Crow T. Robot is one of two robotic co-hosts built by Joel Robinson to help him stave off insanity while forced to watch terrible films by the Mads on Mystery Science Theater 3000. He is the most easy-going and naïve of Joel's robot companions, yet somehow, during the movies, he's always the one to deliver the most sarcastic remarks. Crow's middle initial stands for "The", making his full name "Crow The Robot."
According to the MST3K storyline, Crow, like his fellow robots Tom Servo, Gypsy, and Cambot, was built by Gizmonic Institute janitor 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's frame is made of advanced materials such as molybdenum (which is used for armor and aircraft parts; something that would have been found on a ship made by Gizmonics), and high-density Kevlar. On occasions when he has to wear formal attire (such as Joel's attempt at having a family photo), Crow has been known to have his net on backwards and upside down, to give the impression of slicked-back hair; he also occasionally does this when donning some sort of head-gear, such as a helmet.
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 more of an older brother type. Crow was often depicted as an unathletic nerd, epitomized by his putting himself in a double jock lock. After Crow's original voice actor and puppeteer Trace Beaulieu left, the Crow voiced and manipulated by Bill Corbett underwent a personality change. Corbett's Crow was noticeably more irritable, bitter, and impatient with the movies than Beaulieu's Crow had been. This was explained in the show as a result of being left on the SOL for several hundred years while the rest of the crew became pure energy, although this was admittedly Crow's own fault for returning to the SOL so soon after getting bored at the edge of the universe.
Though masculine in programming, Crow was described in the KTMA episode Hanger 18 as being a "hermaphrobot" which was really an elaborate joke by Joel.
Crow is easy going, but snarky, quick-witted and opinionated. He often delivers the most sarcastic remarks and is the most frequent quipper on the entire show.
Crow described himself in this way- uses cyber-based bubble memory, works off UNIX and can use a variety of operating systems, underwent a complex personal evolution wherein painful confusion has given way to what he likes to think of as some degree of wisdom culminating in his current Zarasthustrian sense of self, often panics when making sandwiches, smells conspiracy in everything and doesn't know what he means most of the time.
At the end of Master Ninja II, Crow named Kafka's The Castle as his favorite movie, but it is unclear if he meant the 1964 Danish version or the 1968 West German version. This confuses Tom, who had thought that Crow's favorite movie was Zardoz.
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, Chocolate Jones and the Temple of Funk, and World War Space. He also wrote a teleplay inspired by Crash of Moons, as well as a satirical political stage musical called Supercalafragalisticexpiala-wacky!. He is an avid member of the Kim Cattrall fan club, although he later harbors some affection for Estelle Winwood. Crow holds the distinction of being the only Bot who ever visited Deep 13 (although Tom Servo and Gypsy once visited the alternate-earth version). In Kitten with a Whip, he slid down the Umbilicus in an attempt to bring the SOL back to Earth, but he retreated back up to the satellite after being caught by Dr. Forrester, who then had Frank put a giant mousetrap beneath the Umbilicus—only to accidentally set off the trap on himself. In the "Turkey Day" version of Night of the Blood Beast, Crow also visited when attending the Forrester Thanksgiving dinner alongside such guests as Mr. B. Natural, Pitch the Devil, and others. A second Crow may still be living in Wisconsin working at a cheese factory, due to a time paradox created during the Time Chasers experiment.
During Fire Maidens of Outer Space, Crow acquired a double named "Timmy", whom the trio quickly took a liking to; 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 matter identical to the xenomorph from Alien, forcing Joel 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. In reality, Timmy is the black-painted Crow used for the Shadowrama during the Theater segments.
He doesn't fall hard in love the same way Tom Servo does, but he has his odd little crushes every now and then. In the Season 3 episode, City Limits, it's revealed that he's attracted to Kim Cattrall, until one year later, he became infatuated with Estelle Winwood during the Season 4 episode, The Magic Sword. He's also implied that he may to be attracted to Servo, even having a weird dream of him in a nurse's outfit. In Racket Girls, Crow is inspired by the short Are You Ready for Marriage?, asks Mike for Tom Servo's "hand-in-marriage". Later during the wedding ceremony, Dr. Forrester, as a wedding priest/preacher, and TV's Frank, as the guitar player for the occasion, tries to attempt to carry out the wedding mass, but they suddenly ended up having the wedding guests disrupt the session during the event by having everyone punching each other, causing Mike and the 'Bots to begin to start wrestling violently, ruining the wedding, and everyone pretty much forgets about the short in favor of the movie.
Crow is somewhat prone to injury, as he gets blown up or attacked quite a bit during the series' host segments. Likewise, he's also sensitive to vertigo, as he experienced nausea and dizziness from the unusual layout of the credits for Warrior of the Lost World and Beginning of the End.
Crow's name also lent itself to a number of host segment punchlines. In the aforementioned "Hangar 18", one of the early KTMA episodes, Joel performs maintenance on Crow's RAM chips, and shows what he claims is Crow's first memory. In this "flashback" scene, Joel explains that Crow's name is an acronym for "Cybernetic Remotely Operated Woman". Back in the present, Crow is shocked to discover that he's a woman, and instantly starts worrying about the dishes and watching Thirtysomething. Joel chuckles and explains, "Take it easy, Crow. It's all just a real elaborate joke... I basically invented you to put that memory in and pull that joke you." Crow calms down: "So my life has been one big setup for a punchline? Boy, I feel like Morey Amsterdam."
Crow is also sometimes called "Art," primarily by late-series antagonist Pearl Forrester. This arose from a gag in 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 named Shanon who had evidently missed the cultural reference and labeled a drawing of Crow as "Art". The letter was read in The Giant Gila Monster, and the writers were so taken with it that it became a recurring joke. In The Touch of Satan, "babysitter" Steffi calls him "Cow". And the joke has outlived MST3K itself: Trace Beaulieu was part of the Paul Feig-created comedy "Other Space", which premiered in 2015, playing a robot named Art opposite Joel Hodgson.
