On September 22, 2011, Inspector Spacetime burst onto our screens via the quirky NBC comedy Community. A parody of Doctor Who, Inspector Spacetime features the Inspector, who travels through time and space in his red telephone box, accompanied by his associates. Doctor Who fans everywhere shrieked in delight after seeing one beloved show spoof another beloved show; consequently, Inspector Spacetime became an overnight sensation in the online Whoniverse.
Community is a brilliant comedy that centers around seven students attending Greendale Community College. It has the geeky flavor of Big Bang Theory, the balanced ensemble cast of Firefly, the witty dialogue of Gilmore Girls, and the bordering-on-ridiculous-yet-shockingly-brilliant comedy of Arrested Development. It’s rife with inside jokes that only the geek community (or consistent watchers) would understand, and often there are multiple story lines unfolding in the background that one only notices on the second (or third) viewing. However, like Arrested Development and Firefly, Community might be too smart for its own good, and the ratings have been dropping. After an undeserved and disheartening mid-season hiatus, Community will return to NBC’s regular line-up on Thursday, March 15.
In Season 3, Episode 1, Abed’s favorite show Cougar Town gets moved to mid-season (eerily similar to Community’s eventual fate) and in an attempt to bring him out of his funk, he is first introduced to Cougarton Abbey (which is, of course, a spoof of the British series Downton Abbey). However, after discovering that the show only lasted for six episodes, Britta finds a long-running British cult sci-fi show called Inspector Spacetime. Similar to Doctor Who, the parody follows the adventures of the Inspector and his associate, Constable Reggie. In the introductory clip, Constable Reggie asks, “where’ve we ended up this time?” The Inspector responds, “the question isn’t where, Constable, but when.” Blorgons (the equally evil and even more shoddily-constructed parallels to the Daleks) then advance, shooting lasers and chanting, “Eradicate! Eradicate!” Due to being Abed’s new favorite show, Inspector Spacetime references appear in several subsequent episodes, from Abed and Troy dressing up in costume to offhand comments.
Overnight, the Doctor Who fandom embraced Inspector Spacetime (I’m going to just call them DW and IS for brevity’s sake). The idea that fandom has come up with is that DW (referred to as “that other show”) is a ripoff of IS, allowing DW and IS to coexist. Since that first introduction in September, fans have set up forums and collaborated to write a complete history of the series, design artwork, decide which actors played the eleven Inspectors and their associates, create a multitude of villains, and devise thousands of episodes, many of which have entire synopses already. In many ways, IS is a parallel universe to DW, allowing fans to revel in inside jokes; but, in other ways, IS fans have gone off in their own creative directions. The IS universe seems to be a fanfic dream, allowing writers to infuse their own ideas into their beloved show without altering canon. Most story lines and concepts are the complete opposite of actual episodes of DW; for instance, whereas the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood (the title of which is an anagram of “Doctor Who”) is more adult-oriented, Inspector Spacetime’s equivalent spinoff Peacemist: Nicer Post (also an anagram) is more family-friendly. Like the Doctor, there have been eleven incarnations of the Inspector; like DW, IS began in 1963, and after a short time off the air in the 90’s, has been “rejuvenated”.
Here’s a very short list of other DW concepts that have been translated into the IS universe.
Doctor Who Inspector Spacetime
TARDIS police box BOOTH red telephone box (or DARSIT)
Time Lord Space Master
Doctor has two hearts Inspector has no heart
K-9 mechanical dog FE-line mechanical cat
sonic screwdriver optic pocketknife/optical pliers (there is some debate over this, too)
Rory Williams Rory Williams
Yep, that’s right – Rory Williams has been a character on both Doctor Who and Inspector Spacetime! Regarding other similarities, character names in IS are often plays on existing DW characters – for instance, Brooke Rhapsody is the IS version of DW’s River Song.
Inspector Spacetime has become such a phenomenon that Tony Lee, author of several Doctor Who graphic novels and the Big Finish audio play Doctor Who: Rat Trap, presented a panel about Inspector Spacetime in November 2011 at the Chicago TARDIS convention in Lombard, IL. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed listening to Tony talk about IS’s history, actors like Christopher Lee and Steve Carrell who played the Inspector, and favorite associates like Mary Sue Brown and Constable Reggie (but not Jeffrey – everyone hates Jeffrey!) Chicago TARDIS even had its own Eleventh Inspector cosplayer!
The universe that IS fans have created is multi-faceted and quite entertaining for those who know DW well. I could go on and on about it, but I could never do justice to the immense creativity that IS has inspired. The material on the Inspector Spacetime Wiki, TVTropes, forums, and ChicagoTARDIS panel will captivate you for hours, so pull up a chair, get comfortable, and learn about Inspector Spacetime. (If you’re still clamoring for more Inspector Spacetime reading, check out Inspector Spacetime Confessions, which is beyond hilarious.) After you fall in love with the Inspector, make sure you watch Community on Thursdays on NBC, because unless their ratings drastically improve, it looks like the end of this brilliant show. And remember, there’s always room for one more …