MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000
THE UNOFFICIAL EPISODE GUIDE
SEASON “ZERO”: KTMA-TV CHANNEL 23, 1988-1989
Hello, people of Earth.
This half-hour “proof of concept” video, a very rough pilot created by Joel, Trace and Josh, with Jim (and presumably Kevin) behind the camera. The video shown below is most likely an edited version which focuses on the host segments and removes most of the theater sequences.
Segment 1: Joel tries to make contact with anyone, then introduces the movie.
Segment 2: Joel is joined by Crow and Beeper; he demonstrates the Chiro-Gyro.
Segment 3: Joel introduces Gypsy and reveals that he has taught the bots to laugh at his jokes.
Segment 4: Joel discovers that his vacu-flowers are sick, and the illness spreads to Gypsy.
Segment 5: As Joel works on Gypsy, he discovers that the illness has spread to Beeper and…himself!
Segment 6: Everybody has recovered from the foam sickness, but Crow has a parting shot.
• The purpose of this video was to convince KTMA’s station manager, a guy named Don O’Connor, that this idea of Joel’s was going to work. I gotta say, as interesting as this is to look at more than a quarter of a century later, I am AMAZED that it accomplished that purpose. Maybe ol’ Don had an eye for talent (though from the stories I’ve heard, that doesn’t sound likely) or maybe Jim just talked him into it.
• You can definitely see Joel’s “Silent Running meets Omega Man” concept at work, but as he says, it’s a little dour.
• The primitive door sequence always gets a laugh from fans the first time they see it.
• It’s interesting that the pilot doesn’t really show Joel riffing. That doesn’t really seem to have been a big part of the concept at this point. It seems like Joel is just sort of watching along with us. It’s much more like a standard “Svengoolie” style movie show in that sense.
• Note somebody fumbling around behind the theater seats as Joel leaves the first time. Not sure what’s going on there. (Some commenters say that’s audience members at the screening.
• The second segment is one you’ve seen if you’ve seen “The MST3K Scrapbook” video tape.
• The “chiropractic helmet,” later known as the “Chiro-Gyro,” would make a return appearance in episode 105- THE CORPSE VANISHES.
• Gypsy is male in this.
• Joel also says there are “25 other robots doing various complicated operations around the ship.” That’s very “Silent Running.”
• I notice that the ubiquitous background nooise — that non-stop engine hum and occasional “plink!” is present even in this. Where did they get it from?
• For the record, Joel comes into the theater by himself the first time, Crow joins him the second time, the third time it’s Joel, Crow and Beeper (who seems to be sitting on Joel’s lap), then Joel, Crow and Gypsy the next time and finally Joel by himself again.
• Joel mentions the “spiral-on-down” which he would mention once or twice more in the regular series.
• Fave riff: “…Speaking of the number 2 position…” At the screening, Joel declares it “The Birth of Movie Riffing!”
K01- INVADERS FROM THE DEEP
First shown: 11/24/88.
No fan copy is known to exist.
K02- REVENGE OF THE MYSTERONS
First shown: 11/24/88.
No fan copy is known to exist.
K03- STAR FORCE: FUGITIVE ALIEN 2
First shown: 11/27/88.
No fan copy is known to exist.
First shown: 12/4/88
Movie: (1966) In the second outing of the series, a group of conspirators travels to a remote jungle island to retrieve what they believe is a giant opal. In reality it is the egg of a mythical lizard-dog creature Barugon … and it’s hatching.
Opening: Joel introduces the movie and plays a message from a happy caller
Host segment 1: Joel plays two more messages: one negative, one positive
Host segment 2: Joel plays another call, which upsets Gypsy
Host segment 3: Crow discusses his favorite body orifices
End: Servo and Crow make prank phone calls and Crow explains doggie-do.
Joe’s notes: This is the earliest KTMA episode that has been found by fans, and it’s quite different from the show we know. The Mads have not yet appeared, and Josh’s Servo speaks with a high-pitched Kermit the Frog-type squeak, very different from the laconic “seen-it done-it” voice he later adopted for the character.
• First of all, I want to extend a big thank you to my pal Joe Barlow, who years ago sat through all these shows and put together a fine first draft of this section of the episode guide, which has now been thoroughly revised and extended. He did a great job and we will be eternally grateful.
• Joe and I exchanged some emails the last time around. He said he watched this one over several days and noted: “It’s quite a slog!” Indeed it is, unless you are a hardcore kaiju fan. This time I was able to get through it in one sitting (but I admit I dozed off for about 10 minutes). The movie is dark and chaotic and violent, but I will give it this: at least it’s a story aimed at adults, rather than the kiddie stories several other Gamera movies were.
• No sign of the Mads, yet.
• In part 1 of our KTMA Q&A (hereafter referred to as “the Q&A,”) they explained that the monster is repeatedly referred to a “Gameron” because they mistakenly thought that was his name. Just a silly mistake. (By the way, I “am” planning a Q&A part 2.
• The caller in the opening had clearly just watched episode K03. She mentions it was on “the 27th,” which was the date that episode aired. Her three-year-old liked it. That kid is now old enough to have graduated college.
• Servo just kind of pops up behind the seat at the beginning of the first theater segment, and he seems capable of getting in and out of the theater on his own power, though Joel does carry him a couple of times.
• The scarcity of riffs in theater takes some getting used to. Did you, almost by force of habit, start thinking of jokes for the quiet spaces? I sure did.
• Even back then they were playing with the screen. At one point, a character points directly at Servo and he panics.
• The two calls in segment one pretty much sum up the two sides of the debate over MST3K. I have referred to the second caller as “the very first MSTie.” Wonder who it is. This segment appears on the MST3K Scrapbook tape.
• Among the many things that are different about this show from shows in later seasons: Joel and the bots get up and leave, and the movie continues for several minutes, playing to an empty theater, before the show goes to commercial. I have to admit that I fast-forwarded through these sections.
• Something else that’s different: Crow’s arms work!
• Segment 2, the Chapstick segment, is very funny. But there is NO WAY that the caller actually said “slapstick.” He clearly said “chapstick.” Why, I have no idea, and it again makes me suspect that some of the calls they got were staged, though nobody remembers doing that.
• Sometime between the pilot and this episode, Gypsy has become a girl. I fully support this.
• The phone number is thrown up on the screen during a theater sequence, and Joel thanks Cambot. He’s so polite.
• Kevin Murphy is already listed as one of the show’s writers in the credits.
• Fave riff: “Way to go, mister Freudian slip!” Honorable mention: “This monster does not know the concept of ‘around.’”
If you don’t have copies of KTMA episodes, you may want to check various internet sources, including the Digital Archive Project. I got mine on DVD from my old pal Mike “Cheepnis” Slusher at cheesyflix.com.
Movie: (1965) In the first of a long-running Japanese movie series, a giant mutated turtle with super powers is accidentally revived from hibernation and, of course, attacks Japan. Meanwhile, young Kenny is fascinated by the beast.
First shown: 12/11/88
Opening: It’s Christmas time, and Crow has “volunteered” to be the SOL’s Christmas tree
Host segment 1: Servo is thankful he wasn’t frozen. A caller wants to know who does Joel’s hair
Host segment 2: Inspired by a caller, Gypsy does her Godzilla impression. Viewers are invited to take a Ted Turner quiz
Host segment 3: Callers offer opposing views on a Gamera fight, so Joel and Servo go to the video tape
End: Joel explains some Christmas traditions, then its time for carols.
