of the ship and starts shooting everyone, Guy is the only person he doesn't hit.
Is This Thing Still On?/Nonverbal Miscommunication - Jason makes a "cut transmission" gesture to Gwen, then turns around and describes Sarris as being "as stupid as he is ugly", and trying to think of a way to trick him. Unfortunately, Gwen misunderstood the gesture to mean "we're dead," and the transmission kept running. (Of course, even had she interpreted the instruction correctly, she still wouldn't have known how to follow it.)
Jerkass: Some guys Jason heard talking negatively about the show in the restroom.
Just in Time: Parodied — on the show, bombs only ever stopped when the timer was at 1, so the self-destruct device on the new ship is designed to only stop with one second left no matter when the emergency stop button is pressed.
KillerRabbits: The beryllium miners. While the rest of the crew is Squeeing about how adorable the child-like alien miners are, the very Genre Savvy Guy worries, "Oh, sure, they're cute now. But they're going to get mean. And they're going to get ugly somehow. And there's going to be thousands of them." Seconds later, he's proved right.
Knight of Cerebus: Sarris is an extremely disturbing villain for a PG-rated movie, never mind a science fiction comedy. A genocidal sadistic torturer who not only guns down most of the main characters but beheads his second-in-command, and, to top it all off, he has a horror-worthy design.
Meaningful Echo: Alexander finally says his catchphrase and means it near the end of the film, when a Thermian who idolized him is killed.
Meaningful Name: Guy's first name is a generic term for a male - which was his role in the show.
Jason Nesmith shares a last name with Mike Nesmith of The Monkees. Despite being a major talent in his own right (he won the first Grammy for a music video, has written famous songs and produced popular movies), he's still most recognized for being in a boy band, lip synching, and not playing his own instruments.
Men Act, Women Are: Parodied and exaggerated by Gwen. In the show, her character's only job on the ship is to make redundant statements to the computer.
Worth mentioning: When TV Guide interviewed Jeri Ryan about playing Seven of Nine, a good chunk of the article was about her costume and how exactly she filled it out. Clearly, the writers did the research...
Naughty Tentacles: A doubly-rare example in that the "victim" is both male and fully willing. Made even more hilarious when you remember that the "victim" eventually becomes Adrian Monk. It probably helped that he was an alien himself.
No Name Given: Guy was one of these in the show, identified only as "Crew Member #6". His panic over the fact that this was not unconnected to his Redshirt status leads to him freaking out and apparently forgetting that he actually has a name in real life:
Nobody Here But Us Birds: While the crew is gathering beryllium on the exotic alien planet, Guy suggests to use this as a signal when they're about to split into two groups (one to distract the aliens, one to fly the landing craft).
Jason again when he realizes Gwen didn't turn off the communication link with Sarris after gesturing to her.
Sarris: Perhaps I'm not as stupid as I am ugly, Commander!
Jason: *looks up in Oh Crap mode*...I gave you the kill gesture.
Gwen: Yeah, no, you gave me the "we're dead" signal; I was agreeing with you. Like I know where the hold button is.
Plot Hole: The Thermians not knowing what the Omega 13 actually does. They built it. This can be explained as its function never being revealed on the show, as they built everything exactly as it was on the show, but it raises the further question of how they could build it, especially when its actual function is a correct in-universe Epileptic Tree deduced by fans when the show was cancelled before revealing it.
Post Historical Trauma: When Jason tells Mathesar that they're actors while he's on the torture table, Mathesar is distraught. Their culture doesn't understand acting or fiction and are only able to equate it to lying (which itself is a concept foreign to their culture). However, after the crew is successful, Mathesar is convinced they really are the crew, and that Jason was lying to Sarris. Some fan theories say that Mathesar knew the truth and was lying for the benefit of his crew.
The Power of Acting: Although they end up using their character's skills for real, their acting does come into play a few times.
Jason and Alex are able to overpower the guards by reenacting one of their scenes: "You're starting to act like you did in episode 17, you scene-stealing hack."
When Jason is fighting the rock monster, Alexander's advice is to attempt to figure out it's "motivation". A deleted part of the scene shows Alex "entering the mind" of the rock monster through method acting.
Precision F-Strike: Unfortunately, Gwen's aghast reaction to the crushy-chompy things - "Fuck that!" - was dubbed to get a PG rating.
Ramming Always Works: Somewhat subverted. Taggart has the ship launch itself at full speed toward the enemy ship and the enemy notes that with the difference in armor, it would be the ship that's being rammed that would survive, not the ship doing the ramming. However, at the last moment they dodge and allow the mine field they were dragging to take out the enemy ship instead.
