Joel Robinson is an inventor and former janitor at Gizmonic Institute. He was captured by Dr. Clayton Forrester and Dr. Laurence Erhardt and became the first test subject in the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" experiment they instigated.


Early life[]

Little is known about Joel's life before Gizmonic Institute. He played piano in the second grade, performing in a piano recital captured in home movies shot by his Uncle Roy. He has (or had) relatives (of uncertain relationship) named Brian and Bridget, their children Brett and Brenda, also Minnie and her children Ray, Tony and Theresa.[1]

During Experiment #313, Joel indicated that he attended Ashwaubenon High School (the alma mater of Joel Hodgson), and correctly identified their sports team as the Jaguars. This would imply that Joel spent part of his youth living in Wisconsin.

At one point he describes himself as being "from the Humanities", but it is unclear if this is an indication that he studied that field.

Gizmonic Institute[]


Joel while working at Gizmonic Institute.

Eventually, Joel came to work at Gizmonic Institute as a janitor. At Gizmonic, he was able to indulge in his penchant for inventions, an activity that would come in useful after he became stranded on the Satellite of Love.

Mystery Science Theater 3000[]

Gizmonic employees Dr. Clayton Forrester and Dr. Laurence Erhardt ("the Mads") kidnapped Joel and shot him in a rocket onto the Satellite of Love (a spacecraft in Geo-synchronous orbit around the Earth) as part of an experiment to determine which bad movies were capable of destroying the human mind. Joel was chosen because Forrester and Erhardt despised him for some reason, even though he was by all accounts a competent employee. It was implied that the Mads were envious of Joel's creativity and inventiveness.

The experiment required Joel, upon receiving "Movie sign", to enter the Mystery Science Theater, a built-in movie theater, and watch "cheesy movies" sent to the theater by the Mads. By choosing the "worst they could find", the scientists hoped to find the perfect movie to break Joel's will and then use it to take over the world.

Left alone on board the ship, Joel scavenged parts from the control systems to build companions to help him cope with his predicament. His initial robots were Gypsy, Crow T. Robot and Beeper. He would later build Tom Servo (apparently from the same shell as Beeper), Cambot (incorporating the camera used to communicate with the Mads) and Magic Voice.

As part of the normal rituals fostered at Gizmonic Institute, Joel (and sometimes the bots) participated in an "Invention Exchange" with the Mads, an informal contest to see who could come up with the better invention.

As their creator, Joel serves as a father figure to Tom, Crow and Gypsy and he often scolded them when their antics got out of hand, or when they made crude jokes during the films. In a display of parental concern, he opened an umbrella during Experiment 403 to cover some nudity.

Though bombarded with dozens of horrible films, he tended to take his captivity in stride, delivering most of his riffs in a deadpan voice and holding little ill will towards his captors. Joel jokingly referred to them as "the Mads" (among other nicknames) while referring to elements of popular culture ("Auntie Em and Toto") or things found in Minnesota ("Milavetz and Associates", a prominent Twin Cities-area law firm).

Joel spent five and a half years aboard the SOL, finally managing to escape after a torturous viewing of the Joe Don Baker film Mitchell. While Joel, Tom, and Crow were off in another part of the ship on a camping trip, Gypsy overheard the Mads plotting to fire their new temp worker, Mike Nelson, and thought that they meant to murder Joel instead. To save his life, she found a spare escape pod, the Deus ex Machina, hidden in the SOL's cargo bay, and used it to launch Joel back to Earth. Furious, Dr. Forrester decided not to kill Mike, and instead "conked him on the noggin" and shot him up to the satellite as Joel's replacement.

After the experiment[]

Joel crash-landed in the Australian outback, and spent a few years traveling and doing freelance "pyrotechniques" for the band Man or Astro-man?. Later, he worked at a Hot Fish Shop in Osseo, Minnesota.

At some point, Joel learned that Dr. Forrester had rigged most of the SOL's components to self-destruct after ten years, so he constrcuted a spaceship to go back and repair the ship. Joel entered tractor range of the SOL during Experiment #1001, and was reunited with the bots. It was during this visit that he met Mike for the first time. Though Mike and the bots asked if he could take them back to Earth with him, Joel declined. He explained that the years he spent on the Satellite of Love were the best years of his life, and told Mike "it made a man out of me and maybe, just maybe, it'll make a man out of you, too." Once the repairs were finished, Joel boarded his ship and returned to Earth.

Return to the experiment[]

Many years later, Joel found himself caught up once again in the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" experiment. He was forced to go on tour alongside then-current test subject Jonah Heston, watching the films The Brain and Deathstalker II. Later, he toured again on his own, this time watching the films No Retreat, No Surrender and Circus of Horrors.

