Satellite of Love (Mystery Science Theater 3000)

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The Satellite of Love (sometimes known as the SOL) is the fictional main setting of the comedy television series Mystery Science Theater 3000. It is a giant bone-shaped spacecraft that Joel Robinson (later replaced by Mike Nelson) and his friends — robots Crow, Tom Servo, Gypsy, Cambot, and the noncorporeal Magic Voice — live in. The vessel is in orbit above Earth during much of the series, except for a journey to the end of the universe [1] and its flight throughout the space-time continuum from Pearl Forrester. [2] Its name is a reference to the Lou Reed song, "Satellite of Love".


According to the show's storyline, as part of an experiment to see how bad movies affected a person's mind, mad scientists Dr. Clayton Forrester and Dr. Laurence Erhardt (aka "The Mads") kidnap Joel, place him on the Satellite of Love, and shoot him into space. In order to keep himself from going mad, Joel builds his robot friends from parts of the spacecraft — namely the controls used to begin and end the movie. [3] Eventually, Gypsy incorrectly overhears that the Mads are finished with Joel, and plan to kill him, even though they really plan to kill their new temp, Mike Nelson. With the help of Mike, who discovers an escape pod in a box of "Hamdingers" after reading the SOL's manual, Gypsy forces Joel into it. Joel manages to safely return to Earth, where he crash-lands in the Australian Outback and eventually resumes his normal life. In response, the Mads kidnap Mike and send him up to the Satellite of Love to take Joel's place. [4]

At the end of season 10, the Satellite is deorbited and crash-lands near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mike and the Bots move into an apartment nearby, and are last seen starting to watch and riff The Crawling Eye, the movie which provided the first nationally broadcast episode of the series. Gypsy founds an international conglomerate, ConGypsCo. [5]

In the unaired pilot, series creator Joel Hodgson (not yet using his character name "Joel Robinson") claims to have designed the Satellite of Love himself. [6] This was changed by the first aired episode to the more familiar storyline. The Satellite of Love during the KTMA era was also noticeably different from the version shown during the show's official run, built on a very low budget and not featuring the iconic "doggy-bone" shape. [7]

The 11th season of MST3K debuted a revised design for the Satellite of Love, with vertically-oriented "bone" knobs at the forward end of the satellite and horizontally-oriented ones at the rear.


Little is known of the Satellite of Love's internal design and workings, following a general theme mentioned in the introductory song:

If you're wondering how he eats and breathes, and other science facts,
Then repeat to yourself, "It's just a show, I should really just relax." [8]

However, some aspects can be determined from the episodes. Based on the opening sequence of season 10, where the crew is briefly seen looking out a window, the room where the "host segments" take place is on the bridge, which appears to be in the upper-right sphere of the dog-bone-shaped ship. The crew is able to communicate with the Gizmonic Institute (KTMA era), Deep 13 (seasons 1-7), the apes' laboratory (early Season 8), Pearl's Microbus, "The Widowmaker" (late Season 8), and Castle Forrester (seasons 9-10) via a viewscreen of some sort (never shown on the TV series but shown in the movie), accessible through Cambot, which enables the crew to see the Mads and vice versa. (For all intents and purposes, it was the actual television camera that served this purpose, since whenever one group was communicating with the other, they looked at and spoke directly to the viewer.) Another viewscreen, the Hexfield, similarly provided two-way transmissions to spacecraft interiors and other locations. An exterior camera called Rocket Number Nine enabled the crew to see the entirety of the SOL and any spaceships or creatures in its immediate vicinity; the crew evidently viewed this through the same forward viewscreen that communicated with the Mads (again, the actual television camera).

Each of the SOL crew has his own living quarters, the locations of which are unclear. Mike's room was only seen once when the Bots were stalking him by putting a "hidden" camera on a toy. [9] Servo's room is very messy, with underwear strewn about (Servo collects underwear; how he managed to find all of it while having never been to Earth goes unexplained), and contains a car-shaped children's bed. [10] Crow's room has never been seen, nor has Gypsy's. It is unclear if Cambot had a room or if he simply lived on the bridge. From season 8 onward, the ship was also inhabited by billions of nanites, which apparently occupy the entire surface area of the ship's interior.

The Mystery Science Theater, in which the SOL captives watch and mock movies, is apparently located directly behind the bridge, on the opposite end of a long hallway with several oddly shaped doors (as suggested by the transition between host and movie segments), although the characters are rarely shown using it. As explained in one episode, life support throughout the rest of the ship is shut off while the movies are playing, thus forcing the crew to remain in the theater. [11] A few sightings include one instance of Mike and the Bots walking down the hallway, [12] and three occasions when someone runs into Cambot's direct passage before apparently being run over by Cambot himself — Joel and the Bots after a game of tag during the KTMA season, [13] repeated in a later nationally telecast episode, [14] and Mike alone after dislodging the stuck door in the season 10 opener. [15] Given the sheer size of the SOL, it seems unlikely that the hallway extended entirely from one end of the ship to the other, given that Joel and Mike were able to run from bridge to theater in so short a time; however, if it didn't, precisely what was at the other end of the SOL was never revealed. In Episode #410 (Hercules Against the Moon Men), Tom and Crow proved able to travel at least 50 yards (46 m) away from the theater doors while still on the non-theater side of the doors and corridor (i.e. at an angle to the viewer's left and forward, out of range of Cambot). However seeing as how Joel/Mike and the others always get to the bridge long before Cambot, it's possible their way into the theater is faster.