Crow is the most likely of the four movie-riffers to make off-color, cruel or lewd comments during the film, and receives frequent scoldings from Joel, Mike, and occasionally Tom because of this habit (see Crow Syndrome). In earlier seasons, Joel will sometimes get frustrated and tear off and fling away Crow's arms during the theater or one of the host segments, much to Crow's annoyance.
During the Sci-Fi Channel years, another running gag was established that involved Crow falling from great heights.
Behind the Scenes
Crow is a gold-colored puppet composed of, among other things, a split bowling pin mouth (an Empire Plastics Toy "e" style Bowling Pin), a hockey face guard "net" (Cooper XL7 FG),
A vacu-formed Soap dish for an eye-socket (Schwartz Bros), Ping-Pong ball eyes painted Krylon Fluorescent Yellow,
a Tuppercraft (Floralier) body with black 4-inch drainage tubing glued between the two trays, arms
made from two incredibly rare Wallace Leisure Products "Alpha" or "Genie" fluorescent swing-arm type desk lamps with foam pipe insulation around the outer-parts of the lamp arm, and Italian Fanny Pinchers for hands.During the KTMA season, he only had one floralier tray, his arms were made from PVC pipe with pipe insulation tied to the tray, and his eyes were glued to an entire Schwartz Bros. soap dish, which didn't include a separate eye movement mechanism, leaving them with a bulgier appearance. He is painted with Testors Gold Metalflake paint, which looks basically gold, and highlighted with flat black spray paint. in the KTMA season he is painted with cheap gold paint. Another version of Crow is used for the theater segments. This version is painted flat black and instead of Italian fanny pinchers for hands, he has claw parts from a Toysmith Robot Claw toy. This flat black version was also used as his Doppelganger "Timmy" in the Fire Maidens of Outer Space episode.
His appearance slightly changed over the series. In between the Comedy Central and Sci-Fi Channel episodes, his beak was a shorter "crown" style Empire Bowling pin (As Joel observed in Soultaker "You changed your bowling pin"), he became noticeably smaller and his eyes went from light pastel yellow to a luminescent neon yellow. Crow also has seldom-seen legs made from swing-arm type desk lamps and Toysmith robot claws or 1/2 inch 45 degree and elbow 1/2" CPVC couplings.
In the Netflix revival, Crow's limbs and hands were changed. The arms and legs are now made from 2 desk lamps per limb while the hands are scaled up versions of the old ones. With the arms now utilizing control rods, Crow's arms are now more articulated and at the shoulders, elbow, and hands.
During shots of Crow where the legs are seen, Like the arms the legs now use 2 desk lamps per leg, with the feet being filled in and scaled up versions of the hands. Crow now has a larger waste being made from a cut floralier piece with tubing on top of it, attaching to the bottom of the lower floralier. The legs now also have knee caps cut from bowling pins.
Trace Beaulieu operated Crow in the initial KTMA pilot and throughout most of the KTMA season. He continued in the role during the entirety of the Comedy Channel/Comedy Central years 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, but by season two, Crow's voice had become more sharp.
Upon Trace's departure, Bill Corbett took over Crow's operation and thus his voice became rougher, though Corbett's voice began to settle in and became more natural in episode 804, The Deadly Mantis. The in-story explanation for Crow's voice change is that it developed during his 500+ years of solitude on the Satellite of Love while Mike and the other SOL inhabitants played at the edge of the universe as pure essences. Joel wryly noted when he dropped in during Soultaker that Crow had "changed his bowling pin," thus altering his voice. 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.
Another noticeable difference between the two performances is that Trace's Crow is more animated, often "interacting" with the film (such as listening to train tracks in Last Clear Chance or eating chicken feed in The Chicken of Tomorrow), and almost always leaning forward to look at something, moving his mouth or eyes slightly, and turning his head slightly. Corbett attributes this to Trace being a more skilled puppeteer, and on some occasions has jokingly justified the change by claiming Crow had a stroke some time during his isolation.
Beaulieu returned to voice Crow in a special feature on the DVD for The Giant Gila Monster and in a cameo along with Joel on Season 4 of Netflix's Arrested Development.
During the Turkey Day '14 online show, Trace returned once again as the voice of Crow alongside Josh Weinstein as the voice of Tom Servo. Crow commented on the change, claiming to "miss my other voice...". During these segments, the Crow puppet was operated by puppeteer Grant Baciocco. Trace and Baciocco also performed Crow for the concurrently released Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Turkey Day Collection DVD set.
The new voice of Crow for the MST3K revival is Hampton Yount, who first provided Crow's voice for the Bring Back MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 Kickstarter campaign. Baciocco continues to serve as Crow's puppeteer, and Yount operates Crow's mouth with additional/back-up operation by Carla Rudy.
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. Best Brains have compared this to a Necker Cube.
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. As Crow is not a character in the Cinematic Titanic series, this trait is taken over by J. Elvis Weinstein.
- A silhouette of a robot resembling Crow also appeared in the Futurama episode Raging Bender . The robot was in the audience of a movie theater alongside a robot that resembled Tom, shushing Fry and ironically telling him that it's not polite to talk while a movie is playing.
- Crow made a brief cameo (along with Tom Servo) at the end of the online Turkey Day '13 Marathon, joining Joel at the dinner table. Neither of them were shown speaking.
- MST3K FAQ: What is this MST3K Thing, Anyway?
- MST3K FAQ: "This is my Bot! There Are Many Others Like It..."