krpalmer: (mst3k)
krpalmer ([personal profile] krpalmer) wrote2012-06-17 12:51 pm
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MST3K 821: Time Chasers

"Time travel" seems an irresistible theme in "stories of the fantastic." With it brought in, though, the thought of "changing history" lurks, and the potential loops and paradoxes there are obvious to pretty much everyone however smug they may be about bringing them up in response to the best attempts of stories to set their own rules. (There seems one logically unassailable way out in declaring any attempt to act with foreknowledge just leads to the inevitable conclusion, but this has its own troubling if not depressing connotations when it comes to "free will," even if something is said about "the best of all possible worlds.") When all of this combines with Mystery Science Theater, the results in this case are "Time Chasers" ("I'll have a Scotch with Time Chasers."), and the perhaps inevitable consequences are humour.

Now late in the eighth season, things start off with Mike explaining how, after escaping from ancient Rome in the previous episode, they're now "just knocking around in time and space." Tom's cajoling Mike into saying "lost in space" let him and Crow indulge in their best "robot" and Dr. Zachary Smith impressions ("You pusillanimous pigskin of puffery!"), and then Mike drifts over through space (without a spacesuit) to Pearl Forrester's space-travelling "Widowmaker" Volkswagen minibus. They share some relaxed, neighbourly banter about Pearl's evilness ("I'm filled with hate. Maybe that helps.") and her breaking the promise she wouldn't send them any more bad movies ("You know, some times I think I lie because I'm evil."), and then it's back to the Satellite of Love for the movie.

The exultant yet bespectacled, big-chinned, and mullet-haired Nick Miller ("I will not accept this as our star, sorry.") flies his light plane through cheap special effects and, after ejecting a five-and-a-quarter floppy disc from a Commodore 1541 disc drive, tosses a 2041 Kennedy half-dollar to his faithful mechanic. He then bicycles through bucolic Rutland, Vermont ("Come on down to parallel parking days.") and out into the countryside to a house. ("Maybe he's going into the house to meet the real star of the film.") Sprawled out on the couch ("Degas's Reclining Loser." "Stop splaying!") watching TV that evening, he happens to see a commercial featuring J.K. Robertson, head of GenCorp, and gets an idea.

Luring GenCorp executive Matthew Paul and plucky yet pastel plaid-clad local reporter Lisa Henson to the airport with news of a new invention and a "skydiving grandmother," Nick reveals to them that he in fact has turned his light plane into a "time transport" by throwing in a collection of odds and ends and a Commodore 64. The graphics on the monitor that show they've travelled fifty years into the future seem a bit more advanced, though; they might have been generated by an Amiga, perhaps. On September 24, 2041, people wear lots of fluorescent pink and green ("So fifty years from now it'll be three years from now."), bicycles are parked in the painted lines for cars, and there's a plaque on a building about it having been built entirely from recycled materials. Although Matt enthuses about investing in the past and collecting the profits by skipping over the intervening years, Nick has already decided to seek GenCorp funding, and J.K. Robertson arrives by stretch limo ("Hi, I'm Bob Evil.") to meet an enthusiastic Nick. ("I'm greedy and stupid!" "You're evil and that's okay.")

With his refrigerator empty, Nick bicycles to the local supermarket and happens to run into Lisa. It's already been established they knew each other in the past, so it's easy enough for him to get through the GenCorp guards now securing the airport and take her back to November 10, 1957 (a few vintage cars parked at a diner and on a city street), where love blooms. Their necking session in the "time transport" is interrupted by different "future graphics," though, and they land in a garbage-strewn alleyway and flee a collection of survivalists ("In the future, people will rub themselves with used oil filters." "We're taking you to see the Grand High Dirtbag now.") before sorting out that history was changed by GenCorp using "time transports" as weapons. Making their escape ("Sherry, Action Realtor!"), they return to their own time and confront J.K. Robertson in his oddly placed and exposed executive office. ("This guy's office is in a branch library?") J.K. mutters about sorting out what's happened (there could be a bit of definite commentary on the battle between present profits and warnings for the future here), and calls in the guards only for Nick and Lisa to escape.

