The hit television series ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ made its television debut in 1988 on KTMA and quickly moved to Comedy Central, then known as ‘The Comedy Channel’ and found a larger audience with a cult-like fanbase.
The show revolved around Joel Robinson as the host, who was also the show’s creator, and his four robot companions. Joel had been launched into space aboard the ‘Satellite of Love’ by mad scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester, and his lackey Dr. Laurence ‘Larry’ Erhardt.
Dr. Forrester had a plan to take over the world by submitting the Earth’s entire populous to the worst film that had ever been created. The film would drive all witnesses insane or depress them to such a severe extent that Dr. Forrester would be able to conquer the world with little to no resistance.
Using Joel as his test subject Dr. Forrester sent incredibly awful movies for Joel to watch on a weekly basis. While screening the films Dr. Forrester and Larry would monitor Joel’s mind for any signs of instability.
Before each weekly movie experiment Joel and Dr. Forrester would engage in an ‘invention exchange’ as a secondary means of monitor Joel’s mental health. Dr. Forrester’s inventions were often more sinister and used to create more harm than good, while Joel’s inventions were designed to aid other people or at the very least make them laugh.
Halfway through the show’s run Joel had left the series, leaving behind the robots and Mike Nelson as his replacement. Mike would remain as the show’s host until its final season.
…Or, that’s how the show’s premise seemingly ended.
Joel Robinson, a man from a small town and a small family had been shy as a young child. Despite having a healthy childhood with both of his parents and sister in his life, as he grew older he began to distance himself from his small town home and became increasingly isolated from larger social groups.
He had always had an interest and gift in tinkering with scraps and being able to reshape the material into new gadgets or toys. His only constant companion was his pet turtle and he would leave his TV set on all day long. The various TV shows created a peaceful white noise while he worked and helped him gain a sense social understanding without having to try to forge uncomfortable friendships.
Spending most of his time alone, building and designing, Joel had weak ties to his home community and family.
Moving away from his small town Joel was hired as a janitor and hopeful future intern at ‘Gizmonic Institute’. Initially Joel had been overlooked as a potential candidate as an inventor or industrialist but soon became familiar with the ever eccentric scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester, and his assistant Larry.
Despite his natural independence Joel slowly became lonely, seeking companionship and harboring a secret desire for a family of his own.
Joel began spending his days in the absolute basement of Gizmonic Institute known as ‘Deep 13’, attempting to gain favor with Dr. Forrester. While Dr. Forrester was considered eccentric, Larry was considered crazy and didn’t like the idea of Joel becoming friends with Dr. Forrester.
One day while Joel was onboard the newly constructed ‘Satellite of Love’ cleaning the satellite’s interior, Larry tried to launch the satellite with Joel still onboard. But there was a fatal flaw with the launch sequence and the satellite exploded before it left the Launchpad.
Joel survived the explosion but just barely. Joel arrived at the hospital in a deep coma. His injuries were devastating; he had broken all the bones in his right hand, both legs and several ribs. The explosion also caused considerable internal damage to his organs.
After the accident Joel was replaced by a temp worker who had turned full time, by the name of Mike Nelson.
Dr. Forrester would talk about Joel’s accident as a cautionary tale for being meticulous with work details, which made him sound like a jerk from time to time, but Mike became fascinated by the legend of Joel Robinson.
In the coma Joel began to dream about an alternate reality where the Satellite of Love had made it into orbit and that he had been unharmed during the launch. Using his skills in tinkering Joel took bits and parts from the Satellite to build four robotic companions to keep him company during his isolation.
The first robot built was called ‘Gypsy’. Gypsy was the name of his pet turtle and she controlled the higher functions of the Satellite so Joel wouldn’t have to. She would control the oxygen levels and the heat shields on Joel’s behalf.
The second robot built was called ‘Crow’. Crow’s appearance was more human than the other robots. His personality reflected Joel’s sarcastic and witty sense of humor that he often kept hidden away from the world. Crow’s voice also bore a resemblance to the voice of Dr. Forrester.
The third robot was called ‘Tom Servo’. Tom’s appearance seemed to be a composition of the many different toys Joel had either played with as a child or built as a teenager. Tom’s personality reflected Joel’s more cultured nature and interests. At first his voice had briefly reflected Larry’s, but that changed after the first year of the coma.
The final robot Joel built was ‘Cambot’. Cambot was a silent link between Joel in orbit and Dr. Forrester back in Deep 13.
