Fans kickstart “Mystery Science Theater 3000: Season 11” back to Earth
“MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: SEASON 11”
Blu-ray, DVD; 2016; Not Rated; streaming via Netflix
Best extra: Only one; feature-length documentary “We Brought Back MST3K”
GATHER ‘round, girls and boys – all you admitted (and secret) MSTy nerds out there. If you don’t know what that is, a MSTy (pronounced “misty”) is kind of like a Trekkie, except it’s for … y’know. As it happens, we know there are plenty of MSTies out there, because tens of thousands of them forked over more than $6 million into a Kickstarter kitty to bring an entire season of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” back after 18 years.
Now streaming on Netflix, the show is the brainchild of Joel Hodgson, who wrote and also starred in it for the first few years beginning in 1988. It originally ran on a local Minnesota cable channel and was then picked up by Comedy Central. Netflix and Shout! Factory now offers an 8-disc box set containing all 14 of Season 11’s episodes, plus a feature-length documentary, “We Brought Back MST3K.”
The kooky, eccentric show has earned a Peabody Award and several Emmy nominations. In the original series, Hodgson played a janitor from the future named Joel Robinson, who is kidnapped and taken to the “Satellite of Love,” where his mad scientist captors force him to watch cheapo sci-fi and horror films as part of a plot for world domination (whatever). Robinson is lonely, so he builds two robot friends, whose puppet silhouettes sit on either side of him as they watch the movies, making funny wisecracks about it throughout.
The new series stars comedian Jonah Ray, with the voices of Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn, as the robots Crow and Tom Servo. Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt play the evil ones who select the rotten movies with which to torment Jonah. As with its other iterations, the vintage B films are frequently interrupted by running skits performed by a permanent cast, sometimes joined by such special guests as Mark Hamill and Neil Patrick Harris. The 11th season also contains cameos by actors from earlier seasons.
The 14 old films in the package include groaners like a 1961 Danish monster flick called “Reptilicus”; a 1978 dog of a disaster film, “Avalanche,” starring Mia Farrow and Rock Hudson; a 1960 gladiatorial bomb with Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay, called “The Loves of Hercules”; and an epic Doug McClure/dinosaur vehicle from 1975, “The Land that Time Forgot.” The mind boggles at the endless possibilities for ridicule.
Video quality on these Blu-ray discs is consistently good, with the old movies nicely remastered, and the show’s set pieces displaying typical modern TV clarity and stability we’ve come to expect. HD audio is also top-notch, with all dialogue is clear and intelligible.
The documentary is great fun and provides context and background for those who have either never heard of MST3K or have only recently joined the cult. It includes interviews with Hodgson and cast and crew members, past and present, as well as with some of the fans who donated to the crowd fund. Hodgson talks about selecting particularly awful movies that “nobody wanted to see” from the public domain.
The “riffs,” or wisecracks, made by the three “viewers” this season are the result of a large number of professional comedy writers working independently and offering their ideas for each film, from which the funniest lines are selected. Jonah Ray describes his character as a “space trucker” and Felicia Day says the evil scientist she plays is a sort of “talk show host with a house band.” Hodgson notes that the goal of the revival, bolstered by overwhelming support, was to “bring the show back to the fans.” Suffice it to say that with Season 11, no MSTy will be disappointed – and a good number of converts are sure to climb aboard.
— Peggy Earle