His humid, fleshy extentions struggle as he attempts to dominate some simple, seemingly purposeless toy. Already a sense of pity overcomes me, and yet I am repelled by my own compassion! Although his biological makeup implies a living thing, I'm certain we will discover him to be but an animated piece of refuse or feces. But I must remain impartial and continue to study even as he mocks everything I hold dear. I hate him, and can take comfort only in my own cool detachment.
  — Observer studying Mike

The Movie


Thing that couldn't die

The Thing That Couldn't Die

A young woman named Jessica Burns (Carolyn Kearney), who claims to have psychic powers, lives on a remote ranch with her Aunt Flavia (Peggy Converse). An ancient box is discovered while digging a well discovered by Jessica while dowsing. Against Jessica's warnings, her Aunt takes it back to their house. Gordon (William Reynolds), a young man who has shown interest in Jessica, goes for an archaeologist, arguing the box should be kept intact for appraisal and opening by an expert. However, the Aunt's greedy ranch foreman, anticipating treasure, secretly convinces the slow-witted handyman to break it open. Instead, the box contains the intact head of Gideon Drew (Robin Hughes), a man executed for sorcery 400 years earlier. The head awakens and telepathically takes over the mentally vulnerable handyman.

After murdering the foreman, the head has the handyman conceal it while arranging to have a coffin retrieved containing Gideon's body. After the handyman helps the head take control of a young woman (Andra Martin) staying at the ranch, it drives him to approach police in a threatening manner holding the knife that killed the foreman. The police had arrived to investigate the theft of the box's remains and the blood left behind from the killing of the foreman. Failing to stop, the handyman dies in a hail of police bullets.


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Once his head and body are joined, Gideon will be fully able to exercise his powers. The young woman is aware of the evil and is protected from the head's influence by an ancient cross she wears around her neck, but when Gordon removes it to make a cast so its historical value could be appraised, the head takes control of her mind. Jessica then helps find the head's body, previously being against doing so since they only wished to make money out of it as well as fear that it was an evil business. The young woman joins head to body and Gideon arises from his coffin, but Gordon, aware of the error of his ways, catches the monster off guard with the cross. This forces Gideon back into the coffin and, when they drop the cross in with his body, they watch the total disintegration of his mortal remains.


  • The opening credits and several scenes reused the music from the opening credits of This Island Earth.
  • Of the 101 films made by director Will Cowan, this was the only feature - all of the rest were shorts. This was also the last film he directed.
  • British actor Robin Hughes played the warlock Gideon Drew, the titular "Thing That Wouldn't Die". He also played the similar character of Satan in the iconic "Howling Man" episode of The Twilight Zone.
  • Gideon Drew appears to be very loosely inspired by Thomas Doughty, a member of Drake's crew who was tried and executed for mutiny and practicing witchcraft.

The Episode

Host Segments


The Observers

  • Prologue Tom Servo unveils his newest art show, "Crow: A Thousand Years of Tyranny". As the name indicates, it's less than flattering. Crow unwittingly paid for the whole thing and is a bit concerned about the negativity... until clowns on velvet are mentioned.
  • 1000YearsCrow

    "Crow: A Thousand Years of Tyranny"

    Segment 1
    Servo eschews the clown idea in his new painting, opting instead to depict Crow throwing kittens into a meat grinder. Gypsy alerts them that the Satellite of Love is being pulled to a new planet by an unknown phenomenon which creates a temporary additional Tom. The SOL is now in orbit around the planet of The Observers, where Pearl and Bobo are also shown to have landed. The Observers want to observe her experiment and have set their guests up with pleasant accommodations. The Observers then secretly discuss their plans to dissect and display Pearl and Bobo in their museum.
  • Segment 2 One of the Observers come to the SOL to observe in person. He annoys and insults the crew, so they eject him from the ship, sans brain.
  • ObserverMike

    The Observer observing in person

    Segment 3
    The gang plays Risk until they are interrupted by Finnegan, manifested from Mike's memory by the Observers. However, Mike insists that doesn't know the obnoxious visitor, who beats him up. Crow wants Mike to think of Adrienne Barbeau so the Observers will manifest her; Mike mishears Crow and thinks of Roman Emperor Hadrian, who beats him up. Mike finally thinks of Ms. Barbeau, who beats him up.
  • Segment 4 Crow debuts his new documentary, Crow T. Robot's Bram Stoker's The Civil War. Per most of Crow's reports and documentaries, his facts are far from straight and the credits are longer than the documentary.
  • Final Segment Servo and Mike plot to scare Crow by using Servo's disembodied head. The wig gives way as Mike thrusts the head forward; confusion ensues. On the planet, Pearl prepares for bed while haranguing the Observers. Bobo is quickly disabused of his assumptions about the sleeping arrangements.
  • Stinger The Observers offer you their brains.

Other Notes

Guest Stars



Running Jokes

  • Jokes abound about the "trade rat" in the tree where the holy symbol is found.
  • Servo twanging out the musical riff from The Allman Brothers Band's "Jessica" every time someone calls the character's name.
  • "There's a thick, yellow stain on my back brace!" and several other variations sung to the tune of "There's a Bright Golden Haze on the Meadow" from the musical Oklahoma!
  • Flavia's odd pronunciation of 'treasure' ("TRAY-sure").
  • Spoofs of Flavia's name.
  • Adding dialog for Gideon's head, using the voice of Dr. Smith from Lost in Space.
  • Making the historian hot for Flavia.

