1. What do we know about the MST3K Pilot and missing episodes? (Updated 10/19/2008, 7/18/2009, 3/8/2020)
Two events in recent times have substantially added to our knowledge of the "missing episodes." First on 10/3/2008 MSTies finally saw the original pilot created to sell the show to KTMA. Then on 7/15/2009 Jim Mallon added a new section to MST3K.com to present "Genesis" clips, photos and stories. The following descriptions and pictures are taken from this newly released information along with my own research, the MST3K Scrapbook tape and flashbacks or montage scenes in the KTMA episodes Superdome (K15) and Time of the Apes (K17).
Then a third event took place that shocked, amazed and delighted MSTies. On 11/25/2016 Joel released complete copies of K01 and K02 on VHX as “bonus” episodes for Bring Back MST3K Kickstarter backers. For the first time since they debuted on 11/24/1988 fans were able to see these episodes. K03 was not released and only rumors were heard that something may have happened to the source tape and it would never be able to be made available. Fans continue to keep hope alive that a copy may still be unearthed.
NOTE: Even though we are now down to just one “missing” episode I am going to leave the following information on my web site. I think it’s an interesting view into the work of a compulsive MSTie with help from the rest of the community to document the search for every possible episode.
The key to putting the information together is tracking Joel's changing jumpsuits, t-shirts and hair styles. I have also included a description of where various objects were placed on the desk. This seems to be consistent from scene to scene and changed from episode to episode. We end up with the following guidelines:
Joel Description Desk Layout Items on Desk K00 - The Green Slime (Pilot)
Blue/green jumpsuit, blue/green t-shirt, long hair
The vase and platform move around between scenes in the pilot
K01 - Invaders From The Deep
Blue/green jumpsuit, white t-shirt, long hair
K02 - Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars
Beige jumpsuit, blue/green t-shirt, long hair
K03 - Star Force: Fugitive Alien II
Beige jumpsuit, white t-shirt, long hair
K04 - Gamera vs. Barugon
Beige jumpsuit, white t-shirt, short hair
(included for reference, since fan copies of this episode exist)
K00 - The Green Slime (Pilot) (filmed in October 1988)
As of 10/3/2008 we can no longer call the MST3K pilot a missing episode. At Archon 32 in St Louis, MO the cast of Cinematic Titanic hosted a panel discussion. Joel took the opportunity to show the complete pilot that he apparently had recently discovered he had a copy of. Click here for a detailed breakdown of what is seen in the pilot.
Just a few comments about some things we now know (or don't know):
- Even though the story line behind the show evolved quickly we now know that the Satellite of Love was the name of the ship from the beginning.
- We've known for quite a while that Joel appeared as Joel Hodgson (not Robinson) and that he was joined by Crow and Beeper, who would soon be replaced by Servo. We now know that Gypsy, not Gypsum, was there from the beginning. One difference is that Gypsy was a boy robot.
- Does anyone else think it's strange that in some segments Joel keeps referring to "people of earth", "your planet" and "your president." I realize this was just a test, but it sort of makes him sound like an alien visiting our planet. Joel has mentioned that he used phrases like this as an homage to the character in Silent Running that was on a self-contained spaceship and was reporting back to Earth.
Very little of the film The Green Slime was used. We have, however, seen a short clip of Joel saying one riff that was not included in the pilot. Before the title of the movie even appears an asteroid shows up on the screen. When a character says "That's an asteroid" Joel points to it and says "That's no asteroid! It's a battle station!" We have also seen Joel's silhouette over the movie title. Makes me wonder if more of the movie was riffed on, but not used in the actual pilot tape. It seems that a longer theater segment would have been produced even if just to try out the shadowrama effect. Based on the what we now know about the pilot the first host segment could have been almost nine minutes long. None of the others could have been more than a minute and a half. I guess now I have something else to try to track down. Even though the comments are sparse we can tell that even in the original pilot Joel had already began adding riffs. We can thank him for the creation of movie riffing that would continue to develop and grow into the show that fans have come to love.
- At the end of the fifth host segment Joel says "We got movie sign" for the first time.
- There was no opening theme. As the story goes, Jim showed the pilot to a friend of his who suggested that it needed a theme song to explain the premise of the show (just like Gilligan's Island). Joel and Josh wrote the theme song while sitting in a Denny’s and came up with the line "his bosses didn't like him so they shot him into space." That was the birth of the mad scientists. Up until then the idea was that Joel had launched himself into space.
