Mike Nelson (character)
|Mystery Science Theater 3000 character|
|First appearance||512 - Mitchell|
|Last appearance||1013 - Diabolik|
|Created by||Michael J. Nelson|
|Portrayed by||Michael J. Nelson|
|Full name||Michael J. Nelson|
|Occupation||Temp for Deep 13
Resident of Deep 13(Mirror Universe)
Former Cheese Factory Worker
Rock Star(Alternate Universe)
Michael John "Mike" Nelson is a fictional character in the comedy science fiction television series Mystery Science Theater 3000. Portrayed by actor/head writer Michael J. Nelson, Mike is a likable, sometimes dim temp worker from Wisconsin who comes to work for the mad scientists ("Mads") Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV's Frank in Deep 13 while they prepare for an evil-scientist audit in episode 512, Mitchell.
When Joel Robinson escapes from the Satellite of Love at the end of this episode, the "Mads" knock Mike unconscious and shoot him up to the satellite to replace Joel as their experimental guinea pig. The hapless Mike finds himself forced to watch bad movies with robot companions Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot while interjecting humorous quips and cultural riffs based on the action and dialog of the films. Nelson's first full appearance was episode 513, The Brain That Wouldn't Die. He typically wore either a dark green jumpsuit, a teal jumpsuit or a blue jumpsuit.
Series creator Joel Hodgson reportedly chose Nelson personally as his replacement, on the grounds that Nelson was a natural leader, a gifted comic and that he simply looked good standing next to the show's puppets. Prior to his tenure as host, Nelson played various parody "guest star" characters such as Torgo from Manos: The Hands of Fate, Morrissey, body builder and Hercules star Steve Reeves, and continued to play the occasional side character even after he became host. He also occasionally appeared as "Jack Perkins," and continued the persona as host of the Mystery Science Theater Hour.
During his tenure as the show's host, Nelson terminated the invention exchanges (last exchange during episode 519, Outlaw) and letter readings (episode 705, Escape 2000) that were a staple of the show's first five years, ending some popular traditions but giving the writers much more freedom in creating the opening and closing sketches. As co-star and writer Kevin Murphy explained, Nelson was many things "but he's not a tinkerer"; the invention exchanges had in any case been vehicles for Joel to engage in the sort of prop-based comedy he had specialised in before MST3K, and Nelson's strengths lay more in the portrayal of comic characters. Unlike Joel, who was resigned to his fate at being stranded in space, Mike is more desperate and proactive in trying to escape, making wild attempts during his run of the show. At one point, after seeing a bad Joe Don Baker film, he assumed he would leave as Joel did and boxed himself in a case of Hamdingers (a sort of spam sandwich). However, what he thought was an escape pod was in fact the ship's water heater.
Mike's relationship with the bots was very different from the one the bots had with Joel. Though the bots occasionally riffed on Joel, they generally respected him and his authority, often regarding him as a father figure (unsurprising, since he literally created them) who would espouse life-defining lessons that could neither be questioned nor refuted. The bots never felt that way about Mike. Though they came to accept him as their friend and companion, they were often more cynical and merciless with him (particularly during the Sci-Fi Channel era) when he screwed up or failed to pick up on something that was blatantly obvious to them, or on his history, such as dropping out of college (Mike had attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout). If Joel was a father figure, Mike was more like an older brother: while the bots were happy to make fun of him and play pranks on him, they were also willing to come to him when in need of comfort or advice. Mike was also different from Joel in personality and temperament. Joel tended to take his captivity in benign stride, often delivering his riffs in dead pan, holding no malice against his captors and affectionately calling them "the Mads". Mike tended to be more aggressive regarding his captivity and heckling the films, and was forever scheming to escape the Satellite or at least make the Mads look like fools, though he and the bots did share moments of friendly recognition with later villains Pearl Forrester, Professor Bobo, and Observer.
According to The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Guide, Mike is "as intelligent as the average man", and often displays a comic unawareness of his limitations and foibles. In episode #602 Invasion U.S.A., he builds a robot whose only function appears to be to "destroy...destroy...destroy...". During the eighth season, he manages to contribute accidentally to the destruction of planets in three separate incidents. During Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, one of Mike's mistakes was trying to show off by piloting the Satellite of Love, and ended up crashing into the Hubble Space Telescope before totally destroying it while attempting to get it off the ship. In episode #911 Devil Fish, he believes his identity has been stolen by a secret government agency merely after misplacing his wallet. He has an older brother, Eddie (also played by Nelson), a chain-smoking, hard-drinking bum who replaces him temporarily in the Time Chasers episode due to Crow going back in time to prevent him from getting the temp jobs which eventually result in him ending up on the SOL. However, this also results in Mike dying a horrible death, which caused Crow to go back once more to fix things. Mike is also tapped by Pearl to provide "a little distraction" while she, Bobo, and Brain Guy evacuate. This leads to Mike building a bomb out of baking soda and vinegar, and while preparing the bomb, he reminisces other incidents in which he built such bombs (as "harmless pranks") and ends up lost in traumatic memories, overloading the bomb with baking soda. The blast subsequently blows up the planet, causing Crow to ask, "Are you out of your stupid, rotted skull, you dumb man?!"
In the final episode, Mike and the bots finally return to Earth, not by means of cunning escape but by the stupidity of their captors, who accidentally send the Satellite tumbling back into Earth's atmosphere. The final scenes show Mike and his robot friends sometime later, now living together in a ground-level apartment in Wisconsin, where Mike enjoys a bowl of rice as he sits down to watch The Crawling Eye, which had been the featured film for the very first nationally syndicated episode of the series.
- Episode 815 - Agent for H.A.R.M