I admit it: I'm a Star Trek fanboy. Almost anything bearing the Star Trek name is instantly fantastic — it's just a matter of degree. Within that realm is a wide variety, from the awesomely fantastic (Deep Space Nine, First Contact) to the pathetically fantastic (Nemesis), but I'll still be first in line for all of them. Such zeal may make me a laughing stock… but I've found the most valuable trait of any hardcore geek is a healthy sense of humor.
Over the years, there have been multiple instances when the combination of geekdom and comedy intersected with brilliant results. The most mainstream occurrence was in 1999, when an all-star cast including Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, and Tony Shalhoub appeared in the feature film Galaxy Quest. The trailers of the time made the movie look like weak sci-fi fare intended for the unsophisticated masses, so I didn't see it until 2002 — at which time I wished I hadn't waited so long. I rewatched it this weekend and was again impressed with how much fun it was.
Galaxy Quest doubles as the name of a fictional cancelled television series, its cast of washed-up has-beens since having taken to the tour circuit, making their living signing autographs and reciting famous lines. But their reruns have been misinterpreted as historical documents by an alien civilization that has made into reality all elements of the show (think "A Piece of the Action"). These xenoforms abduct the thespian crew of the NSEA Protector to help their new ship and stave off extinction at the hands of a tyrannical despot (whose vehicle my 80-year-old movie buddy immediately identified as reminiscent of the Doomsday machine — a fitting homage!).
As an amalgam of fantasy and reality, Galaxy Quest succeeds in mocking the synonymous Star Trek as well as its actors and fans. Via the show-within-a-show device, everyone gets their turn: from the pomposity of William Shatner to the inevitable expendability of the red shirts to the obsessive fanboys. Even Star Trek alumni had the sense to appreciate the film.
It's likely many fans of Home Improvement saw Galaxy Quest as a Tim Allen vehicle, but I can't imagine the film being nearly as entertaining for those who have not seen Star Trek themselves. And if you're lucky enough to be one of those veterans of the original material, there are more hands-on opportunities to lampoon the franchise. RiffTrax, the downloadable audio commentaries from the talent that brought you Mystery Science Theater 3000, has thus far parodied 49 movies, and Star Trek has the dubious honor of being three of them. For a limited time, you can buy all three Star Trek RiffTrax for $8.99. Though admittedly that's a savings of only one dollar, it's still a great excuse to grab the MP3s to play alongside The Final Frontier, The Undiscovered Country, and Generations — the latter of which is sampled here:
Don't ever laugh at a Trekkie — but by all means, please do laugh at yourself. As Data would say, "It's a wonderful feeling!"
4 thoughts on “Riff Treks”
I liked Galaxy Quest not just for its satire of Star Trek fandom (which is easy to do), but also for its celebration of people's love for a low-budget space opera…
Balancing humor and homage is harder than it looks — while I liked Free Enterprise, I'm less fond of Spaceballs.
FWIW, SyFy Portal is reporting the new Trek film has been pushed back until May '09. Paramount is blaming the writer's strike for the reshuffle of its upcoming line up.
Mike, I heard about this change, and it's reflected on the film's new Web site, StarTrekMovie.com. The theory I heard was that it was more of a marketing decision — they think the film will do better as a summer blockbuster than as a holiday film, which Star Trek films usually are.
That makes sense. Even with ST's somewhat tarnished image these days (thanks to stinkers like ST:Enterprise and Nemesis), Paramount knows they still have a cash cow on their hands.
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