Per Aspera Ad Astra (Через тернии к звёздам, Cherez terniyi k zvyozdam; also known in English as Through the Thorns to the Stars and Humanoid Woman) is a 1980 Soviet sci-fi film directed by Richard Viktorov based on a story by Kir Bulychev.
In the 23rd century, long-range reconnaissance vessel Pushkin locates a lifeless alien ship drifting in deep space with dead Human Alien bodies aboard. The dead bodies belong to clones. One of the clones, a girl that looks to be about 18, is still alive thanks to a spacesuit she had been wearing during the disaster that destroyed the ship. She is brought to a Space Station in Earth's orbit, where the Alien Contact Commission is deciding her fate. A contact specialist named Sergey Lebedev agrees to have the alien girl live in his home, insisting that human contact is necessary for her adaptation. The opinion of Nadezhda Ivanova, a xenobiologist, who wants to isolate the clone to study her, is ignored, although she is assigned to monitor the girl's vitals.
The girl, named Niya, is accepted by Lebedev's family and starts to open up. She also starts to exhibit superhuman abilities, such as Super Reflexes, telekinesis, and teleportation, although she has trouble utilizing them consciously. They usually manifest in extreme situations. She is also suffering from Laser-Guided Amnesia, only having vague memories of her past. Meanwhile, Nadezhda locates an implant in Niya's brain that appears to allow another person to control her using a certain signal.
Niya enjoys her life on Earth and the friendly humans, but she keeps thinking that she was created for an important purpose. She sees news on TV of a diplomatic mission arriving to Earth from a planet called Dessa. The envoys request help from humanity to save their dying planet, which they have mined out to the point of ecological catastrophe. Niya recognizes a Dessan ambassador named Rakan and remembers that she was created on Dessa. She resolves to return to her home planet.
She sneaks aboard the Astra, a relief ship sent to Dessa. Nadezhda and Sergey's son Stepan happen to be members of the crew. Rakan and his colleague Torki are returning home aboard the Astra as well. On the way, the Astra passes by the Gaia, the dead ship, where Niya was found. Rakan and Torki recognize the ship as belonging to Professor Glan, a brilliant Dessan scientist.
The envoys explain that Glan created the clones and gave them superhuman abilities in order to try to reverse the effects of the ecological catastrophe. When the other Dessans rejected his research, he fled the planet, hoping to return, when his allies came to power. When Glan decided to return, an explosion happened on the ship, killing everyone on board, except for Niya, who happened to be wearing a spacesuit in order to fix an antenna.
On Dessa, the humans start working on cleaning up the planet. But a greedy businessman named Turanchoks tries to thwart their efforts, as he makes too much money supplying the Dessan people with gas masks, air, water, and food, effectively holding the planet hostage. When his more subtle efforts fail, he resolves to blow up the Astra by taking control of Niya's mind and using her to deliver the explosive. Rakan, who betrayed his friend Glan out of fear, realizes what Turanchoks plans to do and confronts him. He also turns out to be the donor of Niya's biological material (i.e. her father, of sorts). One of Turanchoks's Mooks mortally wounds Rakan, who decides to end the businessman by releasing the biomass, Glan's final project. The biomass, whose original purpose was to rebuild the planet's biosphere, starts expanding and consuming any organic material in its path.
Nadezhda realizes that something is wrong with Niya, who isn't acting like herself, and tries to stop her. Torki shoots Nadezhda, and the woman's death snaps Niya out of the mind control. She overcomes the signal and gets rid of the bomb. The biomass bursts out of the building and threatens to consume the entire planet. Niya uses her powers to tame the biomass and programs it to start producing water and plant seeds. Dessa's ecology is starting to come back. The humans head home, but Niya chooses to stay.
The film provides examples of the following tropes:
- Boldly Coming: While they never actually have sex (considering the movie was filmed in the USSR in the 80s), Niya and Stepan develop a relationship. However, he has to get back to Earth at the end, and she feels that her place is with her people, so they part ways.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Turanchoks doesn't care that his planet and people are near death. He'd rather make some money selling vital supplies to them than worry about such things as the future of his race.
- Gaia's Lament: Dessa is going through an ecological catastrophe as a result of overindustrialization. The air is poisonous, the planet's resources are depleted, the biosphere is largely gone, and the Dessans themselves are on the verge of dying out. Luckily, humans have the technology to save the planet and its people.
- Grey Goo: The biomass is an organic version. It's designed to consume organics and produce things like water and plants in order to restore Dessan ecology.
- Human Aliens: The Dessans look very much like humans.
- Late to the Tragedy: The Pushkin finds the Gaia after the sabotage that has killed Professor Glan and most of his clones. Niya only survives because she was wearing a spacesuit at the moment.
- Mind Control: The clones have brain implants that allow someone to control their actions with a device that emits "Glan's call".
- Mind over Matter: All of the clones created by Professor Glan are able to manipulate objects at a distance, although the ability typically only manifests in times of need. Niya first manifests it when someone throws her an object, causing her to lift her palm towards the object, stopping it in mid-air. The object then falls to the ground. She can also use it as a weapon, if she feels threatened by someone.
- Redemption Equals Death: Rakan was the one, who betrayed Glan to Turanchoks, resulting in Glan's death, out of fear. However, when Rakan realizes that Turanchoks intends to use Niya to blow up the human ship, he confronts the businessman. Turanchoks has his people mortally wound Rakan. Before dying, Rakan manages to unleash the biomass that ends up eating him, Turanchoks, and his Mooks.
- Teleporters and Transporters: Glan's clones are able to teleport themselves, although the ability is mostly instinctive, so they have a hard time doing it at will.