|Played by|| Josh Weinstein (1988-1990, Turkey Day '14)|
Kevin Murphy (1990-1999)
James Moore (The 'Bots Are Back)
Frank Conniff (DVD)
|First appearance||K00 - The Green Slime|
|Last appearance||1013 - Diabolik|
|Location||Satellite of Love|
Tom Servo is one of two robot cohosts built by Joel Robinson to act as a companion and help stave off madness as he was forced to watch low-quality movies by the Mads on Mystery Science Theater 3000. He is somewhat more mature and cynical than his companion Crow T. Robot, He was at first somewhat arrogant, and yet comes off as highly sensitive.
In the unaired pilot for MST3K, the robot who would become Servo was named "Beeper," who just spoke in beeps and similar noises that only Crow could understand. He was an all-silver robot vaguely shaped like the ultimate Servo, with funnel-shaped shoulders, silver rubber tube arms, and a small fishbowl for a head. Beeper was later mentioned in the proceeding episode Invaders from the Deep, but it is unknown if Beeper is still the same robot in that episode or not. He was renamed 'Servo' after a vending machine called the Servotron seen in a Twin Cities mall. Sometime between the pilot and episode #K02: Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars, Servo's head was replaced with the now-familiar gumball machine used throughout the series. Servo is often carried into the theater by Joel or Mike, but there are some episodes where he is shown entering the theater on his own. In The Brain That Wouldn't Die, Mike learns through Crow that there is an air vent that Servo finds difficult to hover over, and thus needs assistance.
Servo's personality changed slightly through the series. In the early years, Servo was somewhat pompous and even arrogant towards the other characters. Gradually, these traits softened, and although Tom let his pride get the better of him on several occasions, he also showed more thoughtfulness towards others, though not necessarily tact.
Tom was also easily rattled on several occasions, often letting his temper get the better of him or showing little patience, especially after being teased by Crow. He is highly intellectual and often shows deeper and a more complex level of thought than the other Satellite residents. This is highly shown in the episode The Undead, when he scored the highest on the Observers' I.Q. test, even scoring higher than one of them. He says that he just, "tests well." This is shown to be true, when Tom is taken to the Observers' planet: he can't read any mind but his own, the "brain" he carries is actually an olive, and to boot, he steals their silverware.
More than that, Tom Servo seems to be an autodidact and polymath, knowledgeable in such diverse areas as the Greek classics (Homer) and mythology, philosophy (he has described himself as a "Humist", or follower of David Hume, an 18th century Scottish philosopher known for his philosophy of empiricism, amongst other areas), physics ("Mom, is space curved?" he has one on-screen character ask, referring, perhaps, to the works of Minkowski and his one-time student, Albert Einstein), and he seems not unacquainted with the works of Steven Hawking and Roger Penrose, and higher mathematics ("Are Gaussian equations flawed due to their strictly Euclidian view of the universe?") he has an another character query in "Terror from the Year 5,000)". And that's just the beginning. Of course, it's debatable whether some or all of this is just a pretense, subject to the whims of his extreme emotional lability and moment-by-moment egoic needs.
However, Servo also has an inferiority complex about his size and shape, being insulted when called "stout" and often altering his form in attempts to improve his body or make him seem more imposing such as in The Pumaman he's tired of being short and adds height-enchancing extensions to his overskirt. He also in The Giant Gila Monster finds his butt "cute". Oddly, he did not have a complex about appearing in drag, which happened often when a female role was required for a sketch role and Gypsy was not available. On one occasion, he even declared, "In this outfit, I feel like a total fem. You know what? I don't have a problem with it."  Even with this fact, Servo considered himself to be quite a ladies' man; his past loves included a blender, Tibby the turtle, The Creepy Girl, and even his "sister" Gypsy.
He can also come across highly sensitive at times when pushed too far, and so can come off as the more emotionally vulnerable, often needing consolation from Joel or Mike. It is often due to his inferiority complex, his own impulsiveness or his frustration caused by his intelligence or his nerve being challenged.
Though he likely wouldn't admit it, one of Servo's biggest sensitive subjects was his head. As was mentioned in a fan letter read in Episode 302, The Unearthly, Servo's head (while transparent) could not be seen through when he was in the theater and he also had no physical eyes to watch the movies with. Servo denied hiding anything despite Joel's and Crow's insessant nagging. The empty space inside Servo's head often allowed Crow and Mike/Joel ample opportunities to fill it with stuff, such as the M&Ms seen in the early theme song and Mike's brother Eddie's cigarette ashes towards the end of the eighth. It was seen as a plastic tube when Servo got a haircut in Episode 205 Rocket Attack U.S.A., full of Ken doll heads to emphasize light-headedness in Episode 506, Eegah, and slimmed to a disk like the "Lost in Space" robot in Episode 821 Time Chasers.
His sensitivity came up especially hard when Mike broke it while playing a prank on Crow in Episode 805 The Thing That Couldn't Die and when Mike and Crow blossomed and deep fried his head in Episode 1007 Track of the Moon Beast. Servo's attempt to make it a big deal fails when he realized just how good it smelled. His biggest sign of insecurity came when he completely swapped his old head out for a new ventriloquist dummy's head in Episode 610 The Violent Years (which may be a possible reference to Kevin Murphy's own Danny O'Day ventriloquist dummy). This new head made Gypsy feel ill and traumatized Crow, but the situation got worse when Mike tried to pull it off.
