I am proud to admit that I am a fan of the immortal television series "Star Trek." Unfortunately, we Trekkers have taken a lot of abuse over the last few decades. We've been mocked on "Saturday Night Live," "The Wonder Years," and on "Mad TV," among other places. Now along comes "Galaxy Quest," the latest "Trek" spoof. What's amazing, though, is that I actually liked this film! I think this is because, while "Quest" does mock "Trek" and Trekkers, it does so in such a way as to actually honor the series and all the wonderful things it has done for our society.
Now, you may be asking, what are these wonderful contributions that "Star Trek" has made to our society? First off, it has given us an optimistic vision of the future. Indeed, the original series came out during the Vietnam War, when we were constantly being told that we are "On the Eve of Destruction." "Star Trek" came along and said not only that we would still be around several centuries from now but that all the people of the Earth would be at peace with each other - regardless of race or creed - and that we would even establish peaceful relations with people from other planets.
Secondly, "Trek" showed us how this peace would come about, namely, through the creation of a political entity called the United Federation of Planets. So detailed is "Trekology" that there is even a founding document for the Federation: the Articles of Federation, a "constitution" of sorts that details the precise structure of the Federation's government. It is based on the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of France, the Fundamental Declarations of the Martian Colonies, and the Statutes of Alpha III, and it was signed in 2161 on the planet Babel. From the Articles of Federation, we get a wonderful vision of all humanity working and living together under one federal government, which allows local regions their autonomy but makes sure that everyone shares a common citizenship and is guaranteed the same basic protections no matter where he or she lives. Perhaps one day this vision will be a reality.
Finally, "Star Trek" has given us ideas for several technological innovations, many of which have come into being and others which are still in the works. For instance, in the original series, we saw the crew using flip-top communicators. This fictional idea has since developed into modern cellular telephones. Recently, I read about the Dobelle Institute's miraculous breakthrough: camera-like implants that can be attached directly to the brain of a blind person and actually enable him or her to see!! When I read this, I immediately thought of Geordi LaForge, a blind character in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" who uses a similar device to see. And, of course, there's the transporter, a device that breaks you down molecule by molecule and then immediately reassembles you somewhere else. I have read that there are now physicists who believe that such a device will one day be possible.*
As should be obvious by now, I am highly passionate about "Star Trek." And it is people like me that "Galaxy Quest" is laughing at - albeit in amazingly good taste. The movie opens at a "Galaxy Quest" Convention, where fans gather to meet the stars of the show, possibly get their autographs, and, of course, watch old episodes of "Quest." Many of the fans are dressed in uniform and some are even dressed up like aliens, not unlike "Star Trek" fans who go to Conventions wearing Vulcan ears.
So far, this seems like any other "Star Trek," er, "Galaxy Quest" Convention. But then something strange happens. The show's star, Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), is approached by some rather strange fans who tell him that they are aliens who need him to save their world. Fine, thinks Nesmith, another wonderful acting gig. But this is no gig!
As it happens, the fans really are aliens. Apparently, these aliens intercepted broadcasts of "Galaxy Quest" and believed that they were watching actual historical logs from the Planet Earth. Greatly admiring the heroics of the show's stars, they modeled their entire society after "Galaxy Quest."
Now the aliens' society is being threatened by another alien race, and there is little that our friends can do to stop it from happening. But there is someone who can help: the mighty Commander Peter Quincy Taggart! Unfortunately, Taggart is none other than the all-too-ordinary actor, Jason Nesmith. However, the aliens are completely oblivious to this fact, and they bring Taggart/Nesmith to their world, using a device that's definitely a major improvement on "Star Trek"'s transporters.
Nesmith finds himself on a ship modeled exactly on the one used on the show -- only the one he's on now really flies! Soon, Nesmith is joined by the other "Quest" cast members, who must use all their cunning and skills to beat the bad guys and save a world. Nothing they haven't faced before, except now there's no director to save them by yelling "Cut!"
"Galaxy Quest" is an extremely creative blend of science fiction, humor, and, yes, farce that I recommend whole-heartedly for the entire family.
*To find out more about the technology that has or may come out of "Star Trek," I highly recommend two books: The Physics of Star Trek, by Lawrence M. Krauss and Stephen Hawking, and Beyond Star Trek: Physics from Alien Invasions to the End of Time, by Lawrence M. Krauss. (Unfortunately, Krauss is in the school of physicists who do not believe that transporters are possible, but, hey, everyone's entitled to an opinion -- even if it's wrong! J)