What's the minimum Trek needed to appreciate Galaxy Quest?
December 28, 2016 10:50 PM   Subscribe

I love Galaxy Quest and think my kids would too, but they've never really watched any Star Trek other than the Abrams movies. What would be a few key episodes of Trek (or other classic Sci-Fi) that we could watch to get a sense of the tropes needed to appreciate Galaxy Quest?

I like Trek, but am not really a fan and don't really want to sit down with them and binge whole seasons of TNG or the original series. Are there any episodes that are particularly dense with the kinds of tropes GQ satirizes? Is there any other classic SciFi that would be helpful? I was thinking of including Shatner's "Get a Life" sketch from SNL. What's the most efficient way to introduce them to what they need to best enjoy this great movie?
posted by straight to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I never watched a single episode of Star Trek, but I loved Galaxy Quest as a kid. I didn't catch every reference but my absorption of sci-fi tropes via pop culture osmosis was enough. It was one of the few movies that I could enjoy with my late father. He got all the jokes, and I just loved the humor and characters. My two cents? No prep needed. Just give them that sweet uncut Columbian-grade Galaxy Quest ASAP.
posted by R.F.Simpson at 10:55 PM on December 28, 2016 [32 favorites]

I saw it when it came out in theaters, with no previous Star Trek knowledge. It would be great to show an episode or two (I'm thinking any would suffice), but the movie works well if you decided to skip the primer. That said, definitely watch the SNL sketch!
posted by Champagne Supernova at 10:57 PM on December 28, 2016

It's pretty much a spoof of campy sci fi. The jokes are gold even if you've never watched any sci-fi. No required watching beforehand.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:29 PM on December 28, 2016

So, the Original Series Arena is going to be a must. It has dying red shirts and a punchy-Kirk.

From TNG, you have Cause and Effect, a story that revolves around the ability to make crucial changes with a new shot at a small amount of time.

Finally, another TOS Episode, The Naked Time gets you Kirk with a ripped shirt, general campiness, and a hurried engineering problem.

Those three should give the basic vocabulary needed to appreciate galaxy quest.
posted by miguelcervantes at 11:44 PM on December 28, 2016 [16 favorites]

I agree with miguelcervantes, and I would also add Balance of Terror as a good example of the "outwitting the bad guy via sneaky space warfare" category.
posted by equalpants at 3:27 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm wholly with R.F.Simpson. I like Trek well enough, but by no means am I a fan. My kids have never seen any of it. We all love Galaxy Quest. Superfans will pick up more references no doubt, and therefore probably enjoy it even more. But it's not a competition for who loves it most. Watch it now, let them pick up more Trek & more sci-fi over time from the prevailing culture, come back to it later & enjoy all over again.
posted by rd45 at 4:55 AM on December 29, 2016

I am not a trekkie. At the time I first saw Galaxy Quest with my husband (more a trekker...he'd never be caught dead at a convention) I'd seen one whole episode in the sixth grade (City on the Edge of Forever) and absorbed a lot of existing popular knowledge about the show, and I still found it absolutely hilarious, even more so because so much about TOS drives me absolutely nuts...the scenery-chewing, the heavy-handed, earnest moralizing, the use of women as eye candy and romantic interests for Kirk (WHYYYY is he always picking up alien women with whose cultures he's not supposed to interfere? WHYYYY?), and, of course, the fake sets and eerie resemblance of all alien landscapes to the SoCal desert. Oh, and above all, the rabid fandom.

I wouldn't overthink this. Making them take prerequisites would be like explaining a joke to death. Yeah, show them the "Get a Life" skit if you want (it's short) and maybe some random episode of TOS, but they probably already have a pretty good handle on the basic tropes through cultural osmosis. This is a movie that gets funnier every time one watches it, and the first time they see it, a lot of the humor is probably going to go straight over their heads anyway because they're kids.
posted by tully_monster at 5:01 AM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

At the risk of piling on: Just have them watch GQ without forcing any Trek unless they're already interested.

One of the great things (perhaps the greatest accomplishment,) of Galaxy Quest is how well it holds up on its own even if you've never watched any Star Trek at all. It's a rare parody that in its own way is better than the source material. (Not that it's a better Star Trek, but it's better at some things than Trek is, and Trek is better at some things than GQ is.)
posted by sixfootaxolotl at 5:24 AM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I adore Galaxy Quest and it was possibly my favorite family-friendly movie out of the ones that were on heavy rotation when my kids were in grade school. I really do not like Star Trek much at all and have only seen a handful of the original series although as an adult person with a lot of geeky friends it is impossible not to be aware of the culture *surrounding* Star Trek. My kids also liked it a lot (hence the heavy rotation) and they were young enough when we started watching it a lot on VHS (probably 4 and 6?) that they didn't know from Star Trek.
posted by drlith at 5:25 AM on December 29, 2016

My kids never saw a single episode of Star Trek but Galaxy Quest was a hit from the first viewing. It's now in regular rotation at our house and we CONSTANTLY quote from it.

