"What the heck is meta, and how can I get it out of my sci fi?" You're asking. Well, meta really just means anything, especially art (or TV or movies) that is self-referential. A prime example of this is the show Community. It has jokes about the jokes about jokes. The layers collapse on each other like a GIF of a four dimensional shape. During the third season of the show, Abed’s addiction to Cougar Town ended after he finished its woefully short British predecessor, Cougarton Abbey. It was here where Britta suggested he watch Inspector Spacetime, a British sci-fi show that has been on the air for 50 years. In Inspector Spacetime, the Inspector and Constable Reggie travel space and time in their red phone booth. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Still, Inspector Spacetime isn’t the first example of sci-fi within fiction. Here are a few more of our favorites.
Galaxy Quest from Galaxy Quest: The actual movie Galaxy Quest is a relatively unheralded gem. It’s raucously funny, perfectly cast, and has an unbeatable premise: aliens fall in love with a sci-fi TV show and create a ship based on it. The TV show from the movie was a loving spoof on syndicated TV sci-fi, most specifically Star Trek. It had goofy acting, bad haircuts, and a ship featuring hallways of dangerous blades installed for no particular reason. The movie has since attracted devotees as diverse as Patrick Stewart, J.J. Abrams, and David Mamet.
Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off! from The Simpsons: In the classic episode “A Fish Called Selma,” frighteningly prolific actor Troy McClure falls on hard times and decides to reboot his career. Part of that plan is an ill-advised musical adaptation the sci-fi classic. It gives birth to these beautifully simple and hilarious final lines: “Oops, I was wrong/It was Earth all along/I guess you’ve finally made a monkey out of me.”
Aquaman and Viking Quest from Entourage: Working with James Cameron, Vince got top billing on Aquaman as the movie went on to break box office records. However, it’s Johnny Drama’s role on a Xena-like syndicated show that gets laughs, as he becomes a god on the con circuit while repeating his character’s catchphrase of “VICTORY!”
Codename: Dragonfly from CQ: CQ was the debut film from Roman Coppola (Francis’ son, Sofia’s brother). It is set in 1969 and focuses on the tumultuous process of making Codename: Dragonfly, a B-movie about a sexy secret agent who must fight revolutionaries on the far side of the moon. Codename: Dragonfly proves to be equal parts ridiculous and enjoyable, especially if you’ve seen camp classics such as Barberella and Danger: Diabolik.
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command from Toy Story: This one proves to be a case of life imitating art imitating life. Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story is an action figure based on a character from Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, a Saturday morning cartoon designed to sell action figures. Then, Toy Story and his character become so popular, that the Buzz Lightyear TV show was actually created. The show was surprisingly funny, actually running for more