MST3K: The Essentials

"We'd just like to apologise to everyone everywhere for this."
- Joel from Catching Trouble (Episode 315)

Some of you may already be diehard MSTies. The rest of you are obviously asking, "Mystery Science Theater 3000? What the heck is that!?" If you are, then wonder no longer! This is the Essentials, all the important details of MST3K together in one post.

The show is divded into two portions: for the majority of the episodes, Joel or Mike and the robots are seen in silhouette sitting in movie theater seats, watching the movies and cracking jokes. Before, after, and at several points during the film are the host segments, which usually involve some kind of silly skit to further make fun of the movie.

- The series was created by comedian Joel Hodgson in 1988.
- It ran for one season on local Minnesota cable station KTMA.
- The show was picked up by the Comedy Channel (later to become Comedy Central), becoming the channel's signature series. It lasted six full seasons and a much shorter seventh before being cancelled.
- A big-screen feature film was released in 1996.
- After an extensive letter campaign by fans, SciFi Channel picked up the series and ran it for another three seasons.
- The show ran from 1988 to 1999, for a total of 11 seasons and 198 episodes.


Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson): A janitor at Gizmonic Institute who was launched into space aboard the Satellite of Love by the mad scientists, Dr. Clayton Forrester and Dr. Laurence Erhardt. A sleepy-eyed, laid back kind of guy, Joel would deliver much of his commentary in his usual deadpan. He built the robots Tom Servo, Crow, Gypsy, and Cambot to keep him company and help him survive the constant barrage of bad movies. Joel eventually escaped in an escape pod that had been mislabeled as a crate of Hamdingers. He returned in a cameo for the final season where he helped repair the Satellite.

Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu): A mad scientist working out of a sub-basement of Gizmonic Institute. Forrester shot Joel into space and forced him to watch horrible movies. His plan was to find the one movie that would break Joel's sanity, and then unleash it upon humanity, turning them into mindless zombies that he could control. Eventually, Forrester's funding was cut and he cut the Satellite loose. In a parody of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Forrester transformed into a starchild. His mother vowed to rasie him right the second time, but failed again. She later admitted that she smothered him to death.

Mike Nelson (Michael J. Nelson): Mike is a goofy, slightly dim, but likeable guy from Wisconsin. He was hired as a temp by Dr. Forrester, and was sent up as the replacement subject for the experiment after Joel left. Mike was more cynical about his captivity than Joel, constantly trying to find ways to escape. Tom and Crow teased him, often mercilessly, treating him as a put-upon big brother in contrast to the father-and-children relationship they had with Joel. Mike also had a habit of accidentally blowing up planets. After the Satellite fell back to Earth, Mike and the bots ended up sharing an apartment in Wisconsin.

Tom Servo (Operated and voiced by Josh Weinstein / Kevin Murphy): One of the robots built by Joel. Although Tom is small, he speaks in a deep baritone voice and has a superiority complex. He moves around by means of hovering, and must be carried into the movie theater by Joel/Mike because there is an air grate in the floor he cannot hover over.

Crow T. Robot (Operated and voiced by Trace Beaulieu / Bill Corbett): One of the robots built by Joel. Crow is colored gold and walks around like a human, although his legs are hardly ever seen. His head is vaguely birdlike in appearance, with a beak and "net hair". Crow started off as a bit more fun loving and childlike, but his personality later shifted to being irritable and prone to snapping at the slightest provocation.

Gypsy (operated and voiced by Jim Mallon / Patrick Brantseg): One of the robots built by Joel and the only female among the Satellite crew. Gypsy often appeared to be slow, but this was due to most of her computing power going to maintaining the higher functions of the ship. She usually appeared in the host segments, and only joined the guys once in the theater; unfortunately the movie was so bad that she could only handle five minutes of it. After the Satellite crew returned to Earth, Gypsy became a wealthy businesswoman.

Cambot: One of the robots buitl by Joel and the only one who doesn't speak. It is through Cambot that the viewers see the series, and he also projects the movies for Joel, Mike, Tom, and Crow to watch. He only appears in the Robot Roll Call of the show's opening.

Dr. Laurence Erhardt (Josh Weinstein): Dr Forrester's original assistant. He was very much the classic geek, wearing thick glasses and speaking in a high, squeaky voice. Dr. Erhardt only appeared in the KTMA season and the first Comedy Central season. His departure is never explained except that he went missing, although Joel later theorizes that he was eaten by a giant spider.

TV's Frank (Frank Conniff): Dr. Forrester's second assistant. Forrester discovered Frank working at an Arby's. Frank was generally a nice guy, and often suffered repeated tortures and indignities at the hands of his boss, often ending up dead and having to be revivied. Frank eventually left, raised up into Second Banana Heaven, a place where the sidekicks of villains could live in peace without the fear of reprisals from their masters. He later appeared in cameo in the final season as a Soultaker, having been placed in the job after leaving Second Banana Heaven, complaining that it was "too political".

Pearl Forrester (Mary Jo Pehl): Dr. Forrester's overbearing mother. She first appeared as a regular character in the 7th season. After neglecting her son for a second time and killing him, she was placed in suspended animation and revived in the far future. She ran into Mike and the bots again in the year 2525 where she was Lawgiver to a world of intelligent apes (in a parody of Planet Of The Apes). Pearl persues Mike across time and space, having vowed to continue her son's work and drive Mike mad with bad movies. She pilots a rocket powered Volkswagen van.

Professor Bobo (Kevin Murphy): One of the sapient Apes under the rule of Pearl. Bobo survives the destruction of Earth in 2525 by stowing away in Pearl's rocket-van. Bobo often switches between being a brilliant scientist and an instinct-driven ape, and has serious hygine issues that need constant attention.

Observer, aka Brain Guy (Bill Corbett): One of a race of omniscient, omnipotent beings all named Observer. They claim to be bodyless, although their form is that of white, spectral beings who carry their green-blue brains in large containers. Observer ends up being just as dysfuctional as the rest of the regular characters, and joins Pearl and Bobo after Mike accidentally destroys his planet. Observer was given the nickname "Brain Guy", and his appointted task was to psychically send the movies up to the Satellite.

Season 1 - Joel is launched into space and builds the robots.
Season 2 - Frank replaces Dr. Erhardt. Kevin Murphy takes over puppet and voice duties for Tom Servo.
Season 5 - Joel departs partway through the season and is replaced by Mike.
Season 6 - Frank departs at the end of the season.
Season 7 - Pearl Forrester becomes a regular character. At the end of the season Dr. Forrester releases the Satellite and it travels to the edge of the universe. Mike and the bots turn themselves into beings of pure energy and float off to freedom, while Forrester transforms into a starchild.
Season 8 - Mike and the bots return to their corporeal form, discovering that over 500 years has passed. Pearl returns to make their lives a living hell once again; she is joined by Bobo and Brain Guy. Bill Corbett takes over puppet and voice duties for Crow.
Season 9 - The Satellite eventually returns to Earth and Pearl takes up residence in Castle Forrester, her family's ancestral home.
Season 10 - The Satellite is accidentally sent plummeting to Earth. Mike and the bots survive and finally live free from Pearl's control.