|Played by|| Josh Weinstein (1988-1990)|
Kevin Murphy (1990-1999)
James Moore (website)
|First appearance||K00 - The Green Slime (although technically the now familar Servo puppet appeared as early as episode K02 Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars)|
|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, 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 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. 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 usually carried into the theater by Joel or Mike, because of a grate near the entrance that he can't hover over. However, there have been exceptions, such as the KTMA episodes, the first film segment of The Crawling Eye and Werewolf.
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. 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 Executive Snack Dispenser) for a head, a body composed of a toy "Money Lover Barrel" coin bank, and a toy car engine block, and a bowl-shaped hovercraft skirt (a Halloween 'Boo Bowl') instead of legs. His arms are a pair of small white ventriloquist's dummy hands on the ends of springs 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. 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 tube arms, squared white shoulders, a different hoverskirt, 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. 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 gumball-machine 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.
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 on his own record. 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!" 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.
Pop Culture Appearances
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is also known to contain a reference to Tom Servo's Used Robots in the directory to the station's Promenade business area, though it is unlikely that this reference ever appeared onscreen.
- ↑ 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
- A page with instructions for building a Tom Servo
- A guide to the different heads used on the Tom Servo puppet