I love when shows are meta, honestly. And part of the reason why is because it feels like an inside joke – like something only those who are avid fans of a series understand. “Community” introduced two shows-within-a-show last season – “Cougarton Abbey” and “Inspector Spacetime.” Both series were British and parodies of “Downton Abbey” and “Doctor Who,” respectively. When Abed had a meltdown after “Cougarton Abbey” abruptly ended, Britta introduced him to the sci-fi series “Inspector Spacetime,” which has made recurring appearances throughout the show.
But then… something amazing happened in regards to the show-within-a-show: it generated its own fandom. Seemingly overnight, people were creating the entire backstory of the series, making characters, generating Wikipedia pages, drawing fan art… and “Inspector Spacetime” grew a following. In fact, the fictional show (mind you, within ANOTHER fictional show) even had its own panel at this the popular “Doctor Who” convention Gallifrey One. Even “Doctor Who” stars Karen Gillan and Matt Smith expressed interest in appearing on “Community” as characters from “Inspector Spacetime.”
So when it was announced at – in all places – Comic-Con last year that “Community” would be setting an episode at an “Inspector Spacetime” convention, I knew the episode would be awesome and it did not disappoint. As we’ve learned from this season, Britta and Troy are now dating and Britta has started spending the night. In order to not upset Abed, however, the pair decides not to tell him (shocker: he reveals he’s known for weeks). The three of them head off to an “Inspector Spacetime” convention with Jeff and Annie, though the former lawyer insists that he and Annie will be spending the weekend skiing.
At the convention, Abed has decided to embrace the idea of change and meets up with his pen pal and fellow fan, Toby. Abed’s friend does not sit well with Troy, and Britta affirms what the athlete feared – Toby is trying to steal Abed’s friendship away. Elsewhere, Jeff has discovered that the ski slope is closed for the weekend and tries to convince Annie to drive home with him. The woman wants to stay, however, and Jeff ditches her (but not before learning he looks very similar to the Inspector’s nemesis). This striking resemblance grabs the attention of Lauren, an attractive “Inspector Spacetime” fan.
When Jeff abandons Annie in the hotel, the staff accidentally assumes that she and Jeff are married and begin to treat her as such, which she uses to her advantage (and to construct a fake marriage and life of her own). Abed and Toby begin to grow closer… but the former discovers his new friend has deceived him. He doesn’t discover quickly enough, though, because the pen pal locks him in a DARSIT – a telephone box (the Inspector’s means of travel).
What I really thought was great about this episode was something that resonated on multiple levels from Abed. When he was talking to Toby, he was discussing why the Inspector chose to travel with human “associates”, even though he was brighter than any of them. Abed deduces that the Inspector NEEDS human companionship – in every relationship, he explains, there needs to be one person who is logical and one who is emotional to balance the relationship. This statement is so fundamental in understanding “Inspector Spacetime,” in understanding why The Doctor in “Doctor Who” needs human companions to travel with him, why he cannot and should not travel alone, and why each relationship focused on in the episode (Troy/Abed, Jeff/Annie, and even Pierce/Shirley) follows that logic.
The episode ends with the group watching an American version of “Inspector Spacetime”… which Abed vehemently opposes once the episode ends. And overall, I think that exhibits that Abed can change and adjust to new situations, just… well, maybe only a little bit at a time.