After selling the show to KTMA general manager Don O'Conner, a 1.5 minute sales tape was made in early November to be used as an advertisement of the upcoming premiere on Thanksgiving Day. The tape mentions The Green Slime and Thunderbirds to the Rescue, although neither would actually be used for a KTMA episode. Also, the quick shots from a supermarionation film are not from either of the films used for K01 or K02. They are from Thunderbirds in Outer Space, which at one time had been rumored to be an early KTMA episode and actually appeared in the KTMA TV listings on 11-24-88 as the first episode shown at 6PM. The sales tape still uses the THEATRE spelling, but the set now has the red/orange lighting and the new doorway sequence is included. There are scenes from the pilot, but no new clips from any other KTMA episodes though.
K01 - Invaders From the Deep (aired 11/24/88 at 6 PM)
In the first host segment Joel informs us that the guys at the station (not the mads) sent him a facsimile telling him the next movie is the Invaders From the Deep (a Gerry and Sylvia Anderson supermarionation film from the Stingray series)(this intro clip is seen in a flashback segment in K17). Joel is joined in the theater by Crow to watch the movie (as seen during the KTMA opening theme and a Genesis clip). Strangely, Crow is voiced by Josh instead of Trace.
In the next host segment Joel shows us his vacuum-flowers, one of which is "sick." He calls Gypsy in (voiced in grunts by Josh), who sniffs the flower and begins oozing foam out her nose. At the end of the clip Joel calls for Crow and Beeper, but movie sign flashes before they make it to the bridge. So far we have not seen whether Beeper is the same bot we met in the pilot or if he is now able to speak.
Now that we have seen the complete KTMA pilot we know that the story line of Joel taking care of vacuum flowers that contract a space virus that spreads through the crew was reused throughout K01. This explains why we have seen some pictures of Crow with strange tubes running up to his neck and we can assume they are used in a later host segment for Crow to spray foam.
Note 1: I believe the photo at the bottom of this page of Joel holding a pot with flowers made out of chattering teeth (A) is from this episode. Notice the location of the vase and the button panel. Plus I always wondered why Josh was working Crow. Now we know that Josh actually performed Crow's voice in this episode, so this is more evidence that this picture is from another host segment from K01.
Note 2: All the pictures of Crow (B-I) have strange tubes running down from his neck. These seem to have only been used in this episode to recreate the spraying foam effect used in the pilot.
Note 3: The gray vase and the platform under it on the desk are seen in a number of KTMA episodes and also can be seen during The Crawling Hand (106) when Joel mentions "vacuum-flowers" once again.
K02 - Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars (aired 11/24/88 at 8 PM)
Joel and Crow do the opening host segment where they discuss the Macy's parade and Joel tells us that today's movie is Revenge of the Mysterians from Mars (from the Scrapbook Tape)(The correct title is Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars, a Captain Scarlet supermarionation film). Servo (voiced by Josh sounding like a cross between Bullwinkle and Randy Newman) and Crow (voiced by Trace) join Joel in the theater.
It's difficult to tell the exact order of the the host segments, but here is a list of what we have seen so far. In one host segment Joel and Crow discuss Thanksgiving dinner. They are joined by Servo (who has been hovering barely off camera).
Another host segment has the whole crew making drawings of turkeys by outlining their hands. It's a little difficult to tell what exactly Gypsy outlined to make her turkey. We hear Joel refer to his companions as the "puppet bots" in this segment.
Finally, there is a host segment where Gypsy is holding some gourds in her mouth, which she deposits on the desk (seen during the K15 montage). This also appears to be seen in pictures (J1,J2,J3) at the bottom of this page.
K03 - Star Force: Fugitive Alien II (aired 11/27/88 at 6 PM)
Just three days after the Thanksgiving double feature premiere another episode aired. All three had been prepared in advance and the KTMA opening was filmed at approximately the same time as K03 (since Joel matches his appearance from this show). Sources tell us that the opening was completed and used for the 11/24/88 premiere.
