Galaxy Quest

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Galaxy Quest
File:Galaxy Quest poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Dean Parisot
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by David Howard
Music by David Newman
Cinematography Jerzy Zielinski
Edited by Don Zimmerman
DreamWorks SKG
Gran Via Productions
Distributed by DreamWorks Pictures
Release dates
  • December 25, 1999 (1999-12-25)
Running time
102 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $45 million[2]
Box office $90.7 million[2]

Galaxy Quest is a 1999 American science fiction action comedy film directed by Dean Parisot and written by David Howard and Robert Gordon. Mark Johnson and Charles Newirth produced the film for DreamWorks.

Parodying television series such as Star Trek and its fandom, the film stars Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and Daryl Mitchell as the cast of a defunct television series called Galaxy Quest, in which the crew of a spaceship embarked on intergalactic adventures. Enrico Colantoni stars as the leader of an alien race who ask the actors for help, believing the show's adventures were real. The film's supporting cast features Robin Sachs as the warlord Sarris and Patrick Breen as another alien. Justin Long makes his feature film debut as an obsessed fan of the television show.

The film received critical praise and reached cult status through the years, becoming popular with Star Trek fans, staff, and cast members for its affectionate parody.[3] It won the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, the Nebula Award for Best Script and was also nominated for ten Saturn Awards including Best Science Fiction Film, Best Director for Parisot, Best Actress for Weaver and Best Supporting Actor for Rickman, winning Best Actor for Allen. The film was included in Reader's Digests list of The Top 100+ Funniest Movies of All Time.[4][5]


The film follows the cast of a once-popular television space-adventure series called Galaxy Quest. The fictional series starred Jason Nesmith (Allen) as the commander of a spaceship called the NSEA Protector, Alexander Dane (Rickman) as the ship's alien science officer, Fred Kwan (Shalhoub) as the chief engineer, Gwen DeMarco (Weaver) as the computer officer, and Tommy Webber (Mitchell) as a precocious child pilot. Guy Fleegman (Rockwell) played an unnamed security officer, who was quickly killed off in his only appearance on the show.

Eighteen years after the show was cancelled, the cast make an appearance at a Galaxy Quest convention full of dedicated fans. Jason enjoys the attention; the rest of the cast's attitudes range from apathy to Alexander's open resentment that he is known only for his alien character. Jason is approached by a group of people who say they are "Thermians from the Klaatu Nebula". Jason goes with them to what he assumes will be an amateur filming session, but the Thermians really are aliens, octopoidal creatures using a device that makes them appear human. Technologically advanced but having no concept of fiction, they have mistaken broadcasts of Galaxy Quest for historical documentaries, and modeled their society on the ethos presented in the show. They have built working versions of the technologies portrayed in the show, including the Protector.

The Thermians transport Jason onto the Protector to negotiate with Sarris, a reptilian humanoid warlord waging a genocidal war against the Thermian people. Sarris demands the Omega 13, a device mentioned – but not used – in Galaxy Quest's final episode. Still believing he's in a fan dramatization, Jason casually orders the Thermians to fire upon Sarris's spaceship and then insists on returning home. When they teleport him through space to Earth, Jason realizes the events were real. The Thermians come back to Earth and ask for more help negotiating a surrender with Sarris. Believing Sarris is the one surrendering, Jason asks his co-stars to join him and they agree, believing that the mission is just an acting job. Once the actors are aboard the Protector they realize the truth, but are reluctant to join Jason in embracing the mission. However, they are shamed by the Thermians' faith in their "deceptive" (i.e. fictional) show, and assume their television roles to save them.

The actors are not competent at controlling a real spaceship and their encounter with Sarris goes poorly. They escape by flying through a minefield, which damages the beryllium sphere that powers the ship's reactor. The actors acquire a new sphere from a nearby planet after battling various alien creatures, but when they return to the ship Sarris has boarded it and taken control. Sarris questions Jason about the Omega 13 and forces him to admit the truth about Galaxy Quest. Mathesar, leader of the Thermians, is devastated by this. Sarris's men activate the ship's self-destruct and the actors are about to be ejected into space, but Jason and Alexander use a gambit from one of the show's episodes to escape.