They don't really need to see any ST to enjoy Galaxy Quest.
posted by cooker girl at 5:43 AM on December 29, 2016

I'm not a fan of Star Trek, but I honestly really enjoy Galaxy Quest.
posted by PearlRose at 5:53 AM on December 29, 2016

I was 10 when Galaxy Quest came out and I didn't know about Star Trek conventions and hadn't seen a single episode of Star Trek and I didn't get it at all. When I watched it again as an adult, having seen a couple episodes of ST and with a lot more familiarity with its cult following I got it. I think understanding the way people get obsessed with certain movies/shows is more important than being familiar with ST in particular if you want to understand Galaxy Quest.

Things like SDCC and other cons play a lot larger role in pop culture today so your kids will probably know enough to follow Galaxy Quest.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 6:00 AM on December 29, 2016

I think Galaxy Quest is more about fandom than it is specifically about Star Trek. If you want to give some background, maybe the documentary Trekkies would be a good one. (Or selected scenes from it.)

Some of the Next Generation episodes that focus on children might be a good point of entry. There is the episode where Captain Picard is stuck in a turbolift with 3 children and makes them his crew. There is also the one where an orphaned kid decides to emulate Data.

I also feel compelled to mention Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That's a great point of entry for someone new to Trek.

But really, they can just watch the movie and enjoy it without any prep. Maybe enjoying it will lead them to enjoy some of the originals, which will lead them to enjoy Quest more.
posted by Cranialtorque at 6:41 AM on December 29, 2016

I too think they should just watch Galaxy Quest first, and let it be the gateway into watching Trek episodes afterwards if they're curious. I've been a Trekkie since high school in the 80's, but having participated in the TOS re-watch last year, I think modern-day kids could find the pacing of TOS episodes off-putting; having developed an affection for the Galaxy Quest characters could make them feel more forgiving of TOS's flaws.

(I agree with miguelcervantes' suggestions though. Arena is an absolute must.)
posted by oh yeah! at 7:01 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

"The Trouble With Tribbles" is a great first episode for kids. Pretty much every character gets a chance to make an impression, the Klingons show up and there's a big old saloon brawl, and the tribbles are adorable.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:10 AM on December 29, 2016

I'm a major Trekkie, but I don't think it's necessary at all to watch Star Trek first.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 7:17 AM on December 29, 2016

Watching Galaxy Quest without knowing Star Trek fandom is kind of like watching the Rutles without knowing about the Beatles. You can do it, but you miss a lot.

What about showing them "Trekkies" first? it's pretty funny, anyway.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:36 AM on December 29, 2016

If you sit them down and show them Trek Homework before you let them see Galaxy Quest, I don't think there's as good a chance of them liking either Trek or Galaxy Quest as if you just watch the movie first. Any of the recommendations in this thread could be shown after the movie, if they're interested!

Why is he always picking up alien women with whose cultures he's not supposed to interfere? WHYYYY?

To be fair, the non-interference thing only starts being a REALLY big thing in TNG. Plus, Kirk's rep as a lady's man has been greatly exaggerated.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:03 AM on December 29, 2016

To add to my 'just watch Galaxy Quest blind' vote - I think it's practically inevitable that people are going to be exposed to the parody/homage versions of older media before they see the original, once it has gained a certain amount of popularity. I remember my mother being horrified to learn that my first real exposure to the full text of Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night" was from hearing Rodney Dangerfield recite it in Back to School, but, I don't mind that association because Dangerfield nailed it, and the poem is good enough to be moving in any context.

I think the same will stand true for Galaxy Quest; it may alter someone's perception of Trek if they see GQ first, but I don't think it will be altered for the worse. Whereas I can see 'homework-Trek' backfiring easily.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:29 AM on December 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Thanks to everybody who said the minimum Trek is zero, which is probably the best answer. I should have mentioned that my kids are curious about Trek itself and so I did think it would be fun to watch a couple episodes, so thanks to Miguel and others who had specific recommendations of stuff that might be good preludes to GQ.
posted by straight at 10:13 AM on December 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

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