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Sampo & Erhardt

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Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

Goodbye Sci-Fi

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

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Episode guide: 201- Rocketship X-M

Movie: (1950) A rocket ship expedition to the Moon is accidentally diverted to Mars, where the crew finds the ruins of a long-dead civilization.

First shown: 9/22/90
Opening: The SOL has a new look; Joel is working on Tom and Crow has a toothache
Invention exchange: Tom gets a new voice and when Joel calls to the Mads they meet new trainee Frank; Joel shows off the BGC-19; Frank somehow has the same idea and is punished
Host segment 1: J&tB salute to the reporters of “Rocketship X-M”
Host segment 2: Joel gives a zero-gravity humor lesson
Host segment 3: J&tB are daydreaming when Valaria from “Robot Holocaust” visits on the Hexfield
End: J&tB disapprove of the movie, Joel reads a letter, Frank learns to push the button
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (119 votes, average: 4.25 out of 5)

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• And so, with the words “TURN DOWN YOUR LIGHTS (Where applicable)” the modern era of MST3K begins. This is not on DVD, but it’s one of those “transition” episodes, so it should be (though I hear the rights issues are a nightmare). It’s a quantum leap forward from season one, with an incredibly riffable movie, strong riffing all the way through and great host segments. A real winner and a series milestone.
• The stretch between the end of season 1 and the beginning of season 2 was 231 days, the third-longest amount of time MSTies had to wait between episodes.
• New things: The SOL set, the Deep 13 set, Frank, Tom’s voice (Kevin), Jerry and Sylvia, Joel’s jumpsuit (it’s teal), a more-or-less final version of Tom Servo with several tweaks on the design, Alex Carr taking over as Magic Voice from Jann Johnson (except for Kevin filling in during segment 2) and the theme song has new visuals.
• Some connect this season to the show’s move from The Comedy Channel to Comedy Central, but that’s not really accurate. For the record, during the first run of season two, the show was still on The Comedy Channel. The Comedy Channel didn’t merge with Ha! until April 1, 1991. (It was known for a couple of months as CTV: The Comedy Network but there was apparently a legal dispute over that name and they had to change it.) On June 1, 1991, it became Comedy Central. That was the same day season three began. These season two episodes reran many times on Comedy Central, but I just wanted to note that when they debuted they were still on The Comedy Channel.
• Frank is terrific right off the bat and he brings a very different kind of energy.
• Dr. Erhardt is declared “missing”; as proof, Frank holds up a milk carton with his face on it. Younger folks may not understand that: back in the late ’80s, milk cartons sometimes bore the faces of “missing” kids in hopes somebody would recognize them.
• Kevin takes over as the voice of Tom Servo–but for this and several episodes, he seems to be trying to sound a bit like Josh. It would be mid-season before he would truly relax and give Tom the voice we know for the next nine seasons.
• A look at the credits confirms the swift rise to power and authority of one Michael J. Nelson–hired less than a year ago “to do some typing” he has now gained Joel’s and Jim’s trust to such an extent that he has been named Head Writer.
• Tom’s neck has extended before (during the “rock ’em sock ’em robots” bit, for one instance) but it now extends much further in the opening and invention exchange segments.
• The set is, of course, a massive re-think, its formerly blank walls are now plastered with every weird piece of junk you can imagine. Also new is the hexfield viewscreen and that floor-level hatch, supposedly Joel’s entrance to the “spiral on down” which leads to the theater (although it was later put to other uses).
• The new counter at which J&tB stand is there at one moment, then miraculously vanishes a moment later when Joel demonstrates the BGC19. Then it’s back again right before movie sign.
• The mole people are not yet working the camera in Deep 13. Dr. F. is controlling it via a button on the techtronic panel.
• Dr. F sounds a lot like Crow when he yells “What? NO!”
• Joel has movie sign alone and arrives in the theater with Tom and Crow already there waiting for him.
References.
• Movie trivia: “Rocketship X-M” is considered by some to be a ground-breaking sci-fi movie, because it was the first American film to depict space travel seriously for an adult audience. It was made very quickly to beat George Pal’s “Destination Moon” to the theaters, yet some consider it the better of the two. Its unhappy ending was very unusual for its time (or today for that matter). The exterior Martian scenes were filmed in Death Valley, Calif.