• Joel watches the film by himself; as such, this episode contains what is surely the sparsest riffing in MST3K’s history. It’s not uncommon for Joel to go more than two minutes without making a single riff. Servo appears in the host segments, but there’s no explanation for why he does not join Joel in the theater. Trace was reportedly out of town during the shooting of this episode (and in the Q&A Josh suspected he had a standup gig at the time the theater scenes were being shot.
• This episode illustrates what seems to have been an incredibly casual situation with the show. Trace just couldn’t make it, so they wrote him out of the sketches, end of problem. You can hardly blame Trace. I think he was getting something like $35 an episode. Nothing to sneeze at, but not worth changing your holiday travel plans, either.
• That does not sound like Trace in the bit where he is frozen. It sounds like Josh. Which makes sense, since Trace wasn’t there.
• There’s a little teaser of Gamera mayhem at the beginning of the movie. They edited that out of the season 3 version.
• Without the support of Josh and Trace, Joel resorts to what he enjoys most, interacting with the screen. He does it a lot in this episode.
• Some may not remember, and kids may not be aware of, the whole kerfuffle in the late ’80s about Ted Turner colorizing classic black-and-white movies. Many movie buffs – Joel seems to have been one of them – were horrified at the project and he came in for much derision. He quietly backed off it after a while.
• Joel resorts to talking to himself. At one point Joel asks, to nobody in particular, “Would you consider that a plot device?”
• In these early episodes, many of the riffs are what Mary Jo later called “state park” jokes (i.e.: “That looks like a state park.” Not so much a joke as a simple observation).
• Questions for the movie: 1) So, the old eskimo is the latest in a long line of keepers of the ancient Gamera stone that’s been handed down in his tribe for thousands of years, and then these complete strangers show up in his village and he happily hands it over to them? (2) What’s with the scientist pretty much lying through his teeth when he vouches for the reporter? Is he just doing him and the lady researcher a favor so they can continue their tepid romance? He says the reporter guy has extensive knowledge of Gamera. What does he know that scientist guy and lady researcher don’t know? He never demonstrates any real knowledge of the situation, that I noticed. (3) Kenny thinks he has some sort of psychic connection with Gamera. But the movie never presents any evidence that this is the case. Yes, Gamera doesn’t kill Kenny when he has the chance, but that could just be luck.
• There’s a fun moment when Joel laughs heartily at the movie, when a scientist suggests that Gamera has “special organs that operate like a hydro-electric plant.”
• It’s pretty clear the two calls in segment 3 where made by the same person.
• Fave riff: “That could take years!”
Movie: (1967) In third outing of the long-running Japanese movie series, the giant flying turtle monster takes refuge in a volcano. His arrival releases Gaos, a shovel-headed bat-monster with the ability to shoot laser beams. Caught between the two monsters are some nearby villagers, who want to stop the construction of a highway through their land (or at least get a good price when they sell it). The grandson of their leader is young Itchy who, after Gamera saves him from Gaos, becomes an instant expert on both creatures.
First shown: 12/18/88
Opening: After a complaint about the movies, Joel explains that he doesn’t control what movies are shown
Host segment 1: Joel changes Tom Servo’s voice. He’s very pleased
Host segment 2: Gypsy wants a new voice too. Joel explains again that Crow has been frozen. Gypsy has been snacking on decorations
Host segment 3: Joel and Tom offer birthday wishes to a young viewer
End: Joel and Tom preview the KTMA’s New Year’s Eve programming
• Leaving aside the theme song, this show contains the first mention of the Mads. There’s a kind of historic moment during the opening, as Cambot puts up a still from the opening theme, and the names of the Mads are spoken for the first time. It seems like Joel is laying the groundwork for the arrival of the Mads as actual characters.
• Joel’s comment about the Mads contradicts what he said in the opening segment of the previous episode. In that episode, Joel said that he “raided the movie library,” giving the impression that he, Joel, decided what movies they watch. In the Q&A, Joel admitted that, yes, they were “sloppy with the concept” in those early days.
• Trace is still away, so Crow is still frozen.
• Joel says “Your eyes won’t believe what your hands have done.” That’s the old Spirograph tag line.
• Servo is back in the theater for this episode. Note that Servo sits in Crow’s seat rather than his own.
• We seem to come in with the movie already under way but, just like last week, it’s just a teaser. Again, it was cut from the season three version.
• With this episode we get our first Sandy Frank comment.
• Let me just say: I hate Tom Servo’s new voice! Kidding. I’m sure it helped Josh that the new voice is much closer to his natural voice.
• Portions of segment 1 appear on the MST3K Scrapbook tape.
• The clip of Crow being frozen is shown again.
• In the theater, Joel shushes Tom twice!
• On the other hand, several times Joel is in mid-riff when Tom just blurts out a riff and interrupts him, something Trace called “runover.” Each time Joel, ever the Midwestern nice guy, stops talking and gives way to Tom. I think Josh was a little excited about his new voice. After Tom does this about four times, Joel covers his mic and saying something to Josh. Josh stops interrupting after that. In the Q&A, Joel admitted that something like that happened.
• Joel calls Servo “Josh” at one point. Servo calls Joel “Hodgie.”
• Movie stuff: Sometimes Gamera doesn’t have to spin to fly, though sometimes he does. Weird.
• Unlike Kenny in the previous episode, Itchy does seem to have a genuine relationship with Gamera. Why, I have no idea. Somebody in the comments suggested that the whole strange relationship between the kids and Gamera may be something that’s lost in translation.
• We had a weekend discussion thread about the dumbest schemes in MSTed movies. The whole “blood turntable” thing ranks right up there.
• The whole “Grandpa mooing” running joke is great.
• Fave riff: “Grandpa thinks he’s a saxophone now!”
Movie: (1971) In the (sigh) seventh outing of the long-running Japanese monster movie series, aliens from a distant planet, called Zigra, send a spaceship, called Zigra, commanded by a strange creature — called Zigra — to Earth with a plan of world domination. Opposing him is a pair of concerned marine biologists, pesky kids Kenny and Helen, and of course giant turtle monster Gamera.
First shown: 1/1/89.
Opening: Crow gets unfrozen.
Host segment 1: Joel gets a call from The Mads. Joel asks when they will bring him back to Earth. They taunt him.
Host segment 2: Joel is depressed so Cambot plays some messages from callers to cheer him up.
Host segment 3: J&tB make their New Year’s wishes, then try to count down to the new year. Movie Sign interrupts.
End: J&tB review the movie.
• This episode contains the first appearance of the Mads as speaking characters. The footage of Josh Weinstein performing stand-up comedy in host segment 1 came from the “KTMA Melon Drop,” a KTMA-produced New Year’s Eve special starring Kevin Murphy (as news reporter Bob Bagadonuts) which aired immediately prior to this episode.
• This episode first aired just after midnight on New Year’s Eve, 1988-89.
• Trace is back, Crow is back and all’s right with the premise.
• We get to see the footage of Crow being frozen for the FOURTH time in three episodes.
• Trace is a little quiet during the first hour or so. He must be out of practice. He gets into the swing of riffing a bit the more as the movie goes on.
• Tom’s head is more transparent in the theater in this one.
• Segment 1 is included on the MST3K Scrapbook tape.
• It’s the first transmission from the Mads and they are still being developed. Trace uses a sort of Gregory Peck-ish voice. Josh uses a sinister growl.
• First use of the word “dickweed.”
• Crow’s silent reaction to Zigra’s spandex-clad henchwoman cracks Joel up.
• A couple of times in the theater, Tom Servo extends his neck, something he did a lot more in season two.
