krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Getting into the second episode in the latest Mystery Science Theater 3000 set, I've jumped ahead to the fourth season of the show, and to a "movie" made from three episodes of a 1950s television "space opera" show preceded by a segment of a soap opera from the 1960s. Perhaps I found myself finding this episode pretty low-key, but in certain ways it makes for an unusual experience...

Dr. Forrester, stuck on the floor of Deep 13 in his latest "Invention Exchange" invention, the "beanbag pants," starts off with "a little kinescope suppository from our video depository," a chunk of "General Hospital." It features gurgly organ music ("Sounds like General Hospital on Ice!"), some form of relationship goings-on among the hospital staff, and a doctor informing a young female patient she has a hiatus hernia ("The body sees a hernia as a series of ones and zeros..."), but may just perhaps require a greater awareness of the soap opera than I have for any of it to really register. Still, it's easy enough to see it as a "bold experiment" in the selection of shorts, following as it did a brief return to showing chapters of an actual serial.

"Manhunt in Space" opens with what seems the impression that we should have seen the characters and their futuristic world introduced in a previous episode. For some reason, I seem to keep fixing on how I've read that it cost too much to run for long, and comparing that to a general impression of utter cheapness to modern eyes, what with washed-out special effects seemingly one step beyond cutouts ("Look at that effect. Industrial Light and Magic, you've done it again!") and rather obvious paintings in some of the establishing shots. ("Check it out, they're landing on the cover of a Popular Science magazine.") In any event, the Space Ranger Rocky Jones and his somewhat less resoundingly nicknamed copilot Winky must track down space pirates knocking out rockets including the one Rocky's girlfriend Vena is riding on. Picking up the kid sidekick Bobby and a "cold light" gadget a certain other science fiction show has more or less inescapably labelled a "cloaking device" these days, Rocky rescues Vena either just plain ignoring the boobytrap the bad guys had set for him or leaving that to a scene cut for time, rides the invisible "Orbit Jet" down to a landing at a space pirate gantry (they hear the rocket landing and are standing around on the gantry when Rocky emerges, but never quite manage to storm the "Orbit Jet" what with Winky still inside it), gets into a number of fistfights, and finally exposes the traitor on the friendly planet. Winky serenades Bobby to sleep playing a somewhat peculiar instrument that just might be made up of actual models used on the show itself and hopes he'll get back to Earth in time for his hot date.

It's possible that the "riffing" was a little bland in general for me, but it's also possible that I grew uneasy about it taking on the targets of Winky and Bobby for being "annoying sidekicks." In my days of reading MSTings, I found myself not liking attacks on sidekick and comedy relief characters; they finally seemed too "conventional" somehow compared to taking on the overblown overachievers. Still, the "host segment" where Mike Nelson plays Winky calling on the "Hexfield Viewscreen" from what he calls his "invisible spaceship" but is really his mother's basement in Ladysmith, Wisconsin is kind of fun.

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