It’s hard to believe it’s been more than three years at this point since the end of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 experiment on Netflix. The world’s largest streamer never quite seemed like an ideal fit for the beloved cult comedy classic that is MST3K, which resulted in a pared-down season 12, dubbed The Gauntlet, with only six episodes. Loyal MSTies have been waiting a good while now for their latest fix, poring over old content such as our ranking of all 197 episodes of MST3K, from its earliest days on the network that became Comedy Central.
The wait, though, is almost over, as MST3K returns this week with its first new episode since 2018. The show is now independent and pretty much self-sufficient, at least for season 13, after a successful Kickstarter raised $6.5 million in March of 2021. The MST3K crew has been hard at work ever since, and has produced 13 new episodes and 12 new shorts, which are due to premiere in a staggered fashion for the next 12 months, along with a wide array of “special events” that will all be broadcast on MST3K’s new proprietary platform The Gizmoplex. It all kicks off this Friday, March 4, 2022 with a spiritual sequel to the classic Santo vs. the Vampire Women, entitled Santo in the Treasure of Dracula.
With that said, MST3K fans still tend to be confused about a number of elements of the new season 13, as communication regarding The Gizmoplex has often been slow to arrive. Here’s what we generally know about the upcoming season.
The Gizmoplex is effectively a virtual platform and theater for MST3K, accessible via computers, phones and tablets online, and also through an array of apps. The MST3K team has promised apps for iOS, Android, Apple TV, Google TV, Roku and FireTV at the very least, all of which should be searchable and downloadable now, if not officially active yet. Future apps for other devices may become available over the course of the next year.
The Gizmoplex is where Kickstarter backers, and those who purchase Gizmoplex subscriptions, will be able to attend special, live premiere events for new episodes of MST3K, as well as watch the new episodes of season 13 at any other time. There are various tiers of membership, which can be a bit confusing, but in general the next 6-8 weeks are being approached as a “soft launch” or public beta for Kickstarter backers exclusively, which will include the premieres of the first three episodes of season 13 in March, April and May. The chosen date for a wider “grand opening” to non-Kickstarter backers appears to currently by May 6, 2022, at which point the rest of the world will be able to view the first three episodes of season 13 and decide if they want to get a Gizmoplex subscription.
The Gizmoplex is also meant to play home to a wide variety of special events featuring the cast, crew and writers of MST3K, such as the scheduled tribute to Manos: The Hands of Fate that is set for March 18, 2022. Generally, these “special events” are sandwiched between episode premiere dates.
Likewise, subscribers to the Gizmoplex will be able to “browse, rent and buy every legally available episode of MST3K,” according to Roku. This will presumably be a disappointment to fans of the show who were hoping the Gizmoplex would offer them unrestrained access to every episode in exchange for their subscription fee, but they will instead be restricted to a six-pack of “Vault Picks” that will rotate each month, making various classic episodes from the show’s history available. We would presume this is Shout! Factory’s way of making a concession to the fans of classic MST3K episodes, while also remaining able to continue selling those episodes on Blu-ray for the foreseeable future.
This is one thing we do know, as the full lineup of titles for season 13 of MST3K was announced back on Turkey Day of 2021. It is a little bit concerning that we haven’t seen any actual footage of riffing, or a proper trailer for season 13, but we assume that will be forthcoming at some point, at the very least before the “global” premiere in May. Meanwhile, the movies featured in season 13 are as follows, in order of release:
— Santo in the Treasure of Dracula (1969)
— Robot Wars (1993)
— Beyond Atlantis (1973)
— Munchie (1992)
— Doctor Mordrid (1992)
— Demon Squad (2019)
— Gamera vs. Jiger (1970)
— The Bat Woman (1968)
— The Million Eyes of Sumuru (1967)
— H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come (1979)
— The Mask 3D (1961)
— The Bubble (1966)
— The Christmas Dragon (2014)
There are some picks here that would have fit right in during the heyday of MST3K, such as the only missing entry in the Gamera series, another Santo movie, or The Bat Woman, which looks extremely similar to The Wild World of Batwoman. At the same time, there are also some higher-budget features that look more like films that typified the Netflix era, including Robot Wars and The Christmas Dragon. One notable pick is 2019’s incredibly recent Demon Squad, which may be the lowest-budget quasi feature that MST3K has ever tackled. Even with almost 200 episodes under their belt, the crew has never tackled anything this humble or overly ambitious looking before. You can see short previews of all the films here, sans any riffing.
The answer to that question seems to be “pretty much everybody, and then some.” The key players introduced in the Netflix version of the series are all returning, including host Jonah Ray and comedians Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn, who voice Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo respectively. Other returning faces also include the likes of performers Rebecca Hanson and Yvonne Freese.
At the same time, though, season 13 will feature not one official host, but three, as several episodes will see the return of series creator Joel Hodgson as primary riffer, as well as the introduction of actress Emily Marsh as “Emily Connor,” another new host. Marsh previously filled this role during the most recent live tour conducted by the series, the Time Bubble Tour, and has also appeared in several Turkey Day marathons. All three hosts—Ray, Hodgson, Marsh—will split duties on various episodes in season 13, and will then come together to collectively host the season finale, The Christmas Dragon, in what should be a prolific meeting of the MST3K minds.
There’s a lot about this version of MST3K that is still up in the air, and the feeling of speed and frantic problem solving seems pretty palpable at the moment. The crew is no doubt putting out fires all over right now, just a few days before premiering their first new episode on their own platform. Most fans have been understanding, but unsurprisingly there’s also an undercurrent of bitterness and griping from certain fans, who feel that the Gizmoplex system is needlessly complex, or lacking in explanation.
The following issues are questions we’ll expect to see the MST3K crew address down the road.
— What happens at the end of season 13? Will another Kickstarter be necessary to fund the next season of the series, and is that a sustainable model? Will the Gizmoplex continue to operate after the 12 month subscriptions of various Kickstarter backers expire?
— Will Gizmoplex apps continue to be developed for more devices?
— Will the season 13 episodes ever end up available anywhere else, such as through Shout! Factory? Will they have separate, physical releases?
— Will the Gizmoplex ever offer subscribers access to all classic episodes of the series with a subscription?
We’ll continue to bring you MST3K news as the excitement of the new season officially gets underway. Here’s hoping that season 13 brings us some new, great episodes.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident genre geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more film writing.