• J&tB supply the lyrics to the “Rocketship XM” theme. It will not be the last time we get new lyrics to an insipid theme.
• “Once the rockets go up, who cares where they come down?” is a lyric by the great Tom Lehrer. (Look him up, kids.)
• Tom seems to go out of his way to say “Mike Nelson of ‘Sea Hunt’ fame.” What other Mike Nelsons are there?
• The first host segment is wordy–almost overwritten compared to what we’re used to–but very funny. It’s a vast departure from the sort of segments we were getting at the end of season 1. But why is Joel reading the movie still’s time code at the end of each of his lines?
• The second host segment is a true classic–one of the cleverest of the entire series–and it gives the viewer a small primer of the MST3K sensibility and worldview. From “The Flying Nun” to Gallagher, we get a sense of what the Brains think is funny and not funny. The only technical problem with the bit is that we never get a clear look at the floating wrench–Tom’s bubble is in the way.
• Movie observation: I love the moment when the two scientists have work out the problem out with pencils—a process that one says will take hours. Ah, the days before calculators.
• Callback: “Spacom!” (Project Moonbase). “Dames like this always got beer around” (The Crawling Hand).
• In segment 3 we get the series’ first hexfield viewscreen visitor (Mike Nelson, in his first on-camera appearance) doing an impression of evil vixen Valaria from “Robot Holocaust.” Folks who had not seen that episode must have been pretty baffled.
• The hexfield viewscreen is obviously still a work in progress: its opening appears to be a window shade, and then Mike just switches off a light at the end–but we can still see him!
• Then-current catchphrase: Hello, Federal!
• Stinger suggestion: “MAHS! Extending us a velcome!”
• Cast and crew roundup: This is our first exposure to the work of Robert L. Lippert, who also was the executive producer for “Jungle Goddess,” “Lost Continent,” “King Dinosaur,” “Radar Secret Service” and “Last of the Wild Horses.” Writer Orville Hampton also worked on “Lost Continent.” Cinematographer Karl Struss also worked on “The Rebel Set.” Editor Harry Gerstad also worked on “The Magic Sword.” Special effects guy Jack Rabin also worked on “Robot Monster,” “Viking Women and the Sea Serpent” and “Invasion USA.” Special effects guy/matte painter Irving A. Block also worked on “Viking Women.” Makeup guy Don Cash also worked on “The Crawling Hand.” Production designer/art director Theobold Holsopple also worked on “The Indestructible Man” and the short “Once Upon A Honeymoon.” Production manager Betty Sinclair also worked on “The Unearthly.” Set designer Clarence Steensen also worked on “The Leech Woman.” And, of course, this is our first exposure to musical score composer, Albert Glasser, who worked on 11 MSTed movies. In front of the camera, Judd Holdren, who plays one of the reporters, can also be seen in “The Amazing Colossal Man and “Manhunt in Space.”
• CreditsWatch: This is a big one. Mole person Jerry was played by intern Brent Peterson; mole person Sylvia was played by BBI staffer Alex Carr. “Head writer: Michael J. Nelson” appears for the first time. Josh is, of course, gone from the writers list and Frank is added. The credit for “Joel Hodgson’s Puppet Bots” is gone. Host segments “produced” by Jim Mallon. (For the rest of the season it would say “directed” by.) Trace is listed as “Special guest ‘villian’ (misspelled)” and it says “Introducing” Frank Conniff. Of course, the Dr. Erhardt credit is gone and Tom Servo’s has changed. “Toolmaster: Jef Maynard” appears for the first time. Production assistant is now Jann L. Johnson alone (gone are Steve Rosenberer and Sara J. Sandborn). “Special Effects and Other Fancy Stuff: Trace Beaulieu” appears for the first time, as does “Additional Visual Effects: Industrial Plumbing and Heating.” “Editor: Tim Paulson” appears for the first time. Under “Lighting,” Ken Fournelle has been added. “Audio: John Calder” appears for the first time. Make-up: Faye Burkholder. Interns: Nathan Molstead, Tamra Lewis, Amy Kane, James Smith, Michelle Molhan and Robert Czech. “Video Services: Fournelle Video Production Services” appears for the first time. Special thanks: removed from the list are “KTMA TV23,” David Cambell and Rick Leed and “Skyline Displays Inc.” has been added. “Shot entirely on location at Best Brains Studios, Minneapolis,” “Filmed in Shadowrama” and “Keep circulating the tapes” appear for the first time.
• Fave riff: “I thought ‘wormfood’ was a bit strong, Lloyd.” Honorable mention: “There’s a Mr. ‘Oh My God My Hair Is On Fire’ on line one, sir.”

112 Replies to “Episode guide: 201- Rocketship X-M”

  1. WhereTheFishLives says:

    YAY KEVIN MURPHY! Also a good episode.

       8 likes

  2. eegah says:

    I’m pretty sure that this was the first episode I ever saw. No wonder I got hooked. I loved all of the riffs on the blatant sexism in the movie. The only downside with the episode is that the surface expedition is pretty boring, and usually puts us to sleep.