• At some point they started previewing the movies. Proof: Crow warns the henchman about the stuff on the arm of the chair just before she knocks it off. Later, Joel and Tom foresee the whole fish-fin xylophone thing.
• Also, it would seem they have they been watching the other Gamera movies in the library. Twice, Tom Servo sings o/` “We believe in Gamera,” o/` even though that song with those English lyrics will not be heard until the next movie.
• In addition, the first germ of the “Gamera is really neat, he is filled with turtle meat” lyrics, which would be fully fleshed out in Season 3, can be heard here.
• It was actually about 1:30 in the morning on New Year’s Day when segment 3–featuring a New Year’s Eve countdown–happens. Joel covers by saying there’s a “time delay.”
• How come that Melon Drop special isn’t on YouTube? I KNOW it exists out there…
• Movie stuff: This is one weird mamajama of a movie, but I will start by saying that I’m guessing most of the weirdness can be blamed on a really bad translation. That said….
• Once again the little kid is named Kenny. What–as was asked in Season 3–is the Japanese fascination with that name? (Commenters had some answers.)
• I don’t really understand the anti-science message that floats through the movie. Kenny and Helen’s father and his pal are biologists. Doesn’t that make them scientists? And are scientists actively polluting the sea? So why are scientists the problem?
• After discovering that Kenny and Helen have come along on their fishing trip, the biologist guys see Zigra land and express a desire to investigate. One says “What about the kids?” The kids then express a desire to go along. This seems to settle the issue. The adults are, like: “Fine, let’s go.” So no concerns at all for the kids’ safety?
• Gamera now flies straight all the time, no more spinning.
• I have seen this movie a dozen times now and I still cannot make heads or tales out of the weird Zigra monster up on the shelf in the alien spaceship. It looks a little like a skeksis from “The Dark Crystal,” but what’s with the billowing cobwebs?
• How did “your Earth science” pollute a planet 400 light years away? I ran that back and listened to it again and that’s definitely what he says. Doesn’t make any sense.
• At one point the henchwoman runs by a bunch of guys and they all recognize her as “Laura Lee Barrett.” Why do those guys recognize her? (Commenters explained.)
• The appearance of the Japanese version of the Monty Python “It’s!” guy seems to go nowhere.
• Similarly, what was the point of the whole “who gets to buy the fish” subplot?
• Apparently thinking her spandex attire is too outlandish, the henchwoman hypnotizes some bathing beauties and steals a bikini from one of them. This makes her less outlandish as she walks through the busy streets of Tokyo?
• Uh, general guy? You MIGHT want to check with somebody before surrendering the entire planet.
• I love the way Gamera delivers the bath-o-scope like Lynn Swann scoring a touchdown.
• So they plan to revive the biologists and the kids with electric shock–but later we just see them shaking Helen awake. Did they have second thoughts on the electric shock thing?
• Fave riff: “Nice jammies, babe.” Honorable mention: “Perhaps they should start looking for Allen Funt.”
Movie: (1969) In the fifth movie of the long-running Japanese monster series, two boys accidentally hijack an alien spaceship and fly to a dying planet, where they encounter two evil babes and knife-headed monster Guiron. Can Gamera save them?
First shown: 01/08/89
Opening: The Mads think they’re out of Gamera movies, but at the last minute they find one more
Host segment 1: Crow gets conked on the head and dreams that he controls the experiment while the Mads are trapped in space
Host segment 2: Crow is still thinking about his dream in the last segment, and discusses it with Joel and Servo
Host segment 3: More dream talk with Joel, Crow and Gypsy
End: J&TB sing “Satellite of Love”
• This show featured the last Gamera film of the KTMA series. For the first time ever, J&TB did not listen to any viewer calls. There’s also a tiny continuity error: at the end of the last episode, Joel announced the name of this week’s film. And Joel starts this week’s episode by saying they’re going to do another Gamera movie. But then, everyone seems shocked when the Mads say that they’re doing another Gamera.
• The opening feels very much like a season one segment.
• It’s becoming increasingly clear that the idea that they completely ad-libbed the riffing is a myth. It’s clear that they had the little song they sang to the Gamera song prepared.
• Servo’s head extends again.
• The carnage we witness once the boys get to the planet is pretty intense. It appears to upset Joel, even though they’re just models.
• Crow calls Gypsy Gipsum again.
• Crow’s dream is strangely prophetic! What he dreamed will come true in episode 613- Last of the Wild Horses.
• I like the Batman (the 60s TV show)-esque slanty camera angle when they show the Mads.
• After the second segment, Josh has a little problem getting Tom Servo set up in the theater.
• In segment 3, we get a rare political joke! Dan Quayle was set to be sworn in as vice president in a few weeks, so I guess it was on their minds.
• Crow’s riff “Ya gotta shave ‘em!” cracks Joel up.
• In the final segment, J&tB sing Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love.” It would become a traditional closing number at their live shows.
• Movie stuff: Terrible, terrible dubbing. The pauses are ridiculous.
• So Gamera was just passing by in outer space when the kids need rescuing?
• The long stretch of clips from other Gamera movies is a bit hard to sit through.
• Fave riff: Bad haircut! Help! Bad haircut!
Movie: (1974) An astronomical event endows an ant colony in the Arizona desert with sentience. Two scientists are sent to investigate, but who’s testing whom?
First shown: 1/15/89
Opening: The Mads are running low on funding
Host segment 1: Joel discusses Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics
Host segment 2: J&tB discuss the first thing they plan to do when they get to Earth
Host segment 3: A game of “I spy” becomes a performance of “Wipeout.”
End: Joel programs Crow and Gypsy to recite a new robotic law
• This episode is the first episode (not counting KTMA episodes 1-3) to feature a non-Gamera movie, and the first episode featuring a movie that would not be riffed on the show later. As such I will, with this entry, begin the “Cast and Crew Roundup” feature (I will do the Sandy Frank titles when they come back around in season 3).
• There’s lots going on in the opening. It’s the first time the show has started with The Mads instead of Joel. It’s also the first time we get a sense that there is somebody with authority over The Mads (btw, the nickname “Old Leadbottom” is from a ’60s TV show called “McHale’s Navy.” Look it up, kids!). We also get the first mention of “the madscientist-mobile,” which would come up again.
• Also this is the first time, as far as we know, that Joel did the “getting run down by Cambot” routine, which both he and Mike would do again in the future.
• One thing that has surprised me is: there’s been no explicit mention so far of Gizmonic Institute! Clearly The Mads are transmitting FROM Gizmonic Institute during KTMA (Joel once directly confirmed that to me). I guess he had not come up with the name yet?
• I saw this movie when it first came out. I thought it was a pretty good little sci-fi thriller and I still do. The ant photography, as well-done as it is, goes on a little long and slows the pace down too much, and the acting by the humans is pretty low-key, but it’s not really a “cheesy” movie.
• The Brains must have thought so too. They seem to get into it. Several times they say something like “uh-oh” when a plot development unfolds, a sure sign they are caught up.
• However, Josh never seems to quite get the premise of the movie. “Yes, because most ants have the power of reasoning…” he says sarcastically when the movie suggests that they do. Later he yells: “They’re ants!!” when a character suggests that there is an intelligence behind their actions. That’s the premise of the movie, Josh!
• A segment of riffing in the theater, starting at about 7 minutes into the episode (not counting commercials), was included on the pitch tape that was used to sell the show to the Comedy Channel. That tape was included included on the MST3K Scrapbook tape. Question: Was that really the most sparkling few minutes of riffing the whole season?
