The cast of the Eighties science fiction TV series Galaxy Quest are reduced to attending fan conventions and promotional appearances. The former star, quite full of himself, Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) loves the attention, but the others—Gwen (Sigourney Weaver), Alexander (Alan Rickman, Fred (Tony Shalhoub), Tommy (Daryl Mitchell), and Guy (Sam Rockwell), are all up to here with the roles and their stalled careers as Captain, sexy Communications Officer, Alien scientist, Engineer, Precocious pilot, and red-shirted guy who dies. Do they seem familiar?

At a convention, they meet with a group of Thermians, led by Mathesar (Enrico Colantoni), and Jason agrees to appear with them. He doesn’t know that the Thermians are actual aliens who think the TV show is a documentary, have recreated the imaginary ship, and want help defeating the powerful galactic warlord Sarris (Robin Sachs) who threatens them.

For a while, they play their roles, not knowing that the danger is real. When they find out, they are terrified, especially Red Shirt, but they contact their fans on Earth who know every detail of the ship and talk them through it, cancelling the ship’s self-destruct. They defeat Sarris, but he escapes destruction and kills most of them. Jason activates Omega 13, which turns back time 13 seconds, and they disarm Sarris before his attack. The bridge of the ship crashes into a Galaxy Quest convention, to the cheers of the fans, and they destroy Sarris for good. The audience loves the special effects. Later, Galaxy Quest is revived as Galaxy Quest: The Journey Continues.

This is that rarest of all birds: Science Fiction which is actually funny. David Howard wrote the original script, Harold Ramis (of Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day) directed. Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, and Kevin Kline bowed out. It took a while to get Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver. Alan Rickman was glorious as the bitter and sarcastic Doctor Lazarus. The voice that Enrico Colantoni created for the Thermians was inspired. Improvisation was rife. The film won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award and was nominated for nine Saturns.

The studio, Dreamworks, didn’t quite understand it all and there was little publicity for the film, but the fans adored it and word-of-mouth came to the rescue. The ship is NTE-3120, which stands for Not The Enterprise. Jonathan Frakes called Patrick Stewart and told him to watch it. George Takei said he was rolling in the aisles. Wil Wheaton was devastated that he was not in it. Tim Russ had flashbacks, watching it. William Shatner claimed he had no idea who Tim Allen was playing. Talk of a sequel still has come to nothing, and Alan Rickman died. The scene in which Tim Allen in the men’s room overhears the fans claiming the cast of the show is a bunch of nobodies and all they all hate the captain actually happened to William Shatner at a 1986 convention.

The original tone of the film was much darker and more violent. Tim Allen asked Sigourney Weaver to autograph his Alien memorabilia, but she wrote: “Stolen by Tim Allen; Love, Sigourney Weaver.” She said she could feel her IQ drop every time she put on the blonde wig. When her character said her TV Guide interview was six paragraphs on her boobs and how they fit into her costume, she was quoting Jeri Ryan. Sam Rockwell based his terrified character on Bill Paxton in Aliens. Star Trek fans listed Galaxy Quest as the seventh best Star Trek film. Tim Allen practiced sitting in the Command Chair exactly like Bill Shatner.

The evil warlord Sarris has a metal eyepatch like General Chang in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The Thermians are from the Klaatu Nebula. Sarris’ flagship is a cross between the Doomsday Machine and a Romulan Warbird. Sigourney Weaver’s character of Gwen DeMarco was heavily influenced by Wilma Deering from Buck Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century. J.J. Abrams was a big fan of Galaxy Quest, and it influenced his Star Trek reboot. Sam Lloyd, who plays a Thermian, is the nephew of Christopher Lloyd. In Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Sam Rockwell played Zaphod Beeblebrox and Alan Rickman was the voice of Marvin the Robot. The only crewman not killed on the bridge is Crewman Six in the red shirt.