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Touch the Sky

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Nobody really expects the network to pick up the show again.

Sure, they're getting some serious play in the media for the first time in what seems like forever but Gwen's seen a dozen or more campaigns -- both powers-that-be and fan led -- to bring back the show flicker and fail over the years and, really, outside of the damage done to the LA Convention Center (and twelve fans, thankfully all with non-critical injuries and who settled out of court for undisclosed sums and signed copies of the shooting script for the original unaired pilot), not much has changed since the last time.

But then the rumours turn into actual talks, and the talks turn into an actual offer, and when Gwen's list of demands (producer role, salary equal to Jason and Alex's, veto power on her wardrobe, and a minimum two episodes per season with Tawny leading Plot A) are all met without a catastrophic amount of compromise or threats to have her replaced with someone younger, well. She sort of has to say yes then.

The choices for the show's new tag line are:

Galaxy Quest: the Next Journey
Galaxy Quest: the Continuing Missions of Captain Taggart and his crew
Galaxy Quest: the Adventures Continue
Galaxy Quest: the New Adventures

Gwen dislikes them all pretty evenly (with the exception of option two which, no, no freakin' way in hell, and she will tear her contract into a thousand and one pieces if that's the direction this revival is going in) but her producer role is still pretty new and shiny so when the decision is made for a previously undiscussed option five, Galaxy Quest: the Journey Continues, she doesn't protest very strongly.

She and Jason are... complicated. They're together, yes, but for all the years they've known each other they're very much in the 'getting to know each other in that way' relationship stage. And in trying to move past the fact that for an awful lot of those years he irritated the hell out of her. And, okay, yes, while he has matured a significant amount since that day, he's still Jason Nesmith, self-proclaimed hero and star of the television space-drama series called Galaxy Quest (crew optional).

So, no plans to publicise anything just yet if she can help it.

(Of course, that would probably be easier if they stopped letting the fans and paparazzi catch them making out every time they step outside together. They're not in their twenties anymore, damnit.)

Some of the biggest challenges in continuing a TV show that stopped airing eighteen years ago:

1. Concluding a cliff-hanger (to ignore it would be to alienate every fan ever) with a segue that explains how they've all aged eighteen years.

2. Teaching Laliari how to act. And why. And when. And where.

3. Not breaking up with Jason every time he's an egotistical ass because a, she knew that well before she starting sleeping with him and, b, he really is trying not to be such an egotistical ass all the time these days.

4. Not introducing any technology into the NSEA Protector that the Thermians might be tempted to recreate in a non-prop fashion. Gwen's all for scientific progress, sure, but the Thermians might just be the most naive geniuses in the history of all time and giving them the inspiration for a device that, say, turns people into peanuts at the push of a button is just asking for trouble.

They were only brought back for a half season (the network might be willing to take a chance on them again, sure, but they're not going to chase a loss -- they'll consider ordering a back thirteen if the initial run does well) so filming wraps neatly in August, leaving them plenty of time for the convention.

The LA Convention Center refuses to have them back, despite their promises not to attempt any more SFX stunts, so they instead shift to the Anaheim Convention Center. The crowd is larger than anything she can remember from recent years and, sure, some of them might have come just in the hopes of another 'prop disaster', but most are there because they're fans and they want the first look at the new season.

And the first look is impressive. The network refused to allow a preview of the entire premiere episode -- they don't want to sacrifice even one potential viewer when it airs -- but they do greenlight three extended trailers (one for every day of the con) that each run for over six minutes.

The trailers highlight scenes from the full thirteen episodes and there's plenty of screen time for all of them, including Laliari and Guy. Gwen has dialogue that's not a computer echo; Alex's immortal line is only uttered once (though they do cut it so that 'by Grabthar's hammer' is in day one's trailer, 'by the suns of Warvan' appears on day two, and 'you shall be avenged!' rounds out day three); Tommy has at least two scenes where he's not piloting the ship; and Jason only loses his shirt once and sermonises twice. Even better are the gloriously updated SFX. There are aliens that don't look like the velcro holding their heads on is about to fail, planets that don't look like they've been watercoloured using a paint-by-number, and the NSEA Protector in flight and in space battles and in no way looking like a two inch die-cast model.

Each trailer starts with a Taggart voice over, 'never give up, never surrender!', and ends with NSEA Protector turbo-boosting into a wormhole, and even if the actual episodes themselves turn out to be shit, Gwen knows they were worth it just to create these six minute thank you's to the fans.

Judging by the thunderous applause in the hall after each trailer, she thinks the fans might just be okay with that too.