Quotes & References


The Big Valley was a Western TV series from the late 1960s.

  •  "Plug it in Joe!"

Upon hearing the familiar music playing during the opening credits, Crow spouts a line from This Island Earth, riffed in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.

  • (The title "THE THING THAT COULDN'T DIE" shows on the screen.) Servo: "The Strom Thurmond Story!"

Strom Thurmond (1902-2003) was the U.S. Senator from South Carolina 1954 to April 1956 and from November 1956 to January 2003. At the time of this episode, he was the oldest and longest-serving senator in the U.S. Senate.

  • "They've beamed onto the planet O.K. Corral!"

A reference to the Star Trek episode "Spectre of the Gun", in which Captain Kirk and some of the crew are imprisoned in an illusion of Tombstone, Arizona on the day of the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

  • "Looks like somebody's mama let him grow up to be a cowboy... let him play guitars and drive them old trucks, didn't let him be doctors and lawyers and such."

"Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys" is a country song made famous by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Servo effectively quoted the first stanza, which goes:

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such
  • "Squeaky, we gotta leave, come on!"

Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme was a member of the Manson family and attempted to kill President Gerald Ford.

  • "This is an early version of The Milagro Beanfield War."

The Milagro Beanfield War is a 1988 film based on a novel of the same name. It's strongly concerned with farming and water rights.

  • "Why can't I just bend spoons with my mind like everyone else?"

Spoon bending is a common trick in stage magic. Since the 1970s, it's become strongly identified as a common way for alleged psychics/telekinetics to prove that their powers exist. The practice is strongly associated with mentalist Uri Geller.

  • "Sonny Corleone, dude."

Mike is talking about "dudes" as in "dude ranch"—city folk coming to the country to play at being cowboys for a while. William Reynolds, the actor who played Gordon (the character being referred to) could pass for Italian, though he never played a character like the violent son of a Mafia leader (such as Sonny Corleone of The Godfather).

  • "It looks medieval!" "...on yo' ass!"

A reference to a line spoken by Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction.

  • "There's a bright yellow stain on my back-brace...", "Poor Jud is daid", etc.

References to songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!

  • "Old timer Billy Slater is doin' three years community service."

Billy Slater, old timer, was the catalyst from the Junior Rodeo Daredevils short preceding The Killer Shrews in episode 407.

  • "Can we scare you to death?"

A reference to the 1971 horror movie Let's Scare Jessica to Death.

  • "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!"

A quote from a 1970s margarine commercial.

  • "We'll bury the body where none will ever find it." "...Under Larry Wilcox's career!"

Larry Wilcox was the co-star of the series CHiPs.

  • "I dreamed I was in a Hollywood movie....and I was the star of that movie...."

Referring to lyrics from the song "Spill the Wine" by the band War.

  • "Have you ever seen The Children's Hour?"

References a play by Lillian Hellman, later adapted into a movie. The story deals with two teachers at a boarding school who are accused of lesbianism.

  • "Do you like Amanda Beardsley? I sure do!"

Tom seems to be mis-remembering the name of actor Amanda Bearse (known for her roles in the film Fright Night and the TV show Married With Children) who came out as a lesbian in 1993.

  • "Bob Dole, Ma'am. Where's the outrage?"

In the waning days of the 1996 Presidential campaign in the US, Republican candidate Bob Dole became increasingly agitated about his low poll numbers. He publicly asked "Where's the outrage?", due to his dissatisfaction at losing to incumbent President Bill Clinton, whom Dole viewed as morally compromised. This became a running gag through the remainder of the episode.

  • "You'll get my gun...when you can pry it out of my cold dead fingers."

Paraphrasing a slogan used by the National Rifle Association, popularized by former NRA President Charlton Heston.

Memorable Quotes

[The movie opens with the title: The Thing That Couldn't Die.]
Servo: The Strom Thurmond Story!
MikeCouldn't die or wouldn't die?
Crow: Shouldn't?
[Jessica demonstrates her dowsing talent by telling the guests where to find Linda's missing watch.]
Jessica: You can find the watch in a trade rat's nest.
Servo: A trade rat?
Jessica: Look at the base of oak tree beside Linda's cabin.
Servo [as Jessica]: …in Maine.
Mike: You know, the country needs skilled trade rats.
[Linda puts the found watch up against her ear.]
Mike [as Linda]: The rats put in a new crystal!
Linda: It still runs.
Servo [as John Cameron Swayze]: John Cameron Trade-Rat.
[Later, Gordon gives Linda a charm he found near the watch.]
Gordon: Here, I polished this for you. We found it in the trade rat's nest.
Mike [as Gordon]: He had a little tool and die shop down there.
Servo [as Gordon]: I think I got most of the rat droppings off it.
[Flavia hears a noise outside the window.]
Flavia: What's that?
Crow: Eh, it's just those trade rats working the night shift.
[Boyd the ranch hand slouches around.]
Crow[singing] There's a thick yellow stain on my back brace!
[The final shot of the movie, a zoom in on Jessica's necklace and cleavage, fills the screen.]
Crow: The whole movie was leading up to this shot.
Mike [as Announcer]: Brought to you by the Breast Council.
Servo [as Announcer]: Buy breasts where you work or bank!

Video releases



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