The movie introduction depicts a summary of the events that led to the Terran-Kilrathi War into 2654: J.F. Kennedy's speech about space exploration, the first Terran Confederation colony, Pilgrim explorers charting 4 pulsars in a year, Dr. Peter Anthony inventing the Navcom A.I., Sparrow encountering the first Kilrathi ship, escalating tension in Vega Sector and sending diplomatic probes, a Terran Ambassador announcing the declaration of the War on 6 AM.
The movie begins on 2654.153 9:00 in the Pegasus Station, the headquarters of the Vega Fleet HQ in the Ulysses Corridor. The TCS Vanguard departs the station for the Charybdis Quasar and jump to Earth; Freighter Delta loses elevator-effect thrust; TCS McClellan requests flyby; suddenly a massive number of KF-100 Dralthis overwhelm and bombard the station. CO Admiral Bill Wilson learns that 40 ships are coming to bear. Casualties include TCS Iowa and TCS Kobi and the station is breached in levels 7, 11 and 13 and Kilrathi are heading towards command and control. Wilson realises they are after the Navcom AI and orders to destroy it, but the self-destruct codes have been overwritten. Levels 6 and 2 are breached while Wilson takes a rifle and attempts to break the sealed window guarding the Navcom. Failing to do so, he records a message and launches a drone. Then the Kilrathi break into the command center.
The message is received by Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn and Richard Bellegarde on CS Concordia. Bellegarde reports that the fleet is spread out all over the sector and can't reach Sol Sector earlier than 42 hours. A star chart indicates that using the Charybdis Quasar, the Kilrathi battle group will reach Earth in 40 hours. He orders all ships to make full speed for Earth. The CS Tiger Claw is also in the sector, beyond communications range, 2 days away with a drone. Tolwyn however notices a ship en route to the Claw, the requisitioned merchantmant Diligent Captained by James Taggart. Tolwyn requests to speak with her Captain.
12.5 hours after the attack on the Pegasus. 1st Lt. Christopher Blair is reading the Odyssey holding a Pilgrim Cross. Todd Marshall calls him to the bridge where he awaits a top priority message. Tolwyn orders him to deliver an encrypted communications chip to the captain of the Claw Jason Sansky, since Pegasus is gone. Tolwyn also mentions that he fought with his father in the Pilgrim Wars, and uploads the encrypted message.
The Diligent heads for Beacon 147 to jump to the Claw sooner than scheduled but Marshall reports that it is off-limits. Taggart insists, and goes to his quarters, where he is seen studying antique maps. Blair comes to report that the ship has reached the beacon and comments on the maps. Taggart mentions they are Pilgrim relics, like Blair's Cross; after the Pilgrims were defeated, not a single quasar has been charted.
Suddenly Taggart runs to the cockpit as the ship's thrust has increased. Taggart explains that the beacon is marking a gravity well with enormous force. It's Scylla, an unstable distortion in space-time, charted by the Pilgrims, but off-limits as too dangerous. He puts the Navcom on-line. Approaching it too fast will suck them in out of control; missing the entry vector means certain destruction of the ship.
The ship soon shakes and is affected by the anomaly. The Navcom goes off-line and Taggart tells Blair to take the helm to perform his first jump, and leaves the cockipit to make repairs. He managed to get it back on-line while Blair instinctively punches calculations to the helm. They are sucked by the gravity well as Marshall is screaming, and they jump out to the other side. Blair realises that he plotted a jump in under 10 seconds, something not even a Navcom can do. Marshall's celebration is cut off when Taggart warns him about neglecting his orders next time.
17 hours after the destruction of the Pegasus. Commander Paul Gerald leads Blair to Captain Jason Sansky and reports for duty delivering the communique from Tolwyn. Sansky orders officer Obutu to decrypt the disk. Before being dismissed, Gerald asks Blair about his father marrying a Pilgrim woman.
