|“||Check me out!||”|
|— Tom Servo|
Tom Servo is a small, red robot created by Gizmonic Institute employee Joel Robinson. Joel created Tom along with Cambot, Gypsy and Crow T. Robot to help stave off boredom and madness while he underwent the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" experiments, wherein The Mads forced Joel to watch poorly-made or otherwise-unenjoyable movies in an effort to drive him insane. Tom and his various copies, clones and reproductions have since acted as companions for other test subjects, including Mike Nelson, Matt Claude Van Damme, Jonah Heston and Emily Connor.
Tom Servo was the last of the four main robots to be created by Joel. He was apparently made using many of the same parts that had made up Beeper, a bot that predated him aboard The Satellite of Love. Initially known only as "Servo", he was quite child-like, with a high-pitched, froggy voice. When Joel decided to put Servo through "puberty", he adjusted Servo's voice, going through a chipmunk, Dr. Ruth, Henry Kissinger, "Satchmo", Droopy (or maybe Carol Channing), Elmer Fudd and Ethel Merman, before landing on what Servo called his "great, dynamic, mighty voice". The voice also inspired Servo to take on the first name "Tom", which he has used since.
Tom proved capable of duplicating himself through various means, a skill that he would use often throughout the years. By the time of the end of the original experiment, Tom claimed to have 517 copies of himself, although he destroyed all of them (with the unwitting help of the clones themselves, who each thought that they were the original Servo).
When Mike and the Bots were given a standardized test by The Observers, Tom scored higher than any of the others, which he stated was due to the fact that he "tests well". Tom scored higher than one of the Observers, so was asked to join them. He was then taken to the Observers' planet, where he was found to be unfit for the group since he couldn't read any mind but his own, the "brain" he carried is actually an olive, and he stole the Observers' silverware.
Tom, along with the other crew members of the SOL, crashed on Earth after Pearl cut their power. He, Crow and Mike settled into a small apartment and continued to amuse themselves by making comments during movies they watched on television, including The Crawling Eye.
After Kinga Forrester restarted the Mystery Science Theater experiment, she captured Jonah Heston and trapped him on a rebuilt Satellite of Love. It was not explicitly stated if the new 'Bots were built by Jonah or Kinga (or her minions). Jonah gave Tom several upgrades, including the ability to fly in the theater (but not on the Bridge) and greater control of his arms. At one point early in Jonah's tenure, Tom again found himself with a plethora of clones, including several who began to deviate from the norm due to anomalies. Again, the duplicates were all destroyed, though it appeared that the surviving Servo was not the original.
"Tom? I don't get you." - Gypsy
"Nobody does. I'm the wind, baby!" - Tom Servo
Tom is simultaneously more mature than Crow, while being more easily bullied by his less-sensitive cohort. He can be easily rattled, often letting his temper get the better of him or showing little patience, especially after being teased by Crow. He is highly intellectual and often shows deeper and a more complex level of thought than the other residents of The Satellite of Love. Mike claimed that Tom was the only one that he could rely on for stimulating conversation.
Tom seems to be an autodidact and polymath, knowledgeable in such diverse areas as the Greek classics (Homer) and mythology, philosophy (he has described himself as a "Humist", or follower of David Hume, an 18th century Scottish philosopher known for his philosophy of empiricism, amongst other areas), physics ("Mom, is space curved?" he has one on-screen character ask, referring, perhaps, to the works of Minkowski and his one-time student, Albert Einstein), and he seems not unacquainted with the works of Steven Hawking and Roger Penrose, and higher mathematics ("Are Gaussian equations flawed due to their strictly Euclidian view of the universe?"). It is debatable whether some or all of this is just a pretense, subject to the whims of his extreme emotional lability and moment-by-moment egoic needs.
Servo often displays insecurity about his size and shape, being insulted when called "stout" and often altering his form in attempts to improve his body or make him seem more imposing, including adding height-enhancing extensions to his hoverskirt or swapping his head for a more human one. Since the beginning of Season 11, Tom has seemed more genuinely self-assured and is less prone to emotional breakdowns.
He had mixed feelings about appearing in drag, which happened occasionally when a female role was required for a sketch. On one occasion, he declared, "In this outfit, I feel like a total fem. You know what? I don't have a problem with it."
Servo was shown to consider himself to be something of a ladies' man. Objects of his affection have included a blender, the Creepy Girl from Catalina Caper, Sheila from The Projected Man, and Gypsy.
