Q: How many times has the show's opening
A: Over the years, BBI has updated or altered
the opening sequence many times:
- The KTMA opening had its own
set of lyrics to the song and very low-budget visuals
(and an unrecognizable Satellite of Love);
- The opening season one had the
standard CC-era "Joel" lyrics we are familiar with, plus visuals that
were almost as cheesy as those on KTMA;
- The opening in episodes
404- Teenagers from
Outer Space had new
visuals, and began with a silent graphic that instructed
viewers to "Turn down your lights...where applicable"
(There was also a slight change made beginning with
episode 317- Viking
Women Vs. The Sea Serpent-- the movie being watched by Joel and
the bots in the theater was changed from The Crawling Eye to Godzilla Vs. Megalon);
- From episode 405- Being From Another
Planet through episode
Outlaw, the "turn down
your lights" graphic was replaced by a title card
featuring a still from the movie, some technical
information and voiceover that said "Mystery Science
Theater 3000, show xxx, reel 1" (That voice was usually
that of editor Tim Scott);
- With the arrival of Mike as
host in episode 513- The
Brain That Wouldn't Die, the theme song lyrics and visuals changed again;
- Beginning with episode
701- Night of the Blood
Beast (and the
departure of TV's Frank) the theme song lyrics and visuals changed once more;
- With the advent of the new
premise beginning with episode 801- Revenge of the
Creature, a new opening
with new theme song lyrics and new visuals were put into
- New visuals were added in
episode 804- The Deadly
- New visuals were added to the
opening again beginning with episode 901- The Projected Man;
- New theme song lyrics--reflecting the "Castle Forrester"
premise--and new visuals were introduced beginning with
Q: Why did Joel/Mike watch these bombs? What
would have happened if he had refused to enter the
A: In episode 208- Lost Continent Joel refuses to enter the theater, and is
zapped by remote control by the Mads. So it appears that he
has to watch them, or get a shock to the shammies. In
episode 819- Invasion of
the Neptune Men Mike is so
repelled by the movie that he leaves the theater, only to be
forced to return when he discovers that Pearl has turned off
the oxygen supply to the rest of the ship (a trick that Dr.
Forrester similarly used in MST3K: The Movie). So it appears that they had to watch
them, or suffer the consequences. Besides, if they didn't,
it wouldn't be much of a show, right?
Q: I've seen the word MSTing or MiSTing used
as verb. What does that mean?
A: When someone says they MSTed or MiSTed (both spellings are popular)
something, it means he or she commented humorously upon it
or heckled it , in a way reminiscent of the way the
characters mock the movies on the show. Example: "My friends
and I MSTed an episode of 'Matlock' last night." A precursor
of, and similar to, but not to be confused with,
Q: I've also seen the term "riffing." Is that
the same thing?
A: Yes. A "riff" is a humorous comment, and
"riffing" is making a humorous comment. Example: "Keeping
riffing (or 'riffing on') the movie and it won't seem so
Q: So how come they didn't do "Plan 9 From
Outer Space," which is touted the worst movie ever made?
A: BBI said that they did not want to do this
movie for several reasons. First, the voice-over from
Criswell would interfere with the commenting that Joel/Mike
and the 'bots would make. Second, making fun of this movie
is just too easy. Everybody has done it. The Brains would
prefer fresh territory. Third, it's kind if redundant: The
movie really makes fun of itself.
Also, while "Plan 9" is certainly awful, MSTies know better
than to think it is the worst movie ever made.
MST3K has unearthed several cinematic train
wrecks that make it look like "Citizen Kane."
Q: Where do the Brains get all those bizarre
A: Most of them were provided by New York
City-based film historian Rick Prelinger. He has a
collection of 20,000+ of such films, most of which you can
Q: Why was Jef Maynard, the show's former
propmaster, called "Toolmaster"?
A: The term came from a song by Minnesota
rock band Trip
"Toolmaster of Brainerd." Frank Conniff apparently invented
a parody of the song that included the phrase "Toolmaster
Jef Maynard." When the time came to give Maynard a title in
the credits, Maynard says, it seemed to make sense.
Q: Who is Torgo, and why did he keep showing
up with that
annoying theme music?
A: Torgo was the most memorable character from
episode 424- "MANOS": The
Hands of Fate. His
big-kneed charisma so captivated the Brains that he
(impersonated by Michael J. Nelson) made several appearances
in Deep 13.
Q: Just what IS a hamdinger?
