In the film Galaxy Quest, Jason Nesmith and the rest of the cast of the Star Trek-like series Galaxy Quest are forced to travel into space for real. An alien race called the Thermians mistake broadcasts of the show for “historical documents” about the crew of the NSEA Protector. So when the warlord Sarris threatens the Thermians, they abduct the show’s actors to be their champions.
Stuck onboard an actual spaceship modeled on their old sets, Nesmith and crew need to stop pretending and be heroes if they’re going to return to Earth.
The Writer Emergency Pack card “Travel” suggests some ways to use a change in location to find some more drama for your story.
Let’s take a closer look at how Galaxy Quest connects with some of the ideas on the card…
Reasons to leave
When you deal yourself the Travel card, it suggests you come up with three reasons your hero might need to leave town right now. Galaxy Quest layers two reasons together.
The high stakes reason: The Thermians need a crew for their copy of the Protector if they’re going to stand a chance at fighting Sarris.
On a personal level, Jason Nesmith and the rest of the cast of the old show need a new adventure. They’ve fallen into a disappointing routine of putting on their old costumes and making public appearances at sci-fi conventions and store grand openings.
The only way to break out is to get as far away as possible—light years away.
The Travel card asks you to consider if there’s somewhere special your characters have traveled in the past. When the Thermians transport the cast onto the real NSEA Protector, this creates a different kind of travel to a familiar place.
The crew finds themselves in a functioning spaceship built based on the sets they worked on years ago. It’s familiar, but different. It forces them to confront those differences, like when Tommy scrapes the side of the ship against its docking station when piloting it for the first time.
This confrontation with ways that the old rules may or may not apply also challenges Guy. On the show, he was an expendable redshirt crew member who died during the mission. Finding himself in actual peril on a ship that looks exactly like the show causes him to panic—he assumes that he’s just as expendable in real life as he was on the show. Traveling “back” onboard the Protector pushes Guy to find a new role for himself.
New locations offer new challenges. Brainstorming different settings that could challenge your heroes gives you room to play with possibilities.
The rebuilt NSEA Protector is one example of a difficult location to navigate—literally. Tommy needs to re-learn how to work the controls for the ship in order to help everyone get safely home and defeat Sarris. Later, Gwen and Jason need to climb into the bowels of the ship and pass through a series of dangerous traps to turn off the ship’s self-destruct system.
After the ship is damaged by passing through a magnetic minefield, several crew members need to head down to an unfamiliar planet to retrieve a new power source. There they encounter an inhospitable landscape, vicious child-like aliens, and a massive monster made of living rock.
All of these things act as new challenges, forcing the humans out of their comfort zone.
While trying to turn off the Protector’s self-destruct sequence, Jason makes a call back to Earth. The only people capable of helping the crew at this time? Galaxy Quest superfans that Jason previously met at a convention and accidentally traded communicators with.
It’s a choice grounded not only in a need for assistance, but in knowing that the best source of help when they’re light years away wouldn’t be from the government or emergency services. They need people whose commitment to their old TV series gives them an intimate knowledge of the details the crew took for granted before.
If you have a writer emergency…
How could a change of scenery do wonders for your story?
- List three reasons your hero might need to leave town right now.
- Brainstorm four settings that would be challenging for your hero to navigate.
- If your hero could call home, who would they call?
- In the past, did your hero travel someplace particularly important to them? Is there a reason to go back now?
Find out how to get more tips like these with your own Writer Emergency Pack!