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Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Ep. 3) The Time Travelers: Review

A look at Episode 3 of the new season of MST3K.

MST3K The Time Travelers is the third episode in the new season of the series, this time featuring a truly bad film about a group of scientists sent to a bleak future full of mutants, androids, and 60s camp.

Here we go, already episode three. After a mortality check for Jonah, as bots Crow and Servo remind their human companion of his vulnerability, it’s off to the invention exchange with another clever bit involving those silica packets you find in boxed dry goods and mad scientists Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day) and Max (Patton Oswalt) doing a funny skit spoofing Life Alert necklaces (After Life Alert) and the depths of hell ’cause after you die, you don’t want to fall down in the wrong circle and not be able to get up. Good stuff. Then it’s movie sign and into the theater we go. The Mads seem quite happy with their pick.

MST3K, 2017 © Netflix

The Time Travelers

This one is from 1964 and is directed by Ib Melchior, the guy who wrote the movie from Episode 1, Repticilus. So … strike one already. It’s about four sorta scientists who open a portal to the future where they find the landscape a wasteland populated with mutants and a colony of underground human survivors building a rocket ship to flee the dying world.

Sounds good right? Well, no. Not at all. As expected … it’s really, really bad, chuck full of low-tech effects, cheesy-queasy sexism, bland dialog, poor acting, and a dull story, even if there’s some genuine moments where they push, you know, science, into the story. Yippee. In fact, it’s kind of ahead of its time, as one might even see some similarities to several modern space-faring films, with hydroponics and sleep chambers and such. Think of Danny Boyle‘s Sunshine except you know, awful.

MST3K, 2017 © Netflix

Still, the movie works hard to showoff some at-the-time state of the art practical visual effects, including a lengthy scene where they pull the head off an android (a living breathing actor in a nightmare-inducing head prosthetic) and replace it, all in one unbroken shot, which is significant as this is 1964 where CGI was more apt to mean Cheesy Generated Imagery rather than Computer Generated Imagery. Still, the use of mirrors and hidden compartments is easy to spot but impressive nonetheless and maybe fooled audiences back in the day. Jonah and the bots even give the film some due props for the work. That’s rare. You’ll notice a lack of color in the options for the androids (parts on the wall are all legs and arms of exactly the same skin tone), of which the boys skewer.

MST3K, 2017 © Netflix

Like many films of the time, the lead scientist was a generic looking goatee-wearing older man (here played by Preston Foster) and he’s serviceable in the part, turning knobs and projecting concern. His assistant is of course, a beautiful young woman (Merry Anders) who isn’t quite able to keep up with everything because you know, girls.

MST3K, 2017 © Netflix

Most annoying though is a character named Danny (Steve Franken) who smirks and guffaws his ways though the picture to get laughs and somehow still gets the prettiest, most buxom girl from the future to fall in love him. Franken is a sort of legend, truthfully, who, until his death in 2012, was highly-visible in movies and television from the original Westworld (1973) to Seinfeld and the Tom Hank‘s thriller Angels and Demons (2009). Here though, he’s just mugs it up too much, even breaking the fourth wall. Don’t worry though, the guys give him due share.

MST3K, 2017 © Netflix

So how is the riffing? Well, Jonah and the bots continue to settle nicely into the new season and admittedly, the jokes are already feeling more refined. The pacing is good, even as they launch shots one after another in rapid fire succession. Here’s a collection of a few that hit best:

  • Does this bug you universe. I’m not touching you.
  • This should be enough time to save Doc Brown from the Libyans.
  • I’m actually traveling through time at the rate of one hour per hour.
  • I didn’t understand a word I just said.
  • Is that an out-uendo … I mean innuendo?
  • Are we looking through Larry’s peephole?
  • My mother died from lovely liver.
  • I’m a little kitty cat toy moving real slow (one that sounds awfully close to a shout to an obscure SNL sketch).
MST3K, 2017 © Netflix

So you might be wondering who Larry is. Or not. Larry isn’t a character in the movie but rather a character in one of the out-of-the-theater bits where supposedly, a couple of people from from the movie stop by the Satellite of Love (where Jonah and the bots are trapped), looking to party. Larry is one of them and he’s played by none other than Joel Hodgson, the creator of  the original series and producer/director for the reboot. He doesn’t speak, but it sure is good to see him on set again.

Joel Hodgson (right) MST3K, 2017 © Netflix

The third show isn’t the funniest of the three so far, but is still great fun, and there’s something comforting about being able to see new episodes of the show. Plenty of chuckles and great skits, MST3K: The Return Episode 3 (which in the canon is actually the 200th–congratulations) is another winner. Watch it now, and remember, turn down the lights where applicable.