Joel Robinson is an inventor and former janitor at Gizmonic Institute. He was kidnapped by Dr. Clayton Forrester and Dr. Laurence Erhardt and became the first test subject in the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" experiment they instigated.
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.
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.
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.
During his initial time aboard the Satellite of Love, Joel was subjected to 106 experiments.
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.
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. He brought a version of the Satellite of Love from the year 3000 that was manned by Joel Robinson. Robinson's 'Bots were on a spacewalk at the time that he was taken, so he was joined by the versions of Tom, Crow, and Gypsy (GPC2) from the Simulator of Love for his experiment. Joel reverted Tom Servo's voice to its original setting partway through Experiment #1306.
This version of Joel was fairly mellow, and he displayed no animosity towards Dr. Erhardt, Kinga, or Pearl Forrester. He wears a red jumpsuit (occasionally with a vest), round eyeglasses, and has a moustache and beard that is grey on his chin.
- Season K
- Season 1
- Season 2
- Season 3
- Season 4
- Season 5
- MST3K 501 - Warrior of the Lost World
- MST3K 502 - Hercules
- MST3K 503 - Swamp Diamonds
- MST3K 504 - Secret Agent Super Dragon
- MST3K 505 - The Magic Voyage of Sinbad
- MST3K 506 - Eegah
- MST3K 507 - I Accuse My Parents
- MST3K 508 - Operation Double 007
- MST3K 509 - The Girl in Lovers Lane
- MST3K 510 - The Painted Hills
- MST3K 511 - Gunslinger
- MST3K 512 - Mitchell
- MST3K 1001 - Soultaker
- Turkey Day '91 (bumpers only)
- Turkey Day '92 (bumpers only)
- MST3KL - The Brain
- MST3KL - Deathstalker II
- MST3K 1205 - Killer Fish (audio only)
- MST3K 1206 - Ator, the Fighting Eagle (audio only)
- MST3KL - No Retreat, No Surrender
- MST3KL - Circus of Horrors
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 - The MIGIZI Shorts
- Season 13
- 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 appearance in Episode #1306, the total is now 109.
- 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.
|Primary Residents||Joel Robinson • Mike Nelson • Jonah Heston • Crow T. Robot • Gypsy • Cambot • Tom Servo|
|Minor/Other Residents||Magic Voice • Timmy • Mike's Robot • Clayton Forrester (mirror) • TV's Frank (mirror) • Eddie Nelson (alternate universe) • Nanites • Mike Nelson (robot) • Winston • M. Waverly • Matt Claude Van Damme • Growler • Emily Connor|
|Visitors||Enoch • Demon Dogs • Nuveena • Gypsy (mirror) • Tom Servo (mirror) • Monad • Observers • Finnegan • Lydia • Ortega • Phantom of Krankor • Henry Kissinger • Delivery Man • Goosio • Mikey the Mike sprite • Brain Guy • Pearl Forrester • Professor Bobo|
|Terminology||Airlock • Deus ex Machina • Hexfield Viewscreen • Hyper-warp escape ships • Jet Screen • Manipulator arms • Movie sign • Rocket Number 9 • The Tube • Umbilicus • Whirlpool|
|Locations||Bridge • Crow's Room • Joel's room • Kitchen • Mike's room • Mystery Science Theater • Theater hallway • Tom's room|