A: Hamdingers (a pivotal plot element in the story of
Joel's escape in episode 512- Mitchell and mentioned again in
episode 513- The Brain That Wouldn't Die) are deviled ham patties
made by Swift-Premium, which were sold by the block and often used for
Q: Why were the Mole People (the Mads'
assistants, seen during the second and third seasons) named
Jerry and Sylvia?
A: The names are a reference to Gerry and
Sylvia Anderson, who created many super-marionation films
such as "Thunderbirds Are Go," and the first two movies
riffed in the KTMA days.
Q: How come the Mole People stopped appearing
on the show?
A: The Mole People costumes were horribly hot
under the studio lights, and the people (usually unpaid
interns) who were inside of them rebelled and refused to
continue the characters, for fear of asphyxiation.
Q: I've seen several episodes that have title
sequences with video that's not even in the movie! What's up
A: Those are movies from distributor What is
Film Ventures International. It obtained the rights to films
after the copyright expired, and then re-released the film
under a different name with a new credit sequence. This is
how BBI was able to get "Marooned" (episode 401- Space Travelers).
Q: So what were the names of the original
films that FVI got?
A: Seven films featured on MST3K were given
the Film Ventures International treatment. They are:
- Episode 301- Cave Dwellers--originally "Ator The Blade Master,"
- Episode 303- Pod People--originally "The Unearthling,"
- Episode 305- Stranded in Space --originally "The Stranger,"
- Episode 401- Space Travelers--originally "Marooned,"
- Episode 405- Being From Another
- Episodes 213- Godzilla vs. The Sea
Limits are also FVI
products but were not renamed, as far as we can tell.
Two other MST3K
episodes got a similar, but slightly different treatment
from FVI: Episodes 322-
Master Ninja I and
324- Master Ninja
II were each made up of a
pair of episodes from the NBC TV show "The Master," strung
I've noticed that the FVI movies would show clips of entirely different
movies during their title sequences? Has anyone ever figured out
what movies they were?
A: So far three have been identified. They used clips from a movie called Galaxy Invader for the titles to Pod People. They used clips from a movie called Prisoners of the Lost Universe for the credits of Stranded in Space. And clips from Son of Godzilla was used for the opening credits of Godzilla vs the Sea Monster.
Q: I noticed that Gizmonic Institute was no
longer mentioned after Mike became the host. Why?
A: Actually, after the first few episodes of
season one, "Gizmonic Institute" was almost never spoken of
(except in the theme song) by anybody. After all, the Mads
hadn't set foot inside Gizmonic since the KTMA days.
However, it's true that the word "Gizmonic" was completely
erased from the premise following Joel's departure. Joel
invented the word during his stand-up comedy days, he has
copyrighted it and he asked the show not to continue to use
the word when he left the series.
Q: The "invention exchange" that used to
start each show stopped in late season five. Why?
A: There is both an "on-screen" reason and an
On-screen: as already explained, the corporate culture of
Gizmonic Institute revolved around inventions, so much so
that, rather than greet each other, Gizmonic employees would
show each other their latest invention as a form of
greeting. Since both Dr. F. and Joel were both former
Gizmonic Institute employees, that was the first thing they
did each episode. But Mike never worked for Gizmonic (Mike
was a temp hired directly by Dr. F. well after Dr. F. had
fled Gizmonic) and so he knows nothing of Gizmonic's
corporate culture. Mike would therefore not understand what
an invention exchange was about and Dr. F. would see no
point in exchanging inventions with him.
Off-screen: the invention exchanges were mostly Joel's
doing. He was the gizmo guy. When he left, there was no
interest in continuing the concept. Instead, Dr. F. began
most episodes by performing some kind of experiment on
Q: After Mike took over, it seemed like the
host segments didn't having anything to do with the movie
anymore/It seems like the host segments always had something
to do with the movie. Why?
A: It's funny the way people's memories work.
After Mike became host, some fans couldn't help looking for
differences between Mike's host segments and Joel's, and
claimed to have noticed all sorts of things. Perhaps the
most popular observation involves the host segments'
relevance to the movie being shown in that episode.
But, interestingly, one group has been complaining that the
host segments don't have something to do with the movie like
they used to, while others have been complaining that the
host segments much more often have something to do with the
movie than they used to.
A careful examination of the series shows that the number of
host segments that had nothing to do with the movie steadily
increased beginning in season three and that the ratio of
relevant-to-irrelevant host segments leveled off in season
five before Joel's departure, and stayed pretty much the
same since then. Weird, huh?
