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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: 401- Space Travelers

Movie: (1969) In a re-edited version of the movie “Marooned,” various obstacles hamper attempts to rescue three NASA astronauts trapped aboard a crippled space capsule.

First shown: 6/6/92
Opening: The Great Crowdini attempts an astounding escape.
Invention exchange: J&tB demonstrate The Dollaroid, while the Mads show off their “facial” tissue
Host segment 1: J&tB present a list of space race advancements
Host segment 2: Reenacting the movie so Crow can do his killer Peck
Host segment 3: J&tB wonder: If one of them had to sacrifice themselves…
End: Magic fun, letters
Stinger: Hackman, demonstrating that he’s good in anything
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (221 votes, average: 3.87 out of 5)

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• And so we begin the second of four 24-episode seasons BBI pumped out. You can really feel how settled in and relaxed they are. As they said in the ACEG, they were luxuriating in that rarity of rarities in the TV world, job security. We start off with a very good but not spectacular episode. The riffing is comfortable and steady, and we haven’t had a star-studded, very watchable movie like this since the KTMA days. None of the segments are clunkers, either, so it’s a great way to start the season.
• This episode was included in Shout! Factory’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXXII.”
• The stretch between the end of season 3 and the beginning of season 4 was 133 days, the eighth-longest amount of time MSTies had to wait between episodes.
• “Marooned,” the movie Film Ventures International chopped up to create “Space Travelers,” is the only MST3K movie that actually won an Oscar. It won for Special Visual Effects, and was also nominated for cinematography and sound.
• In episode 201- ROCKETSHIP X-M where Joel asks “Why didn’t you just show us ‘Marooned’?” and Dr. F replies “We couldn’t get it!” Guess they could get it after all.
• The opening bit is a little complicated. You’re supposed to notice that Crow accidentally drops the all-important key and nobody thinks to retreive it for him before he is blown to kingdom come. But you could easily miss it.
• Joel’s invention really doesn’t make sense, but they got a good bit out of it anyway.
• In the ACEG, they tell a story about meeting Dennis Miller, whose only comment to them was that he wished they hadn’t riffed “Marooned.” He likes it. It was an early instance of the response they would get a lot with “This Island Earth.”
• The riffing in this one starts a little slowly, largely because the movie itself starts a little slowly. It seems insane now, but I was alive then and I can tell you: The workings of NASA fascinated most Americans, and just watching them work was captivating enough for a lot of people. I’m sure the filmmakers thought nothing of beginning their movie with 10 minutes or so of random NASA footage. But there’s not a lot you can say about it.
• For a moment, J&tB do ethereal “eeeee” singing bit — a reference to the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” — that they used to such good effect in episode 205- ROCKET ATTACK USA.
• Then-current reference: Somebody mentions the president, and Servo says he’ll “vomit on some Japanese people.” Here’s a report on the incident he’s referring to. Also: Baby Jessica. Jessica, by the way, is married with kids now.
• Crow’s Gregory Peck is truly killer. Joel also attempts a Peck impression and pales by comparison.
• Servo, on the other hand, does a very good Burt Reynolds laugh.
• This ep has not one, not two, but three Firesign Theatre references!
• Host segment 2 is another “broken sketch sketch” — essentially Joel/Mike and the bots try to put on a sketch and the whole thing goes to hell — that was a MST3K staple throughout the years. Not all of them were that funny but this one is pretty good.
• Callback: Crow recalls that he “called dibs” on the ability to say who lives and who dies, back in season 3. Also, “That was number 9!” (Sidehackers)
• The wonderful “aaaaaaaahhh!” closing bit by the Mads became a great way to say goodbye to MSTie pals for years.
• Cast and crew roundup: It probably shouldn’t be surprising that most of the people listed for this movie also worked on KTMA movies, many of which were much more mainstream. 2nd unit director Ralph E. Black was a production manager for “Invasion U.S.A.” Script writer Mayo Simon also worked on “Phase IV.” In front of the camera, David Janssen was also in “Superdome.” James Franciscus was also in “City on Fire.” Tom Stewart was also in “SST: Death Flight.” And Walter Brooke was also in “Bloodlust” and “San Francisco International.”
• CreditsWatch: Additional Contributing Writer: Bridget Jones. Host Segments Directed by: Jim Mallon, but, unlike most of last season, they will take turns as the season goes on. Trace and Frank are no longer “villians” but Dr. F’s last name is still spelled “Forrestor.” Frank is, beginning with this episode, “TV’s Frank.” The new season means a new set of interns, most notably this episode marks the arrival of Patrick Brantseg. Also there was Nathan Devery, Brendan Glynn, Suzette Jamison and Steven Sande. Bryan Beaulieu and Bill W. are gone from the special thanks credit. Added have been Mark Gilbertson, all MSTies coast-to-coast and the authors of the 1st Amendment. This episode also marks the arrival of Bradley J. Keely, as assistant editor. For the entire season, they had the services of Rob “the engineer” Burkhardt in engineering. Clayton James comes in for a two-show stint in hair and makeup.
• Fave riff: “Oh they’re dead. How’s the rabbit?” Honorable mention: “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!”

