In the hit sitcom Community, one of the cuter recurring gags is that Abed is a huge fan of Inspector Spacetime, a thinly-veiled parody of Doctor Who. Most of the Inspector Spacetime bits in the show are cute homages to the longrunning BBC series featuring the Doctor, but in an appropriately timey-wimey twist, one of these gags from over a decade ago ended up predicting the biggest change to the Doctor Who franchise. In the episode “Conventions of Space and Time,” select scenes make fun of an “American version” of Inspector Spacetime, which arguably predicts Doctor Who’s controversial deal with Disney+.
The Community Episode Predicts Disney’s Deal With Doctor Who
In the typical Community style, the very episode name “Conventions of Space and Time” is something of a pun: it refers to both the rules of physics that Inspector Spacetime (a la Doctor Who) regularly flouts as well as the fact that Abed and a new friend are attending a Comic Con style convention. Most of the story focuses on Troy’s anxiety that he is being replaced as Abed’s best friend, but an amusing side plot has older study group members Pierce and Shirley recruited as part of a focus group focusing on creating an American version of Inspector Spacetime.
The Americanized Version Of Inspector Spacetime
Pierce offers some amusing advice, including replacing the Constable character (the Inspector Spacetime equivalent of a Companion) with a long-legged blonde who inexplicably wields a tennis racket (likely making fun of the 2005 Doctor Who relaunch, which featured a cute blonde Companion).
In a post-credits sequence, we get to see the fruits of his recommendation: a scene from the American Inspector Spacetime in which Luke Perry plays the Inspector and his former 90210 costar Jennie Garth plays his sidekick. She’s rocking the racket and a flirty attitude towards the Inspector…one which he reciprocates after declaring the 1960s “the greatest, grooviest period in the entire history of the entire universe.”
BBC Makes A Deal With Disney
When the episode first aired, part of what made this gag so funny was that an American version of Doctor Who was nearly unthinkable (and no, that weird movie featuring the Eighth Doctor doesn’t count). However, fans last year were shocked when the BBC revealed they had made a deal with Disney to air new episodes of Doctor Who internationally via the Disney+ streaming service.
This led to plenty of nervous speculation about what kind of influence the House of Mouse might exert and whether the show everyone knows and loves would ever be the same.
What Will Disney Change?
So far, we haven’t had an overly “American” version of Doctor Who in terms of content, but small changes are already on their way. For example, now that the 60th anniversary episodes are over, the upcoming season will be labeled “season one,” both for Disney+ subscribers and fans still watching the show on BBC. It’s not the first time the show has been rebranded this way, but the relabeling does make it clear that the BBC is bending over backward to accommodate new viewers in America.
Will Disney’s Involvement Ruin Doctor Who Or Make It Better Than Ever?
With any luck, Doctor Who will keep all of the things that fans love about the show, and the franchise will simply become more popular now that more people can easily watch it. Still, Community taught us to be wary of just how Americanized this show can get. And if we see any Companions running around with a tennis racket, we may just have to cancel our subscription and return to our beloved Blu-Rays.