Q: In season six episodes, M&TB and Dr.
F. seem to have the ability to send objects back and forth
to each other. How was that possible?
A: In episode 601- Girls Town a device was introduced that was variously
called the "umbilicus," the "umbilicon" and the
"umbiliport." It is, quite simply, a tube running from the
SOL to Deep 13. In the first episode, it was connected to
Gypsy, and objects left the SOL and arrived there through
Gypsy's mouth. In later episodes, a simple oven door-like
device both in the SOL and Deep 13 has served as the
Q: How could a tube run from an underground
cave to an orbiting satellite?
A: It's just a show, you should really just
relax. The concept was introduced to allow more interaction
between Deep 13 and the SOL. For the record, the
umbilicus/con/port was supposed to be 227 miles long. The
writers at BBI once calculated that for an object to travel
from Deep 13 to the SOL in 10 seconds, it would be traveling
at 82,000 miles per hour!
Q: The name Dr. Clayton Forrester sounds
familiar. Have I heard it before?
A: It was the name of the hero from the 1953
George Pal film adaptation of H. G. Wells' "War of the
Worlds." Also, a "Dr. Clay Forester" (spelled with one "r")
was the protagonist of Jack Williamson's 1947 SF novel, "The
Humanoids," but the similarity of names between the novel
and the later movie appears to be coincidental.
Q: What about Dr. Laurence Erhardt? Didn't
that name come from "War of the Worlds" as well?
A: Despite what you might have read in
earlier editions of the FAQ, the answer is no. Josh
Weinstein thought of the name himself. It was based on
Werner Erhardt, the EST founder. Josh thought that the name
had an "evil" ring to it. And he selected the first name
"Laurence" because he thought it sounded pretentious.
Q: It seems like some of the first season
episodes aren't in the right order. What is the deal?
A: This was the subject of much discussion
(and precious little information from BBI) for many years,
but was finally answered in The Amazing Colossal Episode
104- Women of the
Prehistoric Planet is the
one that is out of order. It was actually (as many suspected
all along) the last episode done in season one, and was made
after episode 113- The Black Scorpion, which explains why there were references
in that episode to several later episodes, and the
announcement of the winners
of a contest that is first announced in episode
Holocaust. Nobody from BBI
has ever been able to adequately explain why the episode
numbering mistake was made, and the reason is now very
Q: What is with this cry of "Hi-keeba!" and
where does it come from?
A: It's a long-running riff used when
somebody makes a stupid martial-arts-movie-type move. It
refers to a particularly stupid moment from episode
104- Women of the
Prehistoric Planet. A
comic-relief character in the film is supposedly trying to
show off his martial arts skill, and while he is doing so,
he shouts "Hi-keeba!" and promptly does a pratfall.
Q: What's happened to KTMA TV23, the
independent UHF station in Minneapolis, where
MST3K first aired on Thanksgiving Day, November
A: The station went bankrupt shortly after
putting MST3K "on
hiatus," but then returned to the air, first as KLGT (AKA
"Sonlight 23"), a religious station. It is now KMWB, a WB
Q: When was Pearl Forrester introduced?
A: Mary Jo Pehl first appeared as Pearl
Forrester, mother of evil scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester, in episode 607- Bloodlust. At the beginning of season seven on
Comedy Central, Pearl became a regular character.
Q: Who or what is Magic Voice?
A: This has never been explained, but she
seems to be the voice of the SOL's computer. At various
times her voice was provided by Jann Johnson, Alexandra
Carr, Mary Jo Pehl and Beth "Beez" McKeever.
Q: Where have I heard the phrase "satellite
of love" before?
A: The Jerry Lewis Telethon people call the
satellite which receives and sends out their signal the
"satellite of love." "Satellite of Love" is also the title
of a Lou Reed song on his 1973 "Transformer" album. This
song was sung by cast members at the close of every live MST
performance. Also, in the chorus of the Def Leppard song
"Rocket" (on the album "Hysteria"), one can also hear the
phrase "satellite of love."