The cast split up, each taking a part in their plan to save the ship and the Thermians. When a Thermian who annoyingly emulates Alexander's character is mortally wounded, Alexander embraces his role, repeating his own hated catchphrase oath to avenge him. Not knowing how to stop the self-destruct, Jason contacts an avid Galaxy Quest fan named Brandon (Long) on Earth, using one of the Thermians' Vox communicators that he had accidentally left with Brandon when they met earlier. Brandon and his friends use their extensive knowledge of the ship to help them. Brandon also explains that, while some fans believe the Omega 13 is a bomb capable of destroying all matter in the universe, he and others believe it is a device to roll back time by 13 seconds: "enough time to redeem a single mistake" Jason observes.

With Jason in command of the Protector, the actors and Thermians destroy Sarris' ship and set course back to Earth. Sarris boards the Protector and kills most of the command crew, but Jason activates the Omega 13, is sent back in time 13 seconds, and thwarts his attack. As the Thermians take control of the ship, the actors detach the command deck, and with Brandon's help land on Earth, accidentally crashing into the building where the Galaxy Quest convention is taking place. They emerge from the wreck to enthusiastic applause from the audience, who assume it is part of the entertainment; when Sarris exits from the wreckage and attacks again, Jason disintegrates him with a blaster pistol and receives even greater applause. Later that year Galaxy Quest is revived, starring the original cast, along with Laliari, a female Thermian who chose to stay on Earth with Fred, and with Guy playing a new role as the ship's chief of security.


