Michael J. "Mike" Nelson is the main character in the sixth through tenth seasons of MST3K. Portrayed by actor/head writer Michael J. Nelson, Mike is an awkward, slightly dimwitted, but well-meaning temp worker from Wisconsin who comes to work for the Mads, Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV's Frank, in Deep 13 while they prepare for an evil-scientist audit in Episode 512. Audiences eventually learn that Mike was originally from rural Western Wisconsin before he took a series of temp jobs, including one at a cheese factory.
When Joel Robinson escapes from the Satellite of Love at the end of Mitchell, the Mads knock Mike unconscious and shoot him up to the satellite to replace Joel as their experimental guinea pig, instead of killing him for being an oaf. The hapless Mike then 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 dialogue of the films. Nelson's first full appearance as a member of the SOL crew was in Episode 513.
Mike's relationship with the bots was very different from the one the bots had with Joel. Though the bots occasionally poked fun at Joel, they generally respected him and his authority, often regarding him as a father figure (unsurprising, since he literally created them) who would expound on 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; if Joel was a father figure, Mike was more like an older brother. Mike was also different from Joel in personality and temperament. Joel tended to take his captivity in benign stride, often delivering his riffs deadpan, holding no malice against his captors and affectionately calling them "the Mads". Mike tended to be more aggressive regarding his captivity and making fun of the films, and was forever scheming to escape the Satellite or at least make the Mads look like fools.
Although more aggressive then Joel, Mike shares much of Joel's mid-western sensibility. He feels a strong connection to his family back in Wisconsin, and mentions them often. His grandmother was the first person he attempted to contact for help upon being stranded (something that Joel apparently never tried). He also seems to have no problem staying on good terms with ex-girlfriends, also calling one of them for help on one occasion (see Trivia below). Mike has occasionally made reference to having a dark side, including once having "punched that guy from accounting" at one of his temp jobs.
Mike is also notoriously clumsy to a dangerous degree. According to The Amazing Colossal Guide, Mike is "as intelligent as the average man" and often displays a comic unawareness of his limitations and foibles. In Experiment #520, he attempts to perform some standard maintenance on Crow and inadvertently changes Crow's personality to that of Arnold Horshack (from the TV show Welcome Back Kotter). In Experiment #602, he builds a robot whose only function appears to be to "destroy...destroy...destroy...". Despite his apparent ineptitude at building and repairing robots, Mike successfully reprograms Tom and Crow with incompatible regional speech patterns at the beginning of Experiment #611. During the eighth season, Mike's clumsiness reaches a zenith as he manages to accidentally contribute to the destruction of a planet in three separate incidents.
Mike would later find out, after blowing up the Intelligent Ape inhabited Earth in 2525, the explosion he caused inadvertently sent Dr. Peanut back in time and caused the "Planet of the Apes"-style inbreeding through several of his own relatives in the past.
After many, many adventures through time and space, the Satellite eventually crashed to Earth and Mike and the robots escaped. Mike, Tom, and Crow took up residence together in a garden-level apartment and continued to enjoy watching movies together. Mike's current status is unknown.
Mike's father is mentioned to be running a mail order burlap store out of Mignon, Wisconsin. Mike described his father as reserved, though Crow's experience (via time-travel) with Elmer "Keg-Drainer" Nelson was apparently quite different (Experiment #807). Mike claimed that his parents relied heavily on guilt and shame as motivators during his upbringing and that it had "worked" (Experiment #811).
Mike has at least one brother, whose name is Eddie. Eddie is older than Mike. In an alternate timeline, Eddie was the one who became trapped on the SOL (Experiment #821). Mike hasn't made specific reference to Eddie otherwise.
Mike also has an uncle, Les, who is retired and lives in McAllen, Texas, and a cousin, Al, who rebuilds carburetors (Experiment #1009). His grandmother was still alive as of Experiment #514. One of Mike's grandmothers had given him a St. Blaise's medal, intended to protect him from ailments of the throat (Experiment #901).
According to his yearbook, Mike graduated high school in 1983. He apparently did not finish college.
In the 80s, Mike, along with his brother Eddie, would take temp jobs, meeting such enigmatic figures like Patrick and a robot from the future. The robot from the future would convince Mike to continue work with his band Sex Factory, instead of working a temp job that would land him in Dr. Forrester's clutches. This would lead Mike to his death, so another robot had to convince himself not to convince Mike, and since the future was then not revealed to Mike, he still got marooned in space.
Mike had long blond (possibly bleached) hair, and was a fan of Journey.
- He was subjected to 91 experiments on the Satellite of Love.
- Mike mentioned that his favorite movie is Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo during the final host segment of Experiment #1008.
- Though Mike occasionally professed a lack of skill at wooing women, he has also referred to some past romantic relationships. Among his previous love interests, Mike has mentioned Carla, who ultimately had a son; Ginger, with whom a time-traveling Crow also had a dalliance; and Denise, who apparently passed away in a tragic manner. He has a relationship similar to that in Experiment #908 which lasted several months.
- Mike is apparently a bit of an audiophile, given his elaborate stereo set-up and CD maintenance shown in Experiment #606, and his apparent fondness for music on vinyl, as seen in Experiment #820.
- Mike had performed in a number of theatrical productions during his life, always appearing in a sailor suit (whether appropriate to the material or not).
- Mike is especially fond of rice.
- Like Joel and Jonah, Mike attempted to build a robot for the Satellite of Love, though he was unsuccessful in doing so.
Behind the scenes
- Mike Nelson is a fictionalized version of the real Michael J. Nelson. Like Joel in the KTMA era, he shares his name and much of his backstory.
- "Mike Nelson" was also the name of the former US Navy frogman played by Lloyd Bridges on the TV series Sea Hunt (as referenced in Experiment #909). Giving the host a name that has a connection to a fictional adventurer would be a trope that continued with the revival of the series in 2017and beyond.
|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|