Q: How many times has the show's opening changed?
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 201- Rocketship XM through 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 519- 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 place;
  • New visuals were added in episode 804- The Deadly Mantis;
  • 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 episode 1001- Soultaker.

Q: Why did Joel/Mike watch these bombs? What would have happened if he had refused to enter the theater?
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, "fisking."

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 bad."

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 shorts?
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 see here.

Q: Why was Jef Maynard, the show's former propmaster, called "Toolmaster"?
A: The term came from a song by Minnesota rock band Trip Shakespeare called "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 fish bait.

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 with that?
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 Planet--originally "Time Walker."
  • Episodes 213- Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster and 403- City 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 together.

Q: 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 "off-screen" reason.
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 M&TB.

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 hatchway.

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 Guide. 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 110- Robot Holocaust. Nobody from BBI has ever been able to adequately explain why the episode numbering mistake was made, and the reason is now very probably forgotten.

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 24, 1988?
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 Network affiliate.

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 to?
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 commericals.

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 kids.

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.