After a freak accident, astronaut Neil Stryker finds himself stranded on "Terra," an alternate Earth situated directly on the far side of the sun. At first, he doesn't realize this, as he is confined to a hospital by Dr. Revere who has been ordered by his superior Benedict, to drug and interrogate Stryker, orders the doctor reluctantly fulfills. Eventually, Stryker escapes from the hospital and, after spying Terra's three moons, realizes he is not on Earth.
As he learns at a bookstore that he makes his way to, Terra is under the command of The Perfect Order, a totalitarian government that apparently rose after a nuclear conflict 35 years before. As you might expect, The Perfect Order has succeeded in eliminating poverty and war, at the cost of how people with incompatible ideas are removed from society, reconditioned in "Ward E," and if resistant, executed. Religion is outlawed, as is most art, and it appears that alcohol is next on the list. For the most part, Terra's technology is equivalent to 1970's Earth (including cars with Plymouth logos), but with surveillance technology placed in every television and radio. Also, everyone's left-handed. Crazy huh?
Eventually, he befriends the comely Dr. Bettina Cooke and drug-addicted Professor Dylan Macauley, who plan to get Stryker on-board a Terran spacecraft so that he may commandeer it and return to Earth. At this point, Benedict shows up, arrests and tortures Bettina, and a bunch of chases and explosions occur. Though Stryker fails to get on-board the spaceship, he manages to escape. Presumably, at this point, Stryker would begin a Stern Chase, The Fugitive-style, pursued by Benedict while looking for a way home, but the series wasn't picked up and the whole thing is Left Hanging. Compare 1969's Doppelgänger co-written and produced for cinemas by Gerry Anderson.
This film has examples of the following tropes:
- Affably Evil: The ruling council of the Perfect Order, even to their own subordinates.
- Alien Sky: Stryker finally realizes he's on another planet when he spies three moons in the night sky. These show up again in the final shot of the film as Book Ends.Stryker: Do [the moons] always look like that?
Driver: How do you want them to look?
- Aliens Speaking English: It's made explicitly clear that the aliens really are speaking English and it's not just alien noises being translated.
- Always a Bigger Fish: A political variant is described when Benedict is summoned to a meeting with the Perfect Order's ruling council. As he tells his aide, "We all answer to somebody."
- Bittersweet Ending: Stryker escapes from Benedict (for now), but every friend he's made along the way is either dead or lobotomized beyond recognition. And the implication is that this pattern will continue.
- Bluff the Imposter: When Stryker is first recovering, he's tended to by a Dr. Revere. Stryker is suspicious of the situation, but doesn't know exactly what's going on—at first, he tries speaking Russian to Revere, but Revere claims to not speak the language. Still suspecting a trick, Stryker tries another tactic:Stryker: Speaking of Boston, Dr. Revere ... any relation to Paul?Revere: (clearly puzzled) Paul ... Revere? No, I don't think so.Stryker: That's all right. Paul Revere wasn't much of a ballplayer.Revere: I'm afraid I'm as ignorant of sports as I am of other languages.
- Canned Orders over Loudspeaker: Or rather, over Chevy Van Tape-Deck.
- Counter-Earth: The main setting of the series is on Terra instead of Earth.
- Dressing as the Enemy: twice, both times played with:
- The first is downplayed when Stryker steals some clothes out of a locker at the hospital, in that the owner is (presumably) not an enemy per se.
- The second is subverted; Stryker is set to replace a Terran astronaut on a rocket that can take him home, and is halfway into the man's spacesuit when Benedict and his mooks show up and blow the charade.
- Dystopian Edict: NO CONCERTS IN THE PARK
- The Evils of Free Will: The Perfect Order's philosophy
- Fake-Out Make-Out: When Stryker has Bettina alone in her car and is trying to explain himself to her, she begins honking the horn to get the attention of a passing truck. Stryker quickly begins kissing her to throw off the others' suspicions. Bettina is not amused.
- The Heavy: Benedict is the main villain of the film, but he's not the Evil Overlord, just a high-ranking officer.
- Hypocrite: Benedict rails on about The Evils of Free Will, specifically that one man with "ideas" will begin to think himself a god and will inevitably become a despot. What he doesn't seem to realize is that, in essence, the Perfect Order is exactly that, albeit with a small council of people with god complexes rather than just one person.
- Inexplicable Cultural Ties: Other than The Perfect Order, there's only a few cosmetic differences that separate Earth and Terra.
- Left Hanging: The film is clearly a setup for a series but, as stated in the main body, it wasn't picked up.
- The Man Behind the Man: The ruling council of the Perfect Order pulls Benedict's strings.
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Again, the Perfect Order's ruling council, which consists of three or four unidentified individuals (only one of whom has a speaking part).
- Room 101: Ward E... it's a white room of incredibly vague torture.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: At some time in the warlike past, Benedict's family died, apparently from starvation. As a result, he firmly believes that the peace the Perfect Order has brought is good. And he is utterly ruthless in his efforts to maintain it.
- Wham Shot: Neil seeing three moons and realizing he's not on Earth.