Oh, wow… gotta put some real thought into this!
They’re all important episodes. Obviously, Joel had the most important debut, whether you’re counting Invaders from the Deep as the series premiere or The Crawling Eye as the start of the national run. Mike’s episode is also important, because it showed that MST3K could continue past the Joel era, that it could continue at all. And then Jonah’s debut showed that MST3K could continue with an all-new team after the show was long dormant, and THEN Emily’s debut showed that another all-new team could continue to take the series to new heights on the Gizmoplex level.
But as far as my favorite? Hmmm…
Even at the dawn of the show when the riffing was a bit more sparse, those Joel episodes have a great laidback feel and flavor, and are entertaining in their own right.
I liked the character-defining host segments for Mike. The movie could go a tad dark and bleak, but the gang rose to make it all lighter. Some really fun jokes and running gags there (“I’m in another dimension!!!”).
The rapid-fire riffs of Reptilicus took me by surprise, but the episode was a lot of fun. We got a Jacques Tati riff, for crying out loud! I also liked that the movie was light, goofy, and laughably ridiculous. The host segments were great bit of fun (WE GOT DUPLICATED SERVOS AGAIN!), and as I’ve said often and don’t mind saying again, I had legit honest-to-goodness happy tears for “Every Country for a Monster.” On a deeper level, I love this episode for showing that MST3K could have a future, even after all those years of inactivity.
But for the most pure fun? I’ve got to give the honors to Emily for Beyond Atlantis. The character moments were something really neat (love her talk with Jonah as well as the panic and confusion over Movie sign), and the host segments were wall-to-wall fun. EddieCon and Mothercrabbers? C’mon.
Beyond Atlantis may be the most purely punishing movie because it seemed so random and confusing, but that the gang could elevate their game to make it hilarious. With strong jokes and riffs that were delivered as well as they were written, Team Emily rocked the movie out on a Monster a Go-Go level. And the rest of the new folks - Kelsey, Conor, and Yvonne - brought it just as impeccably as Emily did.
So… where favorite debut episodes are concerned, I’ll go:
Emily at the top of the hill
And they’re all fantastic to watch!