Aside from the robots Joel would randomly be addressed by a separate, unseen entity that he referred to as ‘Magic Voice’. Her voice was calm, gentle and always seemed to be aware of everything that was happening in Joel’s world.
Back in the hospital several nurses were constantly tending to Joel’s injuries. She would keep the oxygen mask in place and soothe the constant fevers that rampaged Joel’s infected injuries. From time to time she would randomly speak to Joel, trying to give him a bridge between reality and fantasy.
Dr. Forrester would visit on a weekly basis and talk to Joel about his latest projects back at Gizmonic Institute. Sometimes Mike would stop by as a sign of respect but more out of his own curiosity.
During these visits Dr. Forrester would turn on the TV and find the ‘movie of the week’ so Joel would always have a voice speaking to him even after he left.
Joel had seen many of the movies as a small child but was too young to understand what was going on. As the movies played in the hospital the memories from Joel’s childhood would return, as would trivial information about the films in general. As an adult Joel would mock the tacky the film plots and acting with Crow and Tom reflecting his different senses of humor in the process.
Mike often wondered what Joel was seeing, dreaming, feeling and thinking during his coma. On occasion Mike would imitate a character from the playing movie just to see if he could somehow make Joel laugh
Larry would visit as well, at he would until an investigation proved that Larry was responsible for the explosion. Larry was promptly arrested and locked up but Dr. Forrester didn’t tell Joel what had happened to Larry. He didn’t want Joel to know that Larry was the person responsible for Joel’s accident.
The doctor responsible for Joel’s care had an incredibly broad education and sense of humor. After treating Joel for a year Joel replaced Tom Servo’s voice from Larry’s to that of the doctor’s after two years.
For five and a half years Dr. Forrester, with his new assistant Frank, stopped by the hospital every week and spent a few hours with Joel. Dr. Forrester was the only emergency contact on Joel’s record and was responsible for all medical decisions to be made on Joel’s behalf.
After years of being on life support and dialysis for his failing kidneys, Joel finally received the life saving kidney transplant. The donor was Mike Nelson.
Shortly after the transplant Joel began to rouse from the coma, but tragically there was a complication during the procedure. Mike had a poor reaction to the anesthetic used during the surgery and he too ended up in a coma afterward.
Mike’s mind had drifted to the same plane of existence as Joel’s had during his own coma.
However unlike Joel, Mike’s social isolation stemmed from a fractured home. His parents were strict and his older brother was an angry bully that constantly berated Mike. Mike was close with his grandmother but her senility made it difficult for Mike to maintain a healthy relationship.
Out of guilt and a sense of responsibility, Dr. Forrester and Frank would visit Mike just as they had done for Joel.
Tragedy struck again when after a year and a half Frank had suffered a fatal heart attack. Dr. Forrester’s health in turn began a raid decline from all the emotional and mental anguish he had endured since the day of the accident.
One year after Frank had passed away, Dr. Forrester died in his sleep from a heart attack of his own.
A neural specialist had become a frequent voice in Mike’s ear and Mike replaced Dr. Forrester’s voice that of his new doctor.
Shortly after Mike contracted a serious infection and gone into cardiac arrest. Despite the odds against him the doctor’s were able to revive him but the damage to his body had been done.
In the coma Mike and the bots had been sent adrift through the universe and were willing to accept death. After Mike was revived he and the robots returned to their ethereal plane of existence but time itself had become an illusion.
Back in the real world Pearl Forrester, Dr. Forrester’s mother, was touched by her only son’s selfless act and dedication to being the emergency contact for both Joel and Mike. After Dr. Forrester’s death Pearl became Mike’s medical proxy and she began visiting Mike, but soon Mike’s once stable condition began to fail.
After a total of four and half years Mike’s condition was deemed grave. If he did survive he’d be a vegetable, unable to move or communicate, merely exist.
Pearl made contact with Joel who had finally recovered from his own injuries. Joel returned to the hospital to thank Mike for his sacrifice and to say good-bye before Pearl gave the doctor’s permission to pull the plug.
In the coma Mike and the robots were still trapped aboard the Satellite of Love as the satellite began falling out of orbit and burning up upon reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Back in the hospital Pearl comforted Mike and encouraged him to ‘let it go’ as his body began failing without the life support systems to keep him alive.
After Mike’s body died his mind lived on.
Through his eternal dream Mike returned to the safety and comfort of his apartment with Crow and Tom Servo at his side.
Mike crossed to the other side without knowing that he was actually dead.