The 1999 movie Galaxy Quest hit cult status a long time ago, and rightfully so. The cast is a ridiculous list of talent topped off by a couple of early appearances from those who would go on to be stars in their own right.
Yet, Alan Rickman manages to stand head and shoulders above the rest — and that includes Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell and more.
The premise of Galaxy Quest revolves around a bunch of television actors that, once upon a time, were on a Star Trek analog called, of course, Galaxy Quest. These days, they relive that prior glory by attending conventions and cutting ribbons for tacky department stores. Rickman’s character, Alexander Dane, plays Dr. Lazarus on the show, the Galaxy Quest equivalent of Spock up to and including a weird prosthetic on his head to simulate being an actual alien.
It’s this role (and, oddly, a duet with Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd for whatever reason) that most often comes to mind when I think of Rickman. Not Die Hard or even Harry Potter, but Galaxy Quest. If Twitter right now — after Rickman’s shocking death at the age of 69 — is any indication, I suspect I am not alone.
Why Alexander Dane? Well, in essence, it kind of feels like the most Alan Rickman-esque of his roles. Dane’s completely over his own fame, and seemingly dreads being associated with the television show in any capacity. After all, he was a Shakespearean actor. So, with typical Rickman aplomb, Dane snarks and complains on the regular as the television show comes to life thanks to some gravely mistaken aliens.
There’s a scene early on where Dane’s called on to give a custom version of his character’s signature line, “By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged,” at the grand opening of a store. In six words, Rickman manages to give a complete and perfect picture of his Alexander Dane and how the character feels about his own legacy.
That's what makes it all that much sweeter when Dane comes to embrace this and what it means to the aliens. He’s still the same cynical British man, but now, he’s got a purpose and cares. He still gets mad when Tim Allen’s character tries to play the hero, but he also reluctantly participates in the Mak’tar chant of strength when requested by his Thermian underling, Quellek.
Then, suddenly, Rickman turns his entire performance on its head by giving what’s perhaps the most moving death speech in any of the Star Trek-adjacent films. He quotes his signature line with the meaningful gravitas of someone that’s done so a million times before, but just this once actually means it. It’s a moment that few dramatic films actually achieve well, and here’s Rickman making a masterpiece out of it in what’s essentially a spoof.
I guess what I’m saying here is this: Alan Rickman made everything he touched a joy to watch, and transcended even that in the films that were already great. If you’re going to watch a bunch of Rickman’s films to mourn the man and celebrate his career, you’d be doing yourself and him a disservice if Galaxy Quest weren’t near the top.