• Servo extends his head again in the theater.
• Another first in segment 2: The first time a bot mentions his “load pan.”
• Now-dated reference: When a high-pitched sound makes some glass break, Crow says “Ella!” That’s a reference to a then-popular Memorex commercial featuring jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald.
• Uh, could Segment 3 get any more random? It’s completely stream-of-consciousness. Were they are just killing time?
• At one point in the theater somebody drops something and it makes a rather large noise, so loud the performers feel they can’t ignore it, so they acknowledge that it happened. Then there is a strange scraping noise, which they don’t acknowledge. Was someone dragging whatever it was away?
• Movie observation: For a science lab that was just built, it sure has a lot of shelves full of spare parts laying around, like a warehouse that has been sitting there for years.
• Joel calls Gypsy Gipsum again.
• Cast and Crew Roundup: Screenwriter Mayo Simon also wrote “Space Travelers. Camera operator Jack Mills also worked on “Gorgo.” In front of the camera, Alan Gifford was also in “Devil Doll.”
• Fave riff: Meanwhile Grandma and Grandpa are patty melts out on the lawn. Honorable mention: Hope nobody’s eating rice at this point…
Movie: (compilation 1982; original episodes 1976) A re-edit of two “Space: 1999″ TV episodes. The inhabitants of a space station encounter a hostile alien and his shapeshifting daughter. Later, her shapeshifting ability goes out of control and endangers the ship.
First shown: 1/22/89
Opening: It’s Superbowl Sunday! The Mads show off their “no-d” glasses
Host segment 1: Crow gives Joel a haircut
Host segment 2: Crow suggests Servo can learn to fly. It doesn’t go well
Host segment 3: The Bots help Joel with his taxes, and find out more than they wanted to know
End: Joel, Crow and Gypsy play football, and Gypsy and Joel sing “We Are the Champions”
• This episode originally aired on Superbowl Sunday 1989, which explains all the football stuff. Servo’s head comes off for the first time (that we know of) in this episode. This episode also marks the first time the show used a movie that was actually two TV show episodes loosely spliced together. The concept would later reappear “Master Ninja” “Mighty Jack” “Riding With Death” and more.
• Segment 1 was re-done in episode 105- THE CORPSE VANISHES; some of the football game during the end segment was featured in the MST3K Scrapbook Tape.
• Servo’s head extends again during the riffing.
• Joel says something silly and Crow turns to him and calmly asks: “What color is the sky in your world, Joel?” That one would come back later.
• During the transition period between episodes, Joel keeps saying “series” when he means “episode.”
• Servo just gets up and leaves at one point.
• The riff “there go the music lessons” is an early version of “There go the piano lessons” from the movie.
• About Servo’s head falling off: I think the first time it happens, after Crow has talked Tom Servo into base jumping off the desk, was on purpose. But when it falls off again later, I think that was an accident. They just kept going.
• Servo’s head is still off when they return to the theater. Joel reconnects it.
• Servo is still steamin’ mad at Crow after segment 2. They two almost come to blows!
• Movie stuff: So, I didn’t watch this show as a kid (I knew OF it, I just never watched it.) Was this sort of an attempt at a British “Star Trek”? (Some commenters agreed that it was, even though it was a decade later.) Landau seems to be trying to do Shatner in a couple of places.
• The episodes that were combined to make this “movie” were “The Metamorph” and “Space Warp.” The former was the debut episode of the show’s second season. The latter came 13 episodes later. Yet when the second half of the “movie” begins, alien Maya is again in sick bay, giving the impressions that she in sick bay for 14 episodes. Not true, the commenters said. She just ended up in Sick Bay a lot.
• Can I just note that this movie is mostly really really boring, although it is occasionally punctuated by some actual action? (It nearly put me to sleep.)
• Cast and crew roundup: Executive producer Gerry Anderson also did “Invaders from the Deep” and “Revenge of the Mysterons,” as did score composer Barry Gray. Production designer Keith Wilson also did “Revenge of the Mysterions.” Producer Fred Freiberger also did “Beginning of the End. In front of the camera, Catherine Schell was also in “Moon Zero Two.” Stuntman Peter Porteous also appeared in “Future War.” And Alf Joint was also in “The Projected Man.”
• Fave riff: The reference to the “Dennis Hopper segment of the film.” Honorable mention: Joel sings a few bars of the Banana Splits theme song as our heroes climb into the ridiculous moon buggy.
Movie: (1981) In the future, a clone is rescued from space, lives on Earth for a while, then leads her friends to her polluted and desperate home world.
First shown: 1/29/89
Opening: The Mads are furious to learn that last week’s ratings were higher, despite being opposite the Super Bowl
Host segment 1: J&TB enjoy a game of tag
Host segment 2: Servo hits on a blender
Host segment 3: J&TB demonstrate surrealism
End: Servo and Joel discuss the Village People and end with a “Dating Game”-style goodbye kiss
Joe’s notes: During the ending segment, Crow discusses what he plans to do in the upcoming week. This segment feels improvised, and it’s one of the few times in MST3K’s history in which Trace can’t think of anything funny to say. It’s almost painful to hear him bluff his way through.
• Three of the host segments from this film were later reused in Season One shows, making this one of the most heavily-plundered KTMA episodes. Segment 1 was later re-shot in episode 105- THE CORPSE VANISHES. Segment 2 was later recycled, almost word-for-word, in episode 103- MAD MONSTER. A sketch somewhat similar to segment 3 appeared in episode 107- ROBOT MONSTER.
• It’s unclear why the Brains think the movie is Czech. It’s Russian. But that doesn’t stop Servo from making a “corn Czechs” joke.
• In the opening segment, after movie sign is announced, the Bots chase Joel down the corridor leading into the movie theater. Both Joel and Mike have run down the corridor, but seeing Crow and Tom follow is new.
• I’ve been noticing something in these episodes: Joel hasn’t really embraced the “the right people will get it” mentality yet. A lot of times Josh or Trace will make a reference and not explain it, and Joel will, almost reflexively, explain the joke. A good example in this episode is the “Kiki Dee” reference which Servo makes and Joel then explains.
• Then-current reference: a “Certs encounter.”
• Obscure reference: “Dirk, Stig, Nasty and Barry.”
• Not sure if this is my DVD or the way it actually happened, but there is no “movie sign” transition between segment 3 and the theater.
• Movie stuff: The movie was originally titled “Cherez Ternii K Zvedam” (in Russian) and was shown in two parts: “Iskusstvennyl Chelovek” and “Angely Kosmosa.” When exported to the west, it was initially titled with the Latin phrase “Per Aspera Ad Astra” then retitled with the rough English translation of that phrase: “To the Stars by Hard Ways.” Sheesh.
• According to the IMDB, the director’s son has reedited/restored the original, which purists insist is far more interesting than the Sandy Frank version. Sounds a lot like purists who swear by restored “Solaris” (which I found impenetrable, but others whose opinions I respect really enjoyed).
• It’s definitely another case, like all the other Russian films that were riffed over the years, that, whatever it’s flaws, it had a huge budget and it’s fascinating to look at, even if you don’t know what the Sam Hill is goin’ on.
• Fave riff: “Why did she crawl inside the espresso machine?” Honorable mention: “I don’t know what installing a roller coaster will do, but…”
Movie: (1978 original TV show episodes; 1986 compilation movie) Alien marauder Ken becomes a fugitive from his home planet, then joins the Earth spaceship Bacchus 3 to fight against his former masters. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Rita is sent with a deadly mission.
