The 5 best Joel Hodgson episodes of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ in honor of its return

The comedy sci-fi weirdos from Mystery Science Theater 3000 are up to their spacey old antics again, thanks to a reboot of the classic series that debuted today on Netflix.

Dubbed Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return, the series reboot premieres nearly 30 years after the show initially debuteb on Comedy Central in 1989, which was then known as the Comedy Channel. The show was created and hosted by Joel Hodgson, a Wisconsin native who currently works for Pennsylvania-based technology company Cannae and previously lectured at Bucks County Community College following his run on the show.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a cult comedy/sci-fi series in which a Hodgson, who plays a janitor on a space station, is subjected to B-movies as a way for mad scientists Dr. Clayton Forrester and Dr. Laurence Erhardt to determine which ones would be best to use as a weapon to conquer the world. Hodgson constructs robot friends and fellow series stars Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot to give himself some company, and the trio mock the films in order to stay sane.

Hodgson, a Bucks County resident, left the show partway through its fifth season in Oct. 1993, handing things off to replacement host Mike Nelson. Nelson helmed the show through the show’s final season in 1999, and also served as MST3K’s head writer for a majority of its run.

In 2015, Hodgson started to bring the show back with a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $5.7 million. The new series, which you can watch now on Netflix (along with 20 classic MST3K episodes), stars comedian and actor Jonah Ray, and runs for 14 episodes.

In honor of the reboot’s debut, we’ve rounded up the five best Hodgson-hosted MST3K episodes for folks who want a more local introduction to the show. Check out our picks below:

Godzilla vs. Megalon (season 2, episode 12)

This is about as far back into MST3K’s history as we recommend going, but we do recommend that you go. Few things go together as well as Hodgson’s comedy and sci-fi tropes like Godzilla, and this episode shows why exactly the show became a classic. It’s a little unpolished and a bit clunky, but for new fans, the episode gives a good idea of how the series started off while still remaining entertaining. Plus, it’s just plain, sci-fi fun to watch Godzilla stomp Megalon, a giant cockroach/beetle cross.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (season 3, episode 21)

This Christmas episode spawned Hodgson’s jokey holiday song, “A Patrick Swayze Christmas,” so it has to be on the list. Despite the name, the movie doesn’t feature a ton of Santa conquering Martians, but rather Santa being kidnapped by Martians, who are (spoiler alert) actually just some folks in green face-paint. This kind of strange, B-movie shlock is the bread-and-butter of MST3K, which effortlessly wallow in the movie’s weirdness.

Pod People (season 3, episode 3)

If you ever wanted to see a movie where a killer alien named Trumpy (prescient, right?) goes on a murdering spree but still finds time to make friends with a young boy, this one’s for you. The MST3K guys weren’t fans. Hodgson noted at one point that “Pod People got no reason to live,” making a play on the 1977 Randy Newman track “Short People.” A little over halfway into Hodgson’s tenure as host, this episode shows the MST3K in the prime of its spacey groove.

Manos: The Hands of Fate (season 4, episode 24)

The film in question here is nearly unwatchable, but the resulting episode is widely considered one of the series’ best. Manos follows a family that comes across an evil cult while on vacation, but good luck figuring that out from the  movie, because, as Servo puts it in the episode, there are “certain flaws in this film.” Fans, however, love to see Hodgson and the MST3K crew go through torture, and ranked the episode number one on a list of the series’ top 100 episodes as part of Hodgson’s Kickstarter.

Mitchell (season 5, episode 12)

This episode is perhaps most notable because it is Hodgson’s final appearance on the show as its host, with the BucksCo resident making his escape from the Satellite of Love (the ship where the show is set) via a rocket. However, legend has it that Mitchell star Joe Don Baker said he would “kick their asses” if he ever saw the MST3K crew on the street following the episode’s premiere. Guess he didn’t appreciate being called “Dying Elvis.”