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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: 110- Robot Holocaust (with short: Radar Men From The Moon, Chapter 9: ‘Battle in the Stratosphere’)

Short: (1951) Cody and Ted escape the pursuing moon men and make it back to the ship. They blast off and … the film breaks.
Movie: (1986) In a post-apocalyptic future that looks a lot like Central Park, the cruel Valaria is the chief henchwoman of the all-powerful Dark One. But a rag-tag band of rebels is determined to overthrow them.

First shown: 1/13/90 (unconfirmed)
Opening: Joel explains the premise, then sings the human blues
Invention exchange: Joel demos his “nitro-burning funny pipe,” The Mads have invented the stocking mask of the future (SM of F)
Host segment 1: Crow and Tom, in the “We Zone,” make Joel do tricks
Host segment 2: Cambot’s sitcom simulator malfunctions
Host segment 3: J&tB play Robot Holocaust, but Crow and Joel aren’t having fun
End: Joel announces the “name the plant guy in the movie” contest and reads a letter
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (125 votes, average: 4.36 out of 5)


• It’s clear that, in 1994, Best Brains thought this is one of the better episodes of season one; it was the one of the ones they chose to show at the first Conventio-con, despite the fact that in general they were down on season 1 at that time. And it was a good choice. The movie is bizarre and it’s in color. The riffing is very strong for season one. The host segments are nothing to write home about, but they’re not terrible either. All in all, lots of fun. And the line “It was after the apocalypse…” became a catchphrase.
• Magic Voice does not give the 30 second warning or the 15 second warning during the opening, only the final countdown.
• This episode is included in Shout’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol XXV.”
• Nobody’s wearing a robe in the opening segment, for a change.
• The puppetry mechanism connected to Crow’s jaw seems extra noticeable this week. Also, Crow seems to be clacking a lot.
• Another open flame in the invention exchange this week.
• The SM of F looks like something from Joel’s standup act, but I’m not sure. I think the “funny pipe” is new.
• Another use of “By this time, my lungs were aching for air.”
• The whole “the film broke” thing serves as our farewell to the “Radar Men from the Moon” series. I assume they discovered that the full short and movie together were a few minutes too long, so they decided to cut the short to the length needed. I don’t really care that much, but it seems like there’s a really long closing credit sequence at the end of the movie, where the riffs are a little thin, that might have been cut back instead. (However, as several commenters noted, there may have been a legal requirement to show the credits.) In the ACEG, Kevin also says they were sick of “Radar Men” by this point, so that may be the reason why the short got short shrift, as it were.
• Also note: They cut the entire opening credits for the short, which, of course, we’d already seen eight times. (Hence the episode title screen instead of the main short title screen above.) I don’t blame them. YOU try to come up with nine sets of jokes for the same three minutes of footage. Eight was enough!
• Also, several commenters who’ve made the effort to watch the rest of the serial said that the next installment is a recap episode, so it was now or never!
• After the film breaks Joel gets up from his seat and walks back to Cambot to investigate, giving us a rare sense of the empty space between the camera and the seat backs.
• For those who care, the Wikia page for this episode kindly provides a brief summary of what happens in the remaining installments:

“After Krog repeatedly fails to kill Cody, Retik comes to Earth so he can defeat Cody personally and oversee the plan to invade Earth. Krog’s henchmen almost kill Cody’s pals, but the bad guys are caught and arrested. Cody convinces the police to release the criminals so he can follow them to their secret hideout. Cody storms the villains’ HQ, and eventually kills Krog and his two henchmen. Afraid of being caught, Retik takes off in his rocket ship. Cody uses Retik’s own giant ray gun to shoot at the departing rocket, destroying Retik and his plans to invade Earth.”