First shown: 2/5/89
Opening: Dr. E. calls Dr. F., who is attending a mad scientists’ convention in Las Vegas
Host segment 1: Servo and Gypsy have disassembled Crow
Host segment 2: Ever notice how you never see certain celebrities in the same room together? Joel and Servo discuss
Host segment 3: Joel hosts a robot dance competition
End: Joel announces the formation of the fan club
Joe’s notes: Trace is absent once again; hence, no Dr. Forrester or Crow. This marks Trace’s third absence in 12 episodes. Joel and Servo watch the movie without him, and once again Servo sits in Crow’s seat (as he did in episode K06- GAMERA VS. GAOS). Although he does not appear in the episode, Trace is still listed as a writer, puppeteer and “mad scientist” in the end credits.
• The third-season riffing of this movie is one of the most seminal episodes in the series, so I guessed that this version was going to really pale in comparison, and it does. Plus, Trace is AWOL again, making it an even weaker incarnation. But if you take it on its own merits and don’t compare it, you can definitely see them getting stronger and more comfortable in the format.
• The second half of this, Fugitive Alien 2, was done in episode K03, of which no fan copy exists.
• The opening is really pretty funny; Josh really holds his own. Meanwhile Joel is disturbingly distraught. “I MISS MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY! GET ME DOWN!” Acting!
• Servo cracks Joel up with his “Strawberry Fields” parody.
• One thing about this version: We get to see a lot of footage that was cut from the season three version.
• I wonder if that’s Kevin running Gypsy in the segments where Servo is there.
• It was a fairly typical February night in Minneapolis the night this show aired: a balmy 1 degree at 7 p.m.
• So many riffs are ingrained (every time Ken says “Rita!” I reflexively said “Meter maid!”; every time I heard somebody say “Rocky!” I reflexively said “Again?”): but it’s especially true of the score, and the lyrics that the Brains wrote for that music in season three. I defy you to sit through this version and NOT burst out with o/` “He tried to kill me with a forklift…” o/`
• Josh genuinely amuses Joel up with his dance competition comments during segment 3.
• I’ve been meaning to mention this for several episodes: “Heavy on the 30-weight,” which Joel says to Cambot in several episodes, is a Firesign Theatre reference.
• Joel seems a little distracted during the closing.
• Fave riff: Don’t you have, like, a Highlights Magazine I could wait with?
Movie: (1977) Aboard the maiden transatlantic flight of a supersonic plane, mechanical problems and a killer virus cause a crisis for an all-star cast.
First shown: 2/19/89
Opening: Dr. F. is back from Vegas, bringing tons of money, gifts and this week’s movie. They send it to Joel, catching him off-guard
Host segment 1: Joel shows Servo what it’s like to feel pain
Host segment 2: Gypsy has a sexy new voice…or does she?
Host segment 3: Joel, Crow and Gypsy have a limbo contest. Servo provides the music.
End: Viewer mail.
Joe’s notes: This episode marks the first time the crew of the SoL read letters from viewers. My DVD contains what is apparently a commercial for the show in which J&TB perform the “SST Death Flight Theme Song.”
• This is a movie I’d have loved to see them tackle again. It’s got everything: stupid plot, a huge “Fantasy Island”/”Love Boat” cast, hackneyed story lines, the works. And it sure is a breath of fresh air after so many weeks of oppressive Sandy Frankness.
• The opening is very similar to a segment in episode 105- THE CORPSE VANISHES.
• Portions of the theater segments were included on the MST3K Scrapbook tape.
• Is this the first time the Mads mention “pushing the button”?
• Local jokes: “We can bail out Midwest Federal.” “They look like they got their suits at Foreman & Clark.”
• At one point Crow mispronounces a word and Tom immediately mocks him for it. It’s the kind of thing they seldom did later on.
• Pre-riff: I said “You sank my battleship!” a few seconds before Servo did.
• In between segments one and two, in a jump cut between two scenes in the movie, it looks like they stopped tape and then restarted it. Servo is suddenly off his chair and Joel says “Whoa! Turbulence!”
• That’s make-up lady Faye Burkholder doing the sexy Gypsy voice in Segment 2.
• Wow, can I just say that John DeLancie really does a good job of being a jerk? I met him once. He seemed really nice.
• Both Joel and Trace laugh heartily at Josh’s “If I could do that I wouldn’t leave the house!”
• As Joe notes, we get the very first letters to the show and the first mention of Cambot’s “stillstore” feature. Stillstore, at this point, appears to be a piece of carboard and some masking tape.
• Fave riff: “Put the masks on the important stars first!”
Movie: (1968 TV series; 1987 compilation movie) A top secret organization, called Mighty Jack, makes use of a giant submarine, called Mighty Jack, to battle terrorist organization Q.
First shown: 3/5/89
Opening: Dr. E. thinks he and Dr. F need a change; Joel listens in
Host segment 1: As a joke, Servo, Crow and Gypsy weld themselves together. Joel doesn’t find it funny, but has a suggestion
Host segment 2: Crow and Servo admit they have no idea what humans think is funny
Host segment 3: Crow bowls, but the Crow and Servo don’t want to play games with Joel anymore
End: Viewer mail
Joe’s notes: During segment 1, Joel “accidentally” drops a pencil, then bends down (out of shot) to pick it up. For a moment, no one is in the frame … then Joel pops back up. That way the editors could cleanly cut the action.
Host segment 2 is a little dark, what with the bots contemplating Joel’s death.
One of the fan letters refers to the part of “SST Death Flight” in which Servo says “His eye needs some air.” This line was actually said by Crow, but no one corrects the viewer’s error.
• As with some of the other Sandy Frank movies, we get to see lots of footage we didn’t get to see in the Season 3 version, including a long segment before the credits. And I have to say that it helps. I was able to follow the plot, such as it was, much more easily. It took many repeat viewings of the Season 3 version before I could figure out what the heck was going on.
• I was always aware that this is the first and last episodes of a TV series, but in the full version you can really see the dividing line. Clearly the end of the first episode comes when Atari is introduced as the team’s new commander and all the old grudges are smoothed over.
• In the theater, as the credits roll, Joel addresses the viewers and promises a fan club newsletter in two weeks. He does so again about half-way through the movie.
• I have been pleasantly surprised at the viewability of these DVDs. They ARE several-generation copies of VHS tapes of an over-the-air TV feed, after all. But I should mention that there are some pretty rough spots in this one, and I can’t tell if it’s just tape artifacts or if whoever was originally taping this just had their rabbit ears adjusted badly.
• In Segment 2, as an example of what is clearly NOT funny, we see a little snippet of the TV series “Punky Brewster.” If you’re too young to remember it, don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything.
• Two odd comments in the theater: At one point, Servo says: “That’s the kind of entertainment Josh — this guy I know — really likes.” Weird. Even weirder, Crow says that one character “looks like Frank Conniff”!
• Watch Servo as J&TB leave the theater right before segment 3. As he exits, Josh lifts the puppet too high and it completely clears the theater seats. We can see the control rod, a little of Josh’s hand and we can also see that Servo doesn’t have the lower half of his body! Wow!
• Segment 3 was redone in episode 106- THE CRAWLING HAND.
• Toward the end of the movie, one of the characters yells “Launch!” and Joel riffs “I said lunch, not launch!” Somebody check for me, but I THINK that is a rare example of a riff that appears in both versions.
• Crow waves goodbye at the end of the episode. Ah, the days when Crow’s arms worked.
• Fave riff: “Ew. Get a mop.”
