Q: What is Mystery
Science Theater 3000?
A: It is a unique and widely influential comedy
Q: What is its broadcast
A: It first aired as a local program
a local UHF station (NOT, as is sometimes reported, a
cable-access channel) in the Twin Cities (Minneapols-St.
Paul, Minn.) area from November, 1988 to May, 1989. From
November, 1989, to December, 1996, it was shown in the
United States on the Comedy Central (hereafter
abbreviated as CC) cable TV network (and its
forebearer, The Comedy Channel). It then moved
the Sci-Fi Channel cable network, where new
episodes began running in the U.S. in February, 1997.
Its series finale debuted on August 8, 1999. The last
first-run episode on the Sci-Fi Channel ran
September 12, 1999. Reruns of its final three seasons
continued for several years on the Sci-Fi
Channel, but ceased at the end of January, 2004.
Thirteen years went by. Then, series creator Joel
Hodgson held what was, at the time, the most successful
Kickstarter fundraising campaign for an entertainment
entity ever. The result was season 11 (14 episodes
streaming on Netflix), which debuted in April 2017.
Another six-episode season debuted on Netflix in
November of 2018. On Nov. 26, Hodgson announced that
there would be no more new episodes on Netflix but
insisted the series would find a new home.
it only seen on televsion in the U.S.?
A: No. From
January 1998 to September 2000, some episodes from the
show's eighth and ninth seasons ran in England (and some
sections of northern Europe and Southern Africa) on a
channel called Sci*fi.
Q: Did it ever win any
A: The series won the prestigious Peabody
Award in 1993; it was nominated for eight CableAce
awards over six years (but did not win), and
nominated twice for an Emmy (but did not win).
Nominations for more
Q: What was it about?
A: Although the details of its premise changed
radically over the years, Mystery Science Theater 3000 was
really always about one thing: making fun of bad movies.
Initially, the main character was Joel Robinson, a
janitor at a top-secret research facility, Gizmonic Institute, who
had been marooned on an orbiting space ship called
the Satellite of
Love (hereafter abbreviated as SOL) by two
evil scientists, Dr.
Clayton Forrester (hereafter called Dr. F.)
and Dr. Laurence
Erhardt. At first operating from within
Gizmonic Institute itself, and later from a cave-like
underground hideout called Deep 13, Forrester
and Erhardt had an evil plan: They would force Robinson
to watch one bad movie after another, in order to study
how he would cope with such torture. Joel's only
companions on the spaceship were four robots (often
referred to collectively as "the bots") which he'd built
himself: Crow, Tom Servo, Gypsy and a
camera robot named Cambot,
through whose mechanical eye we see the proceedings.
While Gypsy attended to the details of running the SOL,
Crow and Tom joined Joel in the ship's screening
room, the Mystery Science Theater, as he watched the
movies that were sent to him by the mad scientists.
Over time, as performers departed and others were
brought in to replace them, there were changes in the
characters and the premise. In the CC-era episodes, Dr.
Erhardt went "missing" and Dr. F. hired goofy lab
Frank. In the middle of the fifth season on CC,
Joel managed to escape the SOL and was replaced, as Dr.
F.'s guinea pig, by unsuspecting temp Mike Nelson. In
the final season on CC, Frank was "assumed
into second banana heaven" and Pearl
Forrester, Dr. F.'s domineering mother, moved into
Deep 13. In the final episode of that season, all the
characters (except Pearl) were mystically transmuted.
When the series debuted on The Sci-Fi Channel
(before it was renamed SYFY), Pearl was in
charge, continuing to send Mike bad
movies. Pearl acquired two sidekicks: a
refugee from The Planet of the Apes named Professor Bobo and
an omniscient superbeing (whose brain resides outside
his skull in a small dish) known as Observer (but
who was often called Brain Guy). (By this time, the entire
original cast had been replaced with new performers.)
During that season, the SOL left Earth orbit and Mike and the bots
visited a series of planets, with Pearl and
her crew in a small space ship chasing them through
space and, later, time. For the final two seasons of the
series on Sci-Fi, Pearl and her crew made
their way back to present-day Earth, and settled at
Pearl's ancestral home, Castle Forrester, while Mike and the bots
again orbited overhead.
In the Netflix seasons, the new subject of the
movie-watching experiments was the resourceful Gizmonics
employee Jonah Heston.
Providing the torture was Dr. F’s daughter, Kinga Forrester.
With her in a lab on the dark side of the moon were her
assistant Max (aka TV’s Son of TV’s Frank) and
many minions called “boneheads,”
and an in-house band called The Skelton Crew.
In addition, two new robots were introduced: M. Waverly and Growler.
But despite the many changes in the series, essentially
the same thing happens in each episode: After some brief
F./Pearl/Kinga sends Joel/Mike/Jonah the
movie and in response Joel/Mike/Jonah and the
bots yell "Movie Sign!"
and then rush to their places in the theater as we, the
viewers, see Cambot's
path through several strange hatchways to his place in
the back of the theater. There, Cambot watches
and the bots take their seats. We can see their
silhouettes, sitting in theater seats, at the bottom of
our TV screens and, as they watch the movie, the three
offered riotously funny commentary, satire and general
The comments from Joel/Mike/Jonah
and the bots, about 700 per episode, are the
real heart and point of the show. The comments vary a
great deal, from scatological silliness and sarcastic
needling one moment, to complex wordplay and obscure
references the next.
