An astronaut is returning back to Earth when his ship undergoes a catastrophic failure that sends him and the ship reeling. When he awakens, he finds himself on what he initially believes to be Earth but quickly discovers is a completely different planet: Terra, a twin planet opposite Earth. With Terra under the control of a ruthless government known as the Perfect Order, he tries to figure out a way off Terra so he can return home before he is captured and killed for his disruptive presence.
Compared to some of the previous dreck that has appeared on MST3K, this episode's offering, a made-for-TV movie called Stranded in Space (originally entitled The Stranger) is not that bad. In fact, I dare say it's mildly entertaining, at least to a point. Unfortunately, that doesn't save the movie entirely from itself, as it still displays the familiar poor production values, flat acting, and flimsy plot characteristic of bad movies, only this time on the budget of a TV special.
The basic idea behind Stranded in Space is mildly clever, if a bit contrived. The idea of an astronaut getting stranded on a planet similar to Earth's except for several key differences is an intriguing one that could be entertaining if well written. Unfortunately, this movie left out the "well written" part. The biggest pill to swallow is that the alien planet, Terra, is in the same orbit as Earth around the sun, except it is completely opposite it. How the astronaut's ship managed to get lost enough to reach Terra is a big pill to swallow, not to mention Earth's astronomers somehow missing an entire planet sitting conveniently Earth's own orbit (the farthest planet, Pluto, was discovered in 1930, for god's sake!). And even if that pill is swallowed, there still has to be more room to swallow the idea that Terra is like a mirror world to Earth, with most inhabitants being left-handed and all the continents forming exactly the same, but mirrored. Oh, but Terra has three moons to Earth's one; I guess something had to be alien on this "alien" planet.
And boy, do they try their best to look alien (note the sarcasm) on Terra. Everything on Terra looks exactly like the Earthly 1970s with a few small touches here to make sure people remember that they are watching a distant planet instead of Earth. Of course, I can understand what the creators were going for - Terra is exactly like Earth, only mirrored in some ways and run by a totalitarian government called the Perfect Order - but the cheap production values really go a long way to making suspension of belief difficult. Many of the sets in this movie look like they were ripped directly from 70s TV sitcoms, and the number of Chrysler cars rolling throughout does make one wonder how Plymouth managed to get a production plant on a distant alien world.
Aside from the TV-budget effects, there is really nothing else of interest to discuss with this bland piece of cardboard of a film. The acting is flimsy and unmemorable, the plot is typical TV pulp, and the characters are broadly painted stereotypes with little motivation beyond contrivances. The only thing really of note is the ending, which is the expected setup for a TV series that never materialized after this "pilot" movie, and even then it's barely worth discussing. Admittedly the premise of an "alien" astronaut on the run from an evil world government and trying to get back home could make for an interesting series, but judging by how bland everything is in this movie, the world was likely better off not seeing the results of a failed Fugitive meets Logan's Run series.
After the disappointment of Gamera vs Barugon, Joel and the bots returned to form in this episode. It doesn't approach the level of greatness of the first three episodes of season three, but the riffs were much better this time around than the previous episode and more consistently funny. Not a classic episode, but definitely entertaining.
Admittedly, I'm a little puzzled by the selection of this stinger, in which the protagonist of the film is struck by a peeved woman while the two of them are sitting in a car. A woman hitting a guy isn't inherently weird, and the way she hit him wasn't that bizarre, either. Unfortunately, the movie is so generic that this was likely the best thing that Best Brains could've used, so I can't really fault them for choosing it.