Tom Servo

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Tom Servo
Mystery Science Theater 3000 character
Tom Servo.JPG
First appearance K00, The Green Slime
Last appearance 1013, Diabolik
Created by Joel Hodgson
Voiced by Josh Weinstein (KTMA season-1)
Kevin Murphy (seasons 210)
Jim Moore (webisodes)
Information
Species Robot
Gender Male

Tom Servo is a fictional character from the American science fiction comedy television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). Tom is one of two wise-cracking, robotic main characters of the show, built by Joel Robinson to act as a companion and help stave off madness as he was forced to watch low-quality films (ironically, he, along with the other bots, is made from the parts that would have otherwise allowed Joel to actually control the film). At least during the Comedy Central era, he was somewhat more mature and cynical than his companion Crow T. Robot. Tom, more often than the others, signals the need to exit the theater to perform host segments.

Overview[edit]

Tom Servo is a red puppet that has a gumball machine (Carousel Executive Snack Dispenser) for a head, a body composed of a toy "Money Lover Barrel" coin bank and a toy car engine block, and a bowl-shaped hovercraft skirt (a Halloween "Boo Bowl") instead of legs. His arms are a pair of small white ventriloquist's dummy hands on the ends of springs that are not really functional as arms, a point that is commented on occasionally throughout the series. Some episodes feature Tom with objects already in his hands, raising the unanswered question of how they got there. His shoulders are made from the front of an Eveready Floating Lantern. Because Servo's head is transparent, chromakeyed images appear projected through it, and thus a second puppet was built for use in the theater segments, entirely spray-painted black. This black Servo also appeared in a host segment in episode #609, The Skydivers.

Servo's appearance has changed over time. In the pilot for MST3K, the robot who would become Servo was named "Beeper," who just spoke in beeps that only Crow could understand. He was an all-silver robot vaguely shaped like the ultimate Servo, with funnel-shaped shoulders, silver rubber tube arms, a plastic flowerpot for a hoverskirt, and a small fishbowl for a head. He was renamed 'Servo' after a vending machine called the Servotron. Sometime between the pilot and episode #K03: Star Force: Fugitive Alien II Servo's head was replaced with the now-familiar gumball machine for most of the series. (MST3K archival site mst3ktemple.com presents a substantive argument that this replacement was probably done before or during episode #K01: Invaders from the Deep, based on an analysis of related set and costume changes.[1]).

In Season 1 on the Comedy Channel, he was given a red color, longer black tube arms, squared white shoulders, a different hoverskirt, and the Carousel Snack Dispenser gumball machine head with a white beak. Around episode 105: The Corpse Vanishes, Servo's head was replaced with a slightly modified version of his "Carousel" head. The "neck" was slightly wider and the beak (now silver at this point) appeared smaller. This version of Servo's head would be used for the remainder of Season 1. For Season 2, the black tubing used for his arms was replaced by a pair of small silver springs and the more familiar Carousel Dispenser head design (KTMA/pre episode 105) returned with a silver beak. This physical form was pretty much the same throughout the remainder of the series, save for a brief flirtation (during episodes #205: Rocket Attack USA and #206: Ring of Terror) with a slim cylindrical gumball-machine head to try to reduce the screen area Servo's head obscured. It was introduced as a "haircut" that Joel gave Servo, but was quickly abandoned. By mid season 3 an extra cap from another Carousel Dispenser was added just below the "bubble" making Tom's head appear slightly taller and slimmer. Briefly in early season 4, Servo's white hands were changed to beige before returning to white after only a few episodes. During a host segment in the Sci-Fi era, he briefly acquired the body of a "beautiful butterfly."

Kevin Murphy, pictured in 2012, who operated and voiced Servo after Josh Weinstein

Servo's voice and personality also changed during the show's early years. While Josh Weinstein operated Servo during the KTMA season, Servo originally spoke with a sleasy, Bullwinkle-type voice in episode K02 (the earliest seen of the regular Servo puppet), then a rather slowly with a squeaky voice from K03-K05, and was somewhat immobile during host segments but oddly very active in the theater. In episode K06, Weinstein switched to a lower voice that Servo repeatedly proclaimed as his new "MIGHTY VOICE!" When Weinstein left at the end of Season 1, Kevin Murphy took over Servo's operation and tried to match Weinstein's Servo voice and personality, but gradually developed a somewhat new Servo sound and character (though Murphy has a fairly deep voice himself). This was explained as tinkering by Joel. During Murphy's tenure, Servo took many opportunities to showcase his excellent singing. He also has an extensive underwear collection (as seen in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie), as well as a large number of duplicates of himself that he made in episode #420: The Human Duplicators (also seen in episode #612: The Starfighters, episode #910: The Touch of Satan, episode #913: Quest of the Delta Knights, episode #1003: Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders, episode #1004: Future War, and episode #1013: Diabolik). Female Servo duplicates were featured in The Touch of Satan and Quest of the Delta Knights.

