Barry Sheene (as himself) has been World Motorcycle Champion twice now, and would like another shot at the title, but last year he suffered a mishap when he was racing in his native England and came off his bike, which then exploded, then when he finally came to rest against the hay bales another rider ran over him. Understandably it has taken some months for him to recover, and now his legs are held together by metal pins which means he has to carry a couple of X-rays showing this whenever he goes through customs and sets off the alarm. Still, he has high hopes and as part of the Japanese Asama team alongside two other great riders, Ron Harris (Gavan O'Herlihy) and Masao Yamashta (Toshiya Ito), things are looking up...
The phenomenon of sporting stars either being persuaded to star in movies or unable to be persuaded not to is not one restricted to the United States, where many football players made the leap from the field to the silver screen, but in Britain the most notorious effort in that regard may well have been Escape to Victory, as the sportsmen there were more likely to cut a pop record for their showbiz extracurricular activities. Nevertheless, there were a few brave souls who risked ridicule by acting, and one of those was Barry Sheene; unlike a fellow motorcyclist Eddie Kidd, he wasn't playing a made up character, in Space Riders he was to all intents and purposes playing himself and seizing another chance at glory on the racing track.
What was made up was pretty much the rest of it, as while it was true Sheene had been champion twice, by 1983 when this was made he wasn't going to see that success again for whatever reason, so performing in a fictional fantasy devised by expat American director Joe Massot seeking to capitalise on the star's popularity was his best opportunity at winning the trophy one last time, i.e. it wasn't a chance at all. Given the title Space Riders was only going to get this confused with the contemporary sci-fi cheapie Space Raiders, maybe something more appropriate to motorcycling would have been a better choice, or even putting Sheene's name in that title, but it was barely released anyway, and these days is largely sought out by curiosity seekers wondering at Barry's thespian skills.
He didn't embarrass himself on that front, mostly because he wasn't given much chance to emote, he merely has a few lines as it was the riding he had been employed for, and wasn't there a lot of that? Massot cut together umpteen shots of the bikes going round and round, sometimes in slow motion, always with music blaring whether that be Queen's Don't Stop Me Now before it became the most overplayed record of all time (or it felt like it) or Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf, which actually came off rather well in that montage. It was obvious Massot had not been able to film around the world when most of the races were represented by headlines in the "Motorcycle News", but he did get to Italy as well as his base in Britain, though the races looked much the same no matter where they were recorded.
As for the plot, it was conveyed in brief snippets between the action sequences, which left the gaps to be filled in by the track announcers who was occasionally drowned out by the sound of the engines, irritatingly. Basically Sheene and his two teammates are great friends, and will stick up for one another so we could have the nightclub fight scene which sees O'Herlihy dumped in a swimming pool (a pool in a nightclub?) and get exposed to some find of Massot's who sounds like a light jazz Kate Bush for that tie-in soundtrack album. Not that they were above including intermittent examples of lunacy to fashion drama out of what was fairly straightforward, so Masao has visions of the Devil on a bike (really) which foreshadows his fate, a hilarious mid-air explosion that makes no sense, just so Sheene can be supplied with the ending you assume he insisted on before signing on the dotted line. Aside from him, the biggest name here was Star Trek's Marina Sirtis, though Barry roped in his wife Stephanie McLean to appear as... his wife. Just a curio, no more, no less.