• Joel does a turtle impression in the theater. Silly.
• Recognize that music during the opening and closing credits of the movie? It’s the same music used in “Laserblast” and several other Charles Band films (Band was the uncredited executive producer and the music is by his brother Richard).
• Director Tim Kincaid (born Tim Gambiani) is also known as Joe Gage, a name he used as a gay porn movie director (and he is apparently a well-regarded one at that). A LOT of stuff in this movie starts to make sense when you know that.
• Joel guesses that a particular shot was done in Central Park. He may be right. The IMDB says the locations were shot there, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Roosevelt Island.
• I just want to note a weird coincidence. In this movie there’s an evil robot named Torque, aka “Crusty.” “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” has a robot named Torg. Then there’s the evil henchman named TORGo… Then there’s TOR Johnson… I think there’s a lingusitics masters thesis in there somewhere.
• Segment 1 should probably have been shown later in the episode. We have no idea why Tom and Crow are dressed in furs and talking about the “We Zone” until later in the movie when we meet women in furs talking about the “She Zone.”
• I do enjoy Joel’s “crazy duck face,” but it’s too bad we don’t get to see “snow storm in China,” which reportedly is a stunning magic trick involving lots of confetti.
• “I kinda miss Earth, you guys.” Poor horny Joel.
• This movie makes the classic mistake of not letting us know ANYTHING about the protagonists, in an attempt to create a sense of mystery, I suppose. The result is that when our hero from the wastelands is battling Torque in the climax of the movie, we feel nothing. Even that stupid robot is a more sympathetic character.
• Crow’s never heard of George Clinton? What is he, a Gramercy Pictures executive?
• In the letter Joel reads, the little kid says his favorite riff is: “He’s out of bang bang.” Everybody draws a blank. I remember it: It was in a “Radar Men from the Moon” episode, when one of the characters’ gun jammed.
• It’s in this episode the we get the famous explanation as to why Servo wants Joel to carry him into and out of the theater (although over the years he made it in and out himself lots of times). As they leave the theater at the end of the movie, Servo says, “Hey Joel, you gotta come lift me over this heating grid.” It isn’t mentioned again until Mike’s first episode, when Crow refers to it as an “air grate.”
As explained in the FAQ, the off-screen reason why they had to do this is: “When they entered the theater, Joel/Mike could walk in, and Trace/Bill could slide over with Crow from the right, but Josh/Kevin had to be already sitting in Tom Servo’s spot. So Joel/Mike had to carry Tom Servo in and hand him to Josh/Kevin, and carry him out at the end.” It does seem like Josh is crawling in with Servo in some of the KTMA eps, so it’s unclear when they decided this would be the procedure. I’ll try to remember to ask ’em at some point.
• The winner of the “Name the plant guy” contest was announced in episode 104- WOMEN OF THE PREHISTORIC PLANET.
• Suggested stinger: Neo stabs Crusty and then poses for a poster.
• Cast and crew roundup: The sole person involved in this movie who also worked on other MSTed movies is score composer Richard Band, whose music also appears in “Being From Another Planet” and “Laserblast.”
• CreditsWatch: This week’s additional production assistants were Melanie Hartley and Neil Brede (his first show, he’ll stay for the rest of the season). This week’s additional production staff was Jim Erickson. Audio post production switches with this episode from Tele-Edit to IVL Post in Minneapolis.
• Fave riff from the short: “Taste my steel, Jughead!” Honorable mention: “If the tank’s a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’.”
• Fave riff: “I think somebody’s forgettin’ who’s holdin’ the pink slip, little lady!” Honorable mention: “Where IS the room of questions?”

69 comments to Episode guide: 110- Robot Holocaust (with short: Radar Men From The Moon, Chapter 9: ‘Battle in the Stratosphere’)

  • 51
    bobhoncho says:

    #6 Matt Sandwich,

    They did not necessarily have to show the entire end credits of the film. Two episodes in my library, “Cave Dwellers” (301), and “Pod People” (303), have Joel and the Bots leaving the theatre right in the middle of the end credits.


  • 52
    Cornjob says:

    I love the comment about it being hard to get someone out of the sight of an omnipresent being.


  • 53
    pondoscp says:

    @43: You can watch Gor, the first movie, on Netflix streaming. It actually makes Outlaw make more sense


  • 54
    PrezGAR says:

    @53 I have Gor, downloaded from a torrent. And I have seen Outlaw unMSTed in the past. I just would like to find a copy to complete the set. Maybe an unMSTed Cave Dwellers, too, since I just found the first Ator movie.


