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Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Episode guide: 321- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Movie: (1964) Determined to bring Christmas to their home planet, Martians kidnap Santa Claus.

First shown: 12/21/91
Opening: Crow and Tom are looking at Christmas catalogs
Invention exchange: The Mads demonstrate their wish squisher; J&tB offer up their own misfit toys
Host segment 1: J&tB sing: “A Patrick Swayze Christmas”
Host segment 2: J&tB look over tapes of cheesy Christmas specials
Host segment 3: J&tB read their Christmas essays
End: Caroling, stocking time, Joel reads a letter, meanwhile in Deep 13, the Mads are also exchanging gifts
Stinger: Bad martian’s derisive laughter
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (172 votes, average: 4.65 out of 5)


• This one is a genuine classic, and for a lot of MSTies it’s as much a part of the holiday season as “White Christmas” or “It’s A Wonderful Life.” All the host segments are gems. The riffing is solid throughout. It’s also another one I have almost completely memorized. But as good as it is, as much fun as it is, as much as “A Patrick Swayze Christmas” has become a yuletide tradition, well, I’ll just say it: Both the RiffTrax and Cinematic Titanic riffs are funnier. That said, this one’s guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit.
• This episode was included in Rhino’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Essentials.”
• This episode was the one they were working on when a crew from Comedy Central arrived at the studios to shoot footage for the documentary “This is MST3K.” Unfortunately, that led to several misunderstandings among some fans. MSTies had been told that bots painted black were used in the theater sequences, but in the special we could see that the regular bots were being used. “What gives?” a lot of fans asked at the time. The answer: The regular bots had been altered slightly with Christmas additions, and so those were used in the theater, this one time, for continuity’s sake, rather than the usual black bots. It’s just unfortunate that cameras were there to capture it.
• The invention exchange segment starts very abruptly, directly in Deep 13 rather than having the usual SOL intro. Were they just hurrying for time?
• What is a “video cassette cartridge game”? Frank seems to think kids would like to get one…
• Why isn’t the tree in the background in Deep 13 decorated?
• The image above was the best one I could get for this movie, because this version has no title card. The version you can download at also has no title card. For a while I thought this was the only print available, but the RiffTrax and Cinematic Titanic versions DO have the title card. So, a much cleaner version exists.
• There are a LOT of then-current topical references in this one: C. Everett Koop … “Twin Peaks” … the Thomas hearings … “Gates has been confirmed” … the notion that Drew Barrymore is a little kid … Eric Heiden … Donna Rice … and the first of several references to long forgotten commercial character, “Bonnie, your Time/Life operator.”
• At one point Servo says to Droppo: “You’re the Gilligan of your time.” Um, sorry, Servo, but this movie and “Gilligan’s Island” both came out in the same year.
• Callbacks: “Puma?” (Ring of Terror) “…the Robot Holocaust…”
• Right before they start singing “A Patrick Swayze Christmas.” Joel says “Paul…” Apparently that was meant to be a David Letterman impression, but almost NOBODY got it.
• That’s Mike on the keyboards.
• Note the reference to “suggestive refueling sequences”–we’d get more in season 6.
• In segment 2, Joel seems to “reading” the undersides of unpackaged VHS tapes. What could possibly be written there? They couldn’t have taken two minutes to fabricate little packages? Oh, and Burl Ives has since died.
• Frank’s present has little Shadowrama tape on it.
• The movie reportedly was filmed in some abandoned airplane hangars near the Roosevelt Field Mall in Long Island, New York.
• About Pia. For those who don’t get the “Golden Globe” reference, in 1982 Pia Zadora, who as a child played little Girmar, stunned Hollywood when she won a Golden Globe in the “best new female star” category for her bland performance in a terrible little movie called “Butterfly.” Hollywood whispers had it that her rich husband, many decades her senior, bought her the nomination and award through much publicity — and possibly other methods. Hollywood cringed again when she and her husband bought the former estate of movie legends Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and she promptly started gutting and modernizing the historic home. That said, Pia does appear to be moderately talented, and apparently has a self-deprecating sense of humor, as shown in when she accepted roles in the movies “Hairspray” and “Voyage of the Rock Aliens.” As Joel says in the Cinematic Titanic riff, “You know, I remember thinking that the fact that Pia Zadora was in this was hilarious, but now I can’t remember why.”
• Cast and crew roundup: Executive producer Joseph E. Levine was also responsible for “Hercules” and “Hercules Unchained.” Makeup artist George Fiala also worked on “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.”
• CreditsWatch: For some reason, this episode has a whole herd of “additional contributing writers”: Lynn-Anne Freise, Tom Wedor, Craig Tollifson, Bob Schrad and Christopher Whiting, whoever they are. It should be no surprise that the music and lyrics for “A Patrick Swayze Christmas” were written by “Road House” aficionado Michael J. Nelson. Trace and Frank are still “guest villians” and Dr. F’s last name is still spelled “Forrestor.”
• Fave riff: “Tonight I’m a space pirate! Permission to come aboard!” Honorable mention: Martian: “Crush him!” Tom Servo (robot voice): “You were adopted!”

