Why Netflix’s ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ Trailer Gives Us Hope for the Reboot

Bob Mackey

Mystery Science Theater 3000 makes its grand return to Netflix on April 14, nearly two decades after its cancellation at the hands of the Sci-Fi Channel. And, to put it lightly, fans have been wringing their hands over whether or not this reboot will do the original series justice. With an entirely new cast and writers, it can’t help but feel different than the cult ’90s cable hit, but there’s always the worry this new form of MST3K could turn out too different.

Thankfully, based on what we’ve seen Netflix’s teaser—as short as it may be—2017’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 just might capture the same spirit that made the original show so special. Here’s how the 30 glorious seconds we’ve seen of the MST3K reboot shows it’s on the right track.

It Keeps the Handcrafted Aesthetic

The handmade look of the original Mystery Science Theater 3000 came about as a necessity rather than an outright creative choice. With so little money to throw around, the show’s creators had to improvise—which is why the Satellite of Love’s interiors amounted to a bunch of plastic odds and ends glued to a wall and spray painted grey. While the Netflix series clearly has more money to play with—not to mention creative tools not available in the ’90s—what we’ve seen of the special effects still retains that “you can see the strings” charm. MST3K just wouldn’t be MST3K if its ships were rendered in eye-blistering CGI.

It Doesn’t Break the Format

During its initial run, Mystery Science Theater 3000’s “host segments” took the form they did—again—out of necessity. With such a small cast of performers playing multiple roles, the protagonists and antagonists would communicate by talking at the camera, meaning their respective scenes were filmed separately. The reboot takes this same approach, which does a great job of keeping the same feel as the first ten seasons. Better yet, this format means scenes outside of the theater can be filmed efficiently, making it much easier for the always-busy Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt to return if Netflix decides to give us even more episodes.

The Silhouettes Don’t Just Sit There

Mike Nelson’s Rifftrax project has helped keep the spirit of Mystery Science Theater 3000 alive, but without the iconic three silhouettes sitting at the bottom of your TV screen. While some would view this as a fairly superficial feature of MST3K, seeing those shadows is what got people to put down their remotes in the ’90s when they stumbled upon the show while channel surfing. Obviously, the silhouettes are back, but the reboot’s teaser shows MST3K’s new creative team knows some of the best jokes from the old show came from Joel/Mike and the ‘bots interacting with the screen. And, surprisingly, the few examples we see in the teaser look even more ambitious than anything from the original series.

The Movies Look Batshit Insane

Sadly, we don’t have a list of the movies that will be featured in MST3K season eleven—outside of Reptilicus—but the brief clips we’ve seen imply the selections should fall squarely into the category of Z-grade trash the original series thrived on. While MST3K’s initial run chose some infamous stinkers, it also exposed an audience to great terrible movies that would otherwise be lost to time, like Manos: The Hands of Fate and the Coleman Francis Trilogy. With any luck, this new series will shine a light on incredibly obscure gems just waiting to be spoofed.

It’s been a looong 18 years without MST3K, so the prospect of there being 10 episodes just around the corner comes as an outright miracle to fans who’ve had a hole in their respective hearts since 1999. Be sure to check back with Fandom when Mystery Science Theater 3000 enters its eleventh season on April 14 to see if this reboot will satisfy die-hard MST3K fans and curious newcomers.

Bob Mackey
Bob Mackey is Games Editor at Fandom. Since joining the games press in 2007, he's written for sites like 1UP, Joystiq, The A.V. Club, Gamasutra, USgamer, and many others. He also hosts the weekly podcasts Retronauts and Talking Simpsons. Follow him on Twitter @bobservo.
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