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Recap / Mystery Science Theater 3000 S 03 E 21 Santa Claus Conquers The Martians

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Custume designer?

Film watched: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

This was the first Christmas Episode of the comedy series. It became a holiday staple on the Comedy Central cable channel in the years following its 1991 premiere, helping it become one of the series' most popular episodes and introduced the film to a new generation in the form of younger MSTies.

Some of the original cast of MST3K would later form Cinematic Titanic and took a second go at the film seventeen years later, this time the full length version. Mike Nelson's RiffTrax would later riff it on Dec. 5, 2013 in a live show.

The episode is available on Shout! Factory TV here.


The Segments:

  • Crow and Servo are looking over catalogs, and things they want for Christmas. Servo wants a inflatable bathtub pillow, Gypsy wants a pony and Crow wants to decide who lives and who dies.

Segment 1

  • The Mads present the "Wish Squisher", a machine that turns cool gifts into boring gifts. Joel and the Bots present their line of Misfit Toys; toaster dolls, Road House the Board Game, an Easy Bake foundry and Mr. Mashed Potato Head.

Segment 2

  • Joel, Crow and Servo sing the soon-to-be classic "Let Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas".

Segment 3

  • Crow and Servo freak out after discussing this week's film. Joel cheers them up by bringing stacks of Christmas tapes.

Segment 4

  • Joel and the Bots present their essays on Christmas. Crow's essay is about the economics of Santa and his elves. Servo's essay is about Santa visiting the Satellite and quickly turns into a gory description of what would happen to Santa and the reindeer if they flew into space without a spaceship. Joel's essay is about 70s office Christmas parties, full of alcohol and sexism. Gypsy provides a Nativity scene.

Segment 5

  • Joel and the Bots sing "Angels We Have Heard on High", and receive their stocking gifts. Joel receives a letter from a Coast Guard officer sending season's greetings. The Mads exchange gifts; Dr. Forrester gets a watch band, but Frank gets a copy of Final Exit.

The episode has examples of:

