Satellite News - The Almost But Not Quite Complete History of MST3K - Epilogue


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Part 17: An Endless Chase (1997)

Welcome to the remodeled Satellite of Love

On February 1st, 1997, the first episode of the Sci-Fi Channel era debuted, and from the outset it was clear that this series had reinvented itself once again. While the new theme song, like the previous ones, began with the words "In the not-too-distant future," season eight actually started in the much-more-distant future.

As the new season opened, Mike and the bots re-appeared on the bridge, drawn back to the Satellite of Love by some unknown force. All except Crow. The rest of the SOL crew, upon their arrival, found that Crow was already there. He explained that he quickly grew bored of being pure spirit and returned to the SOL, where he had lived quietly for hundreds of years. During that time he redecorated the ship, while his voice changed -- and, to some extent, his personality.

But Mike, Tom Servo and Gypsy had no time to puzzle over the strange changes in Crow, because a crisis immediately overtook them all: The ship was about to crash into a strange planet. On closer examination, they realized the planet was Earth. In desperation, Mike pulled an emergency brake which stopped the ship, but also crippled it. Some help in repairing the ship might come, Crow explained, from the Nanites: tiny, microscopic robotic life forms which had infested the ship during their absence.

That idea was surprising enough, but even more surprising was what Mike and the bots learned when they tried to contact Deep 13: It was gone and in its place was a lab (dubbed "Deep Ape" by the cast, though it was never called that on the air) run by intelligent apes (a la Planet of the Apes), and that on Earth it was the year 2525. In charge of the lab was a Professor Bobo (played by Kevin Murphy, nearly suffocating inside elaborate ape makeup), but even he answered to a higher authority: The Lawgiver.

The Lawgiver was finally revealed to be none other than Dr. Forrester's mom, Pearl (again played by Mary Jo Pehl), who had been cryogenically frozen, and later thawed out by the apes. Just as mean as ever, she told Mike she was determined to carry on her son's movie-watching experiment.

In episode 803- THE MOLE PEOPLE, the series marked another milestone: It's first honest-to-goodness guest star. Chiseled Minnesota Vikings running back Robert Smith, who had been a fan of the series since his college days, appeared briefly as a "present" for Pearl.

A few episodes later, Mike and the Bots were horrified to see that the apes were happily assisting their neighbors, a nuclear bomb-worshiping cult of mutants, in their efforts to set off a nuclear device. Thanks to some well-meaning but boneheaded advice from Mike, they succeeded. Some quick repair work from the Nanites allowed the Satellite of Love to escape Earth orbit just seconds before Earth was destroyed. It looked as if Pearl had perished in the explosion--but the rumors of her death were greatly exaggerated. She escaped in The Widowmaker, a spaceship shaped like a Volkswagen microbus, and soon discovered that Professor Bobo had stowed away aboard her ship as well. Undaunted by the Earth's destruction and with Bobo as her new sidekick, she continued sending bad movies to Mike and the bots as she chased them across time and space.

In the next episode, the SOL was captured by The Observers: omniscient, super-intelligent beings who carry their brains around in little dishes. They also captured Pearl and Bobo, and were "observing" Pearl's experiment as a prelude, they said, to dissecting them. (The Observers also hijacked the "stingers" that normally appear at the end of each episode.)

Early in the season, Sci-Fi Channel officials responded quickly to complaints by viewers and moved its logo from the lower right hand side of the screen (where it was obscuring Crow in the theater) to the lower left. This was the only series on the network where this is being done, and again it gave many fans the impression that somebody as the channel was listening, and cared. By mid-year, the 4 p.m. Saturday showing had moved to 5 p.m.

The Sci-Fi Channel ran seven new episodes in seven weeks, more MST3K in such a short period of time than fans had had for years. And while not all former fans were happy about the new incarnation of MST3K, the Sci-Fi Channel reported strong and growing ratings and BBI reported a huge surge in requests to join the Info Club.

But the surge in new Info Club memberships had another result: the demise of the bi-annual Satellite News newsletter. In May, BBI announced that the newsletter had been discontinued. The crush of new Info Club members had made printing and mailing out the free newsletter (which BBI had to pay for out of its limited funds) prohibitively expensive. In its place, BBI had recruited two longtime fans, who had previously maintained a MST3K fan site, and gave them permission to create a Satellite News web site.

Buoyed by the ratings and the positive feedback from fans, Sci-Fi announced that, in addition to the 13 initial episodes it had ordered, it would pick up the "back nine" option in the contract and pay for BBI to produce a total of 22 episodes in season eight.

The first few episodes of the season featured mostly black and white 1950s Universal monster movies, but by mid-season, as BBI and Sci-Fi officials became more comfortable with one another, their movie choices began to broaden. The abominable THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED UP ZOMBIES was a highlight, as was the incomprehensible JACK FROST.

After spending several episodes being observed, Mike asked the Nanites for help in rescuing Pearl and Bobo, and the Nanites obliged by cheerfully blowing up The Observers' planet. Pearl and Bobo escaped--and soon discovered that an Observer (played by Bill Corbett) had stowed away as well. Now with two sidekicks, Pearl continued her pursuit of the SOL.

They next visited what was simply called the "camping planet," where they encountered several strange races, including all-powerful space children. Finally, under attack by killer robots, Pearl, Bobo and Observer needed rescuing again. Pearl begged for air cover, and Mike responded by concocting a baking soda bomb. But an overzealous Mike used a bit too much baking soda, and--you guessed it--blew up yet another planet. Pearl, Bobo and Observer barely escaped once again.

In a following episode, Mike was put on trial by a galactic court for blowing up all those planets. Despite having Bobo as his defense attorney, Mike was victorious and was allowed to return to the SOL.

| Welcome! | 1984-87 | 1988 | 1988-89 | 1989-90 | 1990-91 |
1991-92 | 1992-93 | 1993, part 1 | 1993, part 2 | 1994, part 1 |
1994, part 2 | 1995, part 1 | 1995, part 2 | 1996, part 1 |
1996, part 2 | 1996-97 | 1997 | 1997-98 | 1999 | 2000 | Epilogue |