       4 likes

  3. Dan in WI says:

    Turn down your lights (where applicable): I love this catchphrase. I bought the sweatshirt from Satellite News’ store and in my opinion this never should have been dropped!

    This episode makes me think about the weekend discussion thread some time ago about good episodes for a newbie. Without going back to see how much, if any, this episode got I’d submit it is an excellent newbie episode. On the one hand it has so much feel of a series premier with all its introductions yet at the same time it also has the feel of a well-oiled machine. Plus the film itself is quite accessible in its own right but at the same time it is still ripe for riffing.

    I’d forgotten Joel was still eating grapes after pushing buttons into the second season.

    It’s been theorized that Kevin was making some attempt early on to imitate Josh’s voice. Me, I just think he sounds like he’s speaking in a trashcan or some other echo chamber. Even by the time they step into the theater Kevin sounds a bit more like him self.

    We just had a copycat invention exchange in 113. That time it was quite flat. This time Frank’s delivery sold it. I think I might grow to like this guy.

    This is the first episode with truly rapid fire riffing during the opening credits. I’ve always loved that.

    Ditto on Sampo’s sentiments on the second host segment. A classic.

    Favorite Riffs:
    (during astronaut introductions) Joel: Dirk Squarejaw. Ya know I think there is some potential in that line of riffing.

    (going over calculations) Tom: Boy it’d take a rocket scientist to explain all this.

    (during the attack of the Martians) Crow: Thanks for the rocks, here’s some bullets for you.

       8 likes

  4. snowdog says:

    Ahh, season two. I can finally jump back into the discussion! Favorite riff: “Man, those Stuckey’s are Everywhere!”

       3 likes

  5. frankenforcer says:

    I’m in the minority here but this episode is only so so with me. Franks’ arrival is fantastic, and Kevin hit his mark early and never stopped> but the movie is barely watchable to me, and the riffing is still a work in process with me. It’s hit and miss and aside from the mass changes, it just leaves me with a feeling of meh.

    Sorry,

       3 likes

  6. I HATE TOM SERVO’S NEW VOICE!

    (just kidding… though it does take some time to adjust to, after two seasons of Josh)

    • Joel eats a grape – didn’t notice him doing this at the end of S1, in either UY or BS.

    • Tom Servo (with his new voice): “Happy birthday!” (a Frosty callback to Mad Monster)

    • Frank takes two orders for mango Splunkies from the SOL crew. Is the flavor choice a callback to Josh’s Servo?

    Right upfront, these host segments are far superior to what we’ve seen before: give credit to the budget, cast, whatever. Obviously, the addition of Frank and the upgrading of Mike and Kevin’s roles made a big impact. Kevin is perhaps slow to start voicing Servo in the theater (relying too much on his own mighty radio announcer voice) but his first minor hit is with the non sequitur “I’m wearing a bra” at the press conference. I think the Kevin of today would still make this riff. And he really shines in the skits.

    • After the premier of “Johnny Longtorso” in Women of the Prehistoric Planet we meet “Dirk Squarejaw” in this. Of course the silly name trend will culminate in Space Mutiny many years later.

    • Joel: At this point the rocket becomes engorged with astronauts. (dirty riff, esp. w/ the chalkboard diagram visual)

    • Joel: Hello Cleveland! (Spinal Tap callback, from Robot Holocaust)

    • Crow: Goodnight, Rockford dad. (re. Noah Beery, Jr. – connected to Angel from ep. 104)

    • Servo: Oh God, I need this job. (A Chorus Line callback, from Robot Holocaust)

    • Servo: Fast-talking Fanny and Automatic Slim (Lyrics from “Wang Dang Doodle” by Howlin’ Wolf – thanks Kev, I thought they were from T. Rex)

    • Servo: And this guy, he’s a woozle – his name is “Peanut.”
    (The first reference in MST to puppeteer Jeff Dunham. Being a “prop-comic” of sorts, I guess he was a rival of Joel’s. Why the hate? I didn’t learn of him till he started showing up on Comedy Central a lot in the late 2000’s. They even gave him a series, that was soon cancelled.)

    • Joel: Thank you, Mr. White Male Reality.

    • Crow: So I sing you to sleep after the lovin’… (see: “After The Lovin'” by Englebert Humperdink – 1977)

    • Host segment: Funny/Not Funny Floating is brilliant. This is a whole new camera angle, showcasing the new SOL set. I see Crow’s chin-wire. “Float like a biscuit” was a new concept to me, introduced by MST. Thanks guys. Again, this is a major upgrade to the “house” segments.