Movie: (1978) A star-studded cast, each with their own subplot, descends on New Orleans for the Super Bowl, but a killer is on the loose.
First shown: 3/12/89
Opening: In a letter to his uncle, Servo recalls how he almost talked the Mads into bringing Joel back to Earth
Host segment 1: Still writing his letter, Servo recalls when Joel showed Servo what it’s like to feel pain
Host segment 2: Still writing his letter, Servo reveals that Joel isn’t really like his lovable on-air persona. His crabbiness seems to trigger recreations of memorable movie moments in the bots
Host segment 3: Still writing his letter, Servo experiences a sentimental montage
End: Joel and Crow show off some artwork sent in by viewers; then present the stuff you’ll get if you join the fan club.
Joe’s notes: The host segments in this episode appear to be a spoof of situation comedy episodes in which old clips are rerun as flashbacks. Only one segment, segment 1, features an actual clip from a previous episode (it’s from episode K13- SST DEATH FLIGHT), but the others were made to look like they were.
Joel smokes a cigarette during the second host segment!
For years, the only known existing copy this episode was missing the final host segment. That changed in October 2004, when the missing final segment came to light in the possession of a Minnesota woman named Teresa Dietzinger. She sent some artwork in to the show (it’s the first one shown in the final segment;
she apparently did not include her name, she says she included her name on the drawing, nonetheless Joel says he can’t remember it and mistakenly assumes a guy did it), taped the episode and held on to the tape for 16 years. Although her father long ago taped over the rest of the episode with family footage and such, the final host segment remained intact.
• Servo is typing on an old IBM Selectric (probably some KTMA office equipment). For you kids, that unfamiliar object is called a “typewriter.” You couldn’t get Facebook on it, but it was useful sometimes.
• Servo has feet? (He claims to be typing with them.)
• “Is that your head or did your neck blow a bubble?” is a joke already used in an earlier episode. Sounds like it might have been a heckler putdown from Josh’s standup act.
• Callback: “Did these guys fly in on SST Death Flight?”
• This movie’s just chock full of late-’70s casual hooking up. Quite the time capsule.
• Servo coughs and kind of chokes in the theater.
• Servo seems to be malfunctioning in the theater. At one point he falls over into Joel’s lap. Joel casually shovels him back the other way. He recovers, mumbling something about “narcolepsy.” Later he sags to one side and suggests Joel needs to adjust his “equilibrium functions.” For a lot of the episode he bobs up and down in the seat as if Josh is having trouble holding him steady.
• Joel is smoking in segment 2 in order to telegraph that he’s a being a jerk.
• Some of the clips in the montage in segment 3 appear to be from K01, K02 and K03, of which no fan copies are known to exist.
• What do you bet they didn’t clear that Louis Armstrong song they used in the montage in segment 3?
• As they enter the theater after segment 3, Crow gets into his seat and then adjusts his position with a lovely mechanical noise.
• As the fan club address appears on the screen, Crow says, apparently to the audience, “Don’t call. Write.” This would appear to be the official shift away from taking phone calls and in the direction of letters.
• At one point toward the end, Joel admits to being completely unable to think of anything funny to say. This prompts Servo to recall the flashback in the opening segment, in which Crow ruins Servo’s attempt to get the Mads to bring them down to Earth. The two bots begin bickering. It’s a strange moment.
• Minneapolis joke: An overhead shot of the seats in the Superdome prompts Crow to identify it as “The Guthrie.”
• Movie stuff: There are a lot of extras in this thing. Were they all actors, or did they just shoot this on game day? I wonder what marching band that is that gets so much screen time. It’s not named in the end credits.
• Also, the announcer keeps hyping the madness that has descended on New Orleans with the arrival of the Super Bowl. He’s really overselling it. It’s not like New Orleans has never had tourists visit it before.
• J&TB stand up in the theater for the national anthem.
• It’s interesting that the fan club membership cards appear to be the same ones that were handed out for years later. Maybe they bought a whole bunch in the initial order?
• If you want to read that newsletter Joel is holding, it’s here.
• Although the final host segment was saved from oblivion, the closing credits of that show were not. If you have the copy of this that includes the final host segment, that DVD includes the closing credits from episode K20 “just for consistency.”
• Fave riff: And a gun FOR the doberman!
Movie: (1979) A disgruntled former refinery worker starts a city-wide conflagration and a star-studded cast, each with their own subplot, must cope with the disaster.
First shown: 3/19/89
Opening: The Mad Scientist League threatens to revoke Dr. F. and Dr. E.’s licenses. Seems they’re merely “mildly peeved researchers.”
Host segment 1: Servo and Crow pull the old “telescope black eye” prank on Joel
Host segment 2: Joel demonstrates his new anti-theft device, “hell in a handbag”
Host segment 3: J&TB perform a military cadence
End: Joel again shows the stuff you get when you join the MST3K Fan Club
Joe’s notes: The “hell in a handbag” invention in segment 2 would be re-used in episode 103- MAD MONSTER.
The Brains apparently thought they had done some of their best work in this episode. Portions of segments 1 and 3 and a couple of segments of theater riffing (the “good morning!” sequence and the childbirth scene) were included on the compilation pitch tape that sold the show to The Comedy Channel. That compilation was included on the “MST3K Scrapbook” tape that was sold to fans by the Info Club.
A portion of segment 3 also appeared in the Comedy Central special “This is MST3K.”
A commercial advertising Joel Hodgson’s stand-up comedy act (with a voice over by Kevin Murphy) aired during the original broadcast of this episode, and is included in many fan copies.
• This is the first reference to the “Mad Scientists League” that is forever checking up on Dr. F and, later, Pearl.
• Local reference: “I haven’t been in research since I was at the U doing kitchen cabinet analysis for Ken Keller’s house.” Keller was president of the University of Minnesota–known in the Twin Cities as, simply, “the U”–in the 80s. He was nice enough to reply to an email I sent him and explain the joke.
“In 1988, renovations to the university president’s house (Eastcliff) were the hot scandal of the day with lots of talk about a $600,000 kitchen. Aside from the fact that there was no such kitchen (that was the price of the whole renovation, but that’s a longer story), it made great headlines for a couple of months. Since I was the president at the time, the headlines were about me and “my house.” So Twin Citians at the time would have known the reference.
Never thought of hiring researchers to do the kitchen cabinet analysis. We did it the old-fashioned way: you buy the cabinets and you hang them.”
• There’s no “movie sign” sequence at the beginning of the movie.
• Joel and Servo start talking at the same moment, but this time Joel doesn’t give way and finishes his joke. Instead, it’s Servo who gives way. Joel asks him what he was going to say. Servo tells him what it was (it isn’t very funny). Joel says “I’m glad I interrupted you.” Crow adds: “Hey, we’re beginning to annoy ourselves! Cool!”
• Crow mistakenly identifies the kid who starts the fire as Brandon Cruz of “Courtship of Eddie’s Father.” He does look a little like Cruz, but it’s actually another child actor, Steven Chaikelson. He had a very short career (he only has two credits on the IMDB) and with his terrible acting in this movie, you can see why. By the way, the little girl playing his sister Debbie is his real-life sister Janice. Her career was a little longer (but not much).
• You can see that Henry Fonda and Ava Gardner pretty much phoned their parts in. Probably were on the set for a day or two at most.
• It’s almost spring in Minneapolis and it was a balmy 34 degrees when the show started, moving up to 35 later on.
• Coming back from Segment 1, the Barry Newman character is talking about unintelligible symbols and Joel says “sounds like viewer mail.” Wow he’s only started getting mail for a few weeks and he’s already jaded?