Red Shirt: Guy spends most of the film terrified that he will die since it was his only role on show. Inverted, in that when Sarris goes on a killing spree, Guy is the only character not killed or mortally wounded.
He gets upgraded to a supporting character when the show relaunches, even getting name-dropped on the new show's title screen. Although it should be noted that he becomes the security chief, a position held by the late Tasha Yar...
Reset Button: The Omega 13 is a very limited Reset Button as it could turn time back only thirteen seconds. Just barely enough time to fix a major mistake. Fortunately, it wasn't a plot Reset Button. The movie was way too good to try that.
Notable, too, in that the show was canceled before this was discovered, so nobody knows what it does for certain. Rather than rely on the device, the fight's all but over before they use it out of sheer desperation.
Right Behind Me: The Captain insults Sarris after mistakenly thinking the viewscreen connection was turned off.
Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: After Jason Nesmith activates the Omega 13 device, time turns back 13 seconds into the past. Jason alone remains aware of the fact that the person who is about enter the bridge is not really Tech Sergeant Chen but actually Saris in disguise.
Rock Monster: Captain McTaggart has to fight a rock monster, providing the page quote and image. It's then teleported up to the ship and begins destroying Sarris's army.
Rubber Forehead Aliens: Doctor Lazarus is a literal rubber forehead alien. In fact, Alexander Dane is never seen without the prosthetic during the entire film, including at home, and even when it's half torn.
Rule Of Cool: Since the original show was cancelled before they showed the Omega 13 in action, Brandon and his fellow hardcore fans have a few different theories as to what the Omega 13 actually does — some of which are of mere academic interest, and one of which is scarily awesome. Guess which one actually turns out to be right?
Selling The Show: Part of the movie was about how the actors had to continue to sell the show despite how they actually felt about it.
Jason Nesmith: You WILL go out there. Sir Alexander Dane: I won't and nothing you say will make me. Jason Nesmith: The Show Must Go On. Sir Alexander Dane: ...Damn you.
Alexander's complaints that "...they're not getting me to say that stupid line." are similar to Alec Guiness' complaints in the original Star Wars trilogy. Some accounts mention that it was his idea to kill off Obi-Wan Kenobi so he wouldn't have to say anymore of "those damned stupid lines."
Shown Their Work: Look up the reactions of real Star Trek cast members to this film some time. Apparently, they're scarily accurate.
Also, the Show Within a Show which is, even if not completely accurate, apparently accurate enough that the aliens were able to build a ship based on it. Another case of Shown Their Work, by way of knowing that the original shows had, too. Star Trek had some hard science behind it, and when Professor Stephen Hawking made his cameo on Star Trek: The Next Generation, he commented on some of the devices on the show he was working to make real.
Tommy Weber's controls are based on how he operated them on the show. Fortunately, he had taken the time as a kid to figure out consistent hand gestures. Since Tommy is probably at least partially based on Wil Wheaton, this is a straight homage. Wheaton once remarked on how pleased he was that "his" station in the Star Trek Experience worked just like it did in the series, which was made possible because he had worked out his station's interface with Michael Okuda.
Stylistic Suck: The blur effect when the Protector jumps to hyperspeed.
The cheapo aesthetic of the "real-life" Galaxy Quest show. It's very fun to watch the special features, in which the filmmakers discuss the cutting-edge special effects technology used to film the movie, and then show how they made the in-universe television show look cheaply-made on purpose - complete with a red cyclorama and papier-mache rocks. Director Dean Parisot explains that he put sand on the dolly tracks to make the camerawork look rough.
Take That: Sarris is named after movie critic Andrew Sarris, who trashed The Natural, also produced by Mark Johnson.
The Thermians based all the technology on what they saw on the show, so Brandon being right was more him having the same conclusion that the Thermians did as they knew no more than what was presented on the show.
Wasn't That Fun?: The friendly aliens' method of transporting the protagonists to their ship can be described roughly as "fly them into orbit at insane speed with nothing but a huge blob of jello to shield them". Everyone looks thoroughly traumatised and nauseated by this experience, except for the engineer... who just remarks "That was a hell of a thing."
And in his attempts to survive, Guy ends up being indecisive since he sees his eventual death in whatever direction he takes. Would he stay on the Protector as the team goes planet-bound and gets killed by something lurking inside the ship? Or would he go with the team and be the one to be killed by a monster five minutes after they land on the planet?
For the guys sans Fred, when Jason gets left behind on the planet with a rock monster coming after him, and the crew, on board the orbiting ship, tries to help him by giving him advice via communicator. Hmmm, Could have sworn those suggestions worked in the shows....