111 Replies to “Episode Guide: 401- Space Travelers”

  1. RedZoneTuba says:

    I can’t believe in 100 posts nobody has mentioned my two favorite riffs (both in the killer-Peck voice at the impromptu meeting with the press)…

    (about the astronauts being told of their situation) “He wept like a small baby”

    (to an assistant about a reporter who asked a tough question) “I want this man taken out and savagely beaten”

       1 likes

  2. Terry the Sensitive Knight says:

    I can’t say this one’s a favorite of mine.

    Maybe the movie is a little too good, but not quite good enough.
    Maybe the movie is rather slow and actionless.
    Maybe the movie feels like an early, watered-down Apollo 13.

    I dunno, maybe I need to see it again, but this episode is one of those that usually puts me to sleep.

       2 likes

  3. For those who say the MST’ed version is boring, let me say this, the edited version that’s used here actually “improved” the film somewhat. It’s a lot quicker paced, and I found myself finding “Marooned” a bit more interesting.

    Don’t even bother trying to find “Marooned” in its original form.

       1 likes

  4. jjk says:

    #103 Your are right that the MST3K edited version is better than the original. I saw the full version not long ago and it is 134min.(Yes 2hrs and 14 min) and it violates the law against cruel and unusual punishment to make someone sit through that.

       3 likes

  5. thequietman says:

    “Now light the cannon and point it at my head!”

    Well, what’s left to say about this season debut? It’s an interesting time capsule, if nothing else. I wonder if it played any better on the big screen in full Panavision and sharp color. Y’know, one missed opportunity for riffs was that one of the TV reporters was played by Walter Brooke, aka the “Plastics!” guy from “The Graduate”.

       0 likes

  6. Bruce Boxliker says:

    Not one of my favorites, but not bad. The movie had too much drama for me. I was one of those people who were absolutely enthralled with literally every little detail of everything NASA did, though that was mostly with the Space Shuttle (the moonshots were before my time, sadly).

       0 likes

  7. goalieboy82 says:

    what does ACEG mean anyway?
    edit nevermind googled it.

       0 likes

  8. goalieboy82 says:

    also watch a lot of NASA footage, they are smoking a lot in them. even the flight surgeon did.

       0 likes

  9. Cornjob says:

    #107-ACEG= Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. Check it out.

       2 likes

  10. Sitting Duck says:

    @ #108: Smoking was just more socially acceptable back then. Some would argue that the most unrealistic part of the Captain America movie set in the Forties was that we never saw anyone smoking (IIRC anyway). Yes even more so than the scene where we see a car catch up with a jet in mid-takeoff.

       2 likes

  11. Johnny's nonchalance says:

    jjk:
    #99 Don’t bother to give this movie another chance, it’s just as boring as you remember it. Hard to believe with all the high quality people involved in this they could turn out a movie that puts people to sleep faster than Ambien.

    Some of us LIKE that quality in a MSTied movie.

    I like to laugh along with the greats, too, but give me a snoozer when nothing else makes me relax. MST3K delivers on all fronts.

    Maybe it has something to do with the old midnight time slot at Comedy Central. The silhouettes on the screen and glacially paced movies are a Pavlovian signal… TIME FOR GO TO BED!

       2 likes

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