135 Replies to “Episode guide: 321- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”

  1. Warren says:

    Upon re-watching this yesterday: above average. Plenty of good riffing, great host segments (Thanks Dad!) and a silly movie make it memorable. I can’t say it’s an all-time favorite, but it does stand out as an episode.


  2. Gorn Captain says:

    C. Everett Koop is doing commercials for Life Alert these days. “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” So, semi current topical ref? ;)


  3. lancecorbain says:

    #90-Yess!!! Someone else noticed the TOOLS door. God, how many celebrity dolls we all could name coming out of that one. Oh, and just to add another nerdy comment, we had an ATARI 2600 in the early 80’s, so until they showed up on discs, I always referred to them as cartridges. I think the video game “cassette tape” thing was just the Mads trying to be “hip” and “with it” and failing, as usual, which always made them funnier.


  4. losingmydignity says:

    I fall somewhere in the middle on this one. A solid ep but not a classic. Of course, the great host segs and the Xmas special feel make this a little more special than your average B+ ep. Still, I don’t trot this out every Xmas.

    The CT version has slightly better riffing but is still pretty average for them. Season six’s Santa Claus is my fav of these three. I’m saving Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny for this year’s Xmas (talk about patience!)so can’t comment on that one.

    I think I saw this as a matinee feature when I was kid (a rerelease–I’m not that old!). Santa appeared and maybe King Kong though I could be mixing that up with another one. King Kong turned out be a guy in gorilla suit throwing a beach ball around much to my chagrin. There were other costumed characters. They don’t do costumed kids’ matinees anymore, do they?


  5. Kali says:

    Oh, yes, A Patrick Swayze Christmas. Has. Got. To. Be. The. Best. MST. Song. Ever.

    I loved this episode, even on CT, although it appears at times they were really stretching to avoid copying any MST lines (although Joel did get his callback on Pia Zadora early on).

    Doesn’t that bearded, fat Martian look totally out of place?

    And, no imagination here: Bo(y)mar(tian); Gir(l)mar(tian); Mom-ar(tian); Ki(ng)mar(tian).

    Um, Frank, you were a little obvious with the Wish Squisher (a great invention, by the way) – at one point, he gives away how they did the trick.

    Anyway, the Mads always get the better on these invention exchanges. Because they’re EVIL! EVIL!

    Paper towels desperately trying to be ICBMs. These guys were so broke.

    Hasn’t anyone mentioned the $1.98 bear costume (or should that be custume)?

    And someone did a novelization of this thing – in Girmar’s point of view:

    She also comments about MST and wonders why anyone would make fun of such a good movie. :heh:

    Yes, I bought it. The uncut version is included on DVD – with the title card.

    Joel (as Bald Guy): Dear Hair Club For Men. I need help. Big Time.

    Andy Henderson (doesn’t Santa call him Mr. Anderson?): It’s Andy Henderson! At the North Pole!
    Crow: No, you’re not! You’re Rip Taylor!
    (actually, it’s Ned Wertimer – the doorman at The Jefferson’s de-lux apartment in the sky)

    Voldar: Now, Torg! Crush them!
    Crow (as robot): You. Were. Adopted.

