Crow T. Robot is a fictional character from the American science fiction comedy television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). Crow is a robot, who, along with others, quips and riffs upon poor-quality B movies.
According to the MST3K storyline, Crow, like his fellow robots Tom Servo, Gypsy, and Cambot, were built by Joel Robinson, who created them to help him withstand the torment of watching bad movies on the Satellite of Love, where Joel was trapped by mad scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester and his assistants.
Crow was referred to as being made of molybdenum, as well as high-density Kevlar.
Crow's middle initial "T" stands for "The". In episode #K19: Hangar 18, Joel stated that "Crow" was an acronym for "Cybernetic Remotely Operated Woman", but then claimed he built Crow merely to play this joke on him. Crow is also sometimes called "Art", primarily by late-series antagonist Pearl Forrester. This arose from a gag in episode 203, Jungle Goddess, in which Joel introduces the bots as Jackie Gleason did with his fellow cast members at the end of every episode of The Honeymooners, calling each one out individually to take a bow. During this, Joel refers to Crow as "Art Crow!", a reference to the enthusiastic way that Gleason would introduce his long-time partner Art Carney. Later, Best Brains received a letter from a child who had evidently missed the cultural reference and labeled a drawing of Crow as "Art". The letter was read in episode 402 The Giant Gila Monster, and the writers were so taken with it that it became a recurring joke.
Originally, Crow was more adolescent than Tom Servo, although their relative maturity occasionally changed to suit the host segments; both robots regarded Joel as a father figure, while Mike was portrayed as more of an older brother type. Crow was voiced by Trace Beaulieu from the beginning of the series through the end of season seven, and Bill Corbett from the eighth season until the end of the show. Corbett's Crow was noticeably more irritable, bitter, and impatient with the movies than Beaulieu's Crow had been.
Although they are rarely seen (such as in Episodes #416 and #1002), Crow has long spindly legs and moves about by walking as a human does, whereas Tom Servo hovers and Gypsy has a long, snakelike body.
Crow's accomplishments during the show's run include:
- Writing several screenplays, including Earth vs. Soup (his seminal work), Peter Graves at the University of Minnesota, The Spy Who Hugged Me (Secret Agent Super Dragon), and Chocolate Jones and the Temple of Funk. He also wrote a rather poorly researched documentary titled Crow T. Robot's Bram Stoker's The Civil War, and created another called Let's Talk Women!, in which he denies the existence of women. He also wrote a one man show titled "Robot on the Run".
- Being an avid member of the Kim Cattrall and Estelle Winwood fan clubs.
- Co-writing a satirical musical called Supercalifragilisticexpiali-wacky!
- During the Christmas episode #321, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, he wrote a Christmas carol titled "Let's Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas", inspired by his favorite movie, Road House.
- Though all the SOL prisoners make it their goal to escape, the cause is almost always desire for freedom, not a result of the slew of B-movies. But, in episode #903, The Pumaman, Crow actually succumbed to the Mads' experiment. He decided this film had finally pushed him over the edge and that he could no longer take all the movies. He attempted to run away, hoping to find a satellite where he would be forced to watch good movies, but gave up on his escape attempt after mere seconds.
During episode 416, Fire Maidens of Outer Space, Crow acquired a double named "Timmy", to whom the trio quickly took a liking. (Timmy was actually the painted-black Crow used for the Shadowrama in the theater.) However, the double began playing tricks on Tom Servo and Joel, who blamed Crow for the actions. He eventually joined them in the theater during the movie and attacked Tom, cocooning him in a material identical to the Xenomorph in Alien, forcing Joel (who referenced Aliens by growling, "Let go of him, you bitch!") and Crow to stuff him into an airlock and blast him out of the ship and into space. Timmy's appearance was a parody of the evil twin concept.
Crow holds the distinction of being the only SOL robot who ever visited Deep 13 (although Tom Servo and Gypsy once visited the alternate-earth version): In episode 615, Kitten with a Whip, he slid down the Umbilicus in an attempt to bring the SOL back to Earth, only to be frightened back up by Dr. Forrester (who then had Frank put a giant mousetrap beneath the Umbilicus). In the "Turkey Day" version of episode 701, Night of the Blood Beast, Crow attended the Forrester Thanksgiving dinner alongside such guests as Mr. B Natural, Pitch the Devil, and others. During his episode, Crow seems to have a friendship with Pearl Forrester, who seems to enjoy his company and the fact he would listen to her complain about her inept son, Dr. Forrester. Due to a time travel paradox in episode 821, Time Chasers, a second Crow lives in Minnesota, working at a cheese factory.
