Galaxy Quest Episode 57: "The Fairest of Them All", originally broadcast November 23, 1980.
Plot Summary: Following an accident with the digital conveyer, Lt. Madison and Dr. Lazarus find themselves on an alternate version of the NSEA Protector, called in this world the Terrakian Empire Cruiser (TEC) Vengeance. They quickly become aware that things are not as they should be when they are confronted by the swaggering High Overlord Taggart, who wears a goatee, a broad gold sash decorated with medallions, and no shirt. The Overlord takes them into custody, accusing them of being spies for the Antagones, the sworn enemies of the Terrakian Empire (which in this continuity is the dominant force in the galaxy.) Dr. Lazarus is escorted away to be thrown out an airlock, while Tawny is taken to Overlord Taggart’s personal quarters, where he brusquely orders her to change out of her uniform and into something “more appropriate.” The camera pans aside to show a large portrait of Tawny hanging on the wall, or at least some version of her…
Meanwhile Dr. Lazarus, on his way to seemingly certain death, encounters this universe’s version of Laredo, who, along with several other children (apparently due to their small size) is being used to perform the dangerous task of cleaning the ship’s atmospheric interface controller. One of the other children spills water onto the controller and a guard applies a taser-like device called an “anguish stick” to his back, making him scream and fall to the ground. The damaged controller suddenly emits a great burst of steam, which allows Dr. Lazarus the opportunity to evade his captors using the Mak’tar stealth haze. Laredo, however, is still able to perceive him due to his childish innocence, and after a moment when it seems like he will alert the guards to Lazarus’s presence, he instead runs away to follow the doctor through the ventilation duct.
Tawny’s new outfit is a skimpy leather bikini. It becomes evident that this version of Taggart shares his counterpart’s attraction to Lt. Madison, and he kisses her passionately. He says that he thought he had lost her when she escaped before, but now that she is returned to him from the Antagones’ clutches, she will never again leave his side. Tawny resists at first, but, the more he talks to her about the power he wields and how glorious her life will be, the more appears to be tempted by his offer to become (or resume her role as?) his woman. But it is only a ruse – when his back is turned, she seizes her counterpart’s portrait off the wall and clubs him over the head, knocking him out. She then manages to open the door by convincing the computer that she is the ‘real’ Tawny, whose voice is evidently still on record within the system.
Dr. Lazarus realizes he is being followed and confronts Laredo, who tells him fearfully that he only wishes to escape from his cruel captors. Lazarus appears unmoved by pity, but agrees to let Laredo accompany him because the child knows this world and this vessel inside and out. Together, they make their way to the bowels of the ship, specifically its engineering laboratory, where Dr. Lazarus hopes to determine what has caused them to slip through this strange rift in the space-time continuum. With the assistance of Laredo, he finds his way to the correct location, only to be confronted as he emerges from the duct by an anguish stick-wielding Chen, who threatens to kill him if he so much as moves. Dr. Lazarus attempts to explain the situation to Chen, appealing to his scientific sense of curiosity, but it is his description of the world he comes from which finally moves Chen to action. Chen reveals that he is secretly a double agent for the Antagones, and the prospect of a world without a Terrakian Empire sounds too good to be true.
Alarms begin to blare as Tawny races through the ship’s corridors in an exciting and memorable chase sequence. Taggart has regained consciousness and initiated an emergency lockdown on the Vengeance. Tawny is re-captured by guards, led by Overlord Taggart, who sweeps her into his arms for a rough but passionate embrace, just as Dr. Lazarus and Chen working together manage to reconfigure the digital conveyer in such a manner that it should return the interlopers to their own world. Chen promises to take Laredo with him when he escapes back to the Antagones, which, having now blown his cover, he will have to do immediately. Dr. Lazarus bids them both a respectful farewell and wishes them success in their future efforts to destroy the evil empire just before he and Tawny are conveyed back to their own world, reappearing on board the Protector to the great relief of the rest of the crew, who had feared them dead. Tawny is still wearing her skimpy outfit, which prompts Commander Taggart to grin as she quickly goes to change.
Reactions: Responses to the episode were mixed. Mainstream audiences felt that the tone of the show departed too much from the usual family-friendly atmosphere, with its suggestions of slavery, rape, and torture. Genre critics, however, praised it for creating a truly memorable and dark alternate universe, and for allowing the show’s main cast to push their boundaries and take on new acting challenges. There were no further episodes set in the alternate universe during the show’s original run, but a subsection of the Questerian community (who call themselves ‘Terrakifans’) have latched onto the setting, expanding its background, history, characters, and speculated future developments far beyond what the episode reveals, attending cons dressed in Terrakian uniforms or replicas of Tawny’s leather bikini, and writing copious amounts of explicit fanfiction.
Most of the actors remember this episode as one of their favorites, with the exception of Gwen DeMarco, who has gone on record in several interviews to complain about its problematic glorification of the alternate Taggart as a seductive alpha male, and about how uncomfortable the bikini was to run in. She did, however, state that it was “fun” to get to hit Jason Nesmith with a large painting of herself.
The episode was nominated for the Gernsback Award that year, but lost to Flash Gordon.
Overlord Taggart: Have the girl taken to my private quarters. As for this one...
Guard: Yes, High Overlord?
Overlord Taggart: Dispose of him. You can never trust a Mak’tar.
Overlord Taggart: I lost you once, Tawny, when the Antagones captured you. I can’t let that happen again. You’re mine until I let you go, and I never will.
Lt. Madison: Well, it’s not up to you!
Alternate Universe Chen: It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without the Terrakians in charge.
Alternate Universe Laredo: I can. I dream about it every night.
Dr. Lazarus: We cannot change this world’s past, Laredo. But perhaps… you can change its future.
- In the scene when Tawny is in Overlord Taggart’s quarters, there is a large metal shield on the wall behind her, and a reflection of the camera and boom mic can briefly be seen in it when she turns to try and escape from him for the first time.
- Dr. Lazarus begins his exit from the duct head-first, but when the camera cuts to the interior of the engineering laboratory, he is emerging feet-first.
- The presence of Security Officer Morkar as one of the guards who chases Tawny is often viewed as a continuity error, but it is more likely that in this universe, he was never killed by the Targharian Slime Beast, and thus his brief appearance is not an error but a deliberate choice by the creators.
- The leather bikini worn by Gwen DeMarco in this episode was auctioned in 1991 for $37,200, which was at that time the highest amount paid for any piece of Quest memorabilia.