It’s been nearly 18 years since the last episode of the cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 or MST3K. The premise was simple, a man and his robot friends were trapped in space and forced to watch bad movies as part of a mad scientist’s plan to rule the world. Viewers watched as the trio made jokes and cast silhouettes on the movies (against the ship’s theater screen). Now, after a highly successful Kickstarter, season 11 of MST3K will premiere on Netflix later this week. As one of the backers, I got to stream the first episode of the new season early and can say without hesitation that MST3K is back and just like fans remember it.
I’m going to keep this spoiler-free so that I don’t spoil anything before the April 14th release date on Netflix.
For this new iteration, Jonah Ray plays Jonah Heston, the newest test subject to get trapped in space. Joining him is the sarcastic oddball Crow T. Robot now played by Hampton Yount and the suave, more reserved, Tom Servo now played by Baron Vaughn. Jonah’s captors, Kinga Forrester and TV’s Son of TV’s Frank are played by Felicia Day as and Patton Oswalt respectively. Also, sci-fi fans will see a familiar face make a cameo early in episode one.
The sets and props retain the “off the shelf” homemade quality that the original was known for. While the budget could certainly allow for things to looks better, the creators kept the earlier aesthetic intact. They did allow themselves to use some CGI in the silhouetted theater segments of the show. Hovering robot Tom Servo no longer needs to be carried into the theater and can occasionally float up during the movie. Also, now that it’s standard for TV’s to be widescreen, the aspect ratio of the show is 16:9 as opposed to the original 4:3. Now the illusion that three figures are watching a movie in a theater is pulled off more effectively.
The bad movie riffed on in this first episode is actually one that I’ve seen before watching the MST3K version. It’s not that bad but it’s definitely a good choice for Jonah and bots riff on, which they do with ease.
This episode had to pull double duty by giving fans what they want as well as being accessible for new fans. It’s a solid foundation to start from and I look forward to seeing what they do in the next 13 episodes.