Monday, January 23, 2012

MST3K: Episode 201 - Rocketship X-M

I'm watching all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes in order. More about that can be found here and here.

Episode 201: Rocketship X-M

First aired: The Comedy Channel on 22 September 1990

And so Season Two begins. This episode isn't available commercially, and never has been. It's a good one, though.

Cambot gets a new look and Joel gets a new jumpsuit
The opening song lyrics don't change, though the visuals do. They still refer to Joel as "another face in a red jumpsuit," and in the opening, that's what he's wearing. Some of the time. Later in the opening, he's wearing a different-colored jumpsuit. Teal or something.

Cambot looks different. This is the third version of Cambot during the life of the show.

In the KTMA season, he was separate from the camera. In Season One, he was integrated into the camera, and looked a lot like the KTMA Gypsy. Now, in Season Two, he looks more like a camera.

This episode is also where, during the opening credits, Cambot's image is shown in the mirror. It'll be a mirror image from here on out, though he does make a couple of more changes in appearance along the way.

The bridge of the Satellite of Love has a new look. They have Joel putting the finishing touches on Tom Servo's new voice. As he tweaks it, the are references to Dick Tufeld's Robot B-9 from Lost In Space, Douglas Rain's HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Jackie Vernon's Frosty the Snowman, finishing with a voice that has a hint of the Mighty Voice that Josh used. But, it was a different voice.

Frank replaces the "missing" Dr. Erhardt.
We also get to meet Frank for the first time -- other than his being in the opening theme -- and he makes an impression. He's not Josh ... but he is Frank. I immediately like the character.

Late in the episode, Michael J. Nelson makes his first on-screen appearance (his voice had been heard in Episode 104 - Women of the Prehistoric Planet). Of course, he'll be wearing a dress.

The movie itself is bad. Bad science, bad plot, bad special effects, bad writing, and even some bad acting. But good riffing. Very good riffing.

Despite how bad the movie is, I counted up the number of times I've seen the actual film, the non-MST3K version. The number I came up with was 27. Seriously, 27 times. That's not because it's a good movie. It's not. But, it's one of those silly Men In Space movies from the 1950s. I loved those when I was a kid. If I saw it when I was a kid, I can watch a bad sci-fi movie again and again. Note: "when I was a kid."

"Oh look, it looks like an Al Jaffee Mad Magazine fold in."
Oh, and, I've seen this MST3K episode a few times, too. This was one of the first non-commercial releases I obtained.

In years past, I saw mostly Mike-hosted shows when the show was on the air, though I did also see some Joel-hosted shows. When I began obtaining episodes of MST3K, I got what was commercially available. It was later that I stumbled onto the whole MSTiverse of swapping episodes that aren't commercially available.

As much as I loved this movie as a kid -- hey, I was young and stupid -- I love this episode of MST3K that trashes the movie. This seems to be the perfect MST3K movie. And some of the riffs had me laughing out loud.

"Valaria" isn't quite as hot as she seemed in Robot Holocaust, for some reason
One in particular involved the death of a character. Yes, that's horrible. But it was Noah Berry, Jr.'s Maj. William Corrigan, who went on and on about Texas. When the Martians encountered the astronauts and attacked them with large boulders, one hit Corrigan, killing him. Servo, fed up with the character's constant Texas-talk, chimed in, "They got rocks that big in Texas?" I still laugh when I hear that.

Oh, one final though about this episode. It shows the advantage to watching episodes in order. When I first saw this episode, and I saw Mike's Valaria, I had no idea who the character was supposed to be. Now, having seen Episode 110: Robot Holocaust, I get it.

This is Mike's first on-camera appearance. He'll make a lot more before he takes over the host role from Joel in Season Five.

A couple of other things begin with this episode. Joel finally gets a last name.
Joel's character finally gets a last name.
In the KTMA season, he went by Joel Hodgson, because it was his name. In Season One, he was referred to simply as "Joel" and his character didn't appear in the credits, though Joel Hodgson did. In this episode, the "Joel" character finally appears in the credits, with the last name "Robinson" ... the same name as the Lost In Space family.

Two other things begin here. The term "Shadowrama" makes its debut. Also, the phrase "Keep Circulating The Tapes" appears in the closing credits.
"Keep Circulating The Tapes"
Some people still do. Although they aren't tapes any more. Most are DVDs. And that's how I got this episode.

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