Keith Palmer (krpalmer) wrote,
Keith Palmer

MST3K 201: Rocketship XM

Thirteen episodes can make quite a difference. Jumping ahead to the start of the second season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, with the departure of Josh Weinstein Tom Servo's puppeteer changes to Kevin Murphy (it's explained that Servo has had a new voice installed; Kevin Murphy proudly related in the official episode guide that the show was sent a banner saying, "I hate Tom Servo's new voice!") and Dr. Larry Erhardt is replaced down in Deep 13 by Frank, ultimately to become TV's Frank. The Satellite of Love is redecorated (this is also mentioned at the start of the show) in a riot of grey-painted found objects, and the Deep 13 set becomes more elaborate. As with the sets, so with the "riffing"; the quips are coming faster, although to me they do still seem at times to belabour a point or two. As for the movie itself?

Rocketship XM is another one of the handful of Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies that had some meaning to me before I even knew the show had tackled it. It was rushed into production to beat to screen the very first attempt to make a serious movie about space travel, Destination Moon, but despite that its tale of a rocketship launched on a Moon "eXpedition" that goes off course and winds up at an atomic-war devastated Mars (which only needed location filming in the desert with the cast wearing oxygen masks as opposed to a moon set and space suits) attracted some positive attention from those who follow science fiction cinema. This can still provoke some occasional ambiguities for me about whether it's "too good" to be made fun of, at least with the show in its state at that time. Of course, Rocketship XM isn't necessarily perfect. It may involve going off course and happening on Mars by accident, but this doesn't happen until more or less halfway through the movie, after the "eXpedition" stalls halfway between the Earth and the Moon for no clear reason. (Some have mentioned a meteor shower knocking the rocket off course, but this merely preceded their trying to restart the jets with the wrong fuel mixture.) In the meantime, some of Rocketship XM's crew are squarejawed, the comedy relief keeps talking about Texas, and the woman on the crew is patronised by the smug, speechifying leader. (One of the quips is "Thank you, Mister White Male Reality.") Perhaps the ambiguities are in how I watch the episode itself, halfway between wanting to see the movie for itself and wanting to see how it's made fun of.
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