Experiment K13: SST – Death Flight

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The KTMA SeasonMST3K Story: Before the credits, Joel and the Bots sing the “SST Death Flight Theme Song.” Dr. Forrester has returned from Vegas with sacks and sacks of money that he won playing Keno. He has a few gifts for Dr. Erhardt and a really bad movie for Joel that Bert Convy gave him in a parking lot. At the first break, Joel tries to give Servo some idea what pain feels like. Servo laughs off the “stub your toe” and “fiery Yugo crash” settings, but really feels it at the “Arsenio” setting. Gypsy’s voice suddenly becomes soft and sultry. She sings “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” for Joel, but he doesn’t understand why she sounds so different. Servo finally admits he was throwing his voice. Later, Servo sings “The Banana Boat Song” while the rest of the crew dances the Limbo. After the movie, Joel and the Bots answer their first viewer mail and invite people to keep writing in.

SST – Death Flight Story: The Maiden flight of a new Super Sonic Transport brings together a myriad of different people. They include out-of-work sportscaster Lyle Kingman and his wife, promotions director Tim Vernon and his girlfriend Angela, the plane’s designer Willy Basset, potential buyer Hank Fairbanks, and Dr. Ralph Therman who is bringing a sample of a deadly form of influenza to Paris. The ship is piloted by Captain Jim Walsh, whose by-the-book attitude led to Fairbanks losing his pilot’s license. Further complicating things for Fairbanks, the head Stewardess is his ex-girlfriend, Mae. Meanwhile, disgruntled mechanic Les Phillips has sabotaged the hydraulics system in order to force the flight to turn back. Walsh refuses to believe that the plane is in danger until Phillips admits to the sabotage, but by then it is too late: the plane could crash at any moment. An attempt to re-route the pressure goes wrong and a massive explosion rocks the plane. To make matters worse, the influenza sample is released by the explosion and the passengers begin to show symptoms of the disease. When this is learned on the ground, Paris refuses to allow the plane to land. Diplomacy is brought to bear to allow them to land in London, but the passengers decide to go with an alternate plan of landing in Senegal, the only place in reach where proper quarantine facilities exist. Unfortunately, they don’t have enough fuel and they go down in the jungle. Although several passengers die, most are rescued and the spread of the virus is stopped.

MST3K segments written by Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Jim Mallon & Kevin Murphy
MST3K segments director unknown
SST – Death Flight written by Meyer Dolinsky, Robert L. Joseph & William Roberts
from a story by Guerdon Trueblood
SST – Death Flight directed by David Lowell Rich
SST – Death Flight music by John Cacavas

MST3K Guest Cast: Faye Burkholder (Puppet Operation and Voices)

SST – Death Flight Cast: Bert Convy (Vernon), Peter Graves (Paul Whitley), Lorne Greene (Cole), Tina Louise (Mae), George Maharis (Les Phillips), Burgess Meredith (Basset), Doug McClure (Fairbanks), Martin Milner (Kingman), Brock Peters (Therman), Robert Reed (Walsh), Susan Strasberg (Nancy Kingman), Chrystie Jenner (Kathy), Misty Rowe (Angela), Billy Crystal (David), John de Lancie (Bob Connors), Regis Philbin (Harry Carter), Robert Ito (Roy Nakamura)

LogBook entry by Philip R. Frey

Notes: Although Joel goes out of his way to point out that robots don’t feel pain, the experiment from this episode must have been a success, since pain is such a big part of the remainder of the Bots’ lives.

There is no listing for a director in the closing credits of this episode.

Faye Burkholder, who provides Gypsy with her temporary sultry voice, was the show’s make-up artist.

This episode’s movie is the first of three truly star-studded films shown in the KTMA season.

Bert Convy’s career spanned four decades, from 1958’s Gunman’s Walk to game show 3rd Degree! in 1989, two years before his death. In between were many hosting gigs, several films and dozens of TV guest appearances on shows such as Love, American Style (3 appearances), Fantasy Island (4), and The Love Boat (5). He is probably best remembered for hosting Win, Lose or Draw, the game show he created with Burt Reynolds under their “Burt and Bert” production banner.

Peter Graves is best known for his work on the TV shows Mission: Impossible and Biography. His career is littered with MSTied films. In addition to SST – Death Flight, he appears in the films used in episodes #311 – It Conquered The World, #418 – Attack Of The Eye Creatures, #517 – The Beginning Of The End and #811 – Parts: The Clonus Horror.

