Humanity has been enslaved by the Psychlo's for nearly a thousand years and no one has ever had the will to stand up to them. That all changes when Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Pepper) leaves his tribe to discover what lies beyond the wastes. He is soon captured and put to work like many other humans, but he gains the attention of Terl, a Psychlo's commander intrigued by the "man-animal's" resourcefulness. Terl has been sentenced to spend the rest of his career on earth and he is not pleased, so he decides to devise a means of putting the humans to work gathering gold, one of the few earthly resources that have any value to the Psychlo's. Jonnie is placed in an education machine so that he'll learn the skills necessary to aid in Terl's scheme. However, he begins to share this knowledge with his fellow humans and they begin discussing rebellion. The plan is aided significantly when they find a giant stockpile of gold, buying them the time they need to learn how to fly jets and build explosives. They succeed, destroying the Psychlo's homeworld with a single explosive device, due to the high hydrogen content in their atmosphere. Yet Terl and his assistant Ker (Whitaker) remain alive, prisoners of the man-animals. Sequel anyone?