Mystery Science Theater 3000: Experiment 1114
Written by Joel Hodgson et al
Directed by Joel Hodgson and Robert Cohen
And so, at last, it has come to this.
Fourteen episodes. Fourteen movies, containing within them three kaiju, two bratty young wizards, two lost worlds, a variety of latex-faced interchangeable nogoodniks, hideous creatures, poor attempts at comic relief, implausible situations, and well-known actors who should have known better. We’ve had five different alums from the old show (not including ‘bots), five celebrity cameos, two new ‘bots, and something in the neighborhood of 4,000 riffs. It’s been a heck of a ride.
We open, as always, on the SOL, where Jonah is “celebrating” his forthcoming nuptials. Sensing the time is right to have another go at adding to the team, he introduces “Growler”, a green, laid-back piano playing robot who is basically modeled after Rowlf the dog from The Muppets. I actually like this character: it’s rather fun watching Crow & Tom constantly trying and failing to get a rise out of him. He would make a good occasional recurring character, I think, should we find ourselves here again.
Down on the moon, Kinga is going full-on Bridezilla. She’s upset because no one’s RSVP’d for the wedding. Fortunately, the manager of the Observers (Paul Chaplin making his first on-camera appearance on the new show) shows up to summon forth a nice crowd of extras, make the place look crowded. For the invention exchange, the SOL crew have created…temporary permanent tattoos. All of the regrets and poor life choice-making, none of the needles. Max has created the Rip Taylor Urn Cannon, which blasts your loved one’s ashes to kingdom come. That’s how I want to go: the Hunter Thompson method.
This episode’s movie is from 1976, but oddly looks much older. More of a mid-sixties effort. It’s weird to watch this film with its awkward camera work, poor makeup fx, and its clumsy monsters, and reflect that just two years later, Star Wars would come out. Fact is, Pinewood in the 70’s was in a bit of a slump, mostly leaning on the Superman and James Bond franchises to keep the place going.
Anyhow, young inventor David Innes (Doug McClure) and his dotty old professor (Peter Cushing, biding time til Grand Moff Tarkin) travel in David’s mobile drill: a long, thick, cylindrical device with a bit at the front to help him penetrate deep, deep into the bowels of the earth. It’s all perfectly innocent. Anyway, they run into the requisite primitive tribes of humans being enslaved by non-humanoid ugly types, all being ruled over by a bunch of evil bird-thingies. If this sounds like something out of an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, that’s because it is. Yup, our second of the season. And with McClure, yet. Anyway, there’s a lot of running around, getting captured, escaping, saving the day, you know the drill. It was actually pretty popular, as it happens, making decent money for British films at the time.
In the first host segment, the SOL crew have gone steampunk. Crow looks pretty good, actually. Tom is belching steam from every orifice, and seems to be a bit woozy as a result. Even Gypsy has gotten in on the fun. Some pretty neat build work on the part of the build crew, here. Frankly, yours truly is thinking it’s only going to be a matter of time before we see fan builds of all three.
In the second one, Crow is making like one of the Mahars–the giant birdlike slave drivers from the movie. Just a quick gag as he tries to force them to do his will–namely, make him a sammich. Need I say it doesn’t work? It doesn’t work.
It’s the third host segment where things start to pick up. Doug McClure (Joel McHale) shows up, and gives Max some dating advice he got from a pick-up artist’s website. Max, full of macho-he-man-alpha-flavor-country-it’s-about-ethics-in-game-journalism testosto-rage, decides to sow chaos in the middle of Kinga’s wedding. And remember the key from episode 10? The one that unlocks the giant robot from the ceiling? Did I mention it’s back around his neck again? Because you bet it is. Good to see Chekhov’s gun is still in effect.
Post-movie, and Growler is making with the bridal march. Down in Moon 13, everything is coming together. The Brain Guys are in place, Gramma Pearl shows up with Bobo & Brain Guy in tow, and Jonah gets sucked down the tube (how metaphorical) and deposited at the altar. After a quick musical selection, there comes the exchange of vows, which are curtailed when–shock horror!–Max whips out his key (sorry) and activates the ceiling-bot. It promptly attacks Jonah, and gulps him down like anything. Chaos erupts, everyone running in all directions. Kinga flips out and stomps off, outraged, leaving Max alone to ponder what went wrong.
Well, there you have it. An absolute mother of a cliffhanger, and reflecting the show’s own uncertain status (more on that in a moment). They’ve essentially set up an ending that works whether the show gets renewed or not. Always a tricky proposition in these situations, especially when Netflix is so notoriously close-mouthed about how its shows are doing. Word from the show is that it has gone over well with fans and critics alike, but as of press time they still haven’t been given any indications from the online video service as to how well it’s doing.
As far as this reviewer is concerned, the show seems to have done a good job of bringing back the series, and judging by the popularity of both it and the other projects of MST3K alums (Rifftrax et al), there is every reason to be optimistic. And even if the worst should come to pass, and this truly does turn out to be the end…well, it’s been a heck of a ride. The new crew really brought back the goofiness and fun of the original series and, while some things did change here and there in terms of tone (bringing more depth to the host segment characters, for example), I can’t really say they were a detriment to the show overall. It’s been a fun ride, and I hope we’ll have news of another another voyage soon–if not in the not-too-distant-future, then whenever the bad movie gods smile upon us again. The good stuff in life is worth waiting for.
What do you think, sirs?
Kelly Luck has enjoyed writing these recaps for you, and hopes we get a chance to do it again, sometime. Her other SciFi4Me work can be read here.