• The sound mixing is a little rough in this one: during some of the louder movie scenes it’s hard to hear the riffers.
• After segment 3, Joel again runs down the hallway and is run over by Cambot.
• Servo uses the term “kindler gentler”–a popular phrase in 1989.
• Crow sneezes in the theater.
• Servo mentions the Ghermezian brothers, the owners of Minneapolis’ Mall of America.
• Fave riff: “It’s the creature from the gross lagoon.”
Movie: (1974 TV series; 1987 compilation movie) A trio of young people take refuge in cryogenic capsules during an earthquake, and awaken in a world populated by intelligent apes.
First shown: 4/2/89
Opening: The Mads try to reach Joel, but Crow and Servo give them the runaround
Host segment 1: The bots look for Joel and find his empty uniform in a pod bay. They guess he’s floating in space
Host segment 2: Crow and Servo ponder mutiny as Joel pounds on the door to get back in
Host segment 3: Cambot uses a tape of Joel to fool Crow, but Servo isn’t fooled
End: Joel floats outside the Satellite of Love, as Crow and Servo discuss their new Joel-less life together
Joe’s notes: This is the only MST3K episode that does not feature a human character aboard the Satellite of Love. Joel had to go out of town, so the episode was shot without him; therefore, Servo and Crow watch the movie alone. (Note that Crow sits in Joel’s seat.) Joel still appears in the credits as always, despite the fact that he did not appear in or do any writing for this particular episode.
• For me this one gets dragged down by the film, which is just a big giant carbunkle of a movie. Though it’s much funnier, of course, I’m not a big fan of the season 3 version either.
• This is one of the first episodes that has a continuing plot line running through the host segments.
• As with the previous Sandy Frank movies, we get to see a bit more of the movie that was cut in the season 3 version.
• Local joke: “There was a sale at Knox Lumber.” Knox Lumber was a chain of lumber stores that closed down in 2001.
• Springtime has definitely come to the Twin Cities. It’s a lovely 57 degrees as the show begins later dropping to 56 and to 54 by the end of the show.
• Callback: Servo recalls the episodes when Crow was frozen and served as the SOL’s Christmas tree. Crow is not amused.
• Callback: “That flame is leftover from City On Fire.”
• Both Crow and Servo sneeze in the theater.
• This movie reminds of us of a goof they would make about a decade later. In the introduction to “Deep Ape,” Bobo lists his noble lineage, including Godo. Except, as we know from watching this episode, Godo wasn’t an ape. They could have said “Pepe,” (which is who I think they were thinking of) but I guess that sounds less ape-ey.
• The imdb says the main ape’s name is Gaba, but it is variously pronounced by the actors Gaybor or Gaybar. Either way…not good.
• The guy we see behind the doors in segment 3 is longtime Twin Cities weatherman Barry ZeVan, who is still with us and apparently still “zany.”
• That ending segment is the first time we’ve gotten a look outside the ship, other than in the opening.
• Fave riff: “More gorilla warfare.”
Movie: (1967) A pair of CIA agents are assigned to stop a female supervillain’s plans to take over the world.
First shown: 5/7/89
Opening: Joel gets back inside the ship, only to be mocked by the Mads
Host segment 1: After Joel disciplines Crow and Servo, he finds out where Gypsy has been
Host segment 2: Joel tries to do a courtroom sketch, but Crow and Servo are too busy doing stream-of-consciousness game show riffs
Host segment 3: In answer to Servo’s question, Joel does an acoustic version of the last lines of the theme song, with Servo harmonizing
End: Even though his mouth is broken, Servo gives fan club information
Joe’s notes: Servo only watches the first half of the movie with Joel and Crow, opting instead to “bake muffins.” Presumably Josh had to be somewhere else that day.
Apart from the show’s opening credits, host segment 2 is the last time we see Gypsy in the KTMA era.
• This is, I think, the first time in the series that a plot from a previous set of host segments is picked up immediately in the following show (something they would do again in the season eight story arcs). This prompts them to use the old “Previously…!” bit (which they would parody many years later). Note the use of the “Fugitive Alien” music in the background.
• Trace and Josh are really starting to gel, and this episode’s opening bit is hilarious.
• Joel suggests the show could be around for another “three to 12 weeks.” Turns out it was the former.
• As soon as I saw the name “Sax Romer” in the credits, I immediately detected the stench of o/` Harry Alan Towerrrrrs!!! o/` Yep, the madman who gave us the nightmare that was “Castle of Fu Manchu.” (He was also the producer of “Outlaw.”) And it has very much the fame feel–Sumuru is pretty much a female Fu Manchu. It also feels like they’re using some of the same locations, but I could be imagining things.
• Yes, our star is none other than George Nader of “Robot Monster” and “Human Duplicators.” If your gaydar went off while watching him, it is well tuned. Daddy-O notes: “Nader was a very popular actor in the late 1950s and was about to achieve stardom when a tabloid threatened to expose his gay relationship. With no chance for roles in Hollywood, Nader acted in grade-B films produced in Europe (like this one). Which, as Crow would say, means that in this movie we get several scenes of George REALLY acting. Not that there’s anything wrong with it!
• It’s early May and it’s getting nice out in the Twin Cites. It’s 67 degrees after the first host segment.
• They always did the host segments before the movie, as is referenced in this episode: Servo announces he won’t be staying for second half and Joel asks him to just be present for the host segments. He replies “I wouldn’t miss it. I fee like they’re already done.”
• Wow, this is a terrible pan-and-scan print, which Crow comments on several times.
• As many people have observed. Josh seemed to thrive most in the ad-lib atmosphere of the KTMA era, and Servo’s absence is definitely felt in the second half.
• Then current event reference: “Cold fusion experiments.”
• The characters in the movie break the fourth wall a few times. The worst one is when Frankie says “I wonder if this is where I’m supposed to sing…nah.” Joel calls him on it and Crow keeps bringing it up.
• Fave riff: Where can I get socks like yours? Honorable mention: Oh, they brought their autoharp with them.
Movie: (1980) Government officials try to cover up the crash of an alien spaceship, but two astronauts know the truth.
First shown: 5/14/89
Opening: Joel gives the name of the film, and immediately it’s movie sign!
Host segment 1: Crow, in 2-year-old mode, responds to every comment with “why?” and “so?” Joel is not amused
Host segment 2: Joel and Servo purge Crow’s memory. It’s mostly full of informercials
Host segment 3: Joel shows Crow his first memory, and explains how Crow got his name (but it’s just a practical joke)
End: Joel says the 1,000th fan club member will get a special prize
Joe’s notes: The opening is one the shortest host segments ever, right up there with “Waffles!”
Segments 1 and 3 appears on the MST3K Scrapbook tape.
• Spring has definitely sprung. It was a balmy 76 degrees, then 75, then 73 as the sun set.
• I don’t really have much to say about the movie. It feels like very “Capricorn One”-ish (and that’s not a good thing). The IMDB notes that when it was shown on TV (the same year it came out in theaters!) it was titled “Invasion Force,” and had a different ending from the theatrical version. That new ending is the one we see in this episode. In the original ending, the news report says that everybody was killed when the plane crashes at the end of the movie. In our ending, the report indicates that the people inside the spacecraft were somehow shielded from the explosion and survived.
• In the first half hour, Servo derisively mocks one of Joel’s riffs. The comment is followed by an uncomfortable silence. It feels a little like the kind of thing that probably would be okay in the writing room, but it was a little awkward when he did it on TV.
