Heads up, this is something of a love-letter to the show. Prepare for sappiness and low-flying superlatives.
I live in Australia. Mystery Science Theater 3000 has never aired on terrestrial or cable television here. The only official MST3K release we ever had was The Movie, and even then, I only discovered it by minuscule chance when trawling through the local Blockbuster’s “Cult” section in the early 2000s. Sufficed to say that at that time, nobody here had heard of the show. Where in the US, I imagine hearing the name at that time might have sparked at least a vague notion in the general public’s minds as “that show with the silhouettes”, you wouldn’t have even gotten that here. And with the internet in its relative infancy, it was a proper unknown in our country.
When I discovered MST3K: The Movie along with my high school friends during a “bad looking video roulette” movie marathon night I held, it was magical. We had, purely by chance, uncovered something unlike any of us had ever seen before. I’m sure everyone here has a similarly vivid recollection of the day or night they came across MST3K. Its uniqueness undoubtedly helps burn that encounter into your mind.
The Movie led to one of my friends going online and in turn, discovering and sharing with our small group the existence of the TV series. This wasn’t just a weird one-off cult film as we had assumed. Oh goodness no, we had ahead of us a jaw-droppingly extensive catalogue of films, in all manner of genres, that had been given the MST3K treatment. If The Movie had scratched an itch, we had just stumbled across an abandoned warehouse filled with back scratchers.
Over the years that followed, I made my way through the catalogue in dribs and drabs, loving so, so much of what I found. But one thing was always missing. A sense that I was just kind of peering in through the window of an exclusive underground club. There was no MST3K fandom in Australia. People still had never even heard of the thing. I sensed that a big part of my feeling like an outsider was the fact that I only had the good fortune of discovering the show a good year or so after “Diabolik” had closed the lid on the series. There was a semblance of online fandom, but to me coming in a year after the show had finished airing, it felt like that community was inaccessible.
With no warning, one day in 2015, the revival Kickstarter appeared. This might sound weird, but the very fact that the Kickstarter was open to international backers - the fact that they were open to taking MY money from all the way over in Australia? Even that felt special. And knowing that this would be the first time since The Movie that I could legitimately access new episodes… to be able to support the show directly and help herald in new episodes… AND to be able to see them as they were released along with the rest of the fans… What a time to be alive!
We all know the story of what happens next - a hearty slab of new episodes which we all got to enjoy.
It’s hard to fully articulate how good it felt to be able to curl up on the sofa with my partner after dinner every couple of nights and watch a new episode. Yeah, we tried to ration them out, but both of us were enjoying the new episodes too much to space them one per week as we had initially planned. MST3K wasn’t a thing from the past that we’d arrived late to anymore. We wanted to pounce on it all while it was new and fresh!
And then… the silence. The deafening silence that made my partner and I wish we had more self-restraint, and rationed them out to… I dunno… One episode per month? Yeah. That would have been perfect! We could have made more of an event out of each one. And this silence about the show’s future might have been more bearable.
Then finally, another slab of new episodes. But these ones… Wait, we’re encouraged to binge them? Well who are we to argue?
And then of course, more silence.
And news that Netflix had officially dropped the show, followed by even more silence.
And then… the new Kickstarter… With the plans for The Gizmoplex unveiled…
Here’s the thing. The whole point of me stepping you through my somewhat arcane history with the show. Up until this point, though I would definitely have called myself a fan every step of the way, I had still been unable to shake that feeling of being an outsider looking in, at least a little, in the back of my mind.
The thing that has finally worked for me, that has snapped me out of that mindset and made me feel like I could actually call myself a MSTie, is this past year. I got the first sense of it when Joel posted the backer update back in May of last year, talking about “Game Day” for the Green Bay Packers at his house, and how it wasn’t just an airdate, but an experience for him. An event that you’re taking part in from home, but simultaneously with other fans, in real time, and being able to interact with the community as it happens.
I feel like The Gizmoplex has, perhaps unintentionally, heightened the tongue-in-cheek meaning of the theme song line “It’s just a show”. Because The Gizmoplex structure and implementation has, at least for this humble international MSTie, re-contextualised the experience of “watching a new episode” into “attending the new premiere”.
I know that donning the 3D glasses for this new event will bring that experience to yet another level still, and going into another season with Gizmoplex concession packs in hand will really be the icing on the triple-tier quadruple-choc cake.
So yes, a very long-winded way to go about it, but for what it’s worth, this season has felt to me so much more like MST3K is alive than ever before. The Alternaversal team should be immensely proud of how they have brought a living presence to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 name, and made this Australian couple feel like they are a part of something truly unique and special.
Thank you Joel, @ivan , @mattmcg22 , @Lesley and the rest of the crew, cast and team that gave birth to this weird experiment and are toiling away to keep it flourishing month after month. It goes so far beyond what I hoped it would be and has recaptured the feeling of excitement and joy I first felt when I stumbled across MST3K and realised I’d found something special.