    Voldar: What is a ‘Krist-Mast’?
    Joel: It’s a Christian holiday ruined by commercialism?
    Right on, Joel!

    Kimar: Where’s Lady Momar?
    Joel: Gaddafi?
    Ouch, Joel…

    Chochem: What time is it?
    Kimar: It’s the middle of Septober.
    Servo: Oh, time for Septoberfest.

    Joel: Cricket lighter away!

    Servo: And now, for your enjoyment, some suggestive scenes of jets refueling.
    (should we be concerned that this is the same stock footage used in Dr Strangelove — and for that very reason?)

    Kimar: Our only purpose is to bring Santa Claus back to Mars.
    Crow: And maybe stop for an egg cream, but that’s it!

    Kimar: He wears a red suit, trimmed with white fur, and has a long white beard.
    Crow: Wait a minute, he just described Huggy Bear.

    Lentils. Yep, lentils.

    After Droppo made an ass out of himself on the ship.
    Servo: Did Sherwood Schwartz write this?
    No. Sherwood Schwartz could write (well, theme songs, anyway). And Gilligan’s Island was funny. Live with it.

    Voldar: All this trouble over a fat little man in a red suit!
    Servo: Truman Capote?

    Newscaster: Here’s another UFO bulletin.
    Joel: I’m high!

    Voldar: No one will ever know that Santa Claus was kidnapped by Martians!
    Joel: Do you realize what you just said?

    The alert light is ringing.
    Joel: It’s the Hope Diamond (Hoped it was real!)

    Joel: C’mon Cindy! I mean Skipper! Oh, heck, this shot has been in so many sitcoms, I’m confused!

    Servo: These are like cheap versions of the ‘Lost in Space’ sets.
    Yeah, they probably paid an extra nickle for them.

    Crow: You know, that Droppo plays a little broader than Larry Storch.
    Not possible, Crow…

    The Martians arrive at Santa’s workshop.
    Servo: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

    The newspapers flash past – did anyone notice The Daily Tribune was flashed twice, with two different headlines?
    Servo: Village Voice? Santa’s outing?

    Servo: Remember this one? ‘I said LUNCH, not LAUNCH!’

    Santa having a “flashback”:
    Servo: So, it was ’69, I was stationed in Phnom Penh; Charlie had us pinned down near Hue. The only thing that kept me going was Laotion Gold we got in Saigon…

    Kimar: Put a guard around Santa and the Earth children. Voldar will be back!
    Servo: In Dial M for Martian!

    Joel’s “protest” about the native American doll.

    Servo: Santa’s doing his Ali! ‘Float like a butterfly…’

    We could go on for hours. Oh well, now let’s go have a Patrick Swayze Christmas and beat up some barkeep!


  6. Kali says:

    On the CT version, when Trace learns what the movie is going to be, he tries to escape. Didn’t work out too well, did it?

    Joel: Um, some of us have seen this movie before.
    Josh: Not me! Ha-ha!

    Don’t be so smug, Josh… ;-)


  7. Bombastic Biscuit Boy says:

    Watching this last night reminded me of how much this movie riffs itself: bad sets, acting, ‘custumes’ (actually, i think this is intentional in a 60’s way; Custom + Costume = Custumes), print, script, all done in a totally unselfconscious goofy way. It really shows how kid’s movies have higher standards today. no, really!

    I forgot a couple:

    Santa: [displaying a new doll at the workshop] “All she needs is tender loving care.”
    Tom: …and about twenty bucks in batteries!

    Crow: What, no headbutt this morning? Honeymoon over?

    Santa: “Oh, balderdash and a fiddle-dee-dee!”
    Crow: Whoa! Language, Santa, language!

    Kimar: “Now to look for Santa Claus!” [Voldar shoots him a supposedly evil glance]
    Crow: “Well, all righhht!

    Voldar: “I see him! I see Santa Claus!”
    Joel: …and he’s kissing Mommy!
    [Tom makes a kissing sound right when a man walks past the bell-ringing Santa]

    [During a funky trumpet break in the theme song]
    Joel: Sounds like Santa’s Soul Train! ‘Ho, ho, ho! That’s a lovely dress! We’ve got the Ohio Players coming up!’

