MSTies rejoice!  The Gizmoplex is almost upon us!

You might recall that in 2017, Mystery Science Theater 3000, the cult classic from 1988, finally came to Netflix.  It had two star-studded seasons with appearances by Felicia Day, Patton Oswalt, and Neil Patrick Harris (among others).

But like so many other Netflix series, it wound up being prematurely canceled, leaving MSTies wondering what would happen next to the beloved franchise.

If you’re not familiar with MST3K, the premise is simple: three friends watch a bad movie and spout off one-liners mocking it.  There’s a loose sci-fi motif (after all, many bad, low-budget flicks are notoriously space-themed), with a framework involving evil scientists and an orbiting spaceship called the Satellite of Love, but the show explains everything in its opening song, leaving the majority of the show dedicated to feature-length episodes of densely packed jokes that make even the worst movies amusing, quotable, and fun.

This isn’t the first time MST3K was picked up and then canceled; it’s been carried by Comedy Central and the Sci-Fi Channel as well, and with over 200 episodes and 3 live tours under its belt, it still doesn’t appear to have lost any steam.  So now that it’s off Netflix, what’s next?

Enter the Gizmoplex: a dedicated streaming service for MST3K.

Successfully funded with a Kickstarter of $6.5 million (and counting!), the Gizmoplex had a soft opening last week, and if you funded the Kickstarter, then you should have already gotten access to Friday’s premiere of Santo in the Treasure of Dracula.

Season 13’s launch on the Gizmoplex promises MSTies not only 13 upcoming episodes (see below for a full title list), but a six-pack of “Vault Picks.”  These are classic episodes that will rotate each month, allowing subscription holders to look back on older episodes.  Meanwhile, season 13 is offering the following flops:

  • Santo in the Treasure of Dracula (1969)
  • Robot Wars (1993)
  • Beyond Atlantis (1973)
  • Munchie (1992)
  • Doctor Mordrid (1992)
  • Demon Squad (2019)
  • Gamera vs. Jiger (1970)
  • The Bat Woman (1968)
  • The Million Eyes of Sumuru (1967)
  • H. G. Wells’s The Shape of Things to Come (1979)
  • The Mask 3-D (1961)
  • The Bubble (1966)
  • The Christmas Dragon (2014)

The first three are going to be available to Kickstarter backers during the site’s “soft launch,” which runs from March 4th to May 6th.

Additionally, the first year of the Gizmoplex promises 12 new shorts and 12 live streamed events.

With Hampton Yount returning as Crow and Baron Vaughn as Tom Servo, season 13 will feature three rotating hosts: Jonah Ray (from the Netflix series), Joel Hodgson (the original host and series creator), and Emily Marsh as “Emily Connor,” (who you might remember from Turkey Day marathons and who was most recently part of the Time Bubble Tour cast).

If you’re reading all this and you’re interested, but didn’t back the Kickstarter, never fear!  The Gizmoplex opens to the general public on May 6th.  Even if you didn’t back the Kickstarter, you can follow this link to preorder a 12-month pass for $135.  Unfortunately, you won’t be able to actually view anything until May 6th.  But that gives you plenty of time to look back on some old classics.  Here’s my top picks:

My Top 10 Pre-Gizmoplex MST3K Episodes

(in no particular order)

Squirm, 1976 (Episode 1012) (featuring A Case of Spring Fever, 1940)

This episode gave us the undisputed best MST3K short of all time, “A Case of Spring Fever,” in which a sentient coiled spring teaches a man a lesson about… not appreciating springs enough.  The feature film is about a Georgia town beset by killer earthworms, and it will definitely have you squirming, but not because of the worms.

The Pumaman, 1980 (Episode 903)

The Pumaman was made by someone who said, “Hey, what if there were an Aztec superhero who got his powers from aliens?” and then shotgunned several bottles of cough syrup before filming and editing their vision.  The titular Puma Man has all the powers of a puma: from seeing in the dark and landing on his feet, to flying like a moron.

Ee-Gah, 1962 (Episode 506)

A girl, along with her father and boyfriend, come across a giant neanderthal named Ee-Gah, and manage to find time to have a dune buggy montage for some reason.  The best-delivered line of dialogue is, “Look out for snakes!” which has no particular purpose, although it gives the hosts some great material to riff on.

Avalanche, 1978 (Episode 1104)

One of the newer Netflix episodes with a guest appearance by Neil Patrick Harris, Avalanche is more or less exactly what it sounds like: a disaster film about an avalanche.  It’s a disaster, all right.  While it’s tempting to argue that the funniest of the Netflix episodes was Carnival Magic, about a talking chimpanzee and the world’s most unlikeable magician, Avalanche has a more subtle kind of ridiculousness that the hosts tease out with jokes that pile up like so much snow over a ski chalet.

Final Sacrifice, 1990 (Episode 910)

You’ll find this classic on the favorite episode list of most MSTies.  It follows Zap Rowsdower, a frumpy trucker with cult ties, and his boy sidekick, Troy, as they run around Alberta trying to solve the mystery of whatever the hell the plot is.  The great strength of this episode is the imitation of the characters by the robots; it’s absolutely perfect.

I Accuse My Parents, 1944 (Episode 507)

This cautionary tale follows a promising young essay contest winner who goes on to join the mafia and murder a man because his parents have hobbies.  The high drama is meant to act as a cautionary tale about the effects of a broken home, but the frequent jokes about Jimmy winning an essay contest and having a birthday turn this “tragedy” into a grade-A comedy.

Space Mutiny, 1988 (Episode 820)

An unintelligible sci-fi space romp, Space Mutiny was apparently shot in an abandoned warehouse.  This episode gave us one of the most well-known MST3K jokes about ridiculous names for beefy male protagonists.  In the long list of names given to David Ryder, “Punch RockGroin” was probably my favorite.

The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, 1966 (Episode 1113)

Another one of the newer Netflix episodes that isn’t Carnival Magic, The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t is a gag-worthy Christmas special following Santa and Mr. Whipple as they try to save Christmas.  The movie can’t seem to decide if it’s a musical, a comedy, or a Hallmark special, and it’s clearly had way too much eggnog, but if you can get past the eerie discomfort of seeing grown men act like children, then you’ll be ho-ho-hoing through every other line.

Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, 1983 (Episode 822)

It’s a bit like Total Recall, but instead of a woman with three breasts there’s nature documentary stock footage and simmering transphobia.  In a strange display of self-awareness, the main character frequently tells the audience how bored he is, which the hosts agree with whole-heartedly.

Devil Doll, 1964 (Episode 818)

A hypnotist / ventriloquist / voodoo witch doctor performs a stage act with a dummy that’s possessed by a ghost, and creepily hits on women.  Because nothing gets a woman going like a ventriloquist act, I guess?  It’s a horror film and I will admit it gave me nightmares, but those nightmares had nothing to do with the possessed doll.

Honorable Mention: Wizards of the Lost Kingdom, 1985 (Episode 1110)

Featuring Crabby the Hat as the best character, Wizards of the Lost Kingdom felt like it was meant to be bad.  I saw MST3K’s riffs of Wizards of the Lost Kingdom I & II on the night before my father’s funeral with my brother and a bottle of whiskey, and ever since have felt a strange sense of comfort when I think of Crabby’s grating little Jersey accent.

Didn’t see your favorite MST3K episode on this list?  Check out the Top 100 episodes here, and see where your favorites rank!  Be sure to circle your calendars for the official grand opening of the Gizmoplex on May 6th, 2022.  Your favorite episode might be yet to come!