    Gallagher takes a beating here, the first of many to come. The illustrated series of cards will be seen in later episodes also. Crude, but effective.

    Crow: Uh, you keep meat in this…
    Servo: Your mouth?

    What is the correct answer to Crow’s hints? : “A juggler/hackneyed/bad actor”

    • Crow: No, I’m Lloyd, thats the “myoon.”

    • Dr. Lisa: Fine scientist I am.
    Crow: Michael Feinstein? (a call-forward to later)

    • Joel: Where do you want to be in two years? (another good riff that is driven into the ground, appearing at least 5 times during this episode)

    • Dr. Eckstrom: How long has it been, since…?
    Joel: Hey, that’s rather personal.

    • Dr. Eckstrom: Mars extending us a welcome! (does it rain on Mars? s/b the stinger for this episode)

    • “Valdari, Valdera, etc.” (famous German hiking song called “The Happy Wanderer.” This will come up again later in a Hercules episode.)

    • Crow: This was no boating accident. (from Jaws)

    • Servo: Dames like this always got beer around. (during the song quotation bit – from The Crawling Hand)

    • Where does the “boom-shaka-laka” thing the guys sing come from? It happens when the Martian cavemen show up.

    • Crow/Servo: Dreezle drazzle drozzle drome, time for this one to come home. (from Tooter Turtle, a 1960’s cartoon)

    • Lippert Pictures, Inc. – more greatness to come.

    • Crow: Boy, nothing more depressing than being locked in a capsule watching a movie about people dying in a capsule.
    Joel: Yeah, why don’t you just show us Marooned?
    Dr. F: We couldn’t get it. (but they eventually did!)

    4 stars. We’re into a new iteration of the show and a new grading curve. I’ll be generous for now and vote this an above average episode. It bodes well for the future of the series…

       5 likes

  7. Alex says:

    I’ve always wondered, if possibly, when Joel says “Why couldn’t you just give us Marooned?” and Dr. F says “We couldn’t get it”, if that was actually a possible reference to possibly Best Brains or Comedy Central originally trying to get Marooned for this episode, just to find out they couldn’t get it in time.

       3 likes

  8. I'm not a medium, I'm a petite says:

    I am so happy to be back in friendly and familiar territory. Things are tuned up and moving along nicely. Frank is my sidekick and Kevin is my Tom. Watched it for the first time in forever the other night and it felt great.

    5 stars just for the sake of 5 stars.

       6 likes

  9. Sitting Duck says:

    “Once the rockets go up, who cares where they come down?” is a lyric by the great Tom Lehrer.

    Call him a Nazi, he won’t even frown
    “Heh, Nazi Shmazi,” says Werner von Braun

       2 likes

  10. swh1939 says:

    Add me to the list of people totally confused by the Valaria (Mike) appearance. I didn’t see that episode until years later, at which time I experienced a reverse riff.

       1 likes

  11. TNMistie says:

    This is only a so-so episode for me, although the “wormfood” riff Sampo mentioned did nearly make me wet-em.

       0 likes

  12. Sharktopus says:

    Sea Hunt fame?

    “Stupid name by Ferde Grofe!”

       4 likes

  13. Mr. B(ob) says:

    I can’t say enough good things about this one. It’s been my favorite episode since I first saw it. Everything clicks and it’s non-stop hilarity from the moment it starts. Host segments are maybe the best ever and the riffing during the movie can make you roll with laughter. I could quote jokes from this one all day. Fantastic stuff. Sometimes it makes me laugh so hard “my lungs are aching for air”. Is this one “funny or not funny floating? Funny!”

       2 likes

  14. Joseph Nebus says:

    Joel’s theater-entrance hatch struck me as a fun and visually interesting gimmick to play with, but I didn’t give it much attention until I recently got the Quark series on DVD [1]. It turns out there’s awfully similar-looking hatches used for making getting around unnecessarily complicated all over the short-lived series. There’d be a little hand-hold just over the hatches and characters would hoist themselves up to drop down to a place that someone else just walks through the door to get to.

    Might this have been a design influence or was it just, hey, it’s a spaceship, the place is going to be lousy with hatches and toothpicks?

    [1] And the Laserblast riff, “meanwhile, on Quark” turns out to be perfect. The alien spaceship there is a stunningly good match for the Quark ship.

       1 likes

  15. Kenneth Morgan says:

    I’m also one of those viewers who didn’t get the “Mike as Valeria” bit. It wasn’t until ConventioCon I and a viewing of “Robot Holocaust” that I finally understood it.

    Good episode, but I disagree with those who think “Rocketship X-M” was better than “Destination Moon”. I nthink the latter is clearly superior.

