‘Galaxy Quest’: The Oral History

By Grabthar's Hammer, the sci-fi comedy classic is turning 15. Here's the untold story of how it got made.

By Jordan Hoffman

“Never give up, never surrender!”

That’s the hokey battle cry spoken by fictional Commander Peter Taggart, but it also easily applies to the long journey to get the beloved cult film “Galaxy Quest” to the screen.

In 1999 Mark Johnson, already an Oscar winner for “Rain Man,” was an independent producer with a deal at DreamWorks Studios. Johnson’s scouts had come across a screenplay called “Captain Starshine” that, by all accounts, wasn’t particularly good, but which had that killer “what if” hook.

Basically: what if the Thermians – a group of goofy space aliens – misconstrued old episodes of a “Star Trek”-esque show called “Galaxy Quest” as “historical documents” about brave interstellar warriors? And based their entire society and all of their technology on it? And when their planet was threatened, went to the crew for help, only to discover (eventually) they were out of work actors?

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