  • 55
    Son of Bobo says:

    Okay, I know these movies are supposed to be bad, but yeesh, what a turkey. I like to think of the free bot as the Jar Jar Binks before Jar Jar Binks. I’m guessing these actors were cast based on head shots, not acting auditions. If there were auditions, how bad were the rejected actors?
    Fave riff: Oh, THE DARK ONE!


  • 56

    The “bang bang” riff is in the Commando Cody segment of #105 “The Corpse Vanishes”.


  • 57

    This is the only series one episode that I still watch every so often, seemingly once a year since 2009 if my posts on the IMDB are any guide.

    Most of the film is rubbish. The hero has a weak chin, the robot costumes are embarrassing, and it’s one of those films where I feel sorry for the cast. They turned up, did the work, went home, washed their hands, and tried to forget what they had done.

    Angelika Jager is astonishing however. Mesmerising. One of the most eccentric performances I have ever seen, up there with Nichol Williamson as Merlin in Excalibur. It was her one and only film role and she’s awful; she can’t even stand still convincingly. And yet she has a fairly dialogue-heavy role, which is madness.

    Presumably the director asked her to play the role as a kind of seductive dominatrix (with her vurlds of pain), but she gives the impression that she’s a petulant Valley Girl – or the German equivalent. Her performance comes across as a bizarre kind of resentful overacting under duress.

    I assume she was chosen over a more conventional actress because she was willing to take off her top, but I’m puzzled as to why she was never in anything else. The direct-to-video market has always had work for women who look good naked, and she could always have been dubbed. In fact it puzzles me as to why she wasn’t dubbed, given that the robots at least were looped later on. She just vanished into the mundane world of normal life. Just like Heidi Bjorn, the attractive sidekick woman with the nice legs from Werewolf, who was in the film for five minutes.

    Perhaps she had a parallel career in porn films under a different name. Gosh, I would pay to see her and Adrianna Miles from Werewolf, in a film together. You know, together… telling secrets. Or was she actually Claudia Brücken from Propaganda, earning a few quid on the side?

    Quoting myself from the IMDB, “I can only conclude that she was a random passerby who was press-ganged into the production, and she could not speak English and had to deliver the lines without understanding the words. And the director did not speak German and so had to direct her by drawing faces in a notebook. Smiley face for evil; frowning face for anger; blank face for petulant irritation, that kind of thing.”

    There’s a post about it at, which has a comment from one of the stars of the film, who says that “I played the role of Jorn at the request of a friend, Tim Kincaid, who did intend it as a parody and asked me if I’d like to have some fun.” I suspect that the parody angle is post-hoc rationalisation of the Space Mutiny kind.

    Curse you, Hulu, for only streaming within the United States! Curse you to heck. Also, all of a sudden I actually *can* click to insert a smiley. But I’m not going to.


  • 58
    jaybird3rd says:

    Maybe I’ll be the first one to say it, but this movie actually makes me feel sorry for Angelika Jager, who was apparently a student at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute at the time she appeared in “Robot Holocaust.” She certainly had the looks to be an actress, and unlike J&TB, I didn’t have any particular difficulty understanding what she was saying (and after all, a thick Teutonic accent didn’t stop Schwarzenegger from playing a convincing cyborg). She gave an interview to a French website years later, which I’ve cleaned up a bit to fix some of the mangling by Google Translate:

    “What can I say … it was in 1986, and [in] Robot Holocaust I was that girl who came from Europe [to do] topless scenes without thinking for a moment that [it would] haunt me again, years later, on the Internet. Comments or reviews I could find about me are not very flattering, if not degrading. All of my scenes were shot in one day, from 5am to 10pm, for a $500 fee. I left the United States in 1990 and did not continue as an actress here in Germany.”

