Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 have a lot to be thankful for this year. No, it's not just the usual opportunity to do a DIY Turkey Day marathon (although that is always reason to be thankful), but something really special: the return of the show! Thanks to the magic of Kickstarter, show creator Joel Hodgson has raised a little over $2.5 million to resurrect Mystery Science Theater with a new cast. Right now, with just over two weeks to go, the campaign has reached the first threshold, enough to produce three episodes. Each additional million bucks means three more, up to a total of twelve episodes, or a full season. As a lifelong superfan, this has me stupid excited. I love all the spinoffs, from RiffTrax to local heroes like Mile High Sci-Fi, but there's something about getting back to that Satellite of Love that's just different, and all that excitement has me digging through my voluminous MST3K collection to relive my best MSTie memories. Won't you join me for five of my all-time favorites?
5) Moon Zero Two
We start with something of a weird one. In all honesty, Moon Zero Two is not a top-tier episode. It is, however, my very first episode, and as such holds a special place in my heart. I was just a boy when I stumbled upon this weird, wacky show that combined two of my favorite things — terrible sci-fi movies and savagely mocking things — and it changed me forever. Sure, you won't have the same nostalgia for this particular episode I do, but it's still a solid early outing, and you can try to imagine my sense of utter bewilderment and joy when I stumbled across it all those years ago. Maybe it will revive some semblance of feeling in your cold, dead soul. It always works for me!
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Unlike the majority of the films on the show, this one is neither science fiction/fantasy, nor terrible. It's not good, mind you — it's just not terrible. It's a pretty standard, albeit mediocre and pointless, mid-'70s "rogue cop" movie starring Joe Don Baker and a bunch of other "that guy" character actors of the era. It's also a really, really sharp episode with some great riffs and one-liners. (As a bonus, it also reportedly pissed Baker off so much he threatened to kick someone's ass over it.) Perhaps most important, it marks the passing of the torch from the Joel Era to the Mike Era, an important milestone, especially as the show prepares for its rebirth with a third host, comedian Jonah Ray.
3) Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues
As far as I know, this is a pretty idiosyncratic favorite — I don't recall seeing it on many (any?) other lists of top episodes. I love it, though, and it's one of my go-to episodes when I need a little fix of the ol' MSTie magic. In it, a really strange group of people (seriously, why are these people spending time together?) wander around Arkansas looking for Bigfoot, and the action provides some great fodder for Mike and the bots. Favorite moments include the bizarre, hardly-connected-to-the-actual-movie outhouse interlude (as you might imagine, poop is involved) and the line, "Can I borrow a cup of shirt?" (It makes sense in context, I swear.)
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2) Space Mutiny
Take some recycled Battlestar Galactica footage (original, not reboot), some D-list actors that you almost certainly won't recognize and an incoherent plot about some kind of mutiny (a space mutiny!) on a generation ship, and what do you have? This terrible movie that was transmuted into comedy gold by Mike and the bots. It doesn't hurt that the "spaceship" sets all appear to be some kind of water-treatment plant or something, and that the sweet space vehicles they drive are clearly golf carts with some cardboard and craft supplies strategically applied. Or that they spend something like a third of the movie making up increasingly ridiculous nicknames for the protagonist. Or ... you know what? Nothing about this episode hurts. It's great, from beginning to end.
1) Pod People
Oh, Pod People, I do love you so. A really disjointed film about an alien and a kid who loves him and also some poachers who are bad people, Pod People is nothing but the finest garbage cinema, and boy, does it make for a great episode. When someone unfamiliar with the show wants to check it out, I always go to Pod People first. I can quote huge swatches of the episode on command, and frequently do. It hits the perfect MST3K trifecta of a bad-but-fascinating film, great jokes throughout, and the rare, high-quality host segment with Joel and bots in a rendition of the insane pop song from the movie. If I were only allowed to watch one episode ever again, it would be this one, over and over and over, and I wouldn't mind a bit.
I hope you enjoy these episodes as much as I do (you might have noticed you can actually watch them all, except Mitchell, via the embeds above) and consider contributing to the MST3K reboot Kickstarter to make sure we all get as much new MST3K as possible. Keep circulating the tapes!