SOME MINOR SPOILERS
Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Return appears to have hit its stride with a very funny third episode, possibly the best of the season so far. This episode’s flick, 1964’s The Time Travelers, provides more than enough b-movie silliness to feed our heroes’ rapid fire quips. Even the outside skits are getting stronger, though they are still not perfect.
200th Episode…Sort Of
Much of Kinga (Felicia Day) and Max’s (Patton Oswalt) material is pretty standard in this episode, but one particular bit stands out. Kinga proudly declare that this is the two-hundredth episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000! Forget that Max reminds her that they have nothing to do with the original series. Kinga only sees the “legacy” money from yet another reboot.
It is a pretty fun “meta” moment as the show takes a shot not only at the reboot culture of today, but also at itself. This particular reboot really does respect its origins. Joel Hodgson would make a similar joke in the original series. He never shied away from taking shots at his show.
Speaking of Hodgson, he makes a sneaky and hilarious cameo . that is a highlight of the skits. With a disturbingly sly smile, Hodgson plays Larry, one half of the “groovy” pair we are introduced to in The Time Travelers. He never says a word, but his slyly sleazy looks steal all the laughs in the skit. It is a perfect cameo for the notoriously camera shy Hodgson.
Jonah Ray has that same lovable awkwardness of Hodgson. In one of the skits, he trips over a line and it is not edited out. This is a nice little touch that makes his character all the more likable. And it is a cool “We are just as b-level as the movies we make fun of” moment. The meta is strong in this one…
Outside of these moments, the skits are pretty forgettable. They are not terrible, but it does feel a bit repetitive. Jonah and the bots simply elaborate on their latest b-movie’s terrible plotting. Granted, there is a lot of material in this episode’s movie.
“The Bland-tastic Four”
The Time Travelers may be one of the worst movies that either show has done. A weird mix of science fiction, awkward mainstream psychedelic silliness and hilariously fluctuating tone succeeds in only one thing: Being boring. Jonah, Tom and Crow have so much to take on and they gleefully tear it to shreds.
Through cheesy special effects and sets, the “Bland-tastic Four” of Erik von Steiner, wannabe hunk Steve, his airhead girl Carol and “comedy relief” Danny accidentally create a portal to the future. There they discover a truly groovy society of inappropriately plunging necklines, bad magic tricks and strange love lounges. The movie goes all over the place, rarely making sense…no surprise given The Time Travelers comes from the mind of Reptilicus’ Ib Melchior.
Like Reptilicus, this piece of cinematic brilliance features awkwardly placed comedy relief in an annoying character. Danny, a man child who cannot shut up, is a favorite target of Jonah and the bots this time around. There is more than enough funny vitriol to go around as Steve’s attempts to be the group’s chin-jutting hero fall hilariously flat. His over the top testosterone is almost always ridiculously over the top. “Maybe I could wrestle you!” Jonah growls in Steve’s voice as the character is simply told “no” by another character.
The Time Travelers gives our guys a creepy android design that they eagerly tear apart. A strange mouthless and flesh colored creation, Jonah and the bots make quick work of a unintentionally horrific scene where the android’s legs hang on the walls. Oddly chipper music plays as both the audience and the sarcastic critics look on in wide-eyed terror.
Crow, Tom and even Gypsy are gaining more of a personality as well. Gypsy is turning into the most logical of the bots, but Tom is beginning to shine, thanks to Baron Vaughn’s performance. In one of the best uses of The Return’s fun pantomiming, Tom flies up into one of the movie’s cheap sets and pretends to struggle pushing a rocket upwards. “I’m a two foot tall robot pantomiming against an old move and I got you to buy it,” Tom declares. And dammit, you will buy it.
Strongest Outing Yet
The Return has gotten stronger with every episode. Everything comes together, even if the skits are still a bit forgettable. But few of the original show’s fans are tuning in for those. B-movie lovers rejoice! This is getting good!
SCORE: 9 OUT OF 10
Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Return is currently streaming on Netflix.