Ripping the piss out of Star Trek is like shooting fish in a barrel - - with a phaser set to kill. And it's hardly a new target. Shatner and co spent a good few decades swooshing through the cosmos clad in brightly coloured velour and visiting styrofoam planets where the inhabitants have basin haircuts. Yet, despite the fact that Gene Roddenberry's franchise has now spawned three spin-off series (one still running) and a never-ending stream of movies, the parodies have hardly been plentiful. Aside from a few gags in Airplane II, there's been no fully-fledged, big-screen spoof. Until now.
The parallels between Trek and Quest are obvious, as are the references. Galaxy Quest involves a fictional TV show which was axed after a relatively short run, yet remains as popular as ever with a huge, dedicated fan base who attend regular conventions. One character, Dr Lazarus - - aka Brit theatre actor Alexander Dane (Rickman) - - is forced to deliver hammy dialogue like: ""By Grabthar's hammer, I shall avenge thee!"". Another, played by Sam Rockwell, was an expendable crewman in one episode, and therefore fears for his life in the real adventure.
But, to its credit, Galaxy Quest doesn't resort to an episodic, sketch-based approach, lampooning each and every aspect of Roddenberry's creation. The characters are far more than mere send-ups of their Trek counterparts and, because the film is about the actors rather than the Quest creations, much of the script explores their insecurities about their dead-end careers.
Rickman is superb as the prissy English stage actor who deeply resents the fact that he'll forever be recognised as a cliché-spouting alien, while Tim Allen's Jason Nesmith revels arrogantly in the `star' status he's attained playing Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, although he's quietly become aware of how sad this really makes him. But it's Sigourney Weaver who's most surprising, portraying the polar opposite of sci-fi strongwoman Ripley in the shapely form of the blonde, not-too-sharp Gwen DeMarco, aka Lieutenant Tawny Madison. She resents the fact that all she does is repeat what the ship's computer says, but when the reality of the situation hits her, that simple task becomes her touchstone with sanity.
The planet-hopping plot provides for a sporadically thrilling family action-adventure, with some great Stan Winston/ILM-created effects. But the formulaic structure does make the resolution rather corny, with the pretender heroes predictably coming to terms with their lifelong roles by becoming... real heroes! Also, some of the gags suffer from a brief half-life (particularly the Thermians' funny-talking/walking act, which rapidly becomes tiresome). But these are only minor irritants on an entertaining journey, which celebrates and mocks the decades of deep-space geekdom.