The Gizmoplex[]


Joel's "Mission Patch", indicating his experiment count.

After Kinga Forrester started the Gizmoplex, she was told by her financier Dr. Kabahl that she should bring one of the old hosts back for new experiments. Dr. Erhardt agreed to use his spaceship The Pretty Lady to travel through the Time Bag and fetch a host. Erhardt brought a version of The Satellite of Love from the year 3000 that was manned by Joel. His 'Bots were on a spacewalk at the time that he was taken, so Joel was joined in his Mystery Science Theater by the versions of Tom, Crow, and GPC from the Simulator of Love for his experiments.

In keeping with his laid-back nature, Joel displayed no animosity towards Dr. Erhardt, Kinga, or Pearl Forrester. He wears a red jumpsuit (occasionally with a vest), eyeglasses, and has a Van Dyke with a grey beard and darker moustache. Joel re-activatd Magic Voice and briefly re-set Tom Servo's voice to it's original version. He cooperated with Jonah and Emily's plot to escape from the Mads and eventually fled with them through the Time Bag.

Joel's second escape came after he had been the subject of 109 experiments on board the Satellite of Love, from Experiment #K01 through #512 plus #1306, #1312 and #1313, making him the most-experimented-on test subject on record.



  • Joel Robinson is played by MST3K creator and writer Joel Hodgson. Hodgson explained that he used the surname "Robinson" because it "flows off the tongue" better than his given name. It's also a reference to the Robinson family in the 1960s TV show Lost in Space (itself an homage to the classic children's novel Swiss Family Robinson) as well as the novel Robinson Crusoe.
  • In the KTMA season, he is identified by his real name, Joel Hodgson. Nevertheless, the KTMA episodes are included in the in-unverse experiment count for Robinson.
  • Joel appears in every episode from the pilot, The Green Slime to 512 - Mitchell, as well as in 1001 - Soultaker for a total of 108 episodes. (Joel Hodgson does not appear in episode K17 - Time of the Apes, but the character is seen through a port, floating outside the ship.) With his appearances in Season 13, his total number of appearances stands at 112.
  • Joel Hodgson adopted his character's "sleepy-eyed look" and slower drawl to keep continuity from the KTMA days. As Joel would be working in the off hours on show or standup and the next day would be exhausted during taping. He has commented how fans who meet him are puzzled on how alert and average-speaking toned he is compared to his character.
  • At the end of Mitchell, Joel identified the film 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (from which he took the quote for his goodbye plaque) as his favorite movie. This would contradict his earlier statement in Episode #324 that his favorite movie is Colossus: The Forbin Project.
  • In the real world, the only known Hot Fish Shop was located in Winona, Minnesota, not Osseo. Its motto was "Good food isn't cheap, and cheap food isn't good". This Hot Fish Shop closed the same weekend that Experiment #1001 (the episode featuring Joel's return) aired. A new Hot Fish Shop (owned by the same family) was later opened in Rochester, Minnesota but it closed at the end of the summer season in 2014.
  • Joel states that he is from the year 3000 in Episode #1306. This is further in the future than the year 2525, when Mike destroyed Deep Ape and the rest of Earth. It is not clear how this version of Joel came to be so far in the future. He may be from an alternate timeline, or it is also possible that the various instances of time travel that have been depicted in the show means that the future of Earth is significantly different than it had been. It is also possible that Joel's SoL was far away from where Earth had been.



The Satellite of Love
Primary Residents Joel RobinsonMike NelsonJonah HestonCrow T. RobotGypsyCambotTom Servo
Minor/Other Residents BeeperMagic VoiceXT-5000TimmyMike's RobotClayton Forrester (mirror)TV's Frank (mirror)Eddie Nelson (alternate universe)The NanitesMike Nelson (robot)WinstonM. WaverlyMatt Claude Van DammeGrowlerEmily Connor
Visitors EnochDemon DogsNuveenaGypsy (mirror)Tom Servo (mirror)MonadThe ObserversFinneganHadrianAdrienne BarbeauLydiaOrtegaPhantom of KrankorHenry KissingerBowler-Hatted GuyDelivery ManGoosioMikey the Mike spriteMikesocksy the Mike's Socks SpriteBrain GuyPearl ForresterProfessor Bobo
Terminology AirlockDeus ex MachinaHexfield ViewscreenHyper-warp escape shipsJet ScreenManipulator armsMovie signRocket Number 9The TubeUmbilicusWhirlpool
Locations BridgeCrow's RoomJoel's roomKitchenMike's roomMystery Science TheaterTheater hallwayTom's room
Wikipedia article: