During a raid on the planet Earth, a Wolf Raider soldier experiences a pang of conscience when ordered to kill a mother and her child and ends up killing his best friend by accident. Branded a traitor, he flees, only to end up in the hands of an Earth spacecraft crew. With the captain knowing his true identity and threatening to expose him unless he cooperates, the Wolf Raider is forced to help the Earth spacecraft with whatever jobs they are given, all while avoiding the death threat that hangs over his head.
This movie has a lot in common with another film that showed up on MST3K, namely Time of the Apes. They both originated in Japan. They're both movies that are actually condensed television series (this one being born from a show called Star Wolf). And they were both made by Sandy Frank. Therefore, Fugitive Alien has all of the problems that Time of the Apes has, if not more so.
Naturally, as a fairly long TV series condensed into a feature-film length, the movie suffers from a lack of plot cohesion, jumping from scene to scene with far too much information lost on the editing room floor. The main plot points remain intact, but the more subtle moments that make them feel natural are gone, leaving something that feels more like a series of unrelated scenes than a properly developed narrative. Conflict comes and goes without buildup or warning, by the end nobody feels like a fully fleshed out character.
Honestly, there is very little to be said for this film that hasn't already been said for Time of the Apes, since both of them are practically identical in how they were made. There is, however, one major difference: Fugitive Alien seems to have the luxury of being the first of a two-parter. The ending, like the rest of the plot, is unsatisfying, ending a few minutes after a (supposedly) dramatic plot point with the ominous words "To Be Continued". Obviously, the plot from the original TV series was so dense that fitting even a small amount of it into a single movie would've been impossible, so Sandy Frank decided to split his edited version into two movies.
Despite that, however, it does little to ease the fact that the movie is poorly edited and lacking any kind of decent structure. I doubt even three movies would've made this series of mish-mashed footage worth it. In any case, the second movie will appear in a later episode of MST3K, concluding the tale told in this hacked up tale. I can't say I'm looking forward to it.
This episode is considered a watershed moment in the series, and I agree, as it is one of the strongest episodes in the show so far. Admittedly the riffs started a little slow, but once the movie introduced the Earth ship's crew, then the riffing really took off. I probably wouldn't consider it an all-time classic, but it's certainly way up there with the great episodes.
Also, "He triiiieeeed to kill me with a forklift..."
An excellent choice for a stinger: the captain of the ship laughing like a maniac before suddenly pulling out the cigar nestled behind his ear and screaming angrily at the man by his side, "You're stuck here!" Poor dubbing plus one hell of a mood swing makes for one of the more memorable stingers of the third season so far.