Mystery Science Theater 3000: 8 Things We Want From the MST3K Reboot

With new episodes of MST3K on the way, we're really just looking for another excuse to talk about it.

You’ve probably heard by now, possibly from me, that new episodes of MST3K are on the way, as long as a Kickstarter campaign meets its goals. By the looks of things, it’s gonna meet ’em, so we’ll have movie sign any minute now.

I’m certain that there is absolutely no way they can screw this up. Right? Right.

Even though nobody asked me, I made a very small, relatively reasonable list of demands. They’re not really demands. They’re hardly even suggestions.

Look, it doesn’t matter, because I already donated to the Kickstarter, so I’m getting all the episodes and any hint of journalistic objectivity regarding Mystery Science Theater was sent right out the airlock the minute I heard the words “new” and “episodes.”

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Anyway, we’ve got list sign…

1. Don’t make it a reboot.

The original MST3K had its own continuity, as loose, odd, and awkward as it was, and that needs to be respected in some form. The series ended with Mike and the ‘bots back on Earth, no longer prisoners on the Satellite of Love. Whether it’s a new guy (and maybe it’s time for a woman to anchor this show) with new robots in a new space vehicle (and make no mistake, it must be in space) or they play with some kind of timeline splitting multiverse nonsense as a commentary on the subtleties of the Star Trek reboot, the wacky backstory of the original series needs to be respected.

Well, as much as Mystery Science Theater 3000 respects anything, of course.

Look, we don’t need some ridiculous 30 minute origin story to get the new host and any potential new robots up in space and watching bad movies, The new host (and robots) should be able to get introduced in roughly the length of a catchy theme tune. 

Speaking of which…

2. Keep the theme tune.

Seriously, some version of “Love Theme From Mystery Science Theater 3000” is non-negotiable. The lyrics may change by necessity (we’re getting a new host, after all, and there were lots of versions), but the tune and message need to remain the same.

Also, the episodes need to end with “Mighty Science Theater.” This is not up for discussion.

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But back to one of the bigger questions…

3. A new cast? Great! But not too new…

So, the new MST3K is looking for a new host, and that’s not a bad thing. We survived the Joel to Mike transition, and after all these years (plus with Mike back on Earth), we can get through this again. It’s not a big deal, as long as they don’t, I dunno, put Dane Cook up there or something.

There might be some new robots on the way, too. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.

While replacing humans is tricky, replacing the distinctive shapes of the robots who are as closely associated with the show’s visuals as Gamera flipping around on a pole like a gymnast/stripper might prove trickier. The iconography of Crow and Tom Servo in the silhouette will be really difficult to replace. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though.

If there are some new robots hanging around the Satellite of Love (or wherever they’re all gonna be), great, but the core ratio of two robots and a human riffing the movies should probably be kept intact…and it might be safest if those two robots are Crow and Servo. We know they’re gonna be there, it’s just a question of whether they’re in the theater, I guess.

As for the mad scientists, well, Mary Jo Pehl’s Pearl Forrester didn’t ascend to Second Banana Heaven or get regenerated into a Star Child or anything, and she was brilliant, so hopefully we get to see her again. There’s plenty of room for cameos from other mads as things go on, too. Maybe there’s a clone of Dr. Clayton Forrester hanging around or TV’s Frank can show up as an angel or something. Or maybe Joel and Mike are the new mads and…okay, that would be too much. I admit. I’ll chill.

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We’ll hopefully see everyone in some form at some point, even if there are new regulars. And if Mike Nelson wants to revive his Morrissey, I probably wouldn’t complain.

Anyway a mix of old and new will help keep that sense of history intact and allow for enough necessary change that the new MST3K won’t just be coasting along on nostalgia alone.

4. Don’t riff big movies.

While the temptation may be there to go the RiffTrax route (and make no mistake, we love RiffTrax) and take shots at reviled high profile disappointments like The Phantom Menace or those annoyingly bloated Hobbit movies, modern Hollywood provides too many easy targets, and far too many of them look and sound the same. 

The new MST3K should also function as a window into a weirder world for newer and younger viewers. Without Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the pre-internet Dark Ages I might never have discovered the majesty of the Gamera franchise, or decided to seek out the work of Ed Wood, who may not actually be the worst director in history (despite what some people say), but whose Bride of the Monster (riffed in season 4, episode 23) is absolutely one of the funniest episodes in MST3K history.

There’s enough bile already served on the internet for the Transformers movies or the Twilight franchise or whatever this week’s cinematic punching bag is. Part of the charm of MST3K was always the obscurity of some of the choices. Plus, a CGI-fest with a nine figure budget would look kind of out of place in the cozy confines of the Satellite of Love (more on that down below).

5. Don’t riff Sharknado or anything like it.

No, for real. Stay away. 

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Sharknado, its sequels, and the constant bombardment of ridiculous made for cable movies that meld one hideous insect with some other improbable animal and/or natural phenomena miss the whole point. It’s too easy. Don’t do them the honor.

One would imagine that the prime candidates for the grandest bad movie stage of them all are blissfully unaware (at least during production) of just how bad they really are. 

6. Don’t make it too slick.

They sure are asking for a lot of money to make a handful of episodes of a series that probably shouldn’t cost a whole lot, aren’t they?

That’s fine. Everyone has to get paid. And it seems that due to a series of rights issues, many of the people who were actually involved in the show’s history apparently never really saw a hell of a lot of money for all their hard work.

But under no circumstances should MST3K ever look like they spent a bunch of money making it. 

Look at it like this. Guided By Voices were always awesome and made their rep with a bunch of brilliant albums that were recorded like garbage in garages and basements. Their later records were better produced, featured some more competent musicianship, and the quality of the songs was just as strong as the early ones. The later records were great, but they lacked the mystique of the ones that sounded like they were recorded with tin cans on the Moon and then broadcast back to Earth via AM radio (tm: Matt Brink of Averkiou, who probably doesn’t even remember saying that to me, because those were the days one doesn’t remember all too clearly). 

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Stay true to the series’ cable access roots, and it will help keep the feeling that fans, especially new ones, are sharing in a secret. Even though that Kickstarter raising absurd amounts of money in absurdly little time means that it’s no secret at all!

7. Keep it PG

Mystery Science Theater 3000 was always more Marx Brothers than Andrew Dice Clay. Even in the ’90s, the tone of the jokes sometimes felt charmingly out of step with the times, like it came out of the same eras as some of the earliest movies they were skewering. 

Anyone who reads me on Den of Geek or follows me on Twitter (or worse, knows me in real life), knows that I’m no prude, and I take a certain satisfaction in effective, even frequent, use of profanity (just ask my co-workers). I have no moral objections to it, and writers here on DoG pretty much get to use whatever language they feel is appropriate to make their point.

But, I dunno…anyone can heap profanity on something lousy, and many can get a laugh out of it. MST3K had a sharper wit, and I’d like to see them work that much harder to make the jokes land.

8. Keep it Weird

Forever and always. I never got half the jokes, which were obscure and probably dated even when they were saying ’em. I probably still won’t. 

Special thanks to ridiculous MST3K fan (and fine sketch comedian) Kevin Skinner for being my sounding board on this article, and to my old pal Tom P. for turning me on to this show in the first place when we were but young smartasses. Viva MST3K

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