The episode: “Night of the Blood Beast,” ep. 701
The riff: Delivered within a few moments of the movie’s opening, as a really cheap-looking (just drawn in) rocket blasts into space.
The explanation: “Space Angel” was apparently an animated science fiction show that was on TV from 1962-1964. Its hero, Scott McCloud, was the captain of the ship “Starduster” and wore a rather jaunty eyepatch. The joke is made because the rocket lift-off in “Night of the Blood Beast” looks very similar to the “Space Angel” opening.
As a side note, the “Space Angel” series was notable for using the same extremely creepy “Synchro-Vox” technique for animating the characters’ lips as “Clutch Cargo.” This means that although most of the image was static, the actual lips of the actors would be superimposed on the characters’ faces. This is just as horrifying as it sounds.
Novelty factor: This has always been a favorite episode of mine, but I never had any idea whatsoever what this riff meant. It kind of amazes me to think that this episode, which originally aired in 1996, would include a reference to a brief-lived 1964 cartoon based on the similarity of a single image. The MST3k writers must have had fantastic memories.