At the hangar Marshall looks at the CF-117b Rapiers and notices that there are no Hornets they knew from the Academy and teases Blair for noticing a blonde female technician. Blair locates and boards the fighter assigned to him, and is greeted by Merlin, the mobile interface cockpit.
He is approached by a woman, seemingly a technician, and to tease his ego, he asks him what he'd do in some situations, and proves to Blair that his by-the-book replies are not enough in exceptional situations, learned only from experience. Blair says that he hasn't got tips from a "grease monkey" before, to be told that she is actually Lt. Cmdr. Jeannette Deveraux, his Wing Commander. As Blair steps down, he notices it is marked with the name of Lt. Cmdr. Charles Chen aka "Bossman".
Marshall teases him for hitting on their CO, and guides him to the mess hall, where he introduces himself and Blair as "the second best pilot" to the pilots. Lt. Hunter asks him who is the best pilot, and Marshall suggests two ways to find out: either kicking his ass or joining him to a Scotch he produces. A black woman named Forbes teases Marshall and suggests that she'd do both.
Sansky reads Tolwyn's message: the Ulysses is out, the Kilrathi obviously have the Navcom, and in about 23 hours they will reach Charybdis and jump to Earth. The Capital ships of the Concordia battle group (TCS Bradier, TCS Cahillier, TCS Sommeria, TCS Toadia, TCS Walleyer) will make it too late. The Claw must go to the Charybdis and gather information about the Kilrathi. He also suggests to use Taggart, who knows this space better than anyone. Gerald is skeptical about the message, which arrived with a Pilgrim half-breed; Sansky doesn't comment and sends for Taggart.
In the mess hall, Forbes plays chess with Adam Polanski and wins thanks to Maniac. He mocks Blair about his encounter with Deveraux while sitting in Bossman's Rapier. Hunter demands to change the subject as Bossman "never existed". They come hand to hand, and Blair's Cross is revealed. That moment Deveraux comes in demanding an explanation. Blair leaves saying that the conversation "never existed". Deveraux clarifies that in space, when pilots don't want to be reminded that they will die, so those who were killed "never existed".
Taggart comes to Sansky and is asked a proof that the message he brought is authentic and not a trick to divert the Claw away. Taggart produces a ring Tolwyn gave him to show as proof that he is his confidant. Sansky then orders Obutu to set course for the Charybdis at full speed, that will need 4 days. Taggart mentions a class-2 pulsar 11 hours away. The Navcom does not have its coordinates, but he has. Gerald mentions that only Pilgrims jumped pulsars, and that was 40 years ago. Sansky asserts that there is no other choice and Taggart is told to plot a course.
Marshall visits Blair in his quarters and wakes him up. He reminds him that in the Academy he promised to remove his Cross as it will bring him trouble. He also mentions that he pulled security with Forbes.
It is 2654.155 11:00 and the Concordia battle group is 18 hours from Eart. Tolwyn and Bellegarde discuss that Earth received the warning and have prepared local defense, but it won't be enough. Running at 110%, the group lost 2 ships in jump points and 1 when its reactor core melted down. Tolwyn gives the order to run at 120%.
Marshall is flying with Forbes as Delta 2. Forbes claims that women have better flying skill than men and believes that Dibbles would be alive if he had the flying skills of a woman. Marshall then proceeds to impress Forbes and prove that balls are more important. He requests permission to land from the Flight Boss and boosts at high speed, going inverted and straightening at the last moment stopping before Peterson. Forbes follows him, but rolling at 540 degrees. She calls him "a total Maniac". Celebrations are cut by a grim looking Deveraux.
In his quarters, Wilson looks at an old picture of him with Tolwyn, and Obutu calls him to the bridge.
Forbes visits Deveraux in her quarters, still angry. She produces a bottle of whiskey, wanting to thank her for talking to the flight boss and did not bring them up on charges. She admits that she wanted to impress Maniac. Deveraux tells her not to do this again; she can't afford losing her best pilot.
