Joel Robinson will return to Mystery Science Theater 3000 this weekend, donning his red jumpsuit and appearing in an episode as the primary victim of “The Mads” for the first time in nearly thirty years. Robinson, played by Joel Hodgson, was the original main character of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but escaped the “experiment” in a 1993 episode after finding an escape craft in a box marked “Hamdingers.” Hodgson, who created the series, has remained involved with MST3K in the years since, and is responsible for the series’ recent revival, but had not stepped back in to riff on a movie himself in years.
Since the new season started, new episodes have been dropping, with watch events for subscribers to MST3K‘s Gizmoplex app. This season, there isn’t just one test subject, but three — played by Hodgson, Jonah Ray, and Emily Marsh — and Demon Squadwhich premieres on Friday at 8 pm ET, marks Hodgson’s first episode in the suit.
“I think it’s really cool to have Joel back,” series star Felicia Day told ComicBook.com. “I was like ‘Three different hosts this season?’ But the writing really works, and it expands the world in a way that feels like it enhances everything, versus being a gimmick or taking it away.”
“I was directing the first episode he did, and that’s an odd dynamic — because I was a fan, and then Joel and I were friends, and then we’re working together, and then he’s a boss but it’s still a collaboration, but then all of a sudden, I’m in a position of being like ‘Hey, you really messed up that line. Let’s do it again,'” recalled Ray. “And he’s like, ‘I don’t know, I think I got it, man,’ and all of a sudden I’m in a position of having to tell him how to do Joel Robinson, which doesn’t feel right. …That was the hardest part, because I didn’t want to mess up Joel coming back!”
After the episode is livestreamed on the Gizmoplex, there will be a post-episode discussion with Hodgson, Mystery Science Theater veteran J. Elvis Weinstein, and Demon Squad writer Erin Lilley Smith and director Thomas Smith. Fans who are not yet subscribers to the Gizmoplex app can still sign up at MST3K.com. You can also get a ticket for just this streaming event at Gizmoplex.com.
The series’ original run began on KTMA, a local channel in Minnesota, but when the station went bankrupt, Hodgon shopped it around to bigger networks. At the Comedy Channel (now Comedy Central, a change that happened two seasons into MST3K‘s run) and then the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy), the series lasted ten seasons. A Netflix revival in 2017 and 2018 brought the total to 12 before Hodgson crowdfunded the current, 13-season run, which was produced in conjunction with Shout! Factory.
The series was a cult classic, with bootlegs of the episodes being so ubiquitous that the phrase “Keep circulating the tapes” (which was on the first few years of Comedy Central episodes, due to the channel’s limited reach at the time) became a motto for fans long after it was removed from the actual credits. The mentality would help keep some episodes of MST3K from becoming lost media, though, since many of the KTMA episodes were never re-aired or commercially released due to rights issues.