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SCI FI ARCHIVES


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

MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000
THE UNOFFICIAL EPISODE GUIDE


SEASON TWO: 1990-1991

Featuring the comments and observations of Chris "Sampo" Cornell.

201- ROCKETSHIP X-M

First shown: 9/22/90.
Opening: New look for the SOL; Crow has a toothache.
Invention exchange: Tom's new voice, introducing TV's Frank, the BGC-19.
Host segment 1: Salute to the reporters of Rocketship X-M.
Host segment 2: Zero gravity humor lesson.
Host segment 3: "What's your dream?"; Valeria from "Robot Holocaust" on the Hexfield.
End: J&TB disapprove of the movie, letter, Frank learns to push the button.

Comments and observations:

  • And so, with the words "Turn down your light--where applicable" the modern era of MST3K begins.
  • Kevin Murphy 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 eight seasons.
  • The set is, of course, a massive re-think, its walls plastered with every weird piece of junk you can imagine--along with the the addition of the hexfield viewscreen and that strange floor-level hatch which is revealed later to be Joel's entrance to the "spiral on down" which supposedly 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 when Joel demonstrates the BCG19.
  • Meanwhile in Deep 13, we celebrate the arrival of Frank Conniff as the world's most downtrodden lab assistant. Also being introduced, are "Jerry and Sylvia," the mole people. Despite their appearance here, Dr. F. is still seen controlling the camera in Deep 13 via a button on the techtronic panel.
  • But we see one holdover from season one: Joel has movie sign alone and arrives in the theater with Tom and Crow already there waiting for him.
  • The lovely lyrics to the Rocketship XM theme are a wonderful moment. It will not be the last time we get new lyrics to an insipid theme.
  • The first host segment is very well written--almost overwritten for this show--but why is Joel reading the 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--all the more special because it gives the viewer a small primer of the MST3K sensibility and worldview. From The Flying Nun to Gallagher, the viewer gets a wonderful look into the Best Brains view of what 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.
  • The third segment includes two--count 'em--references to season 1: Tom's observation "Dames like this always got beer around" is a line from The Crawling Hand (episode 106). And the series' first Hexfield Viewscreen visitor (Mike Nelson, in his first on-camera appearance) is somewhat lame impression of evil vixen Valeria from Robot Holocaust (episode 110). I can only wonder what folks who had not seen that episode thought of that segment. I just imagine them saying to themselves: "The hell?"
  • The Hexfield Viewscreen is obviously still in development--its opening appears to be a window shade, and then Mike just switches off the light at the end--but we can still see him!
  • A look at the credits indicates the completion of 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.
  • Favorite riff: "I thought 'wormfood' was a bit strong, Lloyd."

202- THE SIDEHACKERS

First shown: 9/29/90.
Opening: Wash day on the SOL.
Invention exchange: Joel's pet slinky, Dr. F.'s slinky body.
Host segment 1: Song: "Sidehackin'."
Host segment 2: Terminology for the sport of sidehacking.
Host segment 3: J&TB have Rommel hats; JC and Gooch on the Hexfield.
End: Song: "Only Love Pads the Film," letters, Frank "will" push the button.

Comments and observations:

  • Jerry and/or Sylvia take over the camera work in Deep 13 with this episode: Hence Dr. F. being out of focus when we go to Deep 13 during the invention exchange.
  • Cambot makes a rare movie riff: a sarcastic ESPN-like readout.
  • In the third segment, Mike (making his second Hexfield Viewscreen appearance), as J.C. from the movie, is much better than he was in his curious appearance as Valeria--but Frank seems utterly lost as Gooch.
  • Not one, but TWO songs in this episode, the beginning a long series of musical moments in the SOL.
  • That, of course, is not a real keyboard Joel is "playing" in the final segment--and the real keyboard work, as always, is being done by Mike. That said, Joel's performance in "Only Love Pads the Film" is marvelous.
  • Favorite riff: "Even these oil fields seem to remind me of her. Can't put my finger on it..."

203- JUNGLE GODDESS
with short: "THE PHANTOM CREEPS"--EPISODE 1

First shown: 10/6/90.
Opening: J&TB are playing hide and seek with the universe.
Invention exchange: Radio controlled circular saw, Dr. F.'s head is fused to a sax.
Host segment 1: The "Bela's OK Discoveries" infomercial.
Host segment 2: Binocular matte ("Gobos") lesson.
Host segment 3: Two White Devils on the Hexfield.
End: "My White Goddess," letters, Frank mimicks Dr. F.

Comments and observations:

  • I'm not a big fan of this episode. I think all the host segments are weak--particularly the "Bela's OK Discoveries" bit. For those who don't understand that segment, a bit of context: Infomercials were brand new back then and I guess the Brains thought they'd parody them. But I think the sketch has nothing clever or original to say about infomercials, and goes on about two minutes too long.
  • Noteworthy: Something of a surprise is the brief return to Deep 13 as the first host segment ends. They seldom felt the need to return to introduce the main feature.
  • Also noteworthy: Jim Mallon's first on-camera appearance, in the third host segment. Of course, that's Mike along with him as a fellow white devil.
  • The Hexfield ViewScreen has undergone further refinement--now the window shade is on the bottom.
  • I think the reason they chose "Phantom Creeps" is so that Joel, Trace and Kevin could do their Bela impressions--they all seem quite proud of them.
  • Favorite riff: "She thinks we speak English!"

204- CATALINA CAPER

First shown: 10/13/90.
Opening: The bots say their prayers.
Invention exchange: Tank tops, tickle bazooka.
Host segment 1: Joel vapor-locks as he remembers the '60s.
Host segment 2: Song: "Creepy Girl."
Host segment 3: TV's Frank has a Tupperware party.
End: Charting the film, letter.

Comments and observations:

  • The movie is a real departure for BBI--a movie that was actually trying to be funny. While the movie was not very often successful as a comedy, in their riffing the Brains nonetheless struggled with the inherent difficulty in riffing an intentional comedy.
  • Joel has a memorable turn in segment one as he drifts off into a reverie about the '60s. The comment "People smoked openly on the Tonight Show" is a gem.
  • Kevin really takes off in segment two with the marvelous song "Creepy Girl." "C is for that feeling of uncertainty...!"
  • Unfortunately, segment three, with Frank giving a Tupperware party, is another example, for those who contend that the Brains could do no wrong in those early days, of a sketch that starts nowhere and just drags on getting lamer and lamer. Not a lot better is the ending segment--while the notion of charting the film using Sid Field's famous formula is amusing, the bit goes on too long for the unsatisfying payoff: "It's the emotional Tootsie center of the film!"
  • This episode would become infamous--and copies of it became collectors items--a few years later, when the rights to the movie expired and Comedy Central found they could no longer legally air it.
  • Fave riff: "Hey, its Gloria Estefan and the Catalina Deus Ex Sound Machina!"

205- ROCKET ATTACK USA
with short: "THE PHANTOM CREEPS"-- EPISODE 2

First shown: 10/27/90.
Opening: Tom gets "haircut."
Invention exchange: Candy adding machine, water-polo foosball.
Host segment 1: The Charlie McCarthey hearings.
Host segment 2: Nuclear quiz show.
Host segment 3: Joel's Russian counterpart on the Hexfield.
End: J&TB upset about the movie, letter, the Mads are happy.
Stinger: "Help me!"

Comments and observations:

  • A couple of firsts in this ep: BBI was a bit bugged by how much of the screen Tom Servo's head was covering, so they installed a skinnier version of the Executive Snack Dispenser and announced that Tom had received a "haircut." The experiment would only last a few episodes.
  • The episode ends with the first ever "stinger"--a short snippet, usually the oddest moment, from the film. It's a practice they would continue for the rest of the series.
  • Another first--they've finally ironed out how the Hexfield ViewScreen works, dispensing with that high-tech window shade technology.
  • I didn't notice until I got to the Conventio-con and saw the prop close up that all the figures in the water-polo foosball game were tiny Dr. Forresters and Franks.
  • The short in this episode has a character say, "the driver is gone or he's hiding" in a very Ronald Reagan-like voice. Crow's response was to do his best Reagan impression and say "Welcome to Death Valley Days." For several seasons thereafter, whenever Ronald Reagan needed to be invoked, somebody (usually Crow) would do Reagan and say, "The driver is either missing or he's gone" or some such line. They did this so much that some fans began to believe that Reagan actually said something like this and that this was a direct reference to Reagan. He didn't. It wasn't. It was a reference to this moment in this short, where they reminded of Reagan.
  • Something else I never noticed before: Watch Joel as he carries Tom into the theater after the first host segment--you can see the silhouette of the stick attached to Tom as he hands it to Kevin, first of all. And secondly, Kevin apparently misses the handoff and Tom flops over.
  • An excellent episode: three great host segments (the Charlie McCarthy hearings segment and the civil defense quiz show bits are typical of the long, densely written, almost overwritten, host segments of this period, and Mike is at his goofy, unassuming best as Joel's Russian counterpart) and VERY strong riffing.
  • Favorite riff: "That's why we've GOT TO CRUSH THEM!"

206- THE RING OF TERROR
with short: "THE PHANTOM CREEPS"--EPISODE 3

First shown: 11/3/90.
Opening: The bots trick Joel.
Invention exchange: Life-size "Operation" game, pin-bolus.
Host segment 1: The Old School.
Host segment 2: Autopsy of Mr. Hoover.
Host segment 3: Good thing/bad thing; the Mads send a short!
End: Blindsided by the short; Song: "If Chauffeur's Ruled the World."
Stinger: "Weird. I guess that is the word for it. Weird."

Comments and observations:

  • Joel's jumpsuit is green!
  • Tom Servo still has his alternate head.
  • In the opening we actually see Joel jump into the hatch that we assume leads to the "spiral on down."
  • The "bonk!-Thank You!" bit in Deep 13 is a direct reference to Firesign Theater. It's clear the Brains are fans of these seminal new-generation comedians. And for you members of the Church of the Subgenius, the Rev. Bob Dobson is also mentioned.
  • The second host segment is very funny--but NOT to be watched while or immediately after eating!
  • The third segment features the final "Give me a good thing and a bad thing for ram chips" bit that was a fixture of the first season.
  • This is the only episode in which the short FOLLOWS the feature, necessitating an unusual return to Deep 13 in mid-episode.
  • And this is also the final episode we will get of "The Phantom Creeps." We'll never know how it comes out!
  • One note about the short: The spy ring is based in an office disguised as an "International School of Languages"--which was also where the spy ring was hiding in episode 109- Project Moonbase! Those language teachers can't be trusted, I guess!
  • Frank really comes into his own with his first song, the memorable "If Chauffers Ruled the World" (featuring the classic Dr. F. line "Oh, push the button, Judy Garland!") saving what is generally a lesser episode.
  • Favorite riff: "Hey, that's where Fred Mertz dropped dead."

207- WILD REBELS

First shown: 11/17/90.
Opening: Gypsy is depressed, so Joel shuts down the SOL.
Invention exchange: Gypsy is feeling better; hobby hogs, 3-D pizza.
Host segment 1: Intellectual bikers.
Host segment 2: Wild Rebels cereal commercial.
Host segment 3: Joel serenades Gypsy.
End: J&TB party, letter, Dr. F. is baffled (and Frank is no help).
Stinger: None.

Comments and observations:

  • Joel, still in a green jumpsuit, is now sporting a cheesy goatee.
  • The team explains Gypsy's role on the SOL in the opening segment, a bit that came in response to fan questions about her. I never noticed before that he actually turns a little knob on the back of Gypsy's head in order to turn off the "higher functions."
  • Another interesting note in that segment: Joel twice actually calls the theater the "Mystery Science Theater"--the first and last time he would do that.
  • Gypsy's second appearance in the theater (her first was in episode 112- Untamed Youth) comes about ten minutes into the movie when somebody mentions "Voyage to the Bottom of Sea."
  • The "intellectual bikers" bit is another intensely written, almost overwritten, sketch (including the great line, "Everyone thought Joseph Campbell was tough, but that was just a myth").
  • For some reason, this episode has no stinger--the last episode with no stinter until the brief stinger hiatus in season eight. Maybe they just forgot.

208- LOST CONTINENT

First shown: 11/24/90
Opening: Coach Joel gives a locker room pep talk.
Invention exchange: Exercise machines.
Host segment 1: Hugh Beaumont on the Hexfield.
Host segment 2: "The Explorers" sketch bogs down.
Host segment 3: J&TB see The Cool Thing.
End: Analyzing the movie, letter.
Stinger: "Well, thanks for straightening the whole thing out..."

Comments and observations:

  • Joel is still in a green jumpsuit, still sporting a cheesy goatee.
  • An infamous episode featuring the mind-bloating "rock climbing" sequence.
  • This episode so moved one internet fan that he created a "rock climbing FAQ (frequently asked questions) file" that analyzed the "rock climbing" phenomenon within an inch of its life.
  • During this period, Joel and bots' response to the movie was seen in a very black and white way--either Dr. F "won" or Joel and the bots did. They never made this more explicit than in the opening segment.
  • Host segment 2 is probably a natural outgrowth of the "white male reality" movies they had been watching, but as Crow points out, it gets a bit preachy.
  • Favorite riff: "Still talking to stuff, monkey boy?"

209- THE HELLCATS

First shown: 12/8/90.
Opening: J&TB have colds.
Invention exchange: Sign language translator, "NOOOO!"
Host segment 1: Tom's flashback: J&TB do Shatner with the crawling hand (from #106).
Host segment 2: Crow's flashback: Zero gravity humor lesson (from #201).
Host segment 3: Joel's flashback: Binocular matte lesson (from #203).
End: Gypsy's diary entry, letter, all get emotional (even the Mads).
Stinger: Trumpeter makes unintelligible comment and is dunked.

Comments and observations:

  • In the ACEG, it is explained that most of the staff was out of town for the writing of this episode, and boy does it show.
  • There's virtually no dialog during the opening. Weird.
  • The Mads, still enjoying the "hobby hogs" from the previous episode, offer no invention.
  • The rest of the segments are just recycled bits from previous shows--and the Shatner bit isn't really that good. The riffing has its moments, but the movie is so tedious (and so poorly dubbed) it doesn't give them much to work with. All in all, a very forgettable episode, probably the least enjoyable of season two, maybe of the entire series.
  • Favorite riff: "Ross...you're wearing her purse on your head!"

210- KING DINOSAUR
with short: "X MARKS THE SPOT"

First shown: 12/22/90.
Opening: Beat poetry.
Invention exchange: Crushed Dr. F. is the pocket scientist, incredibly stinky sweat socks.
Host segment 1: Crow asks "Am I qualified?"
Host segment 2: Joey the lemur.
Host segment 3: The "Emotional Scientist" sketch collapses.
End: Robert Lippert's movies, the theramin, letter.
Stinger: Gator wrestling aftermath.

Comments and observations:

  • Joel's goatee is gone--but Crow and Tom are wearing them in the opening bit.
  • Does anyone know whose poem Joel is reading in the opening?
  • Once again, Joel seems to have run out of ideas in terms of inventions...still, as is typical of this show they have made a asset out of the liability, both the pocket scientist sketch and the incredibly stinky sweatsocks bit are funny, even if they aren't really inventions.
  • Crow's inspirational speech, including the brilliant, immortal words "Crush someone with an emotional word or an enigmatic look," is one of the funniest segments of the season.
  • Segment two is the infamous "Joey the Lemur" bit, probably one of the oddest sketches of the entire series. Now, I like the "handmade" look of the show as much as the next guy, but Joel continuously and repeatedly blowing his lines here adds nothing to the humor or the charm, in my opinion. It seems to me that the parody of this sketch in season six is entirely deserved.
  • But when it comes to strange sketches, segment three "The emotional scientist" is beyond strange... but on the other hand, it's nice to see Joel and the 'bots facing their problems and resolving them...sheesh, I sound like Leo Buscaglia!
  • Favorite riff: "There is a margin for shame, however."

211- FIRST SPACESHIP ON VENUS

First shown: 12/29/90.
Opening: Adjusting Servo's sarcasm sequencer.
Invention exchange: Junk drawers.
Host segment 1: Crow and Tom make a robot that speaks in foam.
Host segment 2: Tom soothes a gorilla on the Hexfield.
Host segment 3: Klack commercial.
End: Discussing the film (Tom's head explodes), letters & Dr. F. is sick.
Stinger: Alphabet people wave good-bye.

Comments and observations:

  • The classic "sarcasm sequencer" bit is among the most well-remembered of the series--and features yet another dig at Best Brains' least favorite comic, Gallagher.
  • A reference to "Roseanne singing the National Anthem" in this episode demonstrates the danger of topical humor. How many people even remember that incident? Worse yet is a reference to the Ha! Channel, which was already gone by the time the episode aired.
  • Host segment two, while generally lame, is highlighted by the golden Irish tenor voice of Kevin Murphy.
  • This episode also features one of THE most obscure references ever: Crow's "...strange figgahs, weird figgahs..." is an homage to a moment in The Marx Brothers film "Animal Crackers."
  • Host segment three's clever parody of the equally nauseating commercials often featured on TV's Kraft Holiday Playhouse, is hilarious but a little tough on the gag reflexes.
  • Favorite riff: "Any interest I had for them getting safely off the planet has been completely erased by a miasma of boring technical stuff!"

212- GODZILLA VS. MEGALON

First shown: 1/19/91.
Opening: J&TB host a morning magazine show.
Invention exchange: Easy-to-make Halloween costumes.
Host segment 1: Crow and Tom describe their monsters.
Host segment 2: "Rex Dart, Eskimo Spy."
Host segment 3: Dysfunctional popcorn commercial.
End: Joel gives Crow and Tom new arms, the Jet Jaguar fight song is translated, the Mads are playing video games.
Stinger: Godzilla takes the plunge.

Comments and observations:

  • This, for me, remains one of the top five episodes in the history of the series, and certainly the highlight of season two. Very strong host segments, very witty riffing and a reasonably watchable movie with plenty to riff on. Also our first taste of the many Japanese movies to come next season.
  • Joel's half of the "easy-to-make Halloween costumes" invention exchange is straight from his standup act.
  • Not really made clear in the host segment 1 is precisely what Tom and Crow are looking at that they don't want Joel to see. Could it be naughty pictures?
  • Host segment 2 is one of those bits that seem so intensely private that I think only the Brains really understood fully what its point was. There really is no connection to the movie, despite the clever reuse of footage from it. No derivation of the name "Rex Dart" is provided, nor are we told why he is an "eskimo spy." We are left to presume that they decided the movie's hero looked vaguely Eskimo-ish. Still, for all its obscurity and vagueness, it's quite an wacky little bit.
  • Host segment 3 is a brilliant piece of work, but is now somewhat dated with passing of Orville Reddenbacher and consequent end of the TV spots featuring him and his dorky grandson. Interestingly, I think the sketch was somewhat prescient. With his Orville's death, the younger Reddenbacher has indeed disappeared into the night.
  • The end segment features the gaspingly funny English translation of "Jet Jaguar Fight Song." "Don't touch my bags if you please, Mr. Customs Man" is a lyric from an old Arlo Guthrie song. Its relevance to Jet Jaguar still escape me, but at that point I'm generally laughing so hard that I don't care.
  • The final bit in Deep 13 points up BBI's growing love of video and computer gaming, which only got more intense as time went on.
  • Favorite riff: "He's got a tree! He's got a tree! This isn't the Godzilla we know!"

213- GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER

First shown: 2/2/91
Opening: Joel reads the Velveteen Rabbit and does all the voices
Invention exchange: Mind controlled guitar, doggie chew toy guitars
Host segment 1: Song: "The Godzilla Genealogy Bop"
Host segment 2: Joel succumbs to space madness
Host segment 3: Despite Joel's warning, Crow and Tom spoof the Mothra twins, only to meet Mothra on the Hexfield!
End: Famous sayings actors didn't say, some "Cool Thing contest " entries, the Mads consider a corporate re-think
Stinger: Everyone bows down before Mothra!

Comments and observations:

  • Anything but a home run episode would have been a let-down after the previous one, but this episode is a big letdown, and a somewhat lackluster end to season two. Still, it has its moments.
  • One of them is an extremely obscure and high-brow riff: As the dancers perform, Crow makes a reference to Anna Kisselgoff, who is (or was) the dance critic for The New York Times.
  • Just for the record, what Joel is reading in the opening segment is nothing even remotely like the real "Velveteen Rabbit."
  • Joel actually sort of *acts* during segment two, in which his character goes space mad and begins building a series of strange models. It's worth noting, because he doesn't generally do that (act, that is).
  • At the end of the sketch, Joel even makes an oblique reference to Ayn Rand. Even DISCUSSING Rand's controversial worldview, like Robert Heinlein's, is dangerous and almost guaranteed to spark a flamewar in any usenet newsgroup, and apparently Joel's mention caused a pretty heated exchange in some of the early online communities. Some of my earliest memories of getting online and finding online MSTies, in early 1992, are of people warning newcomers NOT to even BRING UP mention Rand or Heinlein, because of what happened.
  • Favorite riff: "It's the Mothra Graham Dance Troupe."