    So, when will Shout Factory offer a “Make Your Own Mango Splunky at Home” segment as a future DVD special feature?

       2 likes

  16. edge10 says:

    Re: Finnias Jones #6

    I certainly don’t think it is ‘hate’ towards Je-f-f Done-ham and Peanut. Why would they mention a little known comedian’s act, if they didn’t like him?

       1 likes

  17. Sharktopus says:

    Yeah, maybe Jeff Dunham was actually funny back then. (Extrememly talented ventriloquist, but yeesh.)

    Lloyd: “I’ve done some of my best work by moonlight.”
    Joel “POOM!”

       0 likes

  18. courteous martian says:

    I think the “boom-shaka-laka” phrase is from “Dance To the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone, but
    I don’t know what that has to do with the cavemen on screen.

       1 likes

  19. Revlillo says:

    If I remember right, this was supposed to air on September 17. I was all set up to watch the new season. Had my girlfriend (later my fiance and still later my wife) by my side. I knew from the Satellite news that there were going to be some changes made. Then, all of a sudden, the first season credits came on with a Comedy Channel crawl that said the first episode of the new season would be shown next week. “What?!?!” I thought. Then I was relieved because the episode they showed was “Untamed Youth”–the one episode of Season One that I hadn’t taped. :kissing:

       4 likes

  20. Torgo's Pajamas says:

    My first episode! I remember aimlessly flipping channels and catching the scene with the reporters, hearing the “vroom” noises from J&TB, but not at all getting how it all connected…until after a minute or two I figured out that 1) it’s hilarious, 2) it’s just a show, and 3) that I should just relax and enjoy. And just like that I was hooked. A true watershed moment.

       1 likes

  21. Matthew Shine says:

    I remember watching this episode when it first aired and laughing my head off at Frank and his fast food trainee mindset. The “funny or not funny” sketch should go down as one of the best host segments EVER.
    The movie itself is pretty decent for a 50’s “space travel” film.
    The riffing was good, my favorite being the barrage of “Sea Hunt” jokes given to Lloyd Bridges. If this episode was made later, I could see Tom and Crow chanting “MENDELBAUM! MENDELBAUM! MENDELBAUM!” during his scenes.
    My choice of stinger?
    “I did some of my best work by moonlight.”
    Ah, Lloyd…You should have been immortal.

       2 likes

  22. Matthew Shine says:

    Oh yeah, I personally thought that RO-MAN from PLANET RO-MAN should have visited the Hexfield Viewscreen, if only to see the SOL crew’s reaction to him.

       0 likes

  23. Dan in WI says:

    Finnias #6/Martian #18> My best guess for the boom shaka laka (though I’m not totally sold on my own guess) is that the marching cavemen reminded someone of the platoon in Stripes performing at their graduation.

       1 likes

  24. Raptorial Talon says:

    I’m forced to disagree about Servo’s voice adjustment . . . I don’t think we get fully to Kevin’s relaxed, natural voicing until roughly sometime in early-mid season 3, although there are definitely spurts of it present before then, especially during more animated sketches.

       3 likes

  25. erasmus hall says:

    Remember seeing this film on local TV as a child and being blown away by the ending-(spoiler alert)they all die!
    On viewing now am amazed I wasn’t bored by slow pace and inaction-
    As MST episode one of my faves-The reaction of Joel and Bots to this experiment-quite effective-no?

       1 likes

  26. crowtdan says:

    Great “START” to the great run of the GREATEST SHOW EVER. Boom shaka laka, isn’t that an old cheerleader routine?

       1 likes

  27. Ben says:

    Rocketship X-M! The first episode I ever taped! I set the VCR to tape and then went off to a mid-week evening church service with my family. By the time we got back, my brilliant 11 year old mind decided to not tape a host segment because I wanted just the movie. It was the Valeria segment and about halfway through I realized that this was funny, but I didn’t get the VCR working in time, so for years I had the whole episode minus that host segment!

    I should imagine that since the rights have been gotten for most if not all of the rest of the Wade Williams/Corinth films for the Shout box sets (for instance Beast of Yucca Flats, Bride Of the Monster, Robot Monster, etc.) I think Rocketship X-M is one of the last if not the last hold-out from that group. And I certainly hope that R-XM is on a forthcoming box set because it is a favorite.

       2 likes

  28. Martian @ 18 & Dan @ 23:

    I like both of those answers. Being cavemen they are a “stone-age family,” plus they hurl rocks with trained military efficiency.

       1 likes

  29. Tom Carberry says:

    By this time my lungs were aching for air.

