I'll be getting to the episodes everyone knows about -- the Comedy Channel, Comedy Central, and Sci-Fi Channel episodes -- soon enough. But, before they hit the big time, they were a hit local show on KTMA (now WUCW) before they moved national. And hard-core fans of MST3K consider those the first season, or Season Zero.
The first three of the 21 KTMA episodes are not available. However, there are copies of the other 18 KTMA episodes that are floating around. I obtained copies of those from this Website.
The quality of the recordings isn't great, because the "circulating tapes" were recorded on VCRs from over-the-air broadcasts in 1988 & 1989. Then, they were dubbed out for others, and eventually copied to DVD. While the quality isn't great, for many episodes, it's good.
With that background information, let's dive in to the first official episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 ... that's available.
Episode K04: Gamera vs Barugon
First aired: KTMA on 4 December 1988
While this if the fourth episode of MST3K, this is the first one that's available. The movie the crew is riffing was redone during Season Three. It's a Gamera film. I'm not a huge fan of the Japanese Silly Monster movies, so I hated the film. But, that allowed me to root for the crew trashing it.
|From the opening, the Mad Scientists. They don't appear in Episode K04.|
Since the Mads don't appear, there's no opening interaction and no invention exchange. Joel goes by his real name, Joel Hodgson, and after some quick welcome comments, goes straight to the movie. The Bots joined Joel inside.
|Servo was beginning to take shape.|
The recording I have has several "problem with the VCR" kind of spots. 20 years ago, I wouldn't have noticed them.
While J&tB do some of the riffing we're used to, there's also some just plain commenting. For example, Joel responded to a comment a movie character made by saying, "That makes no sense," and then there was a brief discussion about that. I would have expected Joel to make his point by making a series is nonsensical statements. So, in this, the 4th episode, they're still developing the format.
There are times where long gaps between riffs occur.
|Cambot looked very different in Season Zero.|
Gypsy appears, and is referred to as a female, unlike in the demo/pilot.
Around half-way through the episode, J&tB did more standard riffing and less discussion of the flaws of the movie.
|Crow looked the most like the Crow we all know.|
About the film: In the first Gamera movie, Gamera was a villain. When Gamera finally appears (excluding flashbacks) about half-way through the film, he's still a villain. In short order, the Turtle Monster starts to fight with the lizard villain Barugon. The lizard wins, and Gamera disappears until the end of the movie, when the mosters fight again. After Gamera beats Barugon, the turtle flies away. In other words, a Japanese monster movie.
Gamera will appear in the next four episodes, by the way. You have been warned.