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How MST3K and "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" Changed my Christmas Forever

It was December 2008, maybe ‘09. It’s a little fuzzy. Philly was getting hit pretty hard with snow. SEPTA* wasn’t running, and we were literally snowboarding in the street. The city was shut down. An unexpected long weekend for our little punk rock house.

When you play in a band and work in food services, vacation time and the lack of extra cash for travel limit your holiday plans. My 3 roommates and I were in the same boat. It was going to be a chill Christmas. We’d probably, maybe, cook something. Maybe. Someone would at least bake cookies. In all likelihood our dinners would come from the WaWa** that was down the street. Because WaWa is open all day, every day. 

And don’t let the description of a punk house Christmas bring you down, the house was actually full of holiday spirit. We had a tree that some might call sickly, but we had one. There were presents under it too that our families had mailed to us. One roommate seemingly never left the kitchen and baked dozens of cookies. Although we went deep into a rabbit hole that questioned the very name cookies, because they aren’t cooked. They are baked. So, we called them bakies.  

For me though, trees, cookies and what not, don’t hold a candle to holiday movie watching. Getting everyone together to watch “A Christmas Story,” “Trading Places,” or “Krampus” (since 2015) is just the best. And that year, I was introduced to “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and their glorious commentary over the terrifically terrible “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

If you are unfamiliar with Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K for short), it’s basically 3 very funny people providing live commentary over some of the worst sci-fi films to grace celluloid. There is kind of an overall plot about the commentators being imprisoned on a spaceship; watching bad movies is their punishment. But that’s not all that important. MST3K has been around since 1988 and is definitely the inspiration for more podcasts than I can name and the RedLetterMedia series “Best of the Worst”.

And so, for me MST3K is like curling up with a favorite blanket. Or drinking hot chocolate with a ton of peppermint schnapps mixed in. Or eating one too many bakies. It’s a memory. And this one feels like a lifetime ago. I don’t even talk to these people anymore but not a year goes by where I don’t think about them and “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” and our time together in a run-down house over a holiday weekend. My heart grew three sizes that year and I realized something, what’s under the tree isn’t all the memorable.

In a couple weeks, MST3K is coming to the Hult Center with the oddball 80’s sci-fi horror, “Making Contact,” a movie I rented so many times as a kid, I’m pretty sure the weird video store clerk thought I was even weirder. And with the punk rock days behind me, I’ll aim to make another Mystery Science Theater memory, this time with my family.

I hope you have a great holiday and maybe I’ll see you at the show.

*SEPTA – Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority

**WaWa – 24-hour convenience store

 



Dan Olbrych is the Hult Center’s Design and Content Coordinator. Although he is quite the family man now, he still makes time for punk rock.

Following the wildly successful “Watch Out for Snakes! Tour” in 2017, the “30th Anniversary Tour” in 2018, and “The Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour” in 2019, Mystery Science Theater 3000 LIVE is launching the next all new production to hit the road! Join host Emily Connor (Emily Marsh) and the world’s greatest – and only – movie riffing robots, Tom Servo (Conor McGiffin), Crow (Nate Begle), and GPC (Yvonne Freese), as they take you on an exhilarating rollercoaster ride through the film Making Contact, imposed by Mad Scientist, Mega-Synthia (Yvonne Freese).

Mystery Science Theater 3000 LIVE