       1 likes

  30. BeefStumpKnob says:

    Finnias/Martian, was it DTTM or “I wanna take you hi-ya”(man I loved those songs!)—so many with the same beat!

       0 likes

  31. Zeroninety says:

    Wow, after watching two seasons of Josh, it actually sounds *strange* to hear Kevin as Servo.

    Also strange–Kevin’s brief moment as Magic Voice in Host Segment 2. Other than that moment, this marked the first “appearance” for Alexandra B. Carr as Magic Voice, taking over for Jann L. Johnson. For my money, Alex was the definitive Magic Voice–anytime she was given something to say besides the countdown, her delivery was hilarious.

    If I’m not mistaken, the closing credits marked the first time Joel’s character was called “Joel Robinson.” At KTMA, he was always called by his real name. In Season One, his last name was never mentioned.

    It’s easy to forget that Frank wasn’t credited as “TV’s Frank” until Season Four (IIRC).

       2 likes

  32. H says:

    Good start to a new era. Frank’s pretty good although I’m STILL waiting for my Thruster Busters. Kevin does a good job although he is a bit rough around the edges at this point. The movie’s good and so are the host segments. Mike as Valeria … eh, it was their first Hexfield guest. Nothing spectacular but they got better at it.

       2 likes

  33. Cody Himes says:

    I watched this the other night and just couldn’t get into it. The movie doesn’t pick up until they get “stuck” in space. All the scenes with the press and the proto-NASA people at the beginning move soooo slowly.

    BUT, we’re talking about the episode and not the movie. Starting right off with Kevin, I agree with Raptorial Talon @24 that Kev didn’t relax into his own speaking voice until about mid-season 3. I’ve read in an interview somewhere (wish I knew where!) that Kevin didn’t like the sound of his voice, which might be why he sounds a bit like Josh. I’ve always felt that Kevin’s “early Servo” voice is harder to get used to than Josh’s, but that’s just me. Despite the sound of his voice, Kevin seems to have already made Servo his own. By the way Sampo, I think you should include something in this entry about the more-or-less finalized Servo design that debuts here (he has the slinky arms), similar to your updates on the Bots in season 1.

    As for the Mads and Deep 13, things are looking a lot better. In seasons KTMA and 1, Josh Weinstein was probably the best performer. His portrayal of Dr. Erhardt in the KTMAs was all right, but his re-interpretation of the character in the Comedy Channel shows was a step in the wrong direction. The first season Mads weren’t very funny overall, so Frank’s entrance here is a nice change of pace. Frank (the character) seems to be a lot dumber here than in later episodes and Dr. F is still reminiscent of his serious, season 1-self, but the new relationship between the Mads is much funnier. It wouldn’t be long before the Trace and Frank developed Dr. F and Frank into the Mads we knew for nearly four seasons (and what a great four seasons they were).

    Now, the episode itself: I can’t imagine how dazzled early fans must have been upon seeing the new SOL set. Just as the season 1 set was light years ahead of the primitive KTMA design, this new “found objects” re-design makes the season 1 set look like a reject from a Lost in Space episode (let’s face it – it does). You can tell in early season 2 that the Brains had a lot of fun with the changes they made, such as the Hexfield and the “Spiral-On-Down” for Joel. Speaking of Joel, his BGC-19 is a great creation.

    The internal three host segments are hit and miss, IMHO. Segment 1 is clever but not all that funny. This isn’t a definitive answer, by the way, but it’s possible that Joel is reading the time code for the editor’s sake (just so he’d know which slide to pull up from the movie). Listen to Crow and Tom: after they finish their parts, there’s sometimes a cut in the background “song”. I guess Joel didn’t allow enough room between his scripted parts and the time code. Just a guess, though.

    Segment 2 is a classic, and I don’t have much to say about it other than what’s already been said.

    Segment 3 feels really long (and it probably is, though I didn’t check the length of it). The first part seems to be to show off the new set more than anything else. The song quotes are a great idea that just doesn’t really work. The second part of the segment, with Mike as Valeria, is very odd. Mike is very funny though, so it works out. Joel’s line, “Doug Warren…?”, cracked me up.

    The riffing starts off at a frantic pace in sharp contrast to the late season 1 shows, but it slows down a tad by the time the ship takes off. I found the riff density in scenes to vary heavily throughout, but the best riffs, IMO, came in during Lloyd’s moonlight talk with the woman (who’s name I can’t quite recall.. Lisa? Elsa?).