    Andy “Rick Taylor” Henderson: “Who’s this little fellow?” [picking up caped Martian action figure]
    Crow: I’m Batman!

    …and many more!


  8. Thomas says:

    what about the other callback riff “Tor? TIme for go to bed”. Also messed up but funny Santa: Pills for Supper?” Tom or crow: HO.HO. What are we Judy Garland?”


  9. Chaotic Yak says:

    Late to the party, but I was waiting until Christmastime to watch this episode. I do think that Santa Claus is better, but this one is a lot of fun. I’d forgotten the really cute moment with the nativity scene in Gypsy’s mouth. Cute. I also like the Patrick Swayze Christmas song, but I think, even more than the song itself, I like Crow’s insistence that they need to be wearing scarves while they sing.

    Merry Christmas (if that’s okay)! :D


  10. spacemutiny says:

    Alright, I respect, like, and own the CT version. But to say it is better than the mst3k version? I’ll tear your throat out and kick you in the ear!


  11. “Get the hell out of my shop.”

    A thoroughly incompetent movie with good riffing throughout (though I’m partial to the TV broadcast from Santa’s Workshop, which is all kinds of insane). A series of good, if not exceptional, host segments. In particular, I’m partial to the bots’ gift requests; a good portion of this board thinks that Crow’s “I want to decide who lives and who dies” is the defining line for the character, and I’d be hard pressed to disagree. However, I only watch this episode once a year (by comparison, I can watch Santa Claus multiple times, even when it’s nowhere near Christmas). Why, you ask? One word: Droppo. I can tolerate a certain level of mugging; to watch any comedy from the ’40s and ’50s you have to. But when one character does nothing BUT mug every second he’s on screen, to the point where a slide whistle could play after every appearance and make perfect sense, he becomes completely intolerable. Every time he’s on screen I have to fight to not turn the movie off. It’s one of the rare occasions where J&tB don’t bring enough heat to overpower the offal that Droppo’s serving up by the truckload, and as such I can only get through it on Christmas Eve each year.


  12. Kenneth Morgan says:

    Kenneth Morgan:
    This is one of my favorite episodes; each year on the weekend just before Christmas, I alternate this version with the CT version.Now, we just need CT to do an alternate version of “Santa Claus”.

    One other movie that got revived every year at Yuletide was “The Christmas that Almost Wasn’t”.I’d love to see either CT or RT riff on that one.

    And, about three years after I originally posted this, RT did an alternate riff of “Santa Claus”. That one worked out OK.

    I’m still waiting for RT to riff on “The Christmas that Almost Wasn’t”. Or maybe Joel can line that up for the revival’s Christmas episode.

    And Pia Zadora was also in one of the funniest sequences of “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult”. She’s singing a song written by…Steve Allen! He’s everywhere!


  13. Droppo says:

    Respectfully, neither the CT nor Rifftrax version is in the same league as the original MST3K version IMHO. I enjoyed them both – almost like a good live version of a classic song. But, the definitive version will always be the Swayziest version and that must be MST3K.


  14. DirtyTerry says:

    Happy Turkey Day, MSTies! 27 years! Thanksgiving is my favorite. It’s the official MST holiday. The reboot, the 3rd new marathon(with possible announcement), the new DVD set, finding out what’s on the next set, breakin out the Santa episodes, stuffing AND potatoes!


  15. Sean says:

    Such a beloved episode. I actually managed to take both the Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic riffs and merge them into one glorious riff, so I can have all eight riffers together at last!


  16. crowschmo says:

    “Tonight, I’m a space pirate! Permission to come aboard!”

    I love this one. It can get tedious to watch TOO much, but I like coming back to it now and again and experience it afresh. I’ll have to re-watch it later to get that holiday experience going. Last time I watched it was maybe a year ago.

    I like how the comments are separated now into pages. The list is getting quite long, heh. Once again, my old comments on this have disappeared into the ether. :struggle:

    So, I’ll have to come up with a new one. :-)) Maybe after the turkey drugs have worn off.

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! :chicken2: (Why is there no turkey on that smiley thing?)