Blair visits Taggart and asks him about the Pilgrims and why being a half-Pilgrim has been for him a problem all of his life. Taggart tells him they are a dying race. Having a legacy of 500 years exploring space, they were gifted with a flawless sense of direction and coordination, even feeling magnetic fields. The Navcom is just an artificial means to recreate the mind of a Pilgrim. Eventually Pilgrim arrogance made them forget their humanity and that is how the War started. He then invites him to the bridge and witness the jump.
As the Claw approaches the pulsar, all hands are warned to prepare for a level-five jump point interphase; Rodriguez is seen saying his prayers. Taggart tells Cpt. Sansky how to navigate the ship, despite the computer's warnings: he claims the sensors are not calibrated to the pulsar and have been warped by the fields and even manually overrides it. Gerald as always is skeptical and asks the Captain to reconsider, but Sansky goes with Taggart. At the jump point, time freezes, and Maniac finds an opportunity to perform some acrobatics with Forbes. Taggart announces that they arrived at the Ulysses corridor.
Sansky orders Obutu to enable stealth mode. Falk reports a strong EM signature near an asteroid field and Deveraux is ordered to prepare a connoiter.
Angel flies with Blair and scan the debris left by the Pegasus base. Angel detects ENM emissions from a Kilrathi craft and hids with Blair in the asteroids. A command and communications module (concom) emerges, transmitting jump coordinates to at least 6 Kilrathi ships near the brown dwarf. It detects Angel's heat corona and two Dralthis approach. They coordinate a simultaneous attack but the module is shielded. 2 destroyers and 12 hostiles are on their way.
Back in the Claw, Angel and Blair are debriefed and Gerald scolds them for revealing themselves to the enemy. Gerald suggests that Blair betrayed them to the module. Blair dismisses Blair and Gerald offers to prepare his fighters to send a message to the enemy but Taggart warns that it will make the Claw vulnerable and rather suggests to buy two hours instead of chasing a concom. Sansky however believes that doing so will slow the Kilrathi and orders Deveraux to lead a strike force, accompanied by Taggart, and tells Obutu to plot a course for the rings of planet 145.
Blair storms in Deveraux's quarters, throwing to her his Cross "for luck". He is angry that she seemed to believe Gerald's accusations, as he has no connection to the Pilgrims other than his mother's heritage, who died in the Pilgrim War. Deveraux starts telling how she acquired her callsign: believing her parents were angels, who also died in the Pilgrim War. But for her they never existed, like Bossman. She reveals that she and Bossman got too close before he was killed. She returns his Cross saying he saved her life.
Maniac and Forbes are in the bed. He admits that she is what gives meaning to him being there. The announcer calls pilots of the Baker Wing. They arrive last to the briefing as Deveraux talks about the ConCom. She assigns Blair to Hunter's wing to which Hunter objects as he doesn't fly with Pilgrims, and assigns Blair to her wing. Taggart (Baker 7) picks no com traffic. Blair (2), Forbes (3) and Hunter (4) return negative. Maniac however picks 3 targets. Deveraux orders them to concentrate in the biggest one which must be the ConCom but Taggart realizes it is a Dorkir and shouts to abort believing that the Claw is under attack. Deveraux reminds him that as a civilian has no authority over this mission, but Taggart reveals that he is "Paladin", Commodore of Confederation Naval Intelligence reporting directly to Tolwyn.
A pilot of Alpha 2 is destroyed. Gerald storms to the bridge inquiring who breaks radio silence. Falk reports that multiple targets approach and Gerald orders to launch all fighters. The Flight Boss shouts orders as pilots prepare and launch (one is identifiable as Lt. Simon Wilkinson). Sansky orders to engage shields. Harrison Falk counts 2 Ralari-class Destroyers and 1 Sivar-class Battleship that launch 3 dozens of starfighters. The pilots engage in dogfight around the Claw and two torpedoes hit it. Falk locks to a destroyer which is hit by two torpedoes. The batteship returns two more torpedoes and Gerald orders hard to port. Obutu reports that shield suffered 40% failure and fire in the battery room. And Falk reports more targets behind the battleship. Rodrigues reports that torpedo tubes 3 and 4 are damaged and autoloaders not operational. Then they realise that the fighters are actually Deveraux's wing.