    The pig jokes.
    “Oh that HURT.” – Joel
    “He’s waking up. Quick, tell that story again!” – Tom
    “Oh that is romantic. I think I’ll go slit my wrists.” – Joel

    Other riffs of note:
    “Stupid name by Ferde Grofe!” – Crow?
    “No, I’m Lloyd. THAT’S the moooon.” – Crow again
    AND Crow’s Floyd the Barber impression.
    “Come on, scatter you guys. One bullet could get all of us.” – Joel

    So, overall I’d give this episode a 4/5. Segments are hit and miss and the riffing, good as it is, just isn’t up to par with some of the following episodes. I will say that this is a great start to perhaps the best era of MSTory.

    Keep circulating the tapes!

       3 likes

  34. Cody Himes says:

    Oops, forgot to mention that I saw Trace’s head in I believe either segment three or the end segment. He’s wearing a white hat with a photo printed on the front, and it pops up for a few seconds.

       1 likes

  35. Cronkite Moonshot says:

    Since I lived in a “HA!” part of the country the rerun of this was my first MST episode (as it was the first MST episode that the newly merged CTV showed). Upon watching it I became an instant MST fan of course, but the next weeks episode “Sidehackers” is what really turned me into an obsessive one. Rocketship XM is more memorable to me because of the host segments than the movie, which I find a tad boring despite some good riffing, but the show itself won me over pretty thoroughly anyways. Still it wasn’t until “Sidehackers” was on the next week that I really saw the potential of the series. Making fun of crappy black and white science fiction B-movies from the 50’s seemed fun and all, but seeing them then go on right away to tackle something else so totally different showed me there was more to it than that. And Sidehackers is just such an incredibly fun movie to watch them riff on.

       4 likes

  36. Steve Vil says:

    Since you posed the question…

    Besides our own Mike Nelson I can think of one other: the character of Mike Nelson- teen drug dealer, best friend to Bobby Briggs and boyfriend of Donna Hayward- from Twin Peaks.

    That is all.

       4 likes

  37. Kali says:

    So did anyone ever explain where “BCG-19” comes from? It’s a rather curious designation (also implies Joel took 19 tries to make it right).

    Considering Frank makes his debut by stealing Joel’s invention!! Not nice, Frank!

    :-P

       0 likes

  38. Mr. B(ob) says:

    I have always also loved the catchphrase, “Turn down your lights (where applicable)”. An unusual and clever little bit that sets the tone for the show. I even asked Brian Ward over at Shout! Factory why it’s never been included on the DVD releases. He said it’s not been on the show masters that are provided to them, but he would try to include it from now on.

    As long as I’m back in here, I’ll list a few of my favorite gags from this show, though some of them have already been mentioned by others:
    – “At this point the rocket becomes engorged with astronauts”. The visual on the chalkboard makes it appear as if it might be a health/sex education class.
    – “By this time my lungs…” I hadn’t thought about Sea Hunt or seen it since I was a little kid, so this was one of those, “wow, they got in my head and pulled something out I had forgotten was there” moments. I still love that running gag, including the jokes about them doing it too much.
    – The host segments. Reporters of Rocketship X-M bit just makes me howl with laughter. They managed to take the most incidental shots of extras and turn them into hilarity. Of course, Funny or Not Funny Floating? is one of their best ever. Mike’s appearance as Valaria is a great call-back and very funny as well.
    – Once they get to Mars I find it especially funny. The songs for the good guys and the bad guys and the way they change the pacing they sing at as the race for survival gets more desperate is a great bit. Lines like “At least he hasn’t been hit by a rock yet” just seconds before one crew member is slammed with a huge boulder slays me. “Thanks for the rocks, here’s some bullets for you” is also a classic!
    – The “where do you want to be in two years?” bit really pays off when it becomes “where do you want to be in two minutes?”
    – When one of the crew comments on the fact humans were never meant to endure such high acceleration, the joke that follows is “What did you expect, you’re an astronaut dickweed?”

    I could go on forever, this may be their best episode ever right from the moment Frank starts taking the food order from the SOL crew I am laughing out loud. Great sketch comedy, great movie riffing, best episode ever!

       4 likes

  39. Watch-out-for-Snakes says:

    Wow.  Season 2 starts with a bang, with an episode that tops almost everything in Season 1.  As mentioned, after months of KTMA and S1 eps, the upgrade in overall quality is outstanding.

    Turn down your lights (where applicable).  That phrase right there makes me sooooooo happy, love seeing it on the screen.  

    Frank shows up and is instantly hilarious.  The way he goes from exclaiming “I’M THE GOD!” to a very subdued “may I take your order please?” sells me on him in about 60 seconds.  Dr. Ernhardt?  Already forgot about ’em.

    The BGC-one-nine is one of the greatest invention exchanges ever, even if Joel can’t really play the thing.