Servo enjoys singing, frequently singing songs to objects of affection, and on one occasion he soothed a ferocious gorilla with his fine baritone voice.
Servo has red-green colorblindness.
In his original form, Tom was almost entirely painted in silver, with only his clear dome and a band of red around his midsection. He would later settle into his more common red-and-white paint scheme, although he has been known to change things on occasion, such as when he had his dome trimmed to a cylinder for a time.
In his second form, Tom has a hoverskirt, but it was not very functional, allowing him to only hover slightly over tables or counters. It was so under-powered that he often required carrying into the Mystery Science Theater, as a heat vent would prevent him from hovering. Later refinements by Jonah Heston would allow him to hover in the theater but not elsewhere, for unknown reasons.
The empty space inside Servo's head often allows his shipmates to fill it with assorted items, such as the colorful candies, coffee, or ping pong balls. Mike's brother Eddie deposited cigarette ash in Tom's head. It was seen as a plastic tube when Servo got a "haircut" and slimmed to a disk like the robot from Lost in Space.
- Josh Weinstein (1988 - 1990, 2014, 2020, 2022)
- Weinstein was the original performer for Tom Servo (and, in the pilot, Beeper). He voiced and operated Tom for most of Season K and all thirteen episodes of Season 1. He left the show at the end of Season 1.
- In 2014, Weinstein returned to the role for the Turkey Day '14 marathon and the concurrently released Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Turkey Day Collection DVD box set. In both of these appearances, the Tom puppet was operated by puppeteer Russ Walko.
- Weinstein returned to Tom again in 2020, voicing him in two shorts alongside Joel Hodgson (as Joel Robinson) and Bill Corbett (as Crow T. Robot).
- Weinstein has returned as Tom in 2022 for the "Joel" episodes of Season 13, though he only voiced Tom for part of Episode 1306.
- Kevin Murphy (1990 - 1999, 2005)
- When Weinstein left at the end of Season 1, Kevin Murphy took over Servo's operation, staying with the role for the entire rest of the original run on The Comedy Channel, Comedy Central and The Sci-Fi Channel, consisting of Seasons 2 through 10.
- Murphy also performed Tom in several promotional appearances, TV specials, as well as the 1992 release Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.
- Murphy returned to the role in 2005, voicing Tom (over stock footage) in an episode of Cheap Seats alongside Michael J. Nelson (as Mike Nelson) and Bill Corbett (as Crow T. Robot).
- James Moore (2007)
- James Moore voiced Tom in the 2007 animated series of MST3K, appearing in all four episodes.
- Frank Conniff (2008)
- Baron Vaughn (2015 - )
- Vaughn began voicing Tom during the Bring Back MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 campaign to finance the show's revival and appeared in all promotional appearances through pre-production.
- He performed Tom in both Season 11 and 12. Tom was operated again by Walko, with additional operation by Erik Kuska.
- Vaughn has returned as Tom in 2022 for the "Jonah" episodes of Season 13. He sings the theme song for those episodes.
- Tim Ryder (2017 - 2018)
- Due to the birth of his first child, Baron Vaughn was unable to appear in the 2017 Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live! - Watch Out for Snakes! Tour. Tim Ryder took on the role for the tour.
- Ryder returned for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live - 30th Anniversary Tour in 2018.
- Conor McGiffin (2019 - )
- McGiffin first performed Tom alongside Joel Hodgson in Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live - The Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour in 2019.
- In 2020, he performed Tom for The MST3K LIVE Social Distancing Riff-Along Special, promos for Pluto TV, The Second Annual Puppet Camp and Startling Conclusion of the MIGIZI Fundraiser! and the "live cast" riff of the short A Busy Day at the County Fair.
- In 2021, he played Tom alongside Emily Marsh (as Emily Connor) for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live - Time Bubble Tour.
- McGiffin has returned as Tom in 2022 for the Emily episodes of Season 13. He sings the theme song for those episodes.
- Oliver Kalkofe voiced Tom Servo in the German dub of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.
The Servo puppet evolved from Beeper, who appeared in the original pilot. Beeper was found to be too difficult to work with and his performer Josh Weinstein was limited by a character who only spoke in beeps and whistles. Although he was mentioned in the first episode, Servo had replaced him by the second episode and he was never mentioned on the show again. The name "Servo" is a reference to a vending machine called the Servotron in a Twin Cities mall. "Servo" is also a shortened version of the term "servomotor", which is a device often used in electronics and robotics.
