I’m going to include some general thoughts about the reboot as I do these reviews, and a lot of them will be in this post.
Film : Reptilicus (1961)
Episode : 198 (counting the MST3K Movie)
Secret Number : 016 (hidden in Jonah’s ship in the credits)
Film Synopsis : Danish miners drill into a preserved giant reptile frozen beneath the ground. Thanks to top University scholars, predictable mistakes ensue allowing the specimen to thaw, and regenerate into a giant spongy puppet (or “dinosaur”). While the puppet smashes its way through anything the military can throw at it, we’re supposed to care about some gruff military asshole who falls in love with one of the two nearly indistinguishable blonde women in the movie. I think it’s Not-Ellie Mae.
Series and Episode Thoughts : Whoa, it’s back! Nearly twenty years, and it’s back! Let’s start with the good stuff - the set design, the music, the model work. MST3K has returned and has been upgraded. The production is pretty slick. Jonah Ray (as Jonah Heston) is an amiable guy, more in the tradition of Joel than Mike. The new theme and opening is great. I also like the little vestigial commercial bumps where Max talks about the movie. The new cast is more or less fantastic.
I do have a couple of criticisms. I am mildly annoyed by Tom Servo’s new voice. (Not really worthy of mailing him a banner, but…) His vocal range is too similar to Jonah’s - his default Tom voice is okay, but when either of them start talking as one of the movie characters, it’s impossible, but for the Netflix subtitles, to tell which one of them it is. (That’s another great thing! Netflix subtitles!)
Also, the slickness of the production undercuts the old home-made vibe a little. They no longer do the Shadowramma process in the theater, they actually record the riffs in a sound booth. The theater silhouettes are recorded separately, so they can include the … sigh… animations of Tom flying around that they will overuse extensively in future episodes.
And the recording process seems to have changed in a couple of important ways - I don’t feel like the Mads and Jonah are really going back and forth. I’m sure Patton and Felicia have tough schedules to work around, but it just doesn’t have quite the same flow. I don’t know if it’s the sets (which look great) or the camera angle, but honestly, it feels like the sets are green-screened most of the time.
The riffs are a little bit feast or famine in this one - long quiet stretches, followed by a flurry of riffs that don’t allowed time for previous jokes to land. Their pacing improves considerably with the next few episodes, though.
Important Stuff : This episode gives us the extended opening sequence with a bit of Jonah’s backstory. Guest-starring Wil Wheaton and Erin Grey.
Host Segment 1 : Jonah has been on the SOL for two months, he’s made some updates to Gypsy and Tom Servo, but Crow is perfect just the way he is.
Invention Exchange : Jonah has a bubble fan. The Mads have nothing.
Host Segment 2 : Every Country Has a Monster - the best musical number on the series to date. Written by Paul and Storm.
HS 3 : Crow grows extra Servos by cloning material in Servo’s arm.
HS 4 : Letters! We won’t see too many letters segments in the reboot.
HS 5 : Gypsy smashes model Copenhagen. Max and Kinga nod to the fact they are appearing on Netflix.
Memorable Riffs :
The new crew does a lot of singing riffs, and seems to go out of their way to have at least one classic riff callback per episode. And in this episode, they do both at the same time. There’s also a nod to the Church of the Subgenius that made me laugh, but I didn’t get it fully copied down.
The Gang (singing) : “Wonderful, wonderful Super Dragon.” [Secret Agent Super Dragon callback - ‘Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen…’]
Gypsy : “Now you’re *Mister *Filing Cabinet!”
Tom : “Even Denmark has an Andy Griffith.”
Crow : “Did that lightning knock the film out of focus?”
Crow : “Brigadier General Military-Industrial Complex, this is Miss Doctor Woman.”
Jonah : “Fire in an aquarium? Well, that’ll sort itself out.”
Tom (?): “Diarrhea is like a storm, raging inside you…” [Classic repeated riff]
Crow : “There’s your problem, he’s in a different movie. You’re never going to hit him.”
Kickstarter Backers : The list for this episode goes from A to ‘Barbie’, alphabetical by first name.
Stinger : Danish doof Dirch Passer goofs on the electric eel tank.