Movie: (1977) A troubled teen finds an alien’s weapon and takes revenge on those who taunted him.
First shown: 5/18/96
Opening: With Mike tied up, Crow and Tom present the “Thunderdome” joke
Intro: Dr. F.’s funding has been cut, so he cuts the SOL loose! But Tom gets the thrusters working
Host segment 1: The SOL picks up Monad, an annoying robot
Host segment 2: The SOL hits a field of star babies — and one of them needs changing
Host segment 3: With the SOL heading toward a black hole, Mike undergoes a terrifying but useful transformation
End: The SOL reaches the edge of the universe and its inhabitants become beings of pure energy. Meanwhile, Dr. F. becomes unstuck in time, has a revelation and is reborn
Stinger: “Faaar out!”
• And so we come to the end of another era of MST3K and the departure of MST3K’s powerhouse, Trace Beaulieu. It really is hard to imagine that the show could have become the classic it is without him, and while it did manage to find its footing again after his departure, his absence was keenly felt for a long time. Thanks for everything, Trace.
• As for the episode itself, it’s mostly a winner. As usual when they have a story to tell in the host segments, they do it with brisk efficiency. The sci-fi parodies are everywhere (perhaps preparing viewers — and themselves — for what was to come) and a couple of the segments are classics. The riffing is steady and strong — and they had a LOT to work with. All in all, it would have made a fine farewell episode if the show had not been picked up.
• This episode appears in Shout! Factory’s “20th Anniversary Edition.”
• Mike writes about the episode and then Paul, Mary Jo and Kevin wrap up the season here.
• Joel Hodgson’s “TV Wheel” was shown immediately following this episode’s debut, so it was kind of a big day for MSTies.
• It had been 10 weeks since the last new episode and, as far as anybody knew when this first aired, there would never be another episode again. As it turned out, we would have to wait eight and a half months.
• In his writeup, Mike explains that the hilarious opening sketch was something that arose from a running gag in the writing room. I actually had an opportunity to use the thunderdome joke recently. Its message is still timely.
• The umbilicus, completely forgotten since about mid-season six, suddenly makes a reappearance and is suddenly a critical connection that determines whether the SOL’s orbit begins to decay or not. (And in the “how does he eat and breathe?” department, what was preventing their orbit from decaying in seasons K through 5?) Mike notices this in his writeup as well.
• I love how Mike does the Star Trek “shirt tug” before he says “Engage!”
• It’s fun to make fun of Kim Milford, who plays Billy, but that becomes more difficult after you find out that Milford died of heart failure following open heart surgery. He was only 37. (Incidentally he did NOT die of HIV, as was rumored.)
• You might recognize some of the background score. It’s the same Richard Band noodling that was also used in the movie in episode 110-ROBOT HOLOCAUST.
• Callbacks: “Roxie!” (Eegah) also “Eegah!” “It was after the Acropolis.” (Robot Holocaust) “Hi, I’m Max Keller.” (Master Ninja I) “It’s the Coleman Francis mountain!” Also a mention of Cherokee Jack. “Robert Ginty” (Warrior of the Lost World). And “Leave the Bronx!”
• I love the riff: “Let’s pop amyls and watch ‘Days.'” I’d assumed he was referring to the soap opera “Days of Our Lives” but a commenter suggested he might be saying “Dazed” as in the movie “Dazed and Confused,” which might also make sense. I previously asked if that line was from something and nobody so far has recognized it.
• Of course that’s Jim as the voice of Monad the perfection-seeking robot. It’s a funny idea but the bit feels a little rushed to me.
• After going several seasons without so much as making mention of it, this episode features not one but two uses of the “hatch” at upstage left. In the past it has been used by Joel/Mike to get to the theater. Now it seems to be a portal into space. Mike also notices this in his writeup.
• The “changing the starbaby” bit is a cute idea (I especially like Mike as the quintessential NASA flight controller guy), but it doesn’t really have a payoff (“put it on a shelf”?).
• The whole “ready for some football” thing became a catchphrase, and long-lived one. it pops up every fall on MSTie social media to this day.
• Obscure riff: “This sucks, I was supposed to headline,” as the characters pull up in a car together. This is reference, as I think I have mentioned before, to the experience many of the writers had as traveling comics working a circuit of comedy clubs in the upper midwest. They tended to travel to the club in one car, with the headliner getting the best seat, etc.
• Over several seasons, they’d established Mike’s bizarre ability to “become” other people at times of stress. He became Carol Channing and Kenny G, for example. This strange notion finally pays off in segment 3 when Mike — in one of the most notorious segments of the series — becomes “Star Trek Voyager”‘s Captain Janeway and saves the day.
• The whole Leonard Maltin thing really does point up the fundamental flaw of his rating system. I was once a devotee of his books: buying a new one every September was an annual rite of the fall. And before the arrival of the IMDB (which pretty much made Maltin’s guide superfluous) it was pretty handy. But I always felt his rating system was completely out of whack. The problem, to begin with, was he used a four-star rating system when a five-star system would have served him better. But the bigger flaw in the system was that, for reasons that I felt were never adequately explained, his lowest rating (other than “bomb”) was 1-and-half stars. No film received a one-star or half-star rating, which created a kind of odd star-rating inflation among bad movies. Had he made use of the half-star and one-star ratings, I believe this sort of problem would not have happened (or at least would not have been so acute) and he might not have let himself in for the well-deserved mockery he gets here.
• By the way: in Ward E we have a list of MSTed movies that have been given 2-and-a-half stars by Leonard Maltin.
• The final bit, of course, is amazing; as Mike notes, that’s Trace’s dad (who has since passed away) as “old Forrester.” The final moment of that segment gives me chills every time.
• Cast and crew roundup: Editor Jodie Copelan also worked on “Ring of Terror” and “Night of the Blood Beast.” Special effects guy Harry Woolman also worked on “The Incredible Melting Man.” “Hangar 18” and “Agent for H.A.R.M.” Score composer Richard Band also worked on “Robot Holocaust” (as noted above) and “Being From Another Planet.”
In front of the camera: Cheryl Smith was also in “The Incredible Melting Man.” Keenan Wynn will be seen again in “Parts: The Clonus Horror.”
• CreditsWatch: Host segments directed by Trace Beaulieu. This of course was Trace’s last episode with the show. In addition to his acting and writing credits, this is the last episode he got “art direction” and “set design” credits. Joel Hodgson’s and Jef Maynard’s “set design” credits end with this episode as well. The “additional original music written and arranged by” credit goes away completely. This was Helen Espinoza’s last episode as prop master. It is Beth “Beez” McKeever’s last show as prop assistant (she would get a promotion beginning with season eight). We also bid farewell to: production manager/post-production coordinator Wendell Jon Anderson, production assistant Michael D. Parker, Info Club poobah Julie Walker (assistant poobah Barb Tebben would get a promotion in season eight) and interns Danika King, Ben Mooers and Kelly Schrandt.
• Fave riff: “So they’re just off County Road C goin’ at it, huh?” Honorable mention: “Look! Everyone was sending a sheet of paper to everyone else.”