Whenever a member of the cast is required to dress in drag for a sketch, Servo usually does the honors. This is both because of the dichotomy of women's clothes amusingly contrasted with puppeteer Murphy's strong baritone voice and because, in Murphy's words, "Servo looks better in a dress than Crow." Also, Servo is the only robot (other than Cambot in seasons 5-10) whose entire body can seen on the show, since Crow's legs are behind the desk and Gypsy's body is several yards long.

Servo normally has a condescending personality and at times can make literary and technical references that are above his companion's heads. He frequently attempts to seem physically imposing to others, once acquiring "lifts" for his hover skirt to increase his size (accused by Mike of suffering "short man's disease") and on another occasion showing off a small arsenal he had acquired while drifting through space. Almost invariably, however, any attempts at confronting danger or displaying his intellectual skill cause him such frustration that he ends up crying, often needing consolation from Joel or Mike.

Furthermore he's easily rattled by sarcastic remarks made from Crow, such as the time when he made fun of his infatuation with a boy's pet turtle Tibby in the episode 'Gamera'.

He does have a good understanding and intellect in spite of his sensitivity and frustration, and has revealed in the episode 'The Gunslinger' that he's able to teleport at will, even though he only demonstrates this on rare other occasions.

Other appearances[edit]

  • Tom Servo also appeared in the Cops-style Star Wars spoof Troops as a droid purloined by Jawas. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is also known to contain a reference to Tom Servo's Used Robots in the directory to the station's Promenade business area, though it is unlikely that this reference ever appeared onscreen.[2]
  • Servo, along with Crow, has a cameo appearance (appropriately in silhouette) in the Futurama episode "Raging Bender". Ironically, he shushes the main characters as they begin to riff a newsreel they were watching.
  • A robot bearing at least a striking resemblance to Tom Servo appears in the Beck music video "Where it's At".
  • Servo makes an appearance in silhouette in the Homestar Runner cartoon "A Jorb Well Done", during a short scene in a theater.
  • Though not actually Tom Servo, a stolen Gumball machine featured in the Hoax II, skate video is lovingly named Tom Servo. He unfortunately gets smashed by accident a short while after being purloined.
  • Tom (with his cylinder head) and Crow are seen in a Star Wars Tales comic about a Force using droid. He is also seen, along with Crow and Gypsy, in Tag and Bink: Revenge of the Clone Menace.
  • In the Archie Comics series Sonic the Hedgehog Issue#52, Sonic does battle with three robots, resembling Tom Servo, Crow, and Cambot.
  • The prototype web browser Servo is named after Tom Servo
  • In Gold Digger/Ninja High School "a science affair" issue 1 Tom servo can be seen in the background. Marked as "Servo-tron"
  • A Tom Servo replica body has been seen in the background of many episodes of the comic book review show Atop The Fourth Wall, and has been used as the "body" of the character Pollo the Cardboard Robot in two separate episodes.[3] This is a reference to AT4W creator's (Lewis Lovhaug) genuine love of MST3K.

References[edit]

  • The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide (1996), ISBN 0-553-37783-3.
  • The Official Mystery Science Theater 3000 Bot Building Booklet (1998), Best Brains, Inc., ISBFE 05557143431.
  • Satellite News: The Official Mystery Science Theater 3000 Web Site
  • The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Scrapbook VHS, Best Brains, Inc.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie DVD (1996).
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000, episode #K02 (Revenge of the Mysterons)
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000, episode #K06 (Gamera vs. Gaos)
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000, episode #201 (Rocketship X-M)
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000, episode #205 (Rocket Attack U.S.A.)
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000, episode #206 (Ring of Terror)
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000, episode #1004 (Future War)
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000, episode #1013 (Diabolik)

External links[edit]