The original Mystery Science Theater 3000 thrived on the the cheap space opera rip-offs. Whether it was a Star Wars rip off or a Roger Corman cheapy, the show would ridicule that b-movie to death. The famous Space Mutiny episode was considered one of the best.
The Return takes on incomprehensible space opera Starcrash in its sixth episode and it has its moments, mostly due to the emergence of Tom Servo. But there’s something missing in this outing. This should have been a home run, but the funny falls just a bit short.
“This Isn’t Star Wars!”
Starcrash is…well, honestly I couldn’t tell you what the film is about. The plot makes little sense as it follows space bikini clad Stella Star, permed Jedi knock-off Akton, a scene chewing Joe Spinell. and for some reason David Hasselhoff. It rips off Star Wars and plays like a bunch of random, lackluster ideas thrown together.
Jonah, Tom and Crow take on the bad special effects (Christmas lights…IN SPACE!) and terrible acting with their usual sarcastic wit. There is a lot to make fun of, from Stella’s steadily diminishing clothing to Christopher Plummer’s “What the hell am I doing here?” performance. They have their moments, but they do fall a bit short here.
Don’t be mistaken…this is a funny episode. But this should have been hilarious. There aren’t many memorable quotes or gut busting jokes in this episode, surprising given the movie. Maybe it’s the expectations…this episode unintentionally calls back to the original’s Space Mutiny episode because of the cheap sci-fi movie it lampoons. It’s hard to live up to that episode.
The best moments come from Baron Vaughn’s increasingly fun Tom Servo. I criticized his performance in the first episode, writing that Tom’s personality didn’t really stand out. Ever since, Vaughn has steadily shined as the bubble-headed robot and this episode is his breakout.
From singing over the extremely long shots of the cheap starships or floating on screen next to one of those ships begging Stella to “Board me,” Tom owns this episode. This Tom is different from the original, a silly man-child who goes for the laugh no matter the cost. It’s been great to watch.
Speaking of singing, the guys break into song more than once during the movie and it’s always funny. The musical moments have been the highlights in The Return, so it’s nice to see them in the “theater.” Sing to your hearts’ content, boys!
“Now, You Got Something!”
The man behind that name and the skits outside of the theater are examples of this episode’s struggles. Masterstroke is an entrepreneur who visits Kinga (Felicia Day) and Max (Patton Oswalt) and shoots down each of their weird business ideas. His appearance is a shocking cameo by a big name that I won’t ruin here, but it falls a little flat. Much like the movie they make fun of, this should have been much better.
The other skits are fun because they tend to take on Starcrash’s random, haphazard plot. Many of them make little sense, but use that to solid comedic effect. The standout skit is when Crow and Tom meet the “real” Akton and discover he isn’t as cool as he seems.
As Close to A Misstep As Possible
Let’s compare this episode to the infamous hallway scene from Rogue One. In case you don’t remember, Darth Vader basically cut through a bunch of Rebels to give Star Wars geeks everywhere soiled pants. This episode is a lot like one of those rebels.
Not the one who got a cool death by being stabbed through the door as he handed off the Death Star plans. This episode is that Rebel who got one of his blaster bolts deflected back at him. It’s a cool death, but not nearly as cool as being force chocked to the ceiling and then cut in half by Vader’s lightsaber.
Starcrash is a cool episode, but not nearly as cool as it could have been.
Okay, if Starcrash can rip off Star Wars, then I can do it to make my point!
SCORE: 7.5 OUT OF 10
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return is currently streaming on Netflix