Servo also enjoyed singing, especially after Kevin Murphy took over as puppeteer. He frequently sang songs to objects of affection, such as Tibby and the The Creepy Girl, and on one occasion even tamed an enraged gorilla with his fine baritone voice. His singing voice helped to emphasize his ego, which is seen in The Violent Years when he sings is own Richard Wagner-esque theme song for the Mads'.
In addition, Servo has red-green colorblindness , and is the owner of a red toy car which he has used to run Crow over on several occasions, an extensive underwear collection , and a large number of duplicates of himself .
Behind the Scenes
Tom Servo is a red puppet that has a gumball machine (Carousel Snack Dispenser) for a head, a body composed of a toy "Money Lover Barrel" coin bank, and an unknown toy car engine block, and a bowl-shaped hovercraft skirt or hoverskirt (a Halloween 'Boo Bowl' with black vacu-formed Tyco Turbo Trains spaced around.) instead of legs. His arms are from pair of obscure small doll hands on the ends of springs and upper arms from a C'more Bunz Novelty doll that are not really functional as arms, a point that is commented on occasionally throughout the series. (Oddly, though, some episodes feature Tom with objects already in his hands, raising the unanswered question of how they got there.) His shoulders are made from the front of an Eveready Floating Lantern. He is painted with Testors Red Metalflake. Because Servo's head is transparent, chromakeyed images appear projected through it, and thus a second puppet was built for use in the theater segments, entirely spray-painted black. This black Servo also appeared in a host segment in episode #609: The Skydivers.
In Season 1 on the Comedy Channel, he was given a red color, longer black air tube arms, squared white shoulders, and a gumball machine with a large, white beak. The beak was changed back to silver later in the season, and by Season 2, the black tubing used for his arms was replaced by a pair of small silver springs and shoulders from from the aforementioned C'more Bunz novelty doll.
This physical form was kept throughout the remainder of the series, except for a brief flirtation (during episodes #205: Rocket Attack U.S.A. and #206: Ring of Terror) with a slim cylindrical Termotox Candy/Nut Dispenser head to try to reduce the screen area Servo's head obscured. It was introduced as a "haircut" that Joel gave Servo, but was quickly abandoned.
In Season 4, from episodes 403 City Limits To episode 406 Attack Of The Giant Leeches, Servo sported flesh-colored hands, a change that was never acknowledged in the show, in episode 407 they returned to flat white. Supposedly, the reason behind it was that Joel Hodgson had found them "disturbing". Murphy has later said
"Joel brought me these hands and said, "Kevin, paint these. It's just far too disturbing."
Servo's voice and personality also changed during the show's early years. While Josh Weinstein operated Servo during the KTMA season, as far as the second episode of the KTMA series, Servo spoke with a nasaly, droopy voice, which is unknown if Joel decided to change it in a host segment or Josh decided to change his voice of his own accord. As far as the third episode of the KTMA series, Servo now spoke with a Kermit the Frog-type voice, and was somewhat immobile during host segments but oddly very active in the theater. In episode K06, Weinstein switched to a lower voice that Servo repeatedly proclaimed as his new "MIGHTY VOICE!" and took advantage of every opportunity to talk in his new voice.
When Weinstein left at the end of Season 1, Kevin Murphy took over Servo's operation and tried to match Weinstein's Servo voice and personality, but gradually developed a somewhat new Servo sound and character (though Murphy has a fairly deep voice himself). This was explained as tinkering by Joel.
Weinstein returned to the role of Tom Servo for the Turkey Day '14 marathon. He made reference to his voice once again being "Mighty".
Pop Culture Appearances
- Tom Servo also appeared in the Cops-style Star Wars spoof "Troops" as a droid purloined by Jawas and fortunately rescued by Imperial Officers.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine contains a reference in one episode by listing "Tom Servo's Used Robots" as one of several directories to the station's Promenade business area.
- Tom also appeared in the Futurama episode "Raging Bender" alongside Crow, who is shown shushing Fry and telling him that it's not polite to talk while a movie's on.
- Servo made a brief cameo (along with Crow) at the end of the online Turkey Day '13 Marathon. He did not speak.
- In the Homestar Runner cartoon "A Jorb Well Done," Tom Servo appears in silhouette alongside Coach Z and Pom Pom in a movie theater. In the Halloween toon "I Killed Pom Pom", Marzipan dresses up as Tom Servo and tells Strong Sad that "there's a bad horror movie on" and if he wants to make "Snappy comments and obscure references?" but no movies are riffed as Strong Sad dressed up as the Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth and glued his eyes shut.
Tom Servo is the only one of the four bots to have multiple copies of himself made at the same time. Crow has only ever had Timmy, who was not a direct copy of Crow but a distinct character. Cambot and Gypsy would be too unweildy to make multiple versions of. According to the last episode, he has 517 copies. They were mostly used when musical numbers required more singers than the usual cast, or required Servo to sing in harmony with himself a la a barbershop quartet. Since the last episode, they appear to have all been destroyed via Servo's self-destruct mechanism. Interesting to note that all copies seem to believe that they are the real Tom Servo; when Servo initially set the self-destruct mechanism to blow up the copies, he surprised everyone by blowing up as well, before another Servo appeared pointing out that it was also a copy. This Servo also pressed the button and blew up, leading to yet another Servo appearing to press the button and destroy the rest. As of the last episode, all Servo's except the original can be assumed to have been destroyed but remember it's just a show...
- ↑ Ouch, Minutiae! The Missing Episodes
- ↑ Operation Double 007
- ↑ Manhunt in Space
- ↑ The Killer Shrews
- ↑ Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie
- ↑ The Human Duplicators, Future War, and Diabolik
- ↑ http://quartus.net/nbridges/bots/servo/