Yes, Galaxy Quest is old news. But this has been bugging me ever since it came out. As much as I enjoyed the movie I was that irritated by it constantly being described as a spoof of Star Trek.

Galaxy Quest is not a spoof of Star Trek, or of anything for that matter. A spoof is a work that imitates another work in an exaggerated fashion for humorous effect. Spaceballs spoofed Star Wars, among other movies, by replacing Darth Vader with Dark Helmet whose dark helmet was comically large, and Jabba the Hutt with Pizza the Hut. Get it? Galaxy Quest is funny not because of the similarities to Star Trek, which are present, but because it puts a bunch of actors on a spaceship and forces them to be the dashing heroes they played in their television show. The ace pilot doesn’t know how to fly the spaceship and can barely get it out of spacedock. Because he’s an actor. Guy panics at the sight of the “red thingy” and the “green thingy” on the screen because he’s some shmuck from Los Angeles who has been transported to an alien spaceship that’s about to get blasted by a giant lobster. It’s funny because of the juxtaposition of our everyday life with a fantasy life transformed into reality, not because there is another corny (though filled with insights on the human condition) science fiction TV show with a rabid fan base.

The only part of Galaxy Quest that comes remotely close to spoofing Star Trek is the science fiction convention scene. Frankly, real Star Trek conventions are more amusing than the Galaxy Quest convention. I speak from experience. The sparkle of Galaxy Quest comes from seeing a bunch of regular 20-th century actors confronted with an absurd situation.

Alan Rickman’s alien bears virtually no resemblance to Spock, and whatever resemblances there are, aren’t funny. (Spock has prosthetic pointy ears, and Rickman’s character has a prosthetic headpiece. It bears no resemblance to Spock’s ears, and actually it’s a pretty good alien make-up job.) If Rickman’s character had 10-inch pointy ears and a permanently raised eyebrow, that would be a spoof of Spock. What makes his character funny is that he’s an actor with some pride in his craft forced to walk around with a piece of rubber glued to his head saying things like “By Grapthar’s hammer, by the sons of Worvan, you shall be avenged, ” on a campy TV show and then has to confront the very real existence of a world he has scorned for so long.

Sigourney Weaver’s cheesecake character on the Galaxy Quest TV show repeats whatever the computer says. If a character did that on Star Trek, then that would be spoofing Star Trek. But no one does that on Star Trek. If Sigourney Weaver wore a giant telecommunications insert in her ear, that would be a spoof of Uhura. If there were a medical doctor on Galaxy Quest who regularly announced that someone was dead and repeated that he was a doctor all the time, that would be a spoof of McCoy. If there was an engineer on Galaxy Quest with a thick ethnic accent bemoaning the inevitable destruction of the ship because there’s not enough time, that would be a spoof of Scotty. If there was a race of aliens ridiculously more interested in death with honor than actually living, that would be a spoof of Klingons. But there isn’t.

Weaver’s character’s role on Galaxy Quest is funny because they put a hot woman on the show with no role other than to attract young male viewers, and that’s a spoof of TV in general but not Star Trek (which usually had hot villainous female guest stars). Tony Shaloub’s engineer is funny in Galaxy Quest because he is cool and unphased by his alien surroundings that would totally freak out any normal person (like Guy). It is funny because, as Gwen DeMarco (Weaver) says, “we are actors, not astronauts.” A Star Trek spoof would take place entirely within a fictional universe like the Star Trek universe, but everything would be exaggerated. Someone could probably make a pretty funny spoof of Star Trek. Galaxy Quest is pretty funny, but it’s not a spoof. Geez!

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Planetary Scientist and Asst. Professor of Physics at University of Central Florida; Movie Buff; Trekkie; Jethro Tull fanatic; part-time actor, piano player, writer; and full-time husband and father.

3 thoughts on “”

  1. Why the heck are you so defensive about it?
    There are many ways to spoof something (i.e. a series in this case)
    and Galaxy Quest does make fun of trekkies. Just take it
    and swallow it. You seem to take it soooooo personaly.

  2. I don’t take it personally, because it’s not insulting to Trekkies. I take it as an affront to the definition of a spoof and to what makes something funny. There could be a great spoof of Star Trek, just as Spaceballs spoofed Star Wars. But the essence of what makes Galaxy Quest funny has nothing to do with the similarities between the Galaxy Quest TV show and the Star Trek TV show.

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