#261 Cover feature - Galaxy Quest

Suddenly sci-fi comedy stars, Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman really got into their Galaxy Quest roles. By Grant Barber

Also in the issue: synopses for five unseen Galaxy Quest episodes. plus a chat with director Dean Parisot

Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver: Galaxy Quest's unexpected voyagers

Mayday Mayday

You don’t have to be a Star Trek enthusiast to enjoy wacky Space Opera Galaxy Quest! After all, in Space, no one can hear you giggle...

Selected from the new-look,
expanded Starburst #261

Hailing Frequencies Open: Sigourney Weaver

This year the final frontier seems a whole lot funnier. Dreamworks SKG have launched Galaxy Quest, a beautifully observed pastiche of Star Trek and all things Sci-Fi. The film’s premise concerns the titular Galaxy Quest, a TV show that ran for four years between 1979 and 1982.

Starring Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) as Commander Taggart, Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver) as Lt Tawny Madison, and Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman) as half human/half reptilian Dr Lazarus, the series followed the crew of the NSEA Protector on their dangerous deep space missions. Then, after just four seasons, it was cancelled.

As Sigourney Weaver explains, the movie takes up the story some 20 years later. “The movie has a wonderful and original premise,” says the actress, “which is that these down and out actors who used to be on this Sci-Fi TV show, their lives really consist of going from one convention to another."

“They kind of all hate each other and in the middle of all this a group of fans – they think – come down and invite them to take a look at the replica they made of their spaceship. They end up taking us into Space [where the Thermians] are being invaded by this villain named Sarris [Robin Sachs]. “[The Thermians] think the shows they have seen are historical documents of our little band actually saving the Universe... ”

The casting of Weaver in the dual roles of Gwen and Tawny seems by turns an obvious, yet surprising, choice. After all, she’s best known for playing Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise, a role that has survived through four films between 1979 and 1997. The character even died in the third film to come back as a hybrid clone in the fourth – so who better than Weaver to poke gentle fun at the eccentricities of the genre?

However, the actress reveals that Galaxy Quest was not an easy job to secure. “I’d heard about this and I had asked my agent about it,” she recalls. “He’d told me that they didn’t want anyone from Science Fiction in the movie – only Science Fiction virgins as it were. “I said, ‘That’s silly because if anyone can spoof Science Fiction surely it’s me!’ Then to my surprise I was offered the part. I had always wanted to work with Tim Allen, I was a big fan, and Alan Rickman was somebody I really admired and I fell in love with the script.

“It was really about something more than just the people in it. It was that great sort of Wizard of Oz story of these people feeling so incomplete in the beginning, and then during the course of this adventure they come out almost like the heroes they pretended to be in the first place. .."

Images © Dreamworks SKG
Feature © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction

I am not Dr Lazarus! Alan Rickman

As the only non-human aboard the NSEA Protector, the Tev’Meckian Dr Lazarus (Alexander Dane) has repeatedly delighted fans of the show with his unique outlook and foxy alien ways.

For Alan Rickman, playing Alexander Dane, who in turn plays Dr Lazarus, in the spoof movie Galaxy Quest was an opportunity too good to miss.

“I just thought, ‘What a brilliant idea! How come nobody has done this before?,” recalls the actor of his first reading of the script.

“It was incredible that that one slipped through the net. It’s always a good sign when you keep turning the pages. I kept turning, and I kept laughing.”

In the movie, Dane is a Shakespearean actor who has fallen into the typecasting trap, forever doomed to be remembered as Dr Lazarus. With his career down the pan, he makes his living from Galaxy Quest conventions...

Rickman provided input to the bulbous prosthetic that the character wears, which was designed by artists at the Stan Winston studio. “I thought it was important for it to be good enough to convince the aliens who believe we’re the real thing, but also cheesy enough to imagine that it was something he applied himself.”

How did the actor, best known for his classical stage roles and films ranging from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves to Truly, Madly, Deeply, cope with wearing such a cumbersome prosthetic?

“I only had to take a look at the poor actor playing Sarris, who spent six hours in make-up,” he reasons. “Every hour or so he was given a little wooden stool to sit on and smoked with a cigarette holder. I didn’t complain...”

Alan Rickman wears amazing prosthetics as... no, hang on, it's a cute little alien
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Galaxy Quest "boldly goes where no movie has gone before, and reaps the full benefits" says Alan Jones in his movie review. With the full versions of the interviews above, there's 12 pages on Galaxy Quest to read when you buy Starburst 261