She orders all Rapiers to engage the Dralthis, the CF-131 Broadswords to follow her, covered by Blair and Maniac's Rapiers. After clearing the way for the bombers, Taggart and Knight approach. Taggart suggests to wait until they lower their shield to launch a torpedo, but Knight is hit and explodes. The battleship fires 3 torpedoes which hit the Claw, and Sansky is wounded on the head. Obutu report hill breach at level 3 and shields down, power at 30% and steering loss at 80%.
Blair saves Deveraux from a bogey and they understand that the battleship is ready to fire again and finish the Claw. Taggart tells them to get clear and launches 4 torpedoes which totally destroy the battleship, and the remaining destroyer next to it. The Claw sends the order to return the fighters home, but Maniac and Forbes decide to ignore the order and hunt some bogeys. Maniac shows off a move against a Dralthi, which explodes and hits Forbes' Rapier. She loses control and the eject system does not function. They are cleared to land, but Forbes fails to line up with the corridor and her ship scratches it for some meters without making it to the hangar. Deveraux receives no response. Maniac has landed and starts running towards the corridor and shouting calling medics and a rescue team. Blair stops him. Deveraux is convinced that Forbes has died and the wreckage is removed from the corridor. Maniac shouts to the Flight Boss to stop it.
Deveraux lands and asks Hunter his gun, and is about to shoot at Maniac. Blair attempts to dissuade her. She warns him that he is dead if he endangers another pilot.
The Claw descends in an asteroid crater and launches a decoy, which after a while makes the Kilrathi battle group to follow it and miss the Claw. Taggart however senses that a Destroyer hunts them. In that dense radiation belt, gamma rays are clouding their screens. However the destroyer starts nuking every crater. At the hangar the door is breached and Peterson shouts that it must be re-sealed. Blair is sunctioned towards space but grabs a handle. Hunter watches but doesn't react. Maniac is tied to a wire with help from the other pilots and comes to help Blair. The breach is sealed and Blair sees that Maniac is wounded. Maniac feels responsible for Forbes' death and tells Blair to never play the "never existed" game with him. Blair then approaches Deveraux and convinces her to forgive Maniac, as he can't go on questioning his every move.
The Claw is in bad shape and life support is limited. Moreover a Kilrathi ship approaches, Angel offers to board her fighters and die fighting, but Taggart suggests to use it to their advantage. The best pilots are called and Angel goes to Maniac's quarters, ordering him to participate to the mission, and do it for Forbes. Marines dressed in space suits board the Diligent, supported by two Rapiers. Gerald comes with them, insisting he has no confidence in a mission led by a rogue and a half-breed.
In the Diligent, they see that the Kilrati ship is the same ConCom they saw earlier. Maniac and another pilot dispose the Dralthi escort, and the Diligent docks the ship. Marines board the ConCom and secure the area and head for the engineering to steal fuel cells. Following Taggart's guidance, Blair follows a corridor and is hindered by 3 Kilrathi which he shoots with his rifle. He finds the Pegasus Navcom AI and understands they have the coordinates to Charybdis.
The Claw leaves the asteroid. Gerald orders Obutu to send a drone to Tolwyn with the Kilrathi coordinates through the Charybdis. With these they will target the exact location the Kilrathi force will enter the Sol sector. The drones however can't be programmed. Taggart suggests to send a fighter through the Charybdis, and only Blair is capable to do this. To give him courage, he reveals he also has a Pilgrim's Cross. Long-range sensors detect the arrival of a Destroyer and a Cruiser.