In the first host segment Joel, Crow and Gypsum (as she is called throughout this episode) are on the bridge of the SOL. Joel demonstrates his num-clucks (as we have seen in the KTMA opening theme), then a gun silencer to help robbers communicate. Finally he shows us his chiro helmet (previously used as the chiropractic helmet in the pilot). Joel then tells us that the next movie is Star Force and that it even has humans...and they're Japanese. Crow and Servo (voiced by Josh in his familiar Kermit the Frog style) join Joel in the theater.
Another host segment has Crow explaining Thanksgiving to Gypsum until Joel briefly interrupts. Once Joel leaves Crow's explanations get even more bizarre (from Scrapbook Tape).
Another segment has Crow and Servo with clothes pins on their "noses." Although we have not seen this segment yet we know based on the next segment that it has something to do with the bots trying to simulate the effects of drugs.
Next we find Joel and Gypsum on the bridge. Joel notices that Gypsum has a clothes pin on her lip. She tells him Crow put it there and Joel realizes it must relate to the boys drug experiment. Joel tries to explain drugs using his psychedelic glasses. When Gypsum doesn't understand Joel makes another attempt by rattling her motion detector, which to her seems like a bad trip.
Note 1: The telephone call-in line must have been added for this episode since in K04 a caller references that it is 11/27.
Note 2: I believe the picture at the bottom of the page of Crow and Gypsy (M) is from this episode. Notice the location of the vase, button panel and even the pen on the desk.
The additional shots used in the KTMA opening were filmed either immediately before or after K03. Those scenes are of Joel polishing switches, the quick shot of Joel, Crow and Gypsy in the theater and Joel with the demon dogs. (In all of these clips Joel has his same appearance as in K03.) We have been told that the demon dogs were never used in an episode until season 1.
K04 - Gamera vs. Barugon (aired 12/4/88 at 6 PM)
This is the earliest complete episode fans have copies of and can therefore be used as a reference point in the history of the show. Joel is sporting a new, short haircut. Gypsy is Gypsy again (although the name Gypsum would be used again in K08 and K09). Trace has taken over as Crow and Josh is using his Kermit voice for Servo. The show was obviously taped after the original three since the caller messages are played.
Note 1: The reason we have copies of this episode is not because it was taped 12/4/88. It's actually because it was taped when it was rerun at 10AM on 4/8/89. In fact all the early KTMA episodes we have appear to have been taped in 1989. Unfortunately for MSTies it appears that K01-K03 were never re-aired after their original broadcast.
That covers what I know to date. If anyone has any further information or would like to suggest additions or modifications to the information above please contact Tom Noel. Like many fans we will never be entirely satisfied until we have copies of all of these episodes. In the mean time I'd like to make a few thank you's:
First to the entire cast and crew of MST who were the creative force behind making these early episodes a reality.
Next, to Joel Hodgson for making the pilot available. Even in this earliest state we can see the spark of genius that made MST our favorite show. (I'm speaking for all MSTies here, not in the third person).
Finally, to Jim Mallon. Jim's additions to MST3K.com have been amazing and I'm hoping there are more to come. The video clips, photos and reminiscences all add to our knowledge and enjoyment.
For your viewing enjoyment here are a few other pictures from those early days. Pictures (A) through (I) were all taken the same day as the filming of Invaders From The Deep (K01). They include a number of promo shots and all show the strange tubes running out of Crow's neck. The sequence of pictures (J1,J2,J3) shows the gourds in Gypsy's mouth as seen in episode K02. The next series of pictures (K1,K2,K3,K4,K5) are also from K02 based on the location of the vase and button panel in some of the pictures. (L) is also from K02 and shows Josh preparing his turkey drawing for Servo. Picture (M) was taken during the filming of Star Force: Fugitive Alien II (K03) due to the location of the objects on the desk. (N) is also from K03 and clearly shows the clothes pins on the bots beaks. (O) shows the original Satellite of Love during the filming of the opening sequence (which occurred about the same time as K03). Next is a shot of Kevin performing the voice of Cambot (P), but I still don't know which episode it was in. (I think it may be K03. Perhaps when the call in number comes up on the screen. After all, Joel thanks Cambot in K04 when the phone number pops up.) And finally, (Q) shows Joel creating what I think is the rocket used to shoot him into space in the KTMA opening theme. (Does anyone agree with me on this, or am I totally wrong?)
E. F. G.
J1. J2. J3.
K1. K2. K3.
K4. K5. L.
O. P. Q.