    Overall, a good episode, solid riffing throughout and mostly solid Host Segments, with HS2 being a classic, with a fairly watchable movie, despite being slow, stupid, and very machoistic.

    Immediately, the “credits riffing” is much stronger than in previous seasons.  They used to just watch the credits and read the names, now they are riffing fast and furious and even making up songs.   I love some good credits riffing!!

    Also, I noticed that Crow’s arms and hands work quite a bit during this one.  During HS3 he reaches out to hold Joel’s hand.

    RIFFS:

    Joel: “Ah man, if it’s not one thing, it’s another.  Who forgot to flush?”

    Movie: “We’re drifting..”
    Crow: “…off to sleep.”

    Classic Joel: “You move the head, I’ll do the voice.”. Is this the first instance of this line?

       4 likes

  40. Spector says:

    Oh, yes, here’s the MST3K I know and love! The introduction of Frank as Forrester’s sidekick and Kevin Murphy taking over Tom Servo was just what this series needed to hit its stride, and it is apparent right from the get-go. The opening sets (while still done on the cheap) look much better, as does the SOL and Deep 13, plus there’s an extra level of energy in the host segments and the riffing which was lacking at times in Series One. Again, no offense to Josh (or J.Elvis) for if he’d stayed on he probably would’ve grown more into both roles (and I think he’s terrific on Cinematic Titanic), but Frank and Kevin brought in that added touch needed to put ’em over the top. Just like The Beatles replacing Pete Best with Ringo Starr. ;)

    As for this episode, it’s a very good start to this season and a considerable improvement over most of Season One, so right off the bat you can tell how much better things are gonna be in Season Two. I would also attribute that to Mike Nelson taking over as head writer. The riffing is just that much sharper, as is the dialogue in the host segments.

    Overall this gets a four out of five. A very strong start for a much-improved show kicking off its second season.

       4 likes

  41. JCC says:

    I have to agree with the person who said that Kevin wasn’t imitating Josh, I think he was just more mannered compared to his later more boisterous, hyper approach.

       0 likes

  42. MikeK says:

    Hey, I was a kid during the 1980s and I know about the faces of missing children on milk cartons.

       4 likes

  43. ck says:

    Some people might fear that the ending to Rocketship X-M is not exactly a happy one. However there may have been cheerier conclusion (no doubt edited out for reasons of time). The plucky last two astronauts (assuming that by that time their lungs weren’t aching for air too much) may well have availed themselves of the Infinite Improbability Drive (BBC version of course). A giant **** whale wearing a really big parachute would then materialize right below the rocketship. The whale would of course have slowed their descent (with regretable results for the whale’s philosophising on the questions of existence) and the parachute have then deposited them on top of the pontificating scientists office, QUASHING THEM LIKE ANTS! But I digress.

       4 likes

  44. I'm not a medium, I'm a petite says:

    Re 37. I have always assumed that BCG 1 9 was a riff on the David Bowie song TVC 1 5. But the algorithm that takes one from the other is beyond me.

       1 likes

  45. ck says:

    Huh! Sp*rm Whale was censored. Really now. :-)

       2 likes

  46. Seth L says:

    I’ve never been able to figure out where the ‘spiral on down’ is first named? I’ve only ever read it right here in the episode guide.

       0 likes

  47. rcfagnan says:

    This is an ep I’ve seen, but don’t have. I keep hoping it will come out on one of SF’s box sets. Kevin and Frank take on their roles with gusto, but I remember this episode as having good host segments but boring theater segments. The “and a good friend” riff got driven into the ground way too much. The dull, talky, movie didn’t help much either.

       1 likes

  48. Sean says:

    This was one of my first episodes, so I treasure it so. My dad cracks up at the Lloyd Bridges impression, and “By this time my lungs were aching for air,” has entered my odd repatoire.

    How long did Servo’s neck thingy last? I remember it here and in one other episode, but that’s it.

       2 likes

  49. ThorneSherman says:

    I had caught the tail end of Season 1, but this was the episode that made a real fan, because having seen a few before, I was now eagerly awating the new season. Also, having only seen 3 episodes from Season 1, I was not as invested in Dr. Erhardt or Josh as Servo, so the changes were very easy for me to accept, and Frank’s brilliant performance instantly made Dr. Erhardt forgotten for me. Same with Servo, pretty much impossible for me to think of anyone but Kevin Murphy in the role. For me, this is the true beginning of the show I would, even now after all this years, love more than any other.

       2 likes

  50. Dark Grandma of Death says:

    I thought this was a decent episode, a good start to a new season.

    “We’re on our WAYYY!”

       2 likes

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