Flight of the Navigator (1986): Randall Kleiser’s Sci-Fi Adventure

Randall Kleiser, still best known for directing the smash musical Grease, directed this sci-fi adventure, written by Mark H. Baker, Michael Burton and Matt MacManus, and starring David Freeman as a young boy abducted by alien spaceship.

Partially shot in Florida and Norway, as co-production with the Norwegian company Viking Film, the film was released by Disney in the U.S.

The tale begins on July 4, 1978, in Florida, when David Freeman, age 12, walks through the woods to pick up his younger brother, Jeff (who’s 8), from a friend’s house, accidentally falling into a ravine, losing his consciousness.   When he awakes up, he discovers that eight years have passed and it is now 1986.
When an alien spaceship crashes and is promptly captured by NASA, David is taken to the hospital for tests, which show that his brainwaves contain images of the spaceship.
Dr. Louis Faraday persuades David to go to a NASA research facility for 48 hours for extra tests, promising him to reveal what has happened to him.  Dr. Faraday discovers that David’s mind is filled with alien technical manuals and charts covering expanses of the galaxy. It tells the scientists that he was taken to Phaelon, 560 years away, in just 2.2 hours.
Severe time dilation were caused as a result of having traveled faster than the speed of light, which explains why eight years have passed on Earth, but not for him. Unable to comprehend, he runs out of the facility.
David secretly boards the spaceship and meets its robotic commander, “Trimaxion Drone Ship” (“Max” for short), which refers to David as the “Navigator.”
Max tells David that his mission was to travel across the galaxy and collect biological specimens for research.  Phaelon’s scientists discovered humans only use 10% of their brain and, as an experiment, filled the remainder of David’s brain with information.
Max returned David to Earth, but did not take him back to his own time, holding that a human would not survive a trip back in time. Before leaving Earth, Max accidentally crashed the spaceship. Erasing all the computer’s charts and data, he now needs the information in David’s brain to return home.

Max programs the spaceship for a mind transfer, and David is shown the eight remaining alien specimens on board. He bonds with a “Puckmaren,” the last of his kind after a comet destroyed its planet, Binpuka Minor. Max performs the mind transfer on David to reacquire the star charts, but in the process he himself contracts some human attributes.

The antics of Max and David trigger UFO reports in Tokyo and other cities. Meanwhile, NASA intern Carolyn McAdams contacts David’s family and tells them about his escape in the spaceship; as a result, Dr. Faraday has them confined to the house and Carolyn is sent back to the facility.

Fearing that he would be institutionalized for life if he remains in 1986, he orders Max to return him to 1978–at any risk. After the journey, David wakes up in the ravine and walks home.

In the last scene, set during 4th of July celebration, Max flies home across the firework-lit sky, remarking “See you later, navigator!”.