  17. dakotaboy says:

    Droppo is the Jar Jar Binks of MST’d movies.


  18. EricJ says:

    Kenneth Morgan:
    I’m still waiting for RT to riff on “The Christmas that Almost Wasn’t”.Or maybe Joel can line that up for the revival’s Christmas episode.

    TCTAW was last seen owned by Hen’s Tooth Video, if they’re still around, so it’s not nice and public-domain like Pitch, Droppo or the ICB.
    Also, there’s not really much that’s born riffable about it, aside from Rossano Brazzi’s insane overacting, or the idea that Santa’s Workshop is a shotgun mining cabin with six elves in a back room.
    If New Joel is going to take on films that aren’t PD, I’d have rather seen him take on the bizarre French follies of “I Believe in Santa Claus” (aka “Here Comes Santa Claus” to those who remember 80’s Blockbuster video shelves), which also just fell out of PD a year or two ago.

    Such a beloved episode. I actually managed to take both the Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic riffs and merge them into one glorious riff, so I can have all eight riffers together at last!

    If there was only one definitive compilation on video that could compile MST3K’s “Get the hell outta my shop!” with Mary Jo’s CT joke about food pills. :)
    (As well as updating the MST3K jokes with Joel’s CT riff of “Y’know, I used to think it was hilarious that Pia Zadora was in this, and….now I can’t remember why?”)


  19. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Haha! And they’re showing this episode right now on the turkey day marathon!

    I love all 3 versions of this movie, but this probably is my favorite, primarily for the amazing host segments. It’s hard to beat Patrick Swayze Christmas. Though I do agree with Sampo that the RT & CT riffing are both funnier.

    SLEEEEP! In heavenly peeeace!!


  20. Professor Gunther says:

    Listening to “Let’s Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas” right now. So good, and a fitting tribute for the man.

    I respect all the love for the other Christmas episode (Santa Claus), but I will confess that I’ll always prefer Santa Claus Conquers the Martians because it FEELS like a Christmas episode (and it was probably filmed in July).


  21. cvbwe says:

    My two cents on the deal with “cassette”:
    Cassette just means the housing of the thing, it doesn’t inherently mean magnetic audio tape of the 80s and 90s.

    Over in Japan for whatever reason “cassette” was the term used for the thing you stuck in your game machine (at least as far as my import NES-equivalents say in katakana).

    It probably sneaked across the Pacific.


  22. Maggie says:

    Man, I wish I could have watched all of this one on the Turkey Day Marathon. Now I have four papers to write for next week :(. Just saw bits and pieces.

    I loved the sarcastic riffing. “Why would anyone be mean to you, princess?” And the host segments are classic–Gypsy especially is priceless. “I want a pony!”
    Favorite riff: “And a fetal pig! No, no, stop the machine!”
    “Custume designer” may be my favorite typo of all time.


  23. Sitting Duck says:

    Santa Claus Conquers the Martians passes the Bechdel Test, but just barely. Up until the end (when the characters exchange good-byes, and thus allow it to pass), the only time two female characters talked to each other was when Girmar asked Momar about Droppo.

    Regarding the Jeopardy theme being done in a minor key, I liked how Rifftrax reworked it better (Alex Trebek’s Funeral March).

    Personally, I don’t think the original It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street were all that great either.

    Favorite riffs

    You know, elf tastes just like chicken.

    “They sit in front of the video set all day watching those ridiculous Earth programs. It confuses them.”
    Especially Twin Peaks.

    “It is the middle of Septober.”
    Time for Septoberfest.

    Santa is within all of us.

    Dear Hair Club for Men, I need help, big time.

    Oscar Wilde: 2000

    Hmm, child tracks. Two, three days old.

    I want those kids dead! I want Santa’s house burned to the ground!

    Fat, bald men are quickly mobilized!

    “Pills for dinner.”
    What are we, Judy Garland?

    Have you two ever seen a grown man scream? Santa’s going to whimper like a whipped pup.

    Mr. Claus, you have a nasty habit of surviving.

    “Voldar will be back.”
    In Dial M for Martian!