In the theatrical film based on the series, Crow distinguishes himself early on by attempting to tunnel back to Earth using a pickaxe. Even he admits the faulty logic employed in this scheme when he examines his calculations: "Well, look at that! 'Breach hull, all die' — I even had it underlined!" / "Well, believe me, Mike, I calculated the odds of this succeeding versus the odds I was doing something incredibly stupid, and...I went ahead anyway."
A running joke of Crow's character throughout the series, particularly in the last few seasons of the Sci-Fi channel's running of the show, is his frequent costume changes into film characters during the host segments. Often Crow has been known to take on the appearance and sometimes the personality of one of the characters in the movie that is currently being shown, usually ending with Mike, Tom Servo, or Joel using Crow's role-playing as a plot device or setup to a joke that mocks the film even more. This continuing effect finally was recognized by Crow himself during Episode 902, The Phantom Planet. At the conclusion of the film, Crow encounters Tom and Mike dressed as a 'Solarite' (one of the cheesy alien monsters from the film) and, having no memory of ever making or even deciding to make the costume, asks them "Have you guys ever noticed how I will see a movie, snap, then suddenly pretend I'm one of the characters in the movie and run about the ship?"
Another recurring joke that was more prominent during the earlier days of the show - dating, in fact, from the KTMA run - was Crow's apparent inability to distinguish between different types of animal; he would joyfully cry "Kitty!" when an animal appeared on screen, regardless of whether it was at all feline, and regardless of whether it was cute enough to elicit such a positive response.
Behind the scenes
Crow is a gold-colored puppet composed of, among other things, a soap-dish eye cowl, ping-pong ball eyes, a split plastic bowling pin mouth, a hockey face mask webbing, and a Tupperware body. The original puppet for Crow was built by Joel Hodgson in a single night before filming the pilot episode. At the beginning of Season One, the puppet was redesigned and built by Trace Beaulieu, adding a second Tupperware tray to Crow's torso as well as movable eyes. Another version of Crow is used for the theater segments. This version is painted flat black. Of all the bots, Crow was the least changed from his KTMA incarnation to when the series became nationally broadcasted. He's the only one who retained his general primary color.
Trace Beaulieu operated Crow in the initial KTMA season and throughout the Comedy Channel/Comedy Central years of seasons 1-7, as well as in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. During KTMA and season 1, Trace slowly refined Crow's voice. Originally, it was somewhat babyish, with a pronounced Minnesota accent. By season two, Crow's voice had become more sharp. Upon Trace's departure, Brooklyn-raised Bill Corbett took over Crow's operation. Corbett jokingly mentioned that during his time on the SOL Crow suffered a stroke, thus explaining the change of his voice and his less-than-graceful handling of the puppet. Despite initial concerns from the fanbase regarding Beaulieu's departure, the reception for Corbett's performance was very positive and he quickly became a fan favorite. The show's writers later made a joke of the change in episode 904, Werewolf, by suggesting that Crow's inherent characteristics included a change of voice every seven years. When Joel Hodgson returned for a guest spot in episode 1001, Soultaker, he offhandedly suggests that Crow "changed his bowling pin" (that is, his mouth). From Season 8 onward, in the opening theme during the "Robot Roll Call", Crow can be heard exclaiming "I'm different!"
Many first-time viewers of the series are confused by Crow's appearance during the movie segments. Only the outline of his head can be seen, and (due to multistable perception) it can appear as if Crow is facing toward the viewer. This phenomenon was addressed in The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide with illustrations comparing Crow to a Necker cube.
Appearances in other media
- An episode of Futurama entitled Raging Bender has the gang visiting the theater, where Fry mockingly riffs on a newsreel intro before being shushed by the silhouette of a rather testy Crow-like robot ironically saying "Don't talk during the movie!"; beside him is a Tom Servo looking robot.
- In the Archie Comics series Sonic the Hedgehog, issue #52, Sonic is sent into a 1920s variation of Mobius. In searching for the handheld computer Nicole, Sonic does battle with a number of robots, two of them resembling Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo.
- In an issue of Star Wars Tales, Crow is seen in the foreground of a comedic tale written by Peter David, starring a perky Force-using droid. He also appears in Tag and Bink: Revenge of the Clone Menace, along with Tom Servo and Gypsy.
- The June 8, 2007 edition of the Cat And Girl comic features Crow as the President of South Vietnam.
- A Crow-like robot is seen among the dead on J'asik, the fourth moon of Kol, by the Autobot-Decepticon Alliance in Transformers: Generation 2 #8.
The "Crow Syndrome" is a cliché and frequent joke on the show and MSTings, wherein Crow chimes in with an off-topic and/or excessively lewd comment and the other two reprimand him, often bemusedly and perturbedly shouting "Crow!" in response. "Crow Syndrome" is a general term, and is used in MSTings that do not feature Crow or other regular characters.