    So, it obviously wasn’t a happy experience for her. I think she would have come out of “Robot Holocaust” much better if she had received better direction and coaching, but since the director’s day job was in gay porn, I suspect that he wasn’t especially skilled at getting nuanced performances out of his actors.


  • 59
    touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    The IMDB currently reports that Angelika Jager also appeared in the 1988 German TV miniseries “Wilder Westen, Inclusive.” So there’s that, anyway.

    I for some reason have trouble remembering that “Radar Men from the Moon” is set in the Fifties, in the same general timeframe as “The Thing from Another World,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” and of course MST3K’s own “Rocketship X-M” (that wasn’t set in the future, was it?). “Radar Men” seems so much more thirties-ish to me. Oh well.

    No wonder X-M got diverted to Mars instead of reaching the Moon. Retik must have made them veer off and not bug him; he had enough stuff on his mind as it was.

    Apropos of nothing, the Republic serial that preceded Radar Men was “Government Agents vs. Phantom Legion.” *Government* *Agents*? They couldn’t spring for a snappier name than THAT? Even “Radar Secret Service” is catchier.


  • 60
    pondoscp says:

    @37 my opinion stays exactly the same after several years. If anything, I enjoy this episode even more thanks to the official release since then.


  • 61
    JeremyR says:

    @59 It is kind of strange, given they produced several serials using the much catchier term “G-men”, including the surprisingly good WW2 era serial G-men vs the Black Dragon, which features a Chinese secret agent as the good guy (played by a Chinese American, no less)


  • 62
    Sitting Duck says:

    Robot Holocaust passes the Bechdel Test. Nyla mocks Deeja when she talks like a wuss.

    For the stinger, I’d go with the chestburster rip-off.

    That has got to be the most intrusive voiceover guy in a movie ever.

    You’d think someone would have noticed Deeja’s delayed reaction to the poison air being pumped in.

    I believe this may be the first episode to use a Renaissance Festival riff.

    Favorite riffs

    Taste my steel, jughead.

    Cody, don’t wear your jet pack in the house. What if that thing went off?

    Oh, my hip still hurts from that one. Cyborg blindsided me.

    Look out, he’s got an eggplant!

    “He speaks to me telepathically.”
    Actually, it’s more tele-pathetically

    “A knife is placed in the ground.”
    A voiceover is placed in the script.

    “I have nothing to say.”
    Except for what I just said.

    The whole movie is just socks and violence.

    “Has the man revealed anything to you?”
    Just his hernia scar.

    “It is called the Vault of Beasts.”
    Because The Hospitality Room was already taken.

    What we’re doing here, Bob, it that we have this little robot problem.

    Grandma, is it by the peaches? I’m kind of scared.
    There’s nothing there in the dark that isn’t there in the light.
    I think I found Grandpa, though.

    A week before, that guy was playing Hamlet.

    “Do you have cutters in your control panel?”
    Well that’s a little personal, isn’t it?

    In the future, all robots will act like Don Knotts.

    Honey, remember my torso? Well, it’s chip dip now.


  • 63

    Matt Sandwich:
    The first truly great episode? I think it is in my book. The most recent movie we’d see until the sci-fi years, and one of the cheesiest they’d ever do. I don’t know, somehow contemporaryish grade-Z sci-fi was much more satisfying than decades-old grade-Z sci-fi. Commando Cody gets the ignominious sendoff he deserves (though I’ve grown to appreciate the ‘film broke’ gag, it was still pretty jarring), and it would be a long time until what was the mystery of the Name the Plant Guy contest was resolved…

    Actually they did a few recent-ish (’70s/80s) movies before the SciFi Era that I can recall: Warrior Of The Lost World, Escape 2000 and Alien From L.A.

    Maybe it’s a generational thing — I’m in my late 50s — but I’ve always preferred those crusty old B&W stinkburgers from the ’50s and early ’60, having seen many of those movies which would later turn up on MST3K on the old Count Gore’s Creature Feature on DC local TV, including movies by Corman, Bert I. Gordon, and Ed Wood.