Q: In many of the season eight episodes, when
a character's hand was shown or focused on, Mike or one of
the bots say "I thought you were Dale!" or some variation on
that phrase. Who is Dale, and what is that a reference
A: Actually, these references are all based
on a mistake by Best Brains. Here's the whole story. Back in
the 1970s, there was a series of commercials for Ivory
dishwashing liquid, in which mothers were mistaken for their
daughters--because the Mom used Ivory and so her hands were
young-looking. At around the same time, there was also a
commercial for Grape Nuts, in which a teenage boy mistakes
teenage girl Dale's mother for Dale and utters the deathless
line: "I thought you were Dale!" Best Brains only vaguely
remembered these two commericials, and apparently mixed them
up in their minds. There were apparently never any Ivory
Liquid commercials in which a character said "I thought you
were Dale!" And the Grape Nuts commercial in which that line
was spoken had nothing to do with hands. So basically they
goofed. But the writers thought
they were making a reference to the Ivory Liquid
Q: In a couple of episodes, Pearl calls Crow
"Art" for some reason. What the heck?
A: Calling Crow "Art" is an obscure BBI
in-joke. During a host segment in episode 203- Jungle Goddess, Joel was introducing the 'bots at the end
of a sketch in the same manner Jackie Gleason used to use at
the end of his TV show: bringing out each cast member to
take a bow. In fact, when he got to Crow, he got so into the
Jackie Gleason premise that he introduced Crow as "Art
Crow!" much as Gleason would yell "Art Carney!!" when
introducing his long-time co-star. Well, apparently some
little kid saw that, didn't get the Jackie Gleason
reference, and assumed that Crow's name was actually Art.
That kid wrote a letter to the show, which was read in a
season four episode. The letter included pictures of each of
the robots, and the drawing of Crow was labeled "Art." When
Pearl calls Crow "Art," it's a reference to that.
Q: My Trekker friends tell me that there was
some reference to the series on the set of "Star Trek: Deep
Space 9." True?
A: True! The directory on the Promenade
included a listing for "Tom Servo's Used Robots."
Q: I hear Mike and Bridget Jones are
married!! Is that true?
A: Yes, Mike is married to fellow BBI writer
and performer Bridget "Flavia" Jones, and they have two
Q: Did anybody at Best Brains ever make a
movie before MST3K:TM?
A: In 1986, Jim Mallon directed a horror
movie for Troma Films (perhaps best known for such titles as
"Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid") entitled "BLOOD HOOK."
Q: I like those bad old movies and shorts.
Why can't Joel/Mike and the bots be quiet?
A: You have failed to grasp the point of the
show. Go back to the beginning and start reading again. If
you *still* don't get it, most of the movies featured on
MST3K are available on video. Now, go away.
Q: I like the comedy, but many times the
movie is SO bad, even the jokes don't save it, and I just
can't take it. Why can't they do a *good* movie?
A: You, too, have failed to grasp the point
of the show, though your aesthetic tastes are much more
admirable than that last joker. Although the show's premise
changed in many ways over the years, one thing did not
change: The idea that the movies being watched are supposed
to be torture (TORCHAA!) for Mike/Joel & the 'bots. A
good movie would not be torture. It has been argued that
even a good movie, like, say, "The Wizard of Oz" or "Gone
With The Wind," would offer many opportunities for humor.
That's undenyably true, but a bad movie gives the writers
much more to work with. Besides, why would anybody make fun
of a good movie?
Q: It seems to me that this sort of thing has
been done before. Has it?
A: Well, the concept of commenting humorously
on some tedious presentation goes back at least to
Shakespeare (check out the characters riffing on a boring
play in the final act of "A
Midsummer Night's Dream")
and further back to the Chorus that was a regular feature of
ancient Greek plays, and probably a lot further.
In recent years we've seen a number of similar concepts. In
1966, Woody Allen released a movie called "What's Up Tiger Lily?" in which he threw out the soundtrack of a
horrible Japanese spy movie and dubbed in his own satirical
soundtrack, creating a vaguely MST3K-like experience. (The original movie, for
the record, was 1964's "Kagi No Kag" -- English translation:
"Key of Keys.")
That same concept -- dubbing new dialog over old movies --
was used in the 1980s for a syndicated TV series called
"Mad Movies with the L.A.
Connection." When The L.A.
Connection performed live, they did so from the front row of
an L.A. theater. There are reports of underground comedy
teams in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the late 1960s who
experimented with humorous commentary of movies, etc.
There was also the 1982 movie, "It Came From Hollywood," in which Dan Ackroyd, John Candy, Cheech
and Chong, Gilda Radner and others provided comical
narration to clips from several B-grade films.
Of course, the "Rocky
Horror Picture Show"
phenomenon should be mentioned.
And from around the country, viewers report that the hosts
of local-station "Monster Chiller Horror Theater" type shows
would often mock the movies they were showing in one way or
another, sometimes while the movie was playing, though never
quite in the way MST3K
does, and certainly not with as much success.
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