  • Tim Allen as Jason Nesmith, the actor who played Cmdr. Peter Quincy Taggart, the captain of the Protector on the fictional series. Jason remains the putative leader of the Galaxy Quest crew members as they travel to conventions and strip mall dedications. He's prone to removing his shirt at the slightest pretext and is said to have had romantic relations with most of the minor female characters who appeared throughout his television career. Underneath his happy-go-lucky personality and mild egotism, however, he is depressed and feels helpless after being unable to get an equally acclaimed role after his definitive one as Taggart. His meta-fictional role's name is a reference to Peter Quince, the leader of a group of actors in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • Sigourney Weaver as Gwen DeMarco, the actress who played Lt. Tawny Madison, the Computer Officer of the Protector, who performed communication duties. As the show's female sex symbol, Tawny's job consists largely of repeating communications to and from the computer. Weaver later compared her meta-fictional role as Tawny to her role as Ellen Ripley in the Alien series, describing Tawny as "a stereotypical dumb blonde" who fulfills a useless function in contrast to Ripley's dynamic centrality,[citation needed] a fact of which DeMarco is aware and bitterly resents, being a far more assertive woman outside of her character. It's implied (and believed by enthusiastic female fans at the convention) that Gwen and Jason are romantically interested in each other, though they won't bring themselves to admit it.
  • Alan Rickman as Alexander Dane, the actor who played Dr. Lazarus of Tev'Meck. Lazarus is a "Mak'tar", a member of an alien species renowned for their intellect, who also possess psionic abilities. Additionally, he has a non-standard weapon and a pretentious catchphrase: "By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!". A trained Shakespearean British actor, Alexander resents both his catchphrase and being typecast to the point of being forced to wear his character's prosthetic headgear at public appearances. He is the last of the actors to embrace his television role (in order to satisfy the Thermians) and only does so when Quellek (a Thermian who idolizes Dr. Lazarus) dies in his arms.
  • Tony Shalhoub as Fred Kwan, the actor who played Tech Sgt. Chen. Chen is in charge of the engine room and the operator of the "digital conveyor" (akin to the Star Trek transporter). He acts in a detached manner and is completely unfazed by the strange events that occur. He is a loyal friend to all his coworkers, even Jason. He is the only actor to not be terrified by the experience of transporting through space, merely commenting "That was a hell of a thing." Unlike the other actors, he thoroughly enjoys the entire experience, except for a moment of panic over using the digital conveyor. He is completely comfortable with the true form of the aliens; he even falls in love with Laliari.
  • Sam Rockwell as Guy Fleegman, an actor who had a minor role as a disposable unnamed character (see redshirt) in a single episode of the original series. In contrast to the series regulars whose Galaxy Quest roles have become a trap, his is his one claim to fame, which he clings to as an emcee at the 18th annual Galaxy Quest Convention, greeting the actors familiarly even though they don't recognize him. He is also the most self-aware of his role, believing that a minor character such as his is fated to die for dramatic purposes. Likewise, he is the only one to recognize that a group of apparently harmless childlike aliens – who turn out to be ravenous monsters – could be dangerous, exclaiming "Didn't you guys ever watch the show?" Guy finally overcomes his fears and decides it's better to go out in a blaze of glory since he is supposed to die anyway, but Fred encourages him to think of himself as the "plucky comic relief". In the reboot of Galaxy Quest, he plays the new role of Security Chief "Roc" Ingersoll.
  • Daryl Mitchell as Tommy Webber / Lt. Laredo, a parody of child prodigy characters, who has aged considerably since his role. Laredo was the ship's master pilot, and Tommy had worked out an imaginary system for how the ship's controls worked, which the Thermians have reverse-engineered from watching the show. But he barely remembers how it supposedly worked, and it takes him most of the film (and re-watching old Galaxy Quest episodes) to learn to do it properly. Corbin Bleu played Tommy at age 9 in footage from the original fictional series.
  • Enrico Colantoni as Mathesar, the leader of the Thermians. Mathesar is, like all of his people, an upright octopoid who (using a device to disguise him) appears as a white-skinned, gray-clad, black-haired human; speaks in stiff tones of voice; and smiles warmly even when in sorrow or fear. Like all Thermians he doesn't understand the concept of fiction (considering it the same as lying), and is incredibly naïve. He temporarily loses faith in the actors when Sarris compels Nesmith to confess that they are actors ("liars"), but after the tables are turned, he praises Nesmith's confession as "a very clever deception". In the end, he develops his own courage and becomes a hero himself.
  • Robin Sachs as Gen. Roth'h'ar Sarris, a warlike humanoid insectoid-reptilian who destroyed the Thermian home planet and most of their race, bent on their destruction. He is cruel, unforgiving, deceitful, and sadistic, taking pleasure from others' pain. The character was named for film critic Andrew Sarris.
  • Jed Rees as Teb, a Thermian crew member; Mathesar's sideman.
  • Justin Long as Brandon, a devoted Galaxy Quest fan with an encyclopedic knowledge of the show.
  • Missi Pyle as Laliari, a Thermian crew member who falls in love with Fred. Although mostly shown in her human form, she exposes her tentacles when embracing Fred after he successfully implements a clever and impressive plan. With the permission of Mathesar, she travels to Earth with Fred and joins him as a cast member of the revived television series, playing a character named "Laliari" while living under the pseudonym "Jane Doe".
  • Patrick Breen as Quellek, a Thermian who idolizes the Dr. Lazarus character. He assists Alexander but is initially brushed off by him, especially when he tries to repeat Lazarus' catchphrase. He is later mortally wounded by one of Sarris' men, and while dying, admits to Alexander he considered "Dr. Lazarus" a father figure, motivating Alexander to avenge him.
  • Jeremy Howard as Kyle, a devout Galaxy Quest fan and Brandon's friend.
  • Samuel Lloyd as Neru, a Thermian crew member.
  • Rainn Wilson as Lahnk, a Thermian engineer.
  • J. P. Manoux as Excited alien
  • Dian Bachar as Nervous tech
  • Heidi Swedberg as Brandon's mom
  • Susan Egan (scenes deleted) as Teek


The original script by David Howard was titled Captain Starshine and written on spec. Producer Mark Johnson, who had a first look deal with DreamWorks, did not like it, but was still fascinated with its concept featuring space aliens who misconstrue old episodes of a TV show. Johnson purchased the script and had Bob Gordon rewrite it into Galaxy Quest.[6] Gordon, a fan of Star Trek, was hesitant, believing Galaxy Quest "could be a great idea or it could be a terrible idea" and initially turned it down. He submitted his first draft to DreamWorks in 1998, which was immediately greenlit. Gordon wanted his Home Fries director Dean Parisot to direct, but DreamWorks favored Harold Ramis for his experience. Ramis was hired in November 1998, but departed in February 1999 because of casting difficulties. He wanted Alec Baldwin for the lead role, who turned it down. Steve Martin and Kevin Kline were considered, though Kline turned it down for family reasons. Ramis did not agree with the casting of Tim Allen as Jason Nesmith, and Parisot took over as director within three weeks. After seeing the film, Ramis said he was ultimately impressed with Allen's performance.[6]

Tony Shalhoub originally auditioned for Guy Fleegman, but Sam Rockwell won the part, and Shalhoub was cast as Fred Kwan instead. Rockwell almost backed out after winning the lead role in an independent film, but Kevin Spacey convinced him otherwise. Justin Long said he was nervous auditioning as an unknown actor at the time, competing against Kieran Culkin, Eddie Kaye Thomas, and Tom Everett Scott for the part of Brandon. Paul Rudd auditioned for a role, while David Allen Grier was the second choice for Tommy Webber, and Jennifer Coolidge for Laliari.[6]

David Newman composed the music score. Non-humanoid creatures for the film were created by Stan Winston Studio, from designs by Crash McCreery, Chris Swift, Brom, Bernie Wrightson, and Simon Bisley.


Scenes on the barren planet where they stopped to get a new Beryllium Sphere and Captain Nesmith battled a rock monster, were filmed at Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. At the time, the access to Goblin Valley State Park was partly by dirt road, the fees paid by the production company were used to upgrade the entire access road to asphalt pavement.


The film originally received an "R" rating, according to Galaxy Quest producer Lindsey Collins and Sigourney Weaver,[7] before being re-cut. Shalhoub did not remember any darker version of the film.[8] There were numerous edits in the film that show some lines were changed in post-production. In one scene, Gwen DeMarco's line "Well, screw that!" is clearly dubbed over "Well, fuck that!"[9][10][11][12] According to the director, Dean Parisot, that line got a huge laugh.[11] There is more profanity found in the shooting script.[9]


Galaxy Quest was met with positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it received rating of 90%, based on 115 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Intelligent and humorous satire with an excellent cast -- no previous Trekkie knowledge needed to enjoy this one."[13] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 70 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[14]

The New York Times's Lawrence Van Gelder called it "an amiable comedy that simultaneously manages to spoof these popular futuristic space adventures and replicate the very elements that have made them so durable".[15] Roger Ebert praised the ability of the film to spoof the "illogic of the TV show".[16] The Village Voice offered a lukewarm review, noting that "the many eight- to 11-year-olds in the audience seemed completely enthralled".[17]

The film also proved quite popular with Star Trek fans. At the 2013 Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, Galaxy Quest received enough support in a Star Trek Film Ranking, and was included with the twelve Star Trek films that had been released at the time on the voting ballot. The fans at the convention ranked it the seventh best Star Trek film.[18]

Box office

The film was financially successful. It earned $7,012,630 in its opening weekend, and its total U.S. domestic tally stands at $71,583,916; to date; it has grossed $90,683,916 worldwide.[2]

Relation to Star Trek

Galaxy Quest is an acknowledged homage to Star Trek; therefore a variety of elements in the former correspond to those of the latter. The television program within the film, Galaxy Quest, is set around the starship NSEA Protector, an instrument of the National Space Exploration Administration, which are obviously parodies of the USS Enterprise and Starfleet respectively. The prefix of the Protector’s registration number NTE-3120 ostensibly alludes to some sort of similar space federation, but in reality stands for "Not The Enterprise", according to visual effects co-supervisor Bill George in a 2000 interview with Cinefex magazine.[19]

This homage also extended to the original marketing of the movie, including a promotional website[20] intentionally designed to look like a poorly constructed fan website, with "screen captures" and poor HTML coding. The homage even parodied the effect that Star Trek had on the social lives of its cast members, such as how Alex Dane (played by Alan Rickman) has been typecast after his success in the Galaxy Quest television show; this reflects the lamentations of Leonard Nimoy, who had been typecast after his performance as Spock.

Reaction from Star Trek actors

Galaxy Quest was commented on by several actors who have had roles on the various Star Trek television series and films in light of their own experiences with the franchise and its fandom.

"I had originally not wanted to see Galaxy Quest because I heard that it was making fun of Star Trek, and then Jonathan Frakes rang me up and said "You must not miss this movie! See it on a Saturday night in a full theatre." And I did, and of course I found it was brilliant. Brilliant. No one laughed louder or longer in the cinema than I did, but the idea that the ship was saved and all of our heroes in that movie were saved simply by the fact that there were fans who did understand the scientific principles on which the ship worked was absolutely wonderful. And it was both funny and also touching in that it paid tribute to the dedication of these fans." — Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard on TNG)[3][21][22]

"I've had flashbacks of Galaxy Quest at the many conventions I've gone to since the movie came out. I thought it was an absolute laugh-a-minute." — Tim Russ (Tuvok on Voyager)[23]

"I thought it was very funny, and I thought the audience that they portrayed was totally real, but the actors that they were pretending to be were totally unrecognizable. Certainly I don't know what Tim Allen was doing. He seemed to be the head of a group of actors, and for the life of me I was trying to understand who he was imitating. The only one I recognized was the girl playing Nichelle Nichols." — William Shatner (James T. Kirk on TOS)[24]

"I loved Galaxy Quest. 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." — Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher on TNG)[25]

"Yes, I have seen Galaxy Quest and no, it's not really like that." — Casey Biggs (Damar on DS9)[26]

"I think it's a chillingly realistic documentary. [laughs] 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 [star] Tim Allen had that Shatner-esque swagger down pat. And I roared when the shirt came off, and [co-star] Sigourney [Weaver] rolls her eyes and says, 'There goes that shirt again.' … How often did we hear that on the set? [Laughs.]" — George Takei (Hikaru Sulu on TOS)[5]

Merchandising and tie-ins

  • In November 1999, Galaxy Quest was novelized by science fiction writer Terry Bisson,[27] who stayed very close to the plot of the film.
  • In December 1999, the US entertainment channel E! featured a mockumentary entitled Galaxy Quest: 20th Anniversary, The Journey Continues, concerning the making of the Galaxy Quest television show.
  • In 2008, IDW Publishing released a comic book sequel to the movie entitled Galaxy Quest: Global Warning. In January 2015, IDW launched an ongoing series set several years after the events of the film.
  • On May 12, 2009, a Deluxe Edition DVD was released.

In popular culture

  • In 2003, Danish rock band Blindstone recorded a song titled "By Grabthar's Hammer" for their album Manifesto.
  • In Apogee of Fear, filmed in October 2008 and billed as "the first science-fiction movie made in space", NASA astronaut Michael Fincke refers to the need to "fashion weapons out of a rudimentary lathe", a line from the film. Both Michael Fincke and fellow NASA Astronaut Greg Chamitoff deliver the line "Never give up... never surrender."[citation needed]
  • In the video game Star Trek Online, players can use a "Tipler Cylinder" device which has a "dense beryllium cylinder core that rotates at near light speed, allowing the user's ship to perform a Temporal Backstep and rewind time approximately 13 seconds."[28]
  • The 2012 video game Torchlight 2 contains many items named after cult films, including a usable weapon called "Galaxy Quest", with the flavor text "Never Give up. Never Surrender".
  • Another 2012 video game, Guild Wars 2, contains a background NPC who may remark "By Ogden's hammer, what savings!" in reference to Rickman's line.
  • In "The Shrieking Madness", the twelfth episode of Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Fred Jones' father curses "by Grabthar's Hammer".
  • The Star Trek fan series Hidden Frontier (2000–2007) used the theme music of the Galaxy Quest show in its title sequence, and used variations thereof throughout the series.

Related works

Talks of a sequel have been going on since the film's release in 1999, but only began gaining traction in 2014 when Allen mentioned that there was a script. Stars Weaver and Rockwell mentioned they were interested in returning.[29] However, Colantoni has stated that he would prefer for there not to be a sequel, lest it tarnish the characters from the first film. He said, "to make something up, just because we love those characters, and turn it into a sequel — then it becomes the awful sequel."[30]

In April 2015, Paramount Television, along with the movie's co-writer Gordon, director Parisot and executive producers Johnson and Bernstein, announced they were looking to develop a television series based on Galaxy Quest. The move is considered in the similar vein as Paramount's current revivals of Minority Report and School of Rock as television series.[31] In August 2015, it was announced that Amazon Studios would be developing the series.[32]

See also

  • Trekkies – a documentary film about Star Trek convention attendees
  • Fanboys – a comedy about Star Wars fans
  • Free Enterprise – a comedy about Star Trek fans
  • ¡Three Amigos! – a comedy about actors mistaken for their characters


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External links