  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas
    • "Open up your heart and let the Patrick Swayze Christmas in / We'll gather at the Road House with our Next of Kin..."
      Joel: (beat) Okay, I think we need a time out. (drags Crow off to punish him)
      • On a sidenote, someone played this song for Patrick Swayze during a radio show a few years after the episode aired. He loved it.
  • Badass Santa: Throughout the episode, Joel and the 'Bots imply that Santa is carrying a gun, and that he would eventually fight in the Vietnam War.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick:
    • Tom Servo's "A Child's Christmas in Space" essay, which begins innocently but quickly becomes a rant about how Santa Claus and his reindeer would explode in outer space. Full monologue here.
    • While riffing the "climactic" battle:
    Tom: Hilarity, guys. Not since the pie fight scene in The Great Race!
    Crow: Not since the mudslide scene in McLintock!!
    Joel: Not since the wagon race scene in The Hallelujah Trail!
    Crow: Not since the chess-playing scene in The Seventh Seal!
    Tom: Not since the orgy scene in
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-Universe example: During a shot of the Martian ship in space, Servo riffs, "You know, if they cancel Battlestar Galactica, I'm gonna kill myself." Joel quickly puts up a hand to shut him up.note 
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Mrs. Claus gets excited over a news crew visiting the North Pole:
    Tom Servo: When she thinks of the mass media, she touches herself.
  • "Gift of the Magi" Plot: Dr. Forrester and Frank, being evil, invert this horribly. Frank gets a watch band for Dr. Forrester, at the expense of stealing and selling the watch it's for. Forrester, in turn, has been secretly drawing blood from Frank and used money from the plasma to buy Frank Final Exit, a controversial book about assisted suicide.
    Frank: Oh, Henry!
  • A God Am I: Crow's Christmas wish is to decide who lives and who dies.
  • Hollywood Giftwrap: Dr Forrester's invention exchange.
  • It Was with You All Along: When the Martians realize that there are hundreds of Santa lookalikes in just one Earth city, Crow responds:
    Crow: Santa is in all of us!
  • Japan Takes Over the World: Crow concludes his essay with this, alongside Technology Marches On and Fridge Logic.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre:
    Tom Servo: And now, for your enjoyment, some suggestive scenes of jets refueling.
  • Laughing Mad: Joel and the bots assume this must be going on when Santa meets Bomar and Girmar for the first time, and everyone starts laughing with no provocation.
    Tom Servo: You know, it's the little things that can clue you in to drug abuse.
  • Long List: Joel tricks Frank into sending up a whole bag of VHS tapes of Christmas specials and movies, and lists off several choice titles.
  • Losing Horns: When Rignar finds Dropo hiding in the spaceship's radar box, Joel and the 'Bots make a "wah-wah-wah!" sound.
  • My New Gift Is Lame:
    • "Weaponized" by the Mads in their invention, the Wish Squisher, which turns great gifts into this trope.
    • And in the movie:
    Crow: Laundry baskets! Kids will go nuts for them!
  • National Stereotypes: Santa tells a joke and wonders why the kids aren't laughing. Joel quips, "We're Norwegian."
  • Now You Tell Me: When Chochem explains the reasons for the malaise of the Martian children:
    Chochem: I have seen this coming for centuries.
    Crow: Why didn't you tell us, pops?
  • Pac-Man Fever: TV's Frank demonstrates the Wish Squisher with a box full of "Video cassette cartridge games".
  • Police Brutality: Santa makes a bunch of baseball bats at his toy factory. Joel quips, "Oh, those must be for the L.A.P.D."
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder:
    Wernher von Green: Who wouldn't give everything to bring Santa back to our children?
    Tom Servo: Oh, me!
    Joel: (raises hand) Uh, me.
    Crow: Over here! (whistles)
  • Running Gag:
    • Pia Zadora and her Golden Globe, beginning with "Will you buy me a Golden Globe?"
    • In the Cinematic Titanic version, Joel quips that they thought Pia Zadora being in this was pretty funny, but now he can't remember why.
    • Every time the Martians fire one of their rockets, causing a rushing sound and the whole ship tilting, Joel or the bots blame it on "Lentils".
    • "What's Vietnam?"
  • The Scrappy: invoked Tom Servo openly wishes for Dropo to get run over by a train.
  • The '70s: Joel's essay on the Christmas office party of that decade.
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    • Dropo's introduction:
      Kimar: Dropo, you are the laziest man on Mars. Why are you sleeping during working hours?
      Joel: Cause I'm the laziest man on Mars!
    • When Dropo is dressing up like Santa:
      Tom Servo: You know, he's simple. Simple, but stupid.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Special Effect Failure: invoked
    • Lampshaded: Joel and the bots crack up upon seeing the "polar bear".
    Tom: Oh, you have got to be kidding me!
    Joel: (as Billy) Hey, check it out! There's a stupid guy out here in a crummy bear costume!
    • And then they agree that Torg's costume is even worse.
    Joel: It's a guy in a cardboard box with a coffee urn on his head!
  • Stock Footage: After a copious amount of stock footage of Earth "attacking", a character walks onto the bridge of the spaceship...
    Crow: Wow! There's a ton of stock footage out there!
  • The Stoner: When Santa can't remember the names of his own reindeer, Tom Servo wonders, "What's in the pipe, Santa?"
  • Take That!:
    • At several points, Joel and the bots claim Pia Zedora's Golden Globe was bought, not earned.
    • When the Soviet Union denies launching any new satellites, Tom quips, "Like they could afford it."
    • As the Martin kids are listening to "educational tapes", Tom chimes in:
      Tom Servo: Tony Danza is a fine actor. Sinbad is funny. Blake Edwards makes a really good film.
  • True Meaning of Christmas: The final three movies TV's Frank sent the SOL crew are all about old people discovering this, as low-budget takes on A Christmas Carol.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: During the end credits:
    Crow: Santa Claus—killed in Vietnam.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Everything in Tom's stocking consists of items that, since his arms don't work (something addressed at multiple times), he can't possibly use.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: Among the VHS tapes Joel has are three different variations of A Christmas Carol, where a curmudgeonly old man, old woman, or both learn the true meaning of Christmas.
  • You Have Gotto Be Kidding Me!: Said verbatim by Servo when the polar bear appears.


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