    “I’m not tired. But my finger is.”
    Oh Santa! No!

    Either these nuclear curtains go or I do.

    It’s day care in Beirut.

    “From the bottom of my heart…”
    I say bite me. I’m kidding, of course.


  24. thequietman says:

    “Wow, there’s a ton o’ stock footage out there!”

    Such perfect timing for this one to be the closing episode for this year’s Turkey Day and this week’s Episode Discussion subject. I remember coming across this one on some low-rent TV channel in Tucson one Christmas when I was staying with relatives. It was really early in the morning and I remember thinking ‘they’re still playing this one straight after all these years?’ Of course I kept watching, it’s like a train wreck.

    One time I tried to introduce my co-workers to MST3K with this during our Christmas party. It didn’t go over too well. Everyone was talking to each other, so no one could hear the riffs, and eventually we gave up and put on “Christmas Vacation” instead. The ‘polar bear’ got a laugh though.

    So, is anyone wondering that since this turned up for the Turkey Day marathon this year whether that means Shout is able to reissue it on DVD with the bells and whistles they’re known for?


  25. EricJ says:

    “So, is anyone wondering that since this turned up for the Turkey Day marathon this year whether that means Shout is able to reissue it on DVD with the bells and whistles they’re known for?

    It’s public domain (hence the proliferation of CT and RT riffings), so there shouldn’t be a problem. It would be nice to see it get as much Ballyhoo backstory as the Mexican Santa Claus got.


  26. Cornjob says:

    Nice to see you again Maggie.


  27. Cornjob says:

    “I want to decide who lives and who dies”.


  28. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    I’m just going to come right out and say it, I prefer ‘Santa Claus’ over this episode.
    I like the Gift of the Magi parody, and I think “Merry Christmas, If That’s Okay” is better than “Patrick Swayze Christmas”(and more relevant than ever). And the Mexican movie is just much zanier and more entertaining. Once the whole lolmartians thing wears off this movie is really kinda boring.


  29. Maggie says:

    Thanks Cornjob! It’s nice to be back–during the school year, I typically don’t have big blocks of time to watch an episode of MST3K, since I’ve been pretty busy with schoolwork, but I’m blowing it off for Thanksgiving break. After all, it’s Thanksgiving *break*, not Thanksgiving “write five papers but at home instead of the campus library time.” It’s a coincidence that I’ve returned just as they announce the MST3K revival! :-)


  30. Cornjob says:

    Hey Maggie,

    I remember you were the very young lady who had the Avatar that I thought looked like Lisa Loeb, but it was just you. I usually don’t think of the members of this site as being young enough to be my own children. In fact, I think my wife’s son from a previous marriage is about your age. All ages welcome here as long as you have riffer madness. Mwa ha ha.


  31. Lex says:

    This reminds me of last week when I finally had a copy of Next of Kin (which is mentioned in the Patrick Swayze Christmas song). The wind was raging outside, so I wasn’t going out there. I put into my DVD player and watch about 20 minutes of it when the power goes out.
    In fact the power was out in Spokane for a lot of people for days. It was spooky driving around in the dark. Crazy.

    Still haven’t got around to watching the rest of the movie, but I bought a new DVD player to watch it on.


  32. Sean says:

    @Sampo – not sure if it’s been noted yet, but the undecorated Deep 13 tree becomes decorated in the final host segment, so presumably they decorated it during the movie.


  33. Richard the Lion-Footed. says:

    “I want to decide who lives and who dies”.

    That is MY favorite line. It is just SO CROW !!!!

    While I loved the “Rifftrax Live” version of this “holiday classic” I have to say that this is still my favorite Christmas Episode. It is a complete show and not just a riff of a riff worthy movie. THAT is my only complaint about CT or RTL. They actually spend too much time on the movie and not on the total entertainment these geniuses can produce.

    Merry Christmas all. :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl:


  34. goalieboy82 says:

    there is a Joe Biden joke in this.


  35. elborak says:

    I’m truly embarrassed to admit that only now, after all these years, did I realize how the writers of this turkey named their characters: boy martian (Bomar), girl martian (Girmar) and Mom martian (Momar).

    Hangs head in shame…


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