This Thanksgiving was a particularly great one for fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000. For a little over 11 hours, amid shoveling food into your gaping maws, Joel Hodgson and Jonah Ray hosted a countdown of the top six episodes–from a top 100 list voted on by fans who donated to their massively successful Kickstarter–which contained three Joel and three Mike episodes. But backers also got an extra special surprise in the form of Hodgson’s announcement that two of the three long lost KTMA episodes had finally been recovered…and were available to watch right then!
In the lengthy (but always fascinating) Black Friday update on the Kickstarter page, Hodgson gave the whole list of 100 episodes, and said that he felt bad about having no new episodes to show on Turkey Day (14 new episodes will be coming to Netflix in 2017), he did want to give backers something extra, and unveiled that the very first two episodes of the Minnesota access channel episodes had been found. Those episodes are K01 – Invaders from the Deep, and K02 – Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars. Both movies were 1981 feature-length versions of Gerry Anderson Supermarionation TV shows from the ’60s, Stingray and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, respectively. Until very recently–a couple of months, according to Hodgson–the episode tapes had been lost to time.
The KTMA episodes were the initial 21 episodes of the show as they were broadcast on KTMA in Minneapolis, specifically for local viewers to watch, from 1988-1989. The premise proved successful enough that they were offered a chance to move the show to Comedy Central, which they did for the canonical first season in November of 1989. Many of the movies watched during the KTMA year resurfaced during the Comedy Central years. While the episodes from the KTMA year have made their way onto the internet due to fan taping and bootlegging, no official release of them have ever been done, owing to Hodgson’s belief that they’re too rough.
Indeed, even these two episodes — which are available officially and digitally — were presented to Kickstarter backers with a caveat. Says Hodgson:
You can see Josh [Weinstein] and Trace [Beaulieu] and me just wading into “movie riffing” and starting to play with all the elements and dynamics of the show and the set pieces. Obviously, it’s pretty slow. We didn’t pre-watch any of the films or even attempt to write any jokes; it’s just us, starting out, “blue skying” it.
And in truth, these episodes are quite slow. There are long stretches without commenting of any kind, but we get to see the nugget of what would eventually become a comedy icon. And I was actually very impressed by how many of the pieces were in place even at the very beginning: the bots, the mads, the ship, hell — even the multi-door corridor to the “theater” is in place. It was a solid concept even then, and it makes us extra excited to see what will happen in the new season.
If you weren’t a Kickstarter backer or didn’t back enough to get these episodes as add-on bonuses, you can currently purchase them in the following links (Invaders from the Deep, and Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars).
Image: Joel Hodgson