Lorne Greene is best known for his 14-year run as Ben Cartwright on Bonanza. Genre fans, of course, remember his Commander Adama on the original Battlestar Galactica and its sequel series Galactica 1980. Early in his career, Greene did many voice-over performances, including the short Johnny At The Fair, MSTied in episode #419 – The Rebel Set.

Tina Louise is best known as Ginger from Gilligan’s Island and for bitching about being best known for it. Her career dates back to 1955 as a singer on the variety show Jan Murray Time and includes movies such as God’s Little Acre (1958) and Viva l’Italia! (1961). She was also a regular on soap operas Dallas (1978-79) and All My Children (1994).

Burgess Meredith is, perhaps, best known for his work on The Twilight Zone, Batman (as The Penguin), and the Rocky films (as Rocky’s trainer, Mickey). His career spanned sixty years and over a hundred films and TV shows. He first came to prominence with his performance as George in Of Mice And Men (1939) and worked steadily for the rest of his life. He received two Academy Award nominations, for Rocky (1976) and The Day Of The Locust (1975), and won an Emmy for the TV movie Tail Gunner Joe (1975). He also appears in the movie MSTied in episode #K20 – The Last Chase.

Doug McClure is probably best remembered for his supporting role in The Virginian, where he portrayed Trampas for the show’s entire nine-year run and in spin-off films. In a career spanning almost forty years, McClure appeared in many other westerns and in genre films such as The Land That Time Forgot (1975) and At The Earth’s Core (1976).

Martin Milner’s career dates back to 1947 and includes many military and police roles. He is best known for his performances on the TV series Route 66 and Adam-12. Key film roles include James Earp in Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957) and Valley Of The Dolls (1967).

Brock Peters first garnered attention with his portrayal of Tom Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird (1962). He is perhaps best known to genre fans from his Star Trek work: Admiral Cartwright in two of the Star Trek movies and Captain Sisko’s father Joseph on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Other genre work includes providing the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars radio programs.

Robert Reed is remembered by millions for his portrayal of Mike Brady in The Brady Bunch, The Brady Bunch Hour, The Brady Girls Get Married (1981), A Very Brady Christmas (1988) and The Bradys. He also appeared in the MSTied films in episodes #205 – Rocket Attack USA and #607 – Bloodlust.

Misty Rowe spent many years keeping the menfolk happy in the corn fields of Hee Haw. (Saaaaa-lute!) Genre work includes the role of Maid Marian in Mel Brooks’ original Robin Hood spoof, the TV series When Things Were Rotten. She twice portrayed Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe); in 1976’s Goodbye, Norma Jean and 1989’s Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn.

Billy Crystal’s portrayal of the effeminate flight attendant David is reminiscent of his contemporary portrayal of Jodie Dallas on the TV show Soap, where he first came to prominence. He has gone on to fame on television with Saturday Night Live and The Academy Awards and in movies such as Running Scared (1986), When Harry Met Sally (1989), Analyze This (1999) and Monsters, Inc. (2001).

John de Lancie is best known for his role as “Q” in several incarnations of the Star Trek franchise. His other work includes diverse appearances such as the soap opera Days of Our Lives, TV movie Get Smart, Again! (1989), and an uncredited voice-over in Saving Private Ryan (1998).

Chrystie Jenner was “introduced” in SST – Death Flight. She never worked again.

Regis Philbin, an occasional actor (The Bad News Bears Go To Japan (1978), soap opera Ryan’s Hope), is best known for his work in talk shows (Live! with Regis) and game shows (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?). In 2001, he won Emmys as Best Host in both of those categories.

Robert Ito is best known for his portrayal of Sam on Quincy. He is known to genre fans for his work in cartoons such as The Real Ghostbusters and Where On Earth Is Carmen San Diego? and in films such as Rollerball (1975), The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) and The Omega Code (1999). He also appeared in the film MSTied in episode #104 – Women Of The Prehistoric Planet.

David Lowell Rich later directed a similarly themed disaster film: The Concorde – Airport ’79 (1979).

John Cacavas’ career includes work on such seminal cop shows as Hawaii Five-O, Kojak, Magnum, P.I. and The Equalizer. His genre work includes The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1974) and TV series The Bionic Woman and Buck Rogers In The 25th Century. His scores can also be heard in the films in episodes #K15 – Superdome and #K19 – Hangar 18.

Notable Riffs: “How come everybody’s got a stick of gum?”
“Put the masks on the important stars first!”
“This is how luggage gets lost.”

SST – Death Flight original release date: 1977