In the meantime, Crow has been doing his own time travelling (using a time machine introduced in "Terror From the Year 5000," if more to the attempt of Mike's aid this time) to try and talk a younger Mike out of pursuing the career of temp jobs that led to him being shot into space. When he at last succeeds, the Satellite of Love is now occupied by Mike's gravel-voiced and sullenly abusive older brother Eddie, with Tom a snivelling sidekick, his head serving as Eddie's ashtray. With Eddie providing his own grouchy take on "riffing," Nick and Lisa manage to escape in the "time transport" to warn Nick's past self, only for J.K. Robertson and Matt to have precisely anticipated just where they're heading. J.K. shoots up the "time transport" with a handgun from his own time-travelling light plane, killing Lisa. Nick bails out into a lake instants before his own plane crashes, appropriates a powerboat from two helpful boaters by grabbing their own handgun, and gets to shore. He then grabs someone's small car ("I've always wanted a tan Yugo.") and immediately rolls it, remembering that he has a pilot's license but doesn't drive. He then gets his hands on a bicycle and pedals off. ("This is a very healthy chase, at least.")

The past Nick has already shown the "time transport" to the past Matt, the past Lisa having been distracted by news of a light plane crash. Things converge at the airport, though, as the time-travelling J.K. Robertson grabs the time-travelling Nick and his mechanic and takes them back to July 7, 1777 to dispose of them out of the way. When the time-travelling Matt continues to be squeamish about this, J.K. shoots him only for Revolutionary War minutemen (or their eccentrically dressed re-enactors, anyway) and the past Nick and Lisa (showing their own uncanny ability to follow people through time) to interrupt him. ("So history is just circling the drain at this point, I guess.")

Crow travels back to the past again and manages to talk his past self out of talking the past Mike out of sticking with his band and meeting an untimely death on stage. With Mike restored to the Satellite of Love, the time-travelling Nick tries to tell the past Nick about what happened between him and the now-dead Lisa ("Aw, he's trying to ask himself out!") and then shoves a Revolutionary officer off his horse to pursue the time-travelling J.K. Robertson back to the GenCorp "time transport." J.K. manages to take off, though ("But I chased you on a horse, I'm supposed to win!"), only for Nick to grab hold of the plane and, with the help of a suspiciously long countdown to time travel, crash it into a tree. Now more than a little battered, Nick manages to climb down from the tree ("Maybe he'll be torn apart by Ewoks." "He's climbing an Ent!") as the plane wreckage settles above him and collapses nearby, only for J.K. to show up and, after some back-and-forth about abandoning everyone else to a bad future, shoot him. ("He died as he lived, mud-covered and splaying.") However, the plane wreckage then crashes straight down on J.K.

The past Nick and Lisa take the mechanic back to their own time; Nick then tosses all the time travel equipment out of his plane and presents a skydiving grandmother to the past J.K. Robertson, who fires Matt on the spot for wasting his time. Untroubled by this ("You had the misfortune of running into me. I'm a life-wrecking idiot!"), Nick goes home and erases his program discs ("So eight five-and-a-quarter floppies hold the secrets of time travel.") and with his refrigerator empty heads to the supermarket where he meets up with Lisa. The credits roll, extremely long as is the current fashion; as is also the current fashion, "Brain Guy" breaks in to present "Observer Eyewitness News." Mike and Pearl then share some more relaxed, neighbourly banter about the awfulness of the movie before sorting out that by one interpretation of its rules, there's now a Crow still in the past at the cheese factory...

In a little introduction by Mike Nelson (one of Rhino's repeating efforts at "bonus content" before all the stuff Shout! Factory puts in nowadays), it's explained the movie's own creators presented their work to Mystery Science Theater, only to not take their first viewing of the episode itself that well. As much as comments about the "sincerity" of movies can seem to have the barbed context of attacking current big-budget productions, it does seem to me too that the creators did care in their own way; it just all came out sort of odd. Perhaps that is a comment in itself on how far "sincerity" can be taken. In the context of the episode itself, though, everything seems to work.

[personal profile] thrush 2012-06-18 04:56 am (UTC)(link)
Great write-up of a great episode. Strangely, I was thinking about this one just yesterday while I walked home!

I agree that the film-makers this time around seem sincere in a way that very few other MSTed film-makers do. This movie has a lot of heart; unfortunately, it doesn't really have anything else going for it.

But, the riffs are funny and I especially love the host segments in this one. The neighbourly chats, past-era Mike, and Observer's news segment are each favourite moments of mine. I also think that Eddie and Evil Mike make this show a good match with Last of the Wild Horses.

[personal profile] thrush 2012-06-19 12:56 am (UTC)(link)
Believe it or not, the author of the original "Detective" text adventure is a former housemate of mine! He's now a successful software developer employed by a large, multinational corporation. He did once express regret for having released that game under his real name. As I recall he wrote it as a young teenager, so in that sense it might be a little low to mock it. On the other hand, age all but disappears on line and I suspect whoever wrote the MSTing version didn't realise that the author was just a kid.

It made me grin when you brought up that game. ^___^ Small world!