Community is known for its pop culture parodies and the most popular one by far is the Doctor Who parody Inspector Spacetime. We even got a full episode about an Inspector Spacetime convention. I was lucky enough to moderate the panel for the web series that came out of it called An Untitled Web Series About a Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time (which is the best title ever) at Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles this weekend where I learned all about what’s coming and star Travis Richey‘s efforts to raise money for Season 2 via Kickstarter.
I got a chance to chat with Richey about the Kickstarter, the mythology fans have created for the show and what we’ll see if it goes for a second season. Check out what he had to say below and watch Season 1 right here.
Fan Voice: Can you talk about how you got the role?
Travis Richey: I was originally just an extremely lucky actor when I got cast as Inspector Spacetime on Community. I had met the casting director, Josh Einsohn, at a casting workshop not long before. He was casting his first episode of the show (Season 3 premiere) and didn’t even put out breakdowns for Inspector Spacetime or Cougerton Abbey. He just called in people he knew. As a Doctor Who fan, I understood The Inspector right away, and told Josh when I read for both roles that I was much more excited about this one-line role of Inspector Spacetime than the 2 scene Cougerton Abbey guy, which may have looked better on a young actor’s demo reel.
Fan Voice: Tell us about turning this into a web series and what resistance you got.
Travis Richey: I think even “resistance” is a strong word to use. Like so many ways in which the studio and network deal with Community, I think “apathy” is more appropriate.
When we were on set that first episode, we were all talking about how this was the perfect thing for supplemental content. It just seemed obvious to us, since both Community had a history of doing stuff on the web, and so did NBC, with The Office and Heroes. So when I was on my way home from set, i called my writing partner Eric Loya on the phone. We’d been doing web series together for years since our sitcom “Robot, Ninja & Gay Guy”, and I told him that we needed to write an Inspector Spacetime show that I could pitch if I ever got back on Community. We ended up with a 6-episode web series, and after the Season 3 premiere aired and “Inspector Spacetime” was trending worldwide on Twitter, I was called in almost immediately to shoot another bit. I tried to pitch the web series in person but was told it had to be sent through official channels. So I had my agent submit it to the digital content departments of NBC and Sony, and to the people at Community, and we heard nothing whatsoever. In the meantime, the Internet was creating an entire 50-year history of this fake show, as well as t-shirts, posters, iPhone cases, and badass fezzes.
When I was asked to be a guest at Gallifrey One in 2012, I wanted to do something really special for fans. So we commissioned Youtube’s SharkeyeJones to illustrate the first episode of the web series so we could do a live reading. Around the same time, NBC yanked Community from the schedule, and didn’t say anything about when it was coming back, or if there was going to be a Season 4, nothing. So, we thought, let’s just make this thing. We’ll put it to fans, and say “Hey, we won’t make any money on this season, but if you want it bad enough to fund it, we’ll make it.” So we announced that at Gallifrey One and the Internet went crazy. We launched the Kickstarter with a $20,000 goal and the next morning had $4,000.
When we hit the $9,000 mark or so, I got an email forwarded to me from my agent from a lawyer at Sony. I wrote her a very intelligent, thought out (and incredible well-researched) response, which you can read on the Facebook page, and mere seconds after sending it, got a phone call. The gist of the conversation was that they didn’t want to do anything with Inspector Spacetime, but didn’t want us to, either. I told her I would change the title of the show, and the look of the main character, which were the only two things that could possibly be construed as not being original, but that I’d much rather work with Sony on making Inspector Spacetime a real thing (I still would!), but she basically said they didn’t care. So, that’s what I did. And now, we have an original property, for all intents and purposes. By “we”, I really mean, me and the fans. They’ve been as much a creative force for this show a I have.
Fan Voice: What tidbits have fans made up about the fictional show?
Travis Richey: We have what I like to call a “recursive creativity” relationship with our fans. The fact is, there are still Inspector Spacetime fans out there that have no idea that we even DID a web series. They’re all out there happily creating art and stories and merchandise. There’s an Inspector Spacetime Wiki page that has 224 pages. The TV Tropes page is incredible. Meanwhile, the fans that communicate with us (mostly via the Facebook page) are such an inspiration.
One great example of what I’m talking about is the time that Nerd Bastards did a story on us to cover Season 1. They did a great article, but misspelled my name at the end when they said “Follow Tarvis on Twitter!” I posted the article to the Facebook page with a note that said something like, “hey guys, check this out, great article, though it could have used some editing (“Follow Tarvis”)”. In the comments of that post, people started riffing on “Follow Tarvis”, making it a mini-meme, and then someone posted a photo online that said “KEEP CALM AND FOLLOW TARVIS”. And then, a couple days after that, someone put up a page on the Wiki for a new character named TARVIS, who was a mechanical flying squirrel that leads The Inspector to safety. Well, we happened to be in a rewrite phase for Season 2, so we wrote TARVIS into Season 2!
Fan Voice: What might we see in Season 2?
Travis Richey: Besides TARVIS? Since Season 1 was written to be as appealing to NBC/Sony as possible (ie. cheap and on a small scale), we wrote with several constraints in mind. After it got so much great attention (Best TV show on the web! ~USA Today), Eric and I really wanted to show fans what we were capable of doing for Season 2, story-wise. It’s bigger in scale, story, characters, everything. However, since we still need to be able to produce it on a small budget, we rely very much on good storytelling. We’ve put an amazing amount of time developing this story.
We’re playing with one of my favorite sci-fi tropes, in which both the audience and the main character are told that everything they believe about this universe is wrong. Kind of like when Buffy wakes up in the insane asylum? But we put a really nice twist on it. It is allowing us to do a little more fan service, though. We’d figured out a way we could have had Danny Pudi appear in his Inspector cosplay, if Community hadn’t been renewed, and we’re going to see a few more of the villains from the Inspector’s universe. Not only ones that you can read about already online, but original inventions, too.
Plus, we’ve got some amazing guest-stars. Mayim Bialik from “The Big Bang Theory came on board to be the voice of The Inspector’s time machine, R Robert Picardo (The Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager) is guest-starring, and can be seen at the end of the Season 2 Prequel Episode. Chase Masterson (Leeta on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) is also guest-starring, and we’re in talks to fill in 2 more roles with some very exciting names…
Travis Richey: We have so much planned for this series, if we can get Season 2 off the ground. We have a graphic novel that we’re writing, and we want to produce a fan-written radio show. Also, now, a video game!! Some very special fans have come forward to help us with the Kickstarter campaign, offering some amazing perks.
The team behind the Community-inspired video game, “Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne” have signed on to create an 8-bit adventure game based on Season 2! Donors to the Season 2 Kickstarter campaign can get it for only $6!!
Also, Christopher Jones, the comic artist behind “Young Justice” for DC Comics and “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” for Marvel made an absolutely stunning Inspector Spacetime comic book cover print for us. He’s signing every single print, and we’re offering both 8.5″x11″ prints at the $50 level and 11″x17″ at the $250 level!
The other big thing I’m thrilled at is Karen Hallion’s custom t-shirt design! I’ve been buying Karen’s t-shirts for years, and we happened to meet after the Geekie Awards and she said she wanted to do a design for us! We just revealed it on the Facebook page, and it’s gorgeous.
Check it out below and make sure you head over to the Kickstarter page if you want to see all the awesomeness in Season 2!