Everyone goes to Jason's for the official premiere airing and, even though they'd all seen it before in post, the moment the computer's voice says 'Previously on Galaxy Quest' nobody moves or talks or hardly even breathes until the episode's over and the credits have run and the next program is starting.

Then Guy screams, and she drops her drink, and Laliari starts clapping (and kissing Fred), and Tommy's shouting 'yes!', and Jason's beaming like he just won everything ever, and, hell, even Alex has a little smile on his lips like that wasn't, for once, a complete drain on his eternal soul.

After picking up her glass (and with her heart rate slowly returning to normal, thank you, Guy) Gwen settles back on the sofa beside Jason and gives him a knowing look.

"You want to watch it again," she says, smiling, "don't you?"

His grin is wide and unashamed but he takes her hand is his, and kisses the back of it, like that's the last possible thing on his mind.

Snorting, she hands him the remote.

The numbers that come back after the premiere are good -- great even. Most people are happy with how they started off right from the last scene of the previous finale (complete with 80's hairstyles) with Taggart activating the Omega 13 (which then creates some sort of malfunctioning time paradox with all the time knots that puts them in a suspended something-or-other) so that when they then come back from the credits, they're all their 'current' ages. Before they can figure out how to fix this 'error', however, a Sarris-type alien appears and then the focus is all space battles and introducing Guy and meeting Laliari and Taggart reminding them how sometimes things (like aging) (like Sarris) happen for a greater good and how the most important thing is, of course, to never give up, never surrender, etcetera.

They slip a little in week two, which is to be expected, but by week four they're averaging 16.9 million viewers which, while not making them the highest rating show on air, is enough to keep them solidly in the top twenty (not to mention it's more than double what they were pulling in when they were canned in 1982, so).

Her favourite episode to film this time around was number 97, the "The Qwarp in the Ship". In it, a terrible fanged beast from the swamps on the planet Qwarp stows away on the NSEA Protector and, naturally, starts causing havoc. Taggart orders a search of the ship and when she and Guy come across the alien on Deck E, the fight accidentally sends them both down one of the auxiliary chutes and into the refuse condenser. The crew find the evidence of their fight with the Qwarp but assume the worst when they don't respond to hails on their vox's (they were destroyed in the fight). Not realising that she and Guy are actually still alive (well, until the condenser begins its scheduled "compact and space" sequence), Taggart vows revenge, embarking on a grief-stricken hunt for the beast while she and Guy try to figure out how they're going to survive the ship's automated systems.

Alex directed the episode (one of his caveats for re-signing) and, sure, there's an indecent amount of attention paid to Captain Taggart's Grieving and Revenge Expressions (which, as much as she likes Jason, she has to admit they kinda look the same to her), and the whole refuse condenser thing is a blatant rip off of those scenes in Star Wars, and -- oh yeah -- why exactly does her uniform have so many tears in it after the fight with the beast when Guy's the one who actually wrestles with it and his uniform is barely smudged?

But, whatever. For all its faults, the episode does have three things -- three very, very important things -- going for it and they are:

1. She got exactly the same amount of screen time in the episode as Jason did.

2. She only had to repeat one line of the computer. One! And it was only five words! Every other word she says in the episode (and she had lots of words! almost half the script!) is very clearly not her repeating the damned computer.

But most importantly, the best part of the episode, the reason it's her favourite:

3. Tawny is the one to figure out how to get out of the condenser. She rescues herself, she rescues Guy, and she most definitely is not rescued by Taggart.

When it airs, the critics give the episode 7.2 out of a 10. "A shameless thievery of other, much better works, GQ goes where no fan would have wanted them to: the literal bowels of the ship. The episode's one redeeming feature is DeMarco's Tawny Madison, who proves to be more than capable at saving the day."

Best. Episode. Ever.

They get the news that the back thirteen's been ordered at the same time they're all on break, and by 'on break' she means 'off the freakin' planet' because Mathesar popped back into orbit to invite them to come and see the new Thermian homeworld and, really, who was going to say no to that?

(Well, Guy was, and Gwen too, if she's being honest, until Mathesar assured them there was no chance of them running into even the slightest hint of anything even resembling a moment from the Historical Documents.)

So she goes into space, again, and it's just as amazing as (but definitely less terrifying then) the first time, and even if she can never, ever, ever tell another human being who isn't Jason, Alex, Fred, Tommy or Guy about it, ever, it's still something she will always remember and treasure and did she mention she went into freakin' space again?

They wrap the full season without a cliffhanger (just in case), but it turns out there was no need for them to play it safe -- the network's happy enough with their ratings to give them another half season order. It's a little annoying, sure, that they're still not willing to gamble more than thirteen episodes at a time but she understands that this is a once in a lifetime chance the powers-that-be are taking (any other network would have just rebooted the entire show and cast) so she'll take the work, and the pay, while it's offered and -- surprisingly enough -- not hate her life as Lieutenant Tawny Madison like she used to.