During the Joel era, Joel was sometimes seen jumping into a separate entrance beside the main door to get to the theater,[16] In later seasons this opening would be changed to, among other things, an airlock leading outside the satellite. [1] In a few episodes, this hatch allows the characters to send things back and forth between the satellite and Deep 13 via a long tube called the "Umbilicus", tethering the Satellite in orbit. In its first appearance, the Umbilicus is directly attached to Gypsy's snake-like body, and the characters can receive and send objects through Gypsy's mouth. Later, it is reconnected to an oven-like device on the SOL's bridge. [17] This tether is cut in the season 7 finale, causing the satellite to drift off into deep space. [1] It is implied that, during the later seasons, Brain Guy is responsible for keeping the Satellite of Love hovering above Earth with his telekinetic powers, especially with the last episode "Diabolik", when Pearl douses his Brain with Mountain Dew and causes him to lose control of the SOL, thus sending it flying toward Earth.

The Satellite of Love is so large that many regions of it go unexplored, at least by Mike, who, during season 10, is surprised to learn that the SOL is equipped with a squash court, a silo, and a feed lot (to which Crow asks "Do you even live here, Mike?").[18] The presence of Joel's escape pod in "Docking Bay 14"[4] implies there are at least fourteen docking bays. The Satellite even has its own time machine which is built by the nanites during the episode Terror from the Year 5000 (like the time machine from the movie, this machine looks suspiciously like a water heater). Unfortunately, due to its emitting dangerous radiation, only the bots (specifically Crow and Cambot) may use it, which they do a couple of times.

The ceiling to the bridge is impossibly high, as shown it can fit a flagpole in Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders and a mile-high pie in The Mole People, both of take Crow several minutes to fall off of. It also allows Tom and Crow to fly around in miniature planes in the episode The Skydivers. The bridge also has large air ducts, which Tom and Crow try to live in during Tormented. There are also rafters on the ceiling, which Professor Bobo and the Bot's pet chimpanzee Henry Kissinger hang from and threw microwaves from until Mike shot them down, all during Overdrawn At The Memory Bank. Crow also hides among these rafters in a host segment of 'Blood Waters of Dr Z', only to get himself stuck in them and Mike having to pry him out with a squeegee.

Another section, simply referred to as "the basement" by Tom Servo, is first featured in a scene where Crow attempts to "dig" his way back to Earth. [19] This part of the ship is located directly beneath the bridge. In season 8, Crow conducts an archaeological dig to uncover his forgotten 500-year solo occupation of the SOL since season 7. [20] The SOL crew also discovers albinos living in this area that happen to resemble the light-deprived Sumerian descendants of The Mole People. [21]

Also shown in the movie is a device referred to as the "manipulator arms", a set of robotic arms that extend from an opening near the back of the ship, controlled by a pair of virtual reality gloves. [12] The hands are labeled "Manos" (Spanish for "hands"), a joke referring to the infamous season 4 episode, Manos: The Hands of Fate. A similar mechanism appears in episode 104, Women of the Prehistoric Planet, but is never featured again.[22]

In Episode 820 "Space Mutiny," there are three escape ships on board the SOL, which Tom, Crow, and Gypsy pilot, but inevitably damages them beyond repair blasting at each other for fun and crashing them into the SOL. In that same episode, Tom Servo builds many unnecessary, inconvenient railings on the bridge, one around an unseen pit going straight down from the bridge. There was also a railing around Mike's seat in the theatre.


  1. ^ a b c Mystery Science Theater 3000, "Laserblast" [7.06].
  2. ^ MST3K, "The Deadly Mantis" [8.04] through "The Projected Man" [9.01].
  3. ^ MST3K, opening credits sequence, seasons K-5 (through "Mitchell" [5.12]).
  4. ^ a b MST3K, "Mitchell" [5.12].
  5. ^ MST3K, "Diabolik" [10.13].
  6. ^ The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Scrapbook, host segment from unaired pilot "The Green Slime" [K.00]. VHS, Best Brains, Inc.
  7. ^ MST3K, opening credits sequence, KTMA season ([K.01-K.22]).
  8. ^ MST3K theme song, all episodes.
  9. ^ MST3K, "Track of the Moon Beast" [10.07].
  10. ^ Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie DVD (1996), ISBN 0-7832-1928-8 .
  11. ^ MST3K, "Wild Rebels" [2.07]. Joel specifically refers to the viewing room as "the Mystery Science Theater" during the invention exchange.
  12. ^ a b MST3K: The Movie, during the Hubble crash host segment.
  13. ^ MST3K, "Humanoid Woman" [K.11]
  14. ^ MST3K, "The Corpse Vanishes" [1.05]
  15. ^ MST3K, "Soultaker" [10.01]
  16. ^ MST3K, often shown in the opening credits.
  17. ^ MST3K, "Girls Town" [6.01]
  18. ^ MST3K, "Hamlet" [10.09]
  19. ^ MST3K: The Movie, during the escape-attempt host segment.
  20. ^ MST3K, "The Leech Woman" [8.02]
  21. ^ MST3K, "The Mole People" [8.03]
  22. ^ MST3K, Women of the Prehistoric Planet [1.04]