Blair and Angel set off. They detect a cloaked skipper missile running towards the Claw. It decloaks to get a radar fix and then recloaks. It can be killed only in visual contact. Obutu also reports it to Gerald. Angel leaves Blair to kill the missile. Just 20 seconds before it hits the Claw, she manages to shoot its propulsion, but her Rapier is hit and she has to eject. Blair approaches her pod and offers to tractor her till the Claw, but she urges him to continue his mission before the invasion.
The Claw detects the approach of more Kilrathi ships and the tubes are armed. A Snakeir observes as Blair activates the jump engine and the Kilrathi officers order to go after him. The Cruiser and the Destroyer are in range and Taggart orders to open fire. Falk warns that the Cruiser changes course towards them. It fires lasers and as it changes course, the Claw lowers its shields and fires the portside batteries and obliterates the ship. Blair approaches the quasar, and and furiously feeds the computer with coordinates. He makes it to the Sol sector.
Blair celebrates and transmits the coordinates the Kilrathi will enter. Soon the Snakeir emerges behind him.
The Concordia battle group, now consisting of 4 ships, is above Venus. The message is intercepted by the Concordia. Tolwyn however does not wish to engage the Snakeir, even if it reaches Earth first, but orders to aim at the coordinates. Blair meanwhile locates the Scylla.
Falk says that they lost contact with Angel and Taggart orders to prepare the Diligent for launch.
The Kilrathi detect the Beacon's Confederation signal and speculate it must be the fleet. Blair flies towards Scylla evading the Snakeir's fire. At the last moment, Blair turns away, allowing the 200461 tons of the Snakeir to be pulled by the graviational anomaly. It's too late to reverse the engines.
Kilrathi ships emerge from the jump point, only to meet the fire of the Confederation ships and are destroyed one after one. Tolwyn orders to launch 2 Rapier wings and a Broadsword squadron. Blair is soon tractored and taken to the Concordia where he personally meets Tolwyn. He learns that the Claw arrived to Sol sector and is joined by the Diligent, carrying Angel.
Blairs arrives to the hangar and is greeted by Maniac. Paladin brings Angel; he found her by pure chance, as she had turned off the homing signal to not bring the Kilrathi. Angel recovers and shares a kiss with Blair, as the medic arrives.
- Freddie Prinze Jr. ... Lt. Christopher Blair
- Saffron Burrows ... Lt. Cdr. Jeanette Deveraux
- Matthew Lillard ... Lt. Todd Marshall
- Tchéky Karyo ... Commodore James Taggart
- Jürgen Prochnow ... Cdr. Paul Gerald
- David Warner ... Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn
- David Suchet ... Captain Jason Sansky
- Ginny Holder ... Lt. Rosie Forbes
- Hugh Quarshie ... Lt. Obutu
- Ken Bones ... Admiral Bill Wilson
- John McGlynn ... Richard Bellegarde
- Richard Dillane ... Lt. Hunter
- Mark Powley ... Lt. Adam Polanski
- David Fahm ... Lt. Knight
- Simon MacCorkindale ... Flight Boss
- Fraser James ... Helmsman
- Craig Kelly ... Radar Man Falk
- Kieron Phipps ... Peterson
- Jamie Treacher ... Pegasus Radar Man
- Cyril Nri ... Security Officer
- Jari Kinnunen ... Concordia Radar Man
- Raffaello Degruttola ... Rodriguez
- Paul Courtenay Hyu ... Com Officer
- Mark Jones ... Kilrathi Admiral
- Graham Riddell ... Kilrathi Captain
- Christopher P. Kibbey ... Medic
- Mark Hamill ... Merlin (voice) (credited as "?")
- John Bondi ... Lt. Court[Source?]