They did their first season back with a will-they/won't-they tease between Tawny and Taggart (because a, that always plays better on TV than an established relationship, and b, it was confusing enough falling in love with Jason in real life without having their fictional counterparts do the same through a script) but by the time the next season starts filming, things are more settled. She and Jason have even started talking about moving in together so she's happy enough when the script for episode 120, "All our Tomorrows", calls for a kiss between Taggart and Tawny that's not from alien or drug influences, and which will actually be remembered, afterwards, by both parties.

She's also thinking of giving her producer status a bit of a workout this time around and maybe pitching an episode or two. She has this great idea for one that features Laliari in the lead (everyone on the ship disappears except for Laliari, who's left all alone on a ship flying straight into a black hole and she can't stop it without help from the rest of the crew, only there's a twist -- she's the one who's actually disappeared, not them, and they can't fix the problem without her either) and she knows the rest of the exec's will want to change it so that the lead's Taggart and not Laliari (because of course they will) but that's a fight she's willing to take on.

After all, what's the point in having her (sometimes limited) producer powers if she doesn't use them for good and not evil?

In July, Emmy nominations are announced and she's shocked when she learns that in addition to the nominations for Outstanding Special Visual Effects the show's picked up for their premiere and episode 100, "The Battle of Bl'e", she's personally up for Outstanding Lead Actress alongside Jason's Outstanding Lead Actor and Alex's Outstanding Supporting Actor.

There's no way she'll win, of course, not when she's up against the likes of Julianna Margulies, Edie Falco, Sela Ward, and Lorraine Bracco, but, still.

Outstanding. Lead. Actress.

Outstanding. Lead. Actress.

She writes a thank you speech, just in case.

She and Jason go to the Emmy's together. As a couple. In public. And that's not nearly as awkward as she feared it might be. (They've been dating for almost a year now so, yeah. Making it event-official is probably a little overdue.)

The show wins the Outstanding Special Visual Effects award -- which is, as Alex puts it, marvellous -- and while neither she, Jason or Alex win theirs, none of them are particularly devastated. Hers was, obviously, the longest of long shots anyway; Jason's loss is nullified by the two magazine covers that have just come out calling him the 'Sexiest Man on TV'; and Alex is just happy his nomination video didn't have him saying the line, 'by Grabthar's hammer'.

When she gets home, she tucks her thank you speech into one of her jewellery cases and thinks, next year.

They head back to Anaheim again for the GQ20 convention and for the second year in a row now there's no drama behind the scenes. Alex doesn't have a meltdown, Jason doesn't try to single himself out every five seconds, and apart from everyone's standard gripes about some of the more overzealous fans, everyone's pretty much good with being there (it helps that they no longer need to intersperse their con appearances with paid publicity gigs at store openings).

There's the usual program of autographs and photo op's and a Q&A about the new season. They announce the winner of the TV Guide competition for a fan to appear on the show as an extra (Brandon made an appearance in the last season, as a non-dying extra in episode 100, as a thank you for his help in saving their lives and for signing all those NDA's about how, yes, it is all real but not real-real here on Earth).

The fans go wild over the extended trailers again, and when it comes to the closing moments on day three, when they've finished that final bow on stage, and saluted their fans, they all walk off the stage together and head straight for the limousine that's waiting to take them to Burbank Studios for an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

And not, this time, as a sight gag during the comedy monologue. No, this time, they're the actual, invited celebrity guests, and the only laughs they're going to hear is when they make a brilliantly witty response to one of Jay's questions.

Gwen has a feeling this is what 'making it' in this industry might feel a little like.

They all go to Jason's again for the season return and this time they're a little more relaxed when the episode airs. (Nobody talks or breathes while it's on, of course, but during the ad breaks a little conversation and oxygen is mostly tolerated.)

After everyone else has gone home, Jason finds her still sitting on the sofa. He smiles.

"You want to watch it again," he says teasingly, "don't you?"

Tawny and Taggart save the day together in this episode, a true partnership at work (and equal screen time). Of course she wants to watch it again.

Giving him her best, what and you don't? expression, she snaps her fingers for the remote.

Laughing, he hands it over and reclaims his seat beside her, his arm settling around her shoulders and tugging her closer.

Forty-four minutes later the NSEA Protector heads into deep space, a spiral galaxy twirling lazily off to her right, and Tawny's voice, for once, offering the soliloquy at the end of the episode:

Never give up, never surrender.

Gwen smiles.

The End