Ouch, Minutiae!

1a. The Green Slime (K00): The long lost MST3K pilot

On 10/3/1988 a proof of concept tape was prepared at the KTMA TV23 studio in Minneapolis, MN to demonstrate the original idea for Mystery Science Theatre 3000.  Jim Mallon was looking to find a new show to fill up two hours Sunday evenings.  Joel Hodgson had developed an idea for a show that featured a man and his robot pals hosting movies.  They decided to prepare a pilot tape to be shown to KTMA General Manager Donald O'Conner to convince him to pick up the idea for the series.

Joel has told us that his original idea was that he and the bots would join us in the theater and would simply say informative things. They would be more like movie viewing companions than performers. The host segments would be the place for humorous skits. As can be seen in the pilot, the urge to tell jokes in the theater was there from the beginning. Joel himself joked about “speaking of number 2” and in the sales tape he joked about “that’s not an asteroid. It’s a battle station.” This is the birth of movie riffing. Almost immediately the concept grew to include riffing throughout the entire movie. Trace and Josh would add their comedic talents as well, frequently improvising. The pace of riffs would be tested to see how many comfortably fit, but from the pilot and K01 on the riffs were present.

The set was constructed at the KTMA Studio.  Joel created the bots the night before the pilot was filmed.  He invited Trace Beaulieu and Josh Weinstein from his comedy writing class to help out with the project.  Joel would host the pilot accompanied by Trace as Crow and Josh as Gypsy and Beeper (who spoke only in beeps).  Jim Mallon would produce the pilot and Kevin Murphy would film it.  

The entire pilot is 14 minutes and 14 seconds long and there are virtually no riffs on the movie, but the idea worked and KTMA would eventually produce 21 complete episodes of MST3K.

Exactly twenty years later on 10/3/2008 fans attending the convention Archon 32 in St. Louis, MO were treated to the complete, original pilot.  Joel Hodgson and the rest of the cast of Cinematic Titanic were hosting a panel discussion when Joel screened the tape.  What follows is a summary of the pilot as shown that day.

The tape starts with a test pattern, followed by a  production slate and a rudimentary ten second countdown
  The pilot starts with a familiar "space sound" with the title and a credit fading in then out. 

(The theme song was written after the pilot was complete.)

Host Segment 1:

We immediately find ourselves on the bridge of the ship with Joel introducing himself (as Joel Hodgson) and the Satellite of Love.  He presses a button on the desk and we head into the theater. (Note: the original button panel was from a 1979 Castle Toys Name That Tune game.)

The first rough doorway sequence leads into the Mystery Science Theater.  (Note: doors lead into the theater after each host segment.)

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Theater Segment 1:

Joel enters the theater and sits alone in what would become his usual seat.  The only comments he makes are "scuse me" as he seems to step over someone and "You know, it's interesting, but this film was made the same year as 2001: A Space Odyssey."

The movie fades out for a few seconds then back.  Joel leaves the theater after almost nine minutes of the film has elapsed, but we have only seen less than two minutes of it.

There is no doorway sequence back to the bridge after this segment (or after any theater segment).

  Host Segment 2:

Crow, Joel and Beeper are on the bridge and greet the people of earth.  Joel talks as if he is from another planet.

Joel introduces his invention the chiro-practic helmet.

(Note: this clip was included on the 1995 Scrapbook Tape sold by Best Brains, but had been edited to appear to be the first host segment.)

Theater Segment 2:

This time Crow joins Joel and both use their usual seats.  At one point Joel tells Crow to "sit down."  The movie is now about 16 minutes in and we see a little over a minute of it.  Joel replies to a line in the movie with "Speaking of the number two position I better get going."

Host Segment 3:

Gypsy is seen for the first time and is presented as a male robot.

(Note: part of this segment was shown at the 1994 MST Convention in Minneapolis.)

Theater Segment 3:

Beeper, Joel and Crow all enter the theater, although somewhat awkwardly.  The movie is now about 43 minutes in and we only see a little over a minute of it.

  Host Segment 4:

Joel shows us one of his Vacuum Flowers that apparently has contracted a space virus that results in foam shooting out of it.  Gypsy enters, sniffs the flower and foam starts coming out of her nose as well right as the lights start to flash to reenter the theater.

Theater Segment 4:

Gypsy and Crow are waiting for Joel in the theater.  The movie is now about 1 hour and 10 minutes in and we see about 15 seconds.  (Note: there is no fade out and back this time.)  This segment ends with everyone still sitting in the theater.

  Host Segment 5:

The whole crew is on the bridge and Joel is taking Gypsy's temperature with what turns out to be a rectal thermometer.  As Gypsy faints the virus hits Beeper.  Joel tries to clean up the baby bot, but the virus gets him too.

At the end of this segment we hear Joel say "We got Movie Sign!" for the first time.

Theater Segment 5:

Joel is seated alone in the theater when we enter.  The movie is at one hour and 29 minutes and ends 25 seconds later.

Host Segment 6:

Crow and Joel are sitting on the bridge discussing how things are pretty much back to normal.  Crow has the last laugh as his version of the virus sprays foam all over Joel and the SOL as we fade to black.

(There is no closing theme or credits)

There has always been a question about how much of the movie was actually included in the pilot.  According to Joel what was shown at Archon 32 was the complete pilot.  Therefore, here is a table of what was used.  (Note: RTC stands for Real Time Code, which is basically the film counter.)

TS1 Fade out then back
RTC 0:00:00 0:00:43   0:08:29 0:0852
TS2 Fade out then back
RTC 0:16:03 0:16:49   0:16:58 0:17:25
TS3 Fade out then back
RTC 0:43:24 0:44:00   0:44:24 0:44:32
RTC 1:09:44 1:10:00      
RTC 1:29:13 1:29:38      

From the lion's roar to the end of the closing credits The Green Slime is 1 hour and 30 minutes long.  Only 3 minutes and 44 seconds are seen in the pilot.