- After six issues of jokes about corporate sponsorship, Totino’s Pizza Rolls put down some cash for a pod comic presentation of the first issue of the Dark Horse-published Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Comic Book. The result was the livestream of a podcast: Totino’s Proudly Presents: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Pod Comic! The results are unique; a little uneven, but spirited and rollicking enough to recommend a listen and quasi-watch.
Conducted at Flappers’ Comedy Club on May 14th in Burbank, California, the event is narrated by Matt Mercer, with Felicia Day, Rebecca Hanson, and Jonah Ray voicing their roles from Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return. Grant Baciocco (who also voiced M. Waverly on the show and in the podcast) and Tim Ryder helped fill in for various other missing main MST3K castmembers by voicing Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot, Max, and Growler. Rounding out the rest of the cast and taking the parts of various minor characters are Critical Role cast members Marisha Ray, Taliesin Jaffe, Sam Riegel, and Liam O’Brien. Evan Slaughter handled the incidental music via electric keyboards.
Joel Hodgson opens the stream with an explanation of how Dark Horse took on MST3K as a property and his admiration for Critical Role’s cast. He explained the joys and difficulties of transforming MST3K into a comic (apparently he originally wanted the show to come back in comic form), revealing that there’s going to be a live tour featuring Tom and Crow playing D&D together (something he first mentioned on the the Critical Role Kickstarter Wrap-Up Livestream). He then introduced the cast who was immediately introduced again by Matt Mercer.
The overall experience was an odd one. More of a traditional radio play than a podcast, the old-timey feel of the show was met with fresh visual effects to make a unique package. Aside from a snappy version of the Teen Reporter: Tom Servo theme song (featuring music written by Paul Saberin), with vocals handled by Marisha, Rebecca, and Felicia, the podcast stream was pretty much a direct reading of the first comic with visuals provided by cheerfully cheap-looking animations. (At one point a digitally cut-out Tom Servo could be seen bopping along on a black background, tugged free from the panel art from whence he rested.) The experience is wonderfully silly and playfully loose-limbed, unpretentious, and yet fun. While the visuals of the production did lack a bit, the voice cast did a great job making up for it. The reading also doesn’t really suffer from its cast substitutions. Ryder was a standout, performing a stunningly good Crow that reminded me of Bill Corbett’s work.
As with all maiden flights, there were some clunky spots. A particular problem was the animation and scene transitions: there were lots of missed or delayed cues that resulted in awkward pauses or visual backtracking. Then there were audio issues, like the microphone for Sam Rigel in particular was awful, rendering him barely audible for the entire podcast.
But there were plenty of highlights. For some, the simple sound of Matt Mercer narrating an MST3K story will be pleasant, For others, it’s worth noting that Hanson, Day and Ray were particularly captivating in their work. It’s not an essential experience for either MST3K or Critical Role fans, but it’s a good one.
You can watch the archived stream in its entirety and judge for yourself at the Totino’s Twitch channel here!