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Recap / Mystery Science Theater 3000 S08 E05: The Thing That Couldn't Die

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Film watched: The Thing That Couldn't Die

The Segments:

Prologue
  • Servo is an artist and has been commissioned by Crow to create an entire exhibition. Crow thinks Servo's running theme of him being a tyrannical monster might be a little negative.

Segment 1

  • As Servo works on his next piece of Crow throwing kittens into a meat grinder, the Satellite of Love is suddenly caught in a tractor beam and placed in orbit around a new planet. They are greeted by the Observers, purported superior beings who claim to have evolved beyond all need for physical bodies or spoken language, yet speak just fine and use bodies to carry their disembodied brains in bowls. Pearl and Bobo are also on the planet, and the Observers are keeping them comfortable and happy (for now).
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Segment 2

  • One of the Observers comes up to the SOL to get a first-hand observation of the crew as they go about their business. His observations do not flatter them.

Segment 3

  • The Observers use their powers to summon people from Mike's memories, whether he actually knows them or not, and they all seem to want to beat him up.

Segment 4

  • Crow presents his documentary on the Civil War, Crow T. Robot's Bram Stoker's The Civil War.

Segment 5

  • Mike removes Servo's head from his body as part of a prank to scare Crow, but it backfires badly. Down on the Observer planet, Pearl is nagging the Observers about her sleeping arrangements, while Bobo needs some time to figure out where he's going to sleep.

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Tropes present in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 presentation include:

  • Actor Allusion: Invoked. The "all-night paleontologist" seems to greatly resemble Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Near the end of the scenes where Boyd the obviously evil fieldhand talks his friend into stealing from the chest, peeps on the female guests, and steals from his boss' bedsidenote ...
    Servo: Well, I only peeped for six hours, but I'm going to put eight on my timecard.
  • Artistic License – History: Crow's epic documentary on "the War Civil". To give you an idea, it starts with Crow claiming no one knows when the Civil War took place.
  • Call-Back: "Plug it in, Joe."
  • Cold Ham: The austere Observers are all about chewing up the scenery with their pompous, melodramatic faux-British delivery and stagey, choreographed posturing.
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  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: The Observers justify most of the apparent failings of their powers as the inability of the SOL crew's minds to make sense of them any other way — hence saying they don't have bodies when they clearly do, and that they've evolved beyond the need for audible speech as they speak out loud, and so on.
  • Freaky Electronic Music: The tuneless flanged synths of the Observers' theme, '50s Theremin-style, with a touch of Drone of Dread on each sustained note.
  • Funny Background Event: For whatever reason, Servo is sunbathing during Paul!Observer's visit. After the latter is kicked out, Servo casually asks, "Am I getting red?"
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: The guys cheer at scenes making it look like Jessica and Linda are more than friends. When they get into bed together, albeit in a non-sexual way, the guys start dancing in the theater.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: One of the Observersnote  comes to study the inhabitants of the SOL, claiming he will not interfere with them, as he is an impartial observer. He then proceeds to rattle off a series of increasingly insulting opinions about Mike and the Bots and talk about how he's disgusted by Mike in particular. He does this right in front of them, until they get sick of it and shove the Observer out the airlock. Without his brain.
    Paul!Observer: I shall now observe the ungainly peach-colored creature. His humid, fleshy extensions struggle as he attempts to dominate some simple, seemingly purposeless toy. Already a sense of pity overcomes me, and yet I am repelled by my own compassion! Although his biological makeup implies a living thing, I'm certain we will discover him to be but an animated piece of refuse or feces. But I must remain impartial and continue to study even as he mocks everything I hold dear. I hate him, and can take comfort only in my own cool detachment. He looks at me now, and no flicker of comprehension do I discern in his flat and lifeless eyes. I can only pray his tiny spinal column conveys no spot of truth, no splinter of the horrible reality that is his own soul. My god, I pray for his death! As do all things that love rightness and decency!
  • Made of Iron: Mike's bare fist is pretty effective against Hadrian's armor.
  • Male Gaze: During the final shot of the film, which is of Jessica's cleavage:
    Crow: The whole movie was leading up to this shot.
    Mike: Brought to you by the Breast Council.
    Servo: Buy breasts where you work or bank!
  • Never My Fault: When the Observers summon Mike's "old friend" Finnegan:
    Observer 3:note  Are you enjoying your long-lost friend?
    Mike: [being held down and pummeled by Finnegan] Listen, I don't know this guy, I've never met him before in my life!
    Observer 1:note  Wh-what do you mean? We cannot possibly make mistakes, so the error must be yours! ...Yeah!
  • The Noun Who Verbed: The title of the episode. Its misleading nature is mocked in the episode guide, where writer Paul Chaplin lists the film's alternate title at the end of his synopsis as The Thing That Died.
  • Obviously Evil: The crew wonders if Boyd was hired straight out of prison.
  • Precision F-Strike: A mild case: "Yeah. What the hell?" Significant only because it's Gypsy saying it.
  • Running Gag:
    • Jessica's dramatic insistence on the "evil" of this or that;
      Servo: (as Jessica carries a tray) "You're all evil, and I hope you have snacks!"
    • Jokes aplenty about the "trade rat" in the tree where the holy symbol is found.
      Mike: You know, the country needs skilled trade rats.
      Mike: There's no trade rat, but there is a skilled artisan rat.
      Crow: A registered trade rat!
    • Servo twanging out the musical riff from The Allman Brothers Band's "Jessica" every time someone calls the character's name.
    • "There's a thick, yellow stain on my back brace!"
    • Flavia's odd pronunciation of 'treasure' ("TRAY-sure")
    • Spoofs of Flavia's name ("Aunt Flatula" wins the gold, while silver and bronze go to "Aunt Fistula" and "Aunt Effluvia")
    • Adding dialog for Gideon's head, using the voice of Dr. Smith from Lost in Space.
    • Making all the men in the film hot for Flavia.
    • Referencing the very familiar background music.
    • There are a couple jokes about the head's resemblance to Edward Mulhare. "Mrs. Muir?"
  • Shout-Out:
    • Several to Star Trek: The Original Series. The Observers themselves are part-shout-out, part-Parody of the similar "Brains that have evolved beyond the need for bodies" villains from "The Gamesters of Triskelion".
    • The Observers' costumes and Psychic Powers seem to be a continuation of the previous episode's references to Beneath the Planet of the Apes — specifically, their cassocks and purple cloaks vaguely resemble those of Mendez XXVI, leader of the underground Cult of the Mutants.
    • Several in one segment. The Observers tell Mike that they can materialize people from his memories; for some reason, the first person to appear is Finnegan (another TOS reference: Captain Kirk's annoying old nemesis from the episode "Shore Leave"), who immediately starts hitting Mike and challenging him to a fight (in that order). The 'Bots beg Mike to imagine Adrienne Barbeau instead; Mike mishears them and summons Roman emperor Hadrian... who immediately begins laying into Mike a la Finnegan as well. Mike then finally manages to swap out Hadrian for Adrienne, who strikes a pose... right before she too starts whaling on Mike.
      Crow: [in the theater] ...Adrienne Barbeau, Mike, how could you?
      Mike: Well, she was pounding me!
  • Smug Super: The Observers do almost nothing but brag about their powers to "those who are as an amoeba", powers which would admittedly be impressive if they didn't spend so much time harping on the aspects of their powers which are then immediately contradicted by the available evidence.
  • Story Arc: The debut of the Observers, one of whom will go on to become a permanent addition to Pearl's retinue.
  • The Stinger: The third episode since Rocket Attack USA not to feature a cut from the movie (or short) after the closing credits,note  instead using the Visual Pun of the Observers holding up their "best brains" to the camera. Fans were less than pleased, and the usual stingers returned after four episodes.
  • Tranquil Fury: During the Observer's increasingly insulting inspection, Mike says nothing and just blankly stares at the camera, before finally saying enough is enough and tossing him out.
  • Verbal Tic: "As we observe..." and "we perceive that..." and their variations for the Observers.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: You might think Kevin is just making vaguely Latin-sounding noises as he plays Hadrian and squares off against Mike. He is, sort of, given the way each word is delivered out of context — but the actual words are from a poem the Emperor composed shortly before his death in 138 AD.
    Hadrian: Animula, vagula, blandula... Hospes comesque corporis... [sucker-punches Mike]note 


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