    It took me a while to warm to the more contemporary stuff, although many episodes featuring more recent movies — including this one — would go on to become some of my all-time favorite episodes, namely Giant Spider Invasion, Warrior Of The Lost World, and Space Mutiny.

    I’m not normally that crazy about Season 1 myself, but there are a few episodes that really hit it for me, including Robot Holocaust.

    Also, as mentioned previously, I may well be the only MSTie on Earth who really digs the Commando Cody serial chapters. I first saw Radar Men From The Moon in its full-length theatrical/TV release version on local TV when I was a young teenager in the early ’70s, and thought it was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen.


  • 64
    Cornjob says:

    Joel’s invention reminded me of Gwar’s Nitro Burning Funny Bong as well. I don’t think there were any Gwar references in MST3K, but a few have popped up in recent rifftrax. The Avengers in particular when Loki’s staff is described as a Gwar prop from the 90’s.

    I find it both absurd and disturbing when Dad get’s turned into an avacado at the end. The suggestion of “Carl” as a name for him cracks me up.

    As the child of a Philosophy teacher the line about “Take her out my sight” instantly made me wonder just where they were going to have to take her to get her out of the “sight” of the disembodied Dark One before Joel made his comment about the inherant difficulty of the task. You don’t suppose the Dark One is related to Disembodio?


  • 65
    jaybird3rd says:

    I just watched this episode again, along with Joel’s DVD introduction, and I was reminded of something that I learned about the Mads’ “stocking mask of the future” invention during our review of the KTMA shows. As I noted in the comments for K00 (which was the best place for it at the time):

    I’ll bet that the gun with the “pointing silencer” (one of Joel’s inventions in K03) is the missing half of the Mads’ “stocking mask of the future” invention from #110 (“Robot Holocaust”). In his introduction to that episode for the Shout Factory DVD, Joel mentioned that the pointing gun and the mask with the radio-controlled eyebrows came directly from his stage act, and that he used them together in a “bank robber” sketch. He didn’t remember why they didn’t use the gun again (presumably, either Best Brains or the Comedy Channel didn’t want to show it), so Josh just did a “finger gun” when he demonstrated the mask in #110.


  • 66
    thequietman says:

    As we bid farewell to Commando Cody, I find myself wondering did the Moon Men at any point actually use RADAR in any capacity?

    Turning our attention to the movie, I must admit I perhaps need to view it a few more times because I don’t find myself enjoying it as much as the other 70s/80s dystopian cheesefests they did like “Warrior of the Lost World” or “Escape 2000”. But it’s still good and a welcome breath of fresh air after crummy 50s sci-fi films.

    Also, since I didn’t see this one until long after I first saw Laserblast, when I picked up on the fact that these movies shared the same overture score I wondered what the connection was. So, thank you Sampo, for explaining it.

    Here’s a puzzler, which movie suited that music better (or worse)?


  • 67
    Bruce Boxliker says:

    I remember the first time I watched this, I was really upset about them cutting off Cody, and then never finishing it. Now (even though I still enjoy the serial) I do find it amusing.
    As incomprehensible as it is, there’s still something about the movie I kinda like. Even though it’s got a lame robot, it’s still a robot. And robots are awesome. But not this one. It’s also the most scantily-clad movie they’ve done up to this point.

    @66 – They’re Radar MEN from the Moon. Not Radar-using Men from the Moon. What would make you think they use radar for anything?


  • 68
    schippers says:

    And just like Robot Monster, Robot Holocaust is endlessly, wonderfully fascinating. It’s dumb right down to its core, and I love it, every minute of it.


  • 69
    mnenoch says:

    Now we finally come to the end of Commando Cody. I too am glad they didn’t try to use serials as much as they could have. The educational shorts were such comedy gold and the serials over time such a bore that it worked out wonderful using the educational shorts.

    Robot Holocaust is one of those films that just doesn’t give you enough information about anything. We don’t know who the bad guy is, we don’t know who the good guy is, we don’t know what it is they are doing, why the are doing it, or really anything at all for. It does make for some great riffing though. Plus the first real movie in color on the national broadcast.