The fourth season opens with "Space Travelers," which is actually the movie "Marooned" with a cheap new credits sequence by the same people who brought the world "Cave Dwellers" and several other movies seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000. "Marooned" may just be as close as the show ever got to "riffing" on a "regular Hollywood movie," but there seems to be something of a fan consensus that it's not the best "bot fodder" around. In some ways, I can agree that there's just not that same "so bad it's good" flair, and the riffing itself may not be all that memorable. That said, "Apollo 13" "Space Travelers" is not. It seems to show its true colours in the middle of a Saturn V launch made up of stock footage, ("An 8 million dollar movie and they're still using stock footage!") when it cuts to the three astronauts in their command module... all of them wearing bright red helmets that look a little like sideways eggs. (There's a reference or two to "Pac-Man" thrown in, and Crow jokes about a gumball machine in space before remembering Tom Servo...) The actual special effects won an Academy Award, but they look much more obvious than "2001's" contemporary (if expensive) work. Returning from five months on a Skylab-like space station after the astronauts completely burn out (two months before they're supposed to), the service module engine refuses to ignite. Everyone, on the ground and in space alike, sort of grits their teeth in a hangdog kind of way before the chief astronaut, played by David Janssen, shouts his boss (played by Gregory Peck, which leads to a great many Peck impressions from Joel and Crow) into agreeing to a rescue mission in a little red spaceplane. ("Since when did NASA paint anything red?")
Whether it was cut down by the people who put the new credits sequence on or cut down to make it fit airtime for Mystery Science Theater 3000, "Space Travelers" is both draggy and abrupt. The astronauts' wives show up out of nowhere to talk to their marooned husbands (although this gives Gene Hackman, who we've helpfully been told "is good in anything," a chance to go space-crazy, and to come as close as the movie gets to "so bad it's good"), and a Soviet cosmonaut materialises during the final commercial break in a capsule very much like an even at the time obsolete Vostok to pitch in for the rescue. All in all, though, I still have the feeling I'm fine with the MST3K version.