krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
My experiment (in response to having seen all the episodes of the series) to rewatch the first episode of each season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is at last complete. It did take a while to get through, longer than it could have, but I suppose that doesn't matter that much one way or another.

It's a little interesting for me to realise that the first episode of the tenth season is the first since "Warrior of the Lost World" to not involve some change to the cast of characters or setting. That thought hadn't quite occurred to me before, but I suppose other things about "Soultaker" were more significant to me at first. At the time the tenth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 started, I still wasn't able to see the show (I can only speculate how things might have been different had broadband connections and people encoding television episodes for online sharing been prevalent back then), but I was at least starting to pick up on things through the MSTing community. I heard that Joel Hodgson and Frank Conniff were scheduled to return for guest appearances at the beginning of the season... and then, a little before the premiere of the episode, that the tenth season was to be the show's last. I suppose, though, that not being able to see the series blunted the impact of that... although maybe I was expecting the MSTing community to keep going for longer than it did.

As for the episode itself, it begins with a whole rash of dangerous malfunctions on the Satellite of Love and a mysterious space pod observing from afar. Pearl Forrester's only response to this is to suggest "a skin-peelingly bad movie," and offers to that end "the balm that is 'Soultaker.'" There have been many takes on organisations of spiritual beings escorting souls from life to death, and this is one of them, but it's often far from clear just what's going on in it as Joe Estevez (who the riffing won't let us forget is the brother of Martin Sheen, and appeared in an earlier movie on the series) attempts to collect some souls under the instruction of the huge-faced Robert Z'Dar ("He's a catcher's mitt with eyes!"). One of the unfortunate youths is played by the same person who happened to write the script. Understandably sensitized to similar escapades in fanfiction, a MSTing community I was once part of questioned whether Vivian Schilling's character Natalie McMillan was a "Mary Sue." While there's some commentary in the riffing itself about how Natalie gets compliments, she's not quite omni-competent; her hunky yet not as wealthy boyfriend Zach Taylor does most of the work figuring things out and saving the day for her.

During the course of the host segments, Frank returns as a Soultaker himself, getting along well with Pearl and Professor Bobo but not quite so much with Pearl's other minion, the Observer. Then, Joel Robinson arrives on the Satellite of Love to fix it. Some people have lamented that Joel didn't get to riff one more time, although this seems to have to do with Joel Hodgson not being able to help write the script. It may be, too, that not having appeared for some years makes him look oddly older to me. There's still plenty of amiable nostalgia even so.

With my experiment complete, I've seen examples of the show in evolution and transition, some acknowledged classics and some perhaps unacknowledged minor classics, and some episodes to round out the set. In some ways, I think I've already mapped out the next few episodes to rewatch, but for the moment the pattern is complete and things have opened up again.
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