Culture

My Experiment With Mystery Science Theatre 3000

“In the not too distant future, next Sunday AD! There was a guy named Joel, not too different from you or me! He worked at Gizmonic Institute, just another face in a red jumpsuit!He did a good job cleaning up the place, but his bosses didn’t like him so they shot him into space!” But I should stop before I just sing the entire theme song.

Hello once again! It’s been far too long. And I admit that is kind of my fault. I’ve been trying to work on something special for the last several weeks but it has been proving more difficult than I originally hoped. As such I’ve decided to take a detour to a different subject. My history with Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

However – before I can begin my story of personal experience – I should explain the basics for those of you who don’t know what this is. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 is quite honestly a simply brilliant idea. Take a bunch of really cheesy enjoyably bad old films, get a few characters together and have them make jokes, riffs and sarcastic comments throughout the film. It is almost that simple.

Thus we have Joel Hodgson (and later Mike Nelson and Jonah Heston) the victim of the Experiments (The name for episodes), Dr Forrester and his assistant Frank (and then their family) who are all collectively known as the Mads– the individuals behind the experiments and the ‘invention exchange’ –and the robots built by Joel who I shall now introduce.

We have Tom Servo: A red and white robot with a head that in my opinion resembles a blender and intense sarcasm, Crow T. Robot: A golden robot with a face, eyes and some form of beak mouth along with a strong narcissist streak, GPC (her modern name as of Season 13 as her original name is unfortunately considered a slur against the Romani people): a purple long necked robot with a large head shape and a somewhat nervous disposition – although recently as of Season 11 onwards she does join in on the film riffing. And Cambot…whose job is fairly obvious. All of these sentient robots were built using the parts that allow the show host to stop and start the movies at will which results in a fun even more chaotic attitude to the show.

Now I should begin my story of personal experience. About ten or at most fifteen years ago, a trend became evident on the then fairly nascent YouTube: Internet reviewing. Both serious straight laced reviews more akin to TV review shows and parody reviews which pointed out perceived mistakes in the film or moments of complete confusion or occasionally just made cheap jokes to get a laugh. Many many people became part of this phenomenon, and a lot of them either included clips of these shadows of a guy and two odd looking robots making snarky comments over old mostly black and white movies or referenced clips from wherever these shadows came from. A lot of these clips and references genuinely got a laugh out of me whenever they showed up to the point I could often repeat the joke back to the screen whenever they appeared which got me curious about where they came from. Whenever I asked I often got told as an answer either MST3K or Mystery Science Theatre (sometimes the makers of these internet shows had their own makeshift robots which they openly stated were inspired by MST3K along with much of the internet reviewer’s sense of humour) although without context which rendered these attempts to answer my question a bit useless.

Eventually though I was introduced to the show through a friend of mine. This friend of mine seemed to know where these jokes came from or would occasionally put on odd accents whenever we included the joke references in our conversations. Which led to me asking them what this Mystery Science Theatre 3000 thing was. They did their best to explain, showing me a few episodes here and there as I began to understand the basics and find them entertaining. They then let slip that there were episodes based on some famous properties – namely the cheesy English dubs of classic 1960s and 1970s Godzilla and Gamera movies – and other Kaiju films which had got the company behind MST3K in hot water back in the day that were among their personal favourites. This got me very very interested although at the time the Gamera and Godzilla episodes were (and in Godzilla’s case still are) very hard to get a hold of. It also didn’t help the show was basically nonexistent on UK home media.

Luckily for me two things happened in the 2010s. First in 2012 the MST3K movie – riffing on 1955’s This Island Earth – was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK which I certainly wasn’t expecting as (to put it lightly) MST3K is licensing hell outside of the States. This Experiment is still available easily at time of writing and would make an excellent starting point if anyone would prefer to start with ‘classic’ MST3K. I emphasise classic because that’s the other major thing.

In late 2015, Joel Hodgson used Kickstarter to rally MSTies (their name for fans) to fund a season 11 of the show resulting in 2017 and 2018 bringing us the two Netflix seasons. These seasons may look more ‘professional’ and less indie than the show did back in the day – for the snobs in my audience – but one thing they did do was allow UK based fans to experience the show easily for the first time in years as It should be thus converting me from a casual fan to a full on fanatic. I had quite a laugh watching the new episodes with the friend I mentioned and had Every Country Has A Monster stuck in my head for weeks!(Mystery Science Theatre has musical moments by the way. Something you get used to eventually.)

Mystery Science Theatre 3000? Is genuinely one of those things I wish more people in our neck of the woods knew about. It feels at times like you’ve just gotten together with some crazy friends you haven’t seen in years to take the piss out of bad movies and make weird jokes that only make sense to you or your friends (being drunk is optional but highly likely) and you are having the time of your life! The show makes me laugh myself silly both classic and modern era and I hope this personal testimony will catch your interest. The classic episodes are also not exactly hard to find thanks to their old maxim ‘Keep Circulating The Tapes’ and for those of you who may be curious, a second Kickstarter is currently in progress – deadline May 8th – to produce a fully independent season 13 of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and a series of apps to allow fans to watch the show at their leisure with all sorts of bonus goodies.

But just in case you like to overthink things? I’ll end this appearance with some words of wisdom from the opening. Sayonara!

“If you are wondering how he eats and breathes (ooh ooh!),

And other science facts (la la la!),

Just repeat to yourself ‘It’s just a show, I should really just relax!’,

For Mystery Science Theatre 3000!”

Nephrite

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