Experiment K09: Phase IV

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The KTMA SeasonMST3K Story: The Mads are in trouble. Their boss, “Old Leadbottom”, has found out they’ve been embezzling money for their experiment on Joel. To make matters worse, they’ve spent their grant money on customizing the Mad Scientist-mobile. They need $40,000 to bring Joel back, so they sold his car. Joel tells them he had $40,000 in it all along, so they send him “the ant movie” as punishment. Joel takes the opportunity of a break to teach the Bots the “Three Robotic Laws”, but they don’t take them seriously, stating the third law is “Give a hoot, don’t pollute.” Later, Joel and the Bots discuss what they’re going to do when they get back to Earth. A game of “I Spy” concludes with an impromptu a cappella rendition of “Wipe Out”. After the movie, Joel announces that they are looking into creating a fan club and asks people who are interested to call in. Joel ends the broadcast by having Crow and Gypsy recite the “Fourth Robotic Law”, which he wrote himself: “Don’t be surprised if somewhere, sometime, when you least expect it, someone walks up to you and says ‘Don’t be surprised if somewhere, sometime, when you least expect it, someone walks up to you and says “Don’t be surprised…”‘”

Phase IV Story: A mysterious solar phenomenon has caused odd behavior amongst the world’s ant population. James Lesko, a specialist in game theory, joins Dr. Ernest D. Hobbs in investigating the ants’ activities. Hobbs had found that ants had been engaging in a high level of socialization: meeting and planning, even across species. The scientists operate in a biosphere outside a housing development that had been overrun by the ants. The only people in the area are a farmer named Eldridge, his wife Mildred, granddaughter Kendra and hired hand Clete. Once they have settled in, Hobbs and Lesko find that the ants have built tall towers, a clear indication of their advanced intelligence. The scientists attempt to contact the ants, with Hobbs finally resorting to destroying their towers to rile them. The ants respond by destroying the scientists’ generator. The Eldridge family has also been run off of their farm. Fleeing to the scientists’ camp, they are caught in a barrage of poison sent by Hobbs to stop the ants. The only survivor is Kendra. Once rescued, Kendra upsets an experiment Hobbs is performing on some of the ants, resulting in Hobbs being bitten and the ants getting a sample of the scientist’s poison. The ants, now immune, step up their attacks: disabling the biosphere’s communications and heating it to the point where the computers fail. The poison from the bite causes Hobbs to become increasingly erratic. He hatches a plan to defeat the ants by destroying their Queen. Meanwhile, Lesko uses geometry to communicate with the ants and reaches the conclusion that the ants want one of them. Kendra, thinking it’s she the ants are after, runs away, giving herself over to the ants. Hobbs tries to go after the Queen himself, but the ants have dug a trap for him and he succumbs. Lesko, with no options left, tries to execute Hobbs’ plan. Eventually, he finds what he believes to be the Queen’s lair, only to discover Kendra: safe, but altered. He comes to the realization that it was the two of them the ants wanted all along. The world belongs to the ants now and mankind will be taught its place.

MST3K segments written by Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Jim Mallon & Kevin Murphy
MST3K segments directed by Vince Rodriguez
Phase IV written by Mayo Simon
Phase IV directed by Saul Bass
Phase IV music by Brian Gascoigne

MST3K Guest Cast: none

Phase IV Cast: Nigel Davenport (Hobbs), Michael Murphy (Lesko), Lynne Frederick (Kendra), Alan Gifford (Mr. Eldridge), Robert Henderson (Clete), Helen Horton (Mildred)

LogBook entry by Philip R. Frey

Notes: The reference to “Old Leadbottom” is one of the few times any of the Mads’ superiors are referred to specifically.

Nigel Davenport’s career dates back to a 1957 TV appearance on The Count of Monte Cristo. Working mostly in period drama, he has made a few genre appearances over the years, including several appearances on The Adventures of Robin Hood and portraying Van Helsing in the 1973 TV movie Dracula.

With a career dating back four decades, Michael Murphy is probably best known to genre fans for his appearance as the Mayor in Batman Returns (1992). A perennial favorite of director Robert Altman, Murphy is also well known for his portrayal of another politician, Jack Tanner, in two TV miniseries directed by Altman and written by comic strip artist Garry Trudeau: Tanner ’88 (1988, natch) and Tanner on Tanner (2004).

Lynne Frederick was Peter Sellers’ widow and successfully sued the producers of Trail Of The Pink Panther (1982), claiming it was an insult to his memory. Her relatively short acting career included genre appearances on Space: 1999 and in The Prisoner Of Zenda (1979). She also received an executive producer credit on Seller’s 1980 film The Fiendish Plot Of Dr. Fu Manchu.

Director Saul Bass was best known as a designer, having designed the titles for over 50 films, from 1954’s Carmen Jones to 1995’s Casino.

Screenwriter Mayo Simon also wrote The Man From Atlantis (1977), Futureworld (1976), and Marooned (1969), which was riffed on MST3K in episode #401 – Space Travelers.

Phase IV won the “Grand Prix” at the 1975 International Festival of Science Fiction Films in Trieste, Italy.

Notable Riffs: “He’s just walking around looking for something one hundred times its weight to lift.”
“If you didn’t want to play with the ants, why did you go over to their house?”
“They’re the ant-agonists.”

Phase IV original release date: 1974