- Chris Roberts ... Lt. Roberts[Source?] - Rescue & Recovery Pilot
- The Movie and its novels are considered part of the Wing Commanders internal Canon and has since been incorporated by later sources including Wing Commander Arena and Star*Soldier.
- The whole of the movie happens in space. No part of the story ever happens on a planet.
- Christopher Blair is always called only by his rank and surname. "Maverick" is never heard in the film, not even by his friend Marshall.
- The scenario of the movie establishes the Pilgrims in the backstory of the WC universe, never before being mentioned in the games or novels.
- The movie diverts in several ways from the continuity of the games, most notably visually. The Tiger's Claw (here named Tiger Claw) has a radically different design than that of the games, same applies to other craft of the movie, the Rapiers, the Broadswords and the Dralthis. These have been envisioned as different models than the ones appearing in the games, however this can't explain all stylistic changes.
- Another deviation seems to be the backgrounds of some characters: Angel doesn't speak French or in a French accent, but with a clearly British accent. Likewise Paladin doesn't appear to be a Scotsman with his Scottish accent as in the games, but talks in a clearly French accent, including some expressions ("merde" and "au revoir mes amis"). But both are given corrected back stories in the novel trilogy.
- Pilots Hunter and Knight, appear as nods to the characters of the first WC game Ian "Hunter" St. John and Joseph "Knight" Khumalo. However in dialogue, "Hunter" and "Knight" are implied to be surnames of the characters, not their callsigns. The novels and guide book however corrects this.
- Other than the pilots' names there are several nods to the games: The Claw is first seen near "Enyo", a planet/system where part of the game takes place; Marshall mentions the "Hornets" they flew back at the Academy, a light fighter fliable in the game; Blair came to replace the deceased pilot "Bossman", a pilot from the game; Forbes tells Marshall about the death of "Dibbles", a character mentioned only in the Wing Commander I manual Claw Marks as part of the game's backstory.
- Bossman's death creates a continuity oddity, as the character is a nod to a pilot appearing in the original Wing Commander I. The film is the game's prequel, and therefore Bossman's appearance in the (chronologically later) game seems like a "resurrection" of the pilot, who is already mentioned to be deceased in the film and related media.
A similar problem can be seen with the character of Knight, who is killed during flight in the game; Knight also appears alive in the original game.
- The Diligent is perhaps another nod to the fans, being a possible reference to the (unrelated) Dilligent-class transport.
- The movie was accompanied by several books, such as the Confederation Handbook, and a trilogy consisting of the film's novelization and its sequels Pilgrim Stars and Pilgrim Truth. The books neglect most of the deviations and attempt to compromise the movie and the established canon, incorporating many game references.
- Although the movie takes place before the first game, there are some anachronisms, or elements that foreshadow Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi. For example in Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi James Taggart has quit military to become a SpecOps secret agent posing as a civilian pilot of the Bonnie Heather, which is mirrored by the film version Taggart, already being an Intelligence agent posing as pilot of the Diligent.
Tolwyn, instead of being the Captain of the Claw as established in Wing Commander Academy (this itself already had issues with the earlier game and novel materials), is the CO of CS Concordia, whereas in Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi he is the CO of the TCS Concordia, Secret Missions which first introduced him had him as commander of the TCS Austin.
- In Tolwyn's message to Sansky, his name on the holographic screen is mistyped as "Towlyn". In the same message, a display shows that the Claw is commanded by "Admiral Paul Gerald". In actual fact, the Claw has no admiral aboard and is commanded by Captain Jason Sansky; Commander Paul Gerald is his first officer.
- The fine print in the various messages generally gives the impression that not much effort went into the displayed text, as parts of it make little sense and there are several typographic errors, see above. In fairness, most of the text (apart from the "Admiral Towlyn" large print) is only fully readable on a paused high-resolution image, a technology not widely available to viewers at time of release.
- The appearance of astral bodies such as the Enyo system pulsar and the quasar Charybdis curiously resembles nebulae more than pulsars or quasars.