• Local references: Apache Plaza, River Place. Also, weatherman Barry ZeVan is mentioned again.
• In segment one, after driving Joel crazy with childish questions, Crow asks: “Daddy, what’s Vietnam?” This is a reference to a Time-Life commercial in the ’80s for its “History of the Vietnam War” book series. In the commercial, a man and his son stand before the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. The son looks up, and asks “Daddy, what’s Vietnam?”. At which point, a voiceover somberly intones “A question a child might ask – but not a childish question.”
• Callback: City on fire!
• Segment 2 seems to be a little case of biting the hand that feeds you: a subversive little dig at TV23′s apparent penchant for showing informercials. It should be noted that at this point, in the late spring of 1989, KTMA was already in pretty deep financial trouble. The official bankruptcy filing happened in July, only a couple of months after this show aired. So they probably needed all the informercial revenue they could get.
• It’s interesting that a demon dog pops up in the end segment, with no explanation of what a demon dog is or why it’s there. It appears in the opening theme, but you could be forgiven for never noticing it. Demon dogs would become a plot element in an episode in season one.
• Fave riff: “Mine are more pouty.”
Movie: (1981) In a carless, gasless, oppressive future depopulated by a plague, a disgruntled ex-racecar driver attempts to escape to California with a nerdy kid in tow.
First shown: 5/21/89
Opening: Dr. F. tries to create cold fusion… in Erhardt’s mouth!
Host segment 1: Crow and Servo don’t respond well to their humanity lesson
Host segment 2: Joel announces the 1,000th fan club member
Host segment 3: Servo reads a fan letter
End: Joel reads another, very complimentary, fan letter
Joe’s notes: Trace is trying desperately hard not to laugh during the opening host segment. Watching him struggle is at least as entertaining as the skit itself.
After the opening, we see the doorway sequence and the start of the film, without having first seen J&TB. This is the only time (to the best of my knowledge) in which we see the preliminary theater doorway sequence before we see the crew of the Satellite of Love.
Comin’ down to the end of the KTMA journey here… Completely coincidentally (I didn’t plan it, it just happened), we’ll start season 1 on Thanksgiving Day.
• Trace would reuse the phrase “Here comes the steam shovel, chug-chug-chug” when feeding Tim “the miracle growth baby” Scott in season three. Maybe he remembers it from his childhood?
• Who are “Pons and Fleischmann” and what is all this “cold fusion” business? you young folks may ask. It was a big deal two decades ago.
• In the theater, Servo says “bitch.” Joel is aghast, sort of.
• Movie stuff: Is the plague everybody died from related to there being no gas or cars? Or was no cars or gas just inevitable and the plague was a whole separate thing? The movie never makes it clear.
• Also: They don’t have McDonald’s in this dystopian future??? NOOOO!!!!
• And: Why doesn’t that car have a windshield? Chris and Lee must have been picking bugs out of their teeth.
• Also: Wow, that lady fell into bed with Lee awful quick! Ah, the sexy early 80s.
• Also: Does the pairing of Chris and Lee remind anybody else of Troy and Rowsdower?
• Josh does a silly voice as Burgess Meredith’s plane, Joel likes it.
• Trace seems to have the National Lampoon Radio Hour’s “The Immigrants” sketch on his mind. He makes two references to it!
• Is Gidget Howell out there somewhere?
• Summer is on the way in the Twin Cities. It’s still 80 degrees at 7 in the evening.
• Joel says “Daddy, what’s Vietnam?” again.
• A character mentions “gypsies” and Joel asks “Where IS Gypsy.” Servo shushes him. Hmm.
• A few moments later, the Servo puppet seems to develop problems. Josh covers by telling Joel he’s “lost the equilibrium cycle.” Joel seems to pull the puppet back together.
• Fave riff: Hope nobody pushes that guy’s flush button.
Movie: (1977) A plesiosaur is discovered living in a lake near Mount Fuji, then volcanic activity awakens still more prehistoric creatures.
First shown: 5/28/89
Opening: The Mads come up with clues to support the “Joel is Dead” rumor they want to start. Joel is dubious
Host segment 1: Joel demonstrates the way special effects can be used to make a person look really small
Host segment 2: J&TB put on a sitcom, complete with laugh track, canned applause and pointless catchphrases
Host segment 3: Joel uses his model lizard, which breathes real fire, to demonstrate monster special effects
End: What are you going to do on hiatus?
Joe’s notes: Host segments 1 and 3 were apparently aired in the wrong order: in host segment 1, Joel refers to their “earlier” segment about the dinosaur… it’s pretty obvious he’s referring to host segment 3. Oops.
The model in segment 3 would be re-used as an invention exchange in episode 103- MAD MONSTER.
Segment 2 appears on the MST3K Scrapbook tape.
This was the final KTMA episode, though the last host segment makes it clear that the Brains expected to return to KTMA after a summer break. Fortunately for them (and us), they had a larger destiny in store for them.
• And so we come to the end of our KTMA journey. Next week we will begin Season 1.
• At this juncture I would like to thank Joe Barlow one last time for his dedicated work several years ago, watching all these episodes and giving me a framework to hang this more complete episode guide on. (By the way, Joe is a working freelance writer (his website is here), and recently examiner.com reprinted his thoughtful review of Kevin Murphy’s “A Year at the Movies” from several years ago. You can read it here.)
• And one last thank you/plug to Mike “Cheepnis” Slusher at cheesyflix.com for the terrific set of DVDs that allowed me to make this journey. If you haven’t been watching along with us, and our comments have piqued your interest, I recommend Mike’s DVDs.
• It has been fascinating to watch these and to watch the concept of MST3K grow and coalese. But, as many of you have said, I doubt that I will come back to watch any of these episodes again any time soon.
• It’s both depressing and somehow fitting that the final movie is yet another confusing Sandy Frank outing. It makes you wonder why they came back and did a lot of these movies again. That’s a lot of pain to take.
• This is one of the rougher tapes from the KTMA era, making the viewing experience even more exasperating.
• I want to note again, as I have did earlier: Not once, not a SINGLE TIME in any of these episodes, did anybody EVER use the word “Gizmonic.” Joel once told me that, in the KTMA episodes, The Mads are transmitting from their lab in Gizmonic Institute. And that makes sense. After all, in the next episode, (the first of season one) we learn that The Mads have fled Gizmonic Institute to Deep 13. But now it’s pretty clear that’s a notion that came after the fact.
• All this time, we have listed this movie as Legend of the Dinosaur, when the title card actually reads The “Legend of Dinosaurs” (including those quotation marks). My DVD also calls it by the wrong name. The IMDB, on the other hand, gives its full title in English as The Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds (Kyôryuu: Kaichô no densetsu in Japanese.)
• I wonder where that retouched “Abbey Road” album cover is. That would be a great collector’s item.
• Who is that kid in segment 1? The giant hand in that segment would be used again.
It was a cool evening in the Twin Cities on Memorial Day weekend: 74 degrees, 73 an hour later.
• At one point somebody says: “Watch out for overly sensitive producers!” Huh?
• There’s a very strange moment in the riffing, when Joel says, “Finish the job, man! Open the tank!” Then he seems to realize that he’s said something wrong. He tries to correct it. He gets as far as “I meant to say ‘Open the…’ ” before all three riffers collapse into laughter. I have no idea why.
• In this episode we get our first set of renaissance fair jokes, including a “huzzah!” They would return in season three’s “Pod People” and then become a running gag throughout the series.
• Fave riff: Servo: “YBS?” Joel: “People seem to accept it!”