Community, Season 4

Can Troy and Abed’s Friendship Withstand Space and Time?
Talking television.
Feb. 21 2013 8:30 PM

Community, Season 4

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

A friendship tested by space and time.

1361490422211
The frienship of Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) is tested at the Inspector Spacetime convention.

Photo by: Vivian Zink/NBC

In Slate’s Community TV Club, Aisha Harris will IM about each post-Dan Harmon episode with another Community fan. This week, she discusses “Conventions of Space and Time” with Slate contributor Abby Ohlheiser.

Aisha Harris: So Abby, as you’re a Dr. Who fan, this episode, in which Troy and Abed go to an Inspector Spacetime convention, must hold some significance to you. Community has long used Inspector Spacetime as a very thinly veiled show-within-a-show parody of the long-running sci-fi series, and this time around they devoted an entire episode to it. Did the use of the convention as a backdrop to Troy and Abed’s unraveling friendship work for you?

Abby Ohlheiser: To be honest, Aisha, I was kind of dreading this one before I saw it—Abed at a convention? But I walked away with decidedly mixed feelings: As a commentary on why people like shows like Dr. Who, or Harmon-run Community, I thought it was surprisingly right on. Shirley's observation that people like Inspector because it's "smart, complicated, and doesn't talk down to its audience" was perfect, as was Abed's analysis of the Inspector-Constable dynamic (which is pretty much directly parallel to the Doctor-companion relationships in Dr. Who): "His human friends keep him grounded and invested in the world." Still, I didn't think the episode delivered on being smart or complicated itself.

Advertisement

Aisha: I'm glad you mentioned Shirley's quote, because that was the defining moment for me in this episode. That is exactly what Community was and what it is still struggling to be in its fourth season. I did appreciate what they were attempting to do here, which was to test the boundaries of Abed and Troy's relationship now that the latter is no longer single. And what better way to do so than through their favorite show?

Abby: I agree that the backdrop of something we've known that the two both love is a good idea.

Aisha: But now that I think of it, this was handled much better in the Ken Burns-doc themed episode from last season. The idea was the same—that despite their natural closeness, they still have ideas and sensibilities of their own that will occasionally clash—but the execution of this rift wasn’t nearly as compelling as that of a war fought over pillow and blanket forts.

Abby: I like it when the writers let Troy's character be complicated, and we almost got there in this episode. But I feel like, aside from his friendship with Troy, Abed is slipping a bit away from us.

And I was completely baffled by the defeat of Abed's Internet pal, Toby. It fell flat. Actually, I was sort of cringing for the entire wrap-up of the whole episode.

Aisha: I did find it interesting that Toby was a) British and b) kind of an asshole.

Abby: I love that even in an entire episode set at a convention for a British series, they still manage to make the sole British character the villain.

Aisha: Right! I also enjoyed the Minerva gag—she’s the lone female inspector on Inspector Spacetime who everybody hates but "not because they're sexist, but because she sucks," according to Abed.

Abby: I disagree! That gag could have been better. The best part of it was that Britta immediately likes the character everyone else finds annoying, to the point of buying a T-shirt for her. But the explanation Abed used is kind of familiar to me. I think there's a reason beyond "she sucks" that fans wouldn't want an intellectual, brilliant character with emotional debts to be played by a female. Kind of like how a kid would write "no girls allowed" on a club house.

Aisha: Interesting. For me, I think the writer (Community vet Maggie Bandur) was critiquing, rather than endorsing, such ideas—especially when Toby and Abed say "she's such a Minerva" and Troy chimes in uncomfortably, "Yeah, Minerva, what a bitch.” This is certainly complicated by the fact that Britta really isn't into the show (and is basically many nerds' misogynistic fear that women who are into such things are "faking" it), and I can see how it can be viewed as problematic. But she clearly wants to be supportive of Troy, her boyfriend. And at the end, she does affectionately say, "I've told you many times—I don't care about Inspector Spacetime."

Abby: After the premiere episode, I was left wondering whether this season would demonstrate that understanding what makes a show work doesn't necessarily mean that you can make it yourself. This episode, if not a confirmation of that, certainly did nothing to sway me from that opinion.

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.