Tom Servo is a red puppet that has a gumball machine (Carousel Snack Dispenser) for a head, a body composed of a toy "Money Lover Barrel" coin bank and an engine block from a Talbot Toys dune buggy, and a bowl-shaped hovercraft skirt or hoverskirt (a Halloween 'Boo Bowl' with black vacuum formed Tyco Turbo Trains spaced around) instead of legs. His arms are from a pair of obscure small doll hands on the ends of springs and upper arms from a C'more Bunz Novelty doll. From Season 1 to Season 10, his arms generally do not function, a point that is commented on occasionally throughout the series (though some episodes feature Tom with objects already in his hands, raising the unanswered question of how they got there). His shoulders are made from the front of an Eveready Floating Lantern. He is painted with Testors Red Metalflake. Because Servo's head is transparent, chromakeyed images appear projected through it, and thus a second puppet was built for use in the theater segments, entirely painted black. This black Servo also appeared in a host segment in Episode #609 - The Skydivers.
These are the sources for various parts of Tom's construction
In Season 1 on the Comedy Channel, he was given a red color, longer black air tube arms, squared white shoulders, and a gumball machine with a large, white beak. The beak was changed back to silver later in the season, and by Season 2, the black tubing used for his arms was replaced by a pair of small silver springs and shoulders from the aforementioned C'more Bunz novelty doll.
This physical form was kept throughout the remainder of the series, except for a brief flirtation (during Episode #205 - Rocket Attack U.S.A. and Episode #206 - Ring of Terror) with a slim cylindrical Termotox Candy/Nut Dispenser head was introduced as a "haircut" that Joel gave Servo, but was quickly abandoned. In Season 4, Servo sported flesh-colored hands from Episode #403 - City Limits to Episode #406 - Attack of the Giant Leeches, a change that was never acknowledged in the show. In Episode #407 - The Killer Shrews they returned to flat white. Supposedly, the reason behind it was that Joel Hodgson had found them "disturbing". Kevin Murphy later said "Joel brought me these hands and said, 'Kevin, paint these. It's just far too disturbing'."
For Season 11, Tom went through minor changes in appearance. The "springs" that make up his arms were longer and appeared to be one solid piece. They also moved at the shoulders, enabling him to gesture.
For the Cheesy Movie Tour, Servo can now travel freely due to the puppeteers being in bunraku-like attire, with the puppeteers dressed head-to-toe in black. A new puppet was built with visible hover jets under his skirt. His head was made more translucent, rather than fully transparent. This change remained in place for the bumper segments of the 2nd Annual Puppet Camp Livestream. Additionally, Tom's arms were fixed to his torso during the livestream.
Tom's translucent head returned for Season 13.
Pop Culture Appearances
- A Tom Servo-like robot appears in the Cops-inspired Star Wars spoof Troops as a droid purloined by Jawas and rescued by Imperial Officers.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine contains a reference in one episode by listing "Tom Servo's Used Robots" as one of several businesses in a directory of the station's Promenade business area.
- A silhouette resembling Tom appears in the Futurama episode "Raging Bender" alongside Crow, who is shown shushing Fry and telling him that it's not polite to talk while a movie's on.
- In the Homestar Runner cartoon A Jorb Well Done, Tom Servo appears in silhouette alongside Coach Z and Pom Pom in a movie theater. In the Halloween toon I Killed Pom Pom, Marzipan dresses up as Tom Servo and tells Strong Sad that "there's a bad horror movie on" and asks if he wants to make "snappy comments and obscure references". But Strong Sad is dressed up as the Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth with his eyes glued shut.
- Episode #K06 - Gamera vs Gaos
- Episode #420 - The Human Duplicators
- Episode #1013 - Diabolik
- Episode #806 - The Undead
- Episode #1013 - Diabolik
- Episode #1101 - Reptilicus
- Episode #421 - Monster A-Go Go
- Episode #324 - Master Ninja II
- Episode #903 - The Pumaman
- Episode #610 - The Violent Years
- Episode #508 - Operation Double 007
- Episode #K11 - Humanoid Woman
- Episode #103 - The Mad Monster
- Episode #413 - Manhunt in Space
- Episode #110 - Robot Holocaust
- Episode #513 - The Brain That Wouldn't Die
- Episode #1101 - Reptilicus
- Episode #205 - Rocket Attack U.S.A.
- Episode #821 - Time Chasers
- Exclusive: Joel Hodgson says it’s time to #MakeMoreMST3K
- Ouch, Minutiae! The Missing Episodes
- The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide
|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|