In its TV years, the show ran two hours, enough time to
show an entire horrible movie and sometimes a terrible
one-reeler, as well. In the Netflix era, there are no
commercials, so typical episodes run about 90 minutes.
And three times (during KTMA through season 11, twice
during season 12) during the movie, Joel/Mike/Jonah and
the bots came out of the theater to the SOL's bridge for
short comedy bits known as host segments --
tomfoolery which may or may not have had some connection
to the film they were watching.
Q: Who was responsible for
A: During its TV years, the series was produced
by Best Brains
Inc. (hereafter abbreviated as BBI), a
production company based in suburban Minneapolis. During
its Netflix years, the main production company is Satellite of Love LLC,
based in Los Angeles.
Q: What does "MST3K" mean?
A: That's what fans call the show for short: MST
stands for Mystery Science Theater, and 3K is
the abbreviation for 3000.
Q: Who played what on the
A: In alphabetical order:
- Trace Beaulieu played Dr.
Clayton Forrester and provided the voice and
puppetry for Crow T. Robot from the earliest
KTMA days through the end of season seven.
- Patrick Brantseg
provided the voice and puppetry for Gypsy from
episode 815 through episode 1013.
- Frank Conniff played TV's
- Bill Corbett played Observer
(aka Brain Guy) and provided the voice and
puppetry for Crow T. Robot in seasons eight
- Joel Hodgson played Joel
- Jim Mallon supplied the
voice and puppetry for Gypsy from episode 101
through episode 814.
- Kevin Murphy played Professor
Bobo and provided the voice and puppetry for Tom
Servo in seasons two through ten.
- Michael J. Nelson played
- Mary Jo Pehl played Mrs.
- Josh Weinstein played Dr.
Laurence Erhardt and provided the voice and
puppetry for Tom Servo in the KTMA episodes
and during the first national season; he also supplied
the voice and puppetry for Gypsy during the
During the Netflix years:
- Joel Hodgson plays Ardy.
- Jonah Ray plays
- Hampton Yount provides
the voice of Crow
- Baron Vaughn provides
the voice of Tom Servo
- Rebecca Hanson provides
the voice of Gypsy
- Felicia Day plays
- Patton Oswalt plays
- Grant Bacioccio provides
the voice of MWaverly
- Russ Walko provides the
voice of Growler
Note: Yount, Vaughn and Hanson do
not provide puppetry.
Q: How many episodes were
A: It all depends on how you count them! Here's a
- 1988-89--Season "Zero" (only
seen on Minneapolis UHF station KTMA): 21 episodes
(22, if you count the short pilot episode, which did
not include a full movie and was never shown on TV.)
- 1989-90--Season One (The Comedy
Channel): 13 episodes.
- 1990-91--Season Two (The Comedy
Channel/Comedy Central): 13 episodes.
(The Comedy Channel merged with its rival Ha! to
become Comedy Central during this season).
- 1991-92--Season Three (Comedy
Central): 24 episodes.
- 1992-93--Season Four (Comedy
Central): 24 episodes.
- 1993-94--Season Five (Comedy
Central): 24 episodes.
- 1994-95--Season Six (Comedy
Central): 24 episodes.
- 1995-96--Season Seven (Comedy
Central): 6 episodes (7, if you count the special
Turkey Day version of episode 701, which had the same
movie theater sequences but a different set of host
- 1997--Season Eight (The Sci-Fi
Channel) 22 episodes.
- 1998--Season Nine (The Sci-Fi
Channel) 13 episodes.
- 1999--Season Ten (The Sci-Fi
Channel) 13 episodes.
- 2017—Season 11 (Netflix) 14
- 2018—Seasion 12 (Netflix) 6
Totals: 198 full, televised
episodes, including KTMA (we do not include the unaired
KTMA pilot, but we do include the alternate version of
episode 701). Add in 20 Netflix episodes and you have a
total of 218 episodes.
This total also does not include the live riffing of
"World Without End" presented in Minneapolis in 1992,
the live riffing of "This Island Earth" presented three
times in Minneapolis in 1994, two national tours in 2018
and 2019 in dozens of American cities or "Mystery Science
Theater 3000: The Movie."
Q: Are there episode
A: A list of episode titles is included
with this FAQ. A more comprehensive episode
guide is available on this site.
Yes, there are other episode guides. Foremost among them
is the Amazing
Colossal Episode Guide, written by the Comedy
Central era cast. It was published by Bantam Books. It
covers all the national episodes through season six and
briefly previews season seven. For a complete look at
season seven, written by the cast, is at
When the series moved to the Sci-Fi Channel in season
eight, the cast continued examining each episode in a
similar way, on the Sci-Fi Channel's Web site. The text
of those episode guide pages are now hosted
by Satellite News.
ABOUT THIS FAQ | THE BASICS | LYRICS | COMEDY CENTRAL | THE SCI-FI
CHANNEL | SYNDICATION | BEHIND THE SCENES | OTHER MEDIA | MST3K - THE
MOVIE | MSTIE CYBERSPACE | CONVENTIONS | MSTIES | JOEL VS. MIKE
DISCUSSIONS | LEGALITIES | PARTS: THE BOT
BUILDING HORROR | SUBTLETIES | WHERE ARE
THEY NOW? | AWARD
NOMINATIONS | BRIEF
EPISODE GUIDE | GUEST STARRING