Mystery Science Theater 3000 Review

Erica Garbutt, Features Editor

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It’s time for yet another reboot of a classic property…but the rebooted series in question, set to debut on Netflix on April 14th, may not be one that you’re familiar with. That’s right, I’m talking about Mystery Science Theater 3000.

“What is the Mystery Science Theater 3000?” you may ask. Good question! The answer involves goofy mad scientists, cheeky robots, and bad B-movies. Lots of bad B-movies. Mystery Science Theater 3000’s wacky premise is that an average joe named Joel-and, later on in the series, a dude called Mike-is stranded on the Satellite of Love, forced to watch horrible films by a pair of mad scientists who want to take over the world. To cope with the insanity, Joel builds a pair of lovable robots named Crow and Tom Servo, who take the pain away by making snarky comments on the movies.

If you’ve ever watched a series that comments on or mocks movies on YouTube, then congratulations: You are watching the children of Mystery Science Theater 3000, or MST3K, as it’s known by its fans. So, does the granddaddy of film-related snarking hold up?

Indeed it does. Its quirky humor is a bit of an acquired taste, but once acquired, you’ll never want to stop watching. The chemistry between the actors and puppets involved is wonderful. All of the characters are unique and likable in their own way, and everyone contributes their own brand of humor to the show. The mad scientists-the alleged villains of the show-bring some of the best humorous segments to the show with their over-the-top “evilness”. Honestly, their villainy is more akin to ridiculous older siblings who love making fun of you while forcing you to do something you can’t stand. The ‘bots and their human companions also get to shine in the various skits that take place between movie-viewing sessions. Usually, these skits relate to the movie being watched, but they can also be totally random. All of them let the viewer enjoy the personality of the characters while adding even more fun to the show.

In addition, the show has its own homegrown visual style, which makes the show even sillier than it already is. MST3K has sets that look like they could have been made in a garage and props and costumes that could have been stolen from a costume shop in your own hometown. The best props show up during the Invention Exchange, when Joel or Mike and the scientists show off their inventions. The inventions are completely absurd and have included replacing human blood with radiator fluid, an umbrella with a gutter, and more. And then there’s the movies themselves.

The gamut of B-movies runs from infamous ones that you might’ve already heard about to ones that are even more obscure than the show itself. The picks are a bit of a wild card, ranging from enjoyably silly older films to semi-recent ones (at least at the time the show aired during the ‘80s and ‘90s) that are so weird you’ll be glad that the ‘bots are there to make it all bearable. Despite the varying so-bad-it’s-goodness of the films, the commentary is almost always on point. In fact, most of the commentary only makes sense in context of the movies themselves. Thankfully for the viewer, there’s also extremely quotable riffing that will make you want to introduce a friend to the show so you can immediately adopt some inside jokes (“Watch out for snakes!” and “So, Manos…The Hands of Fate” are classics).

Overall, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is worthy of its cult status. It’s funny, it’s clever, and it’s always surprising. Watch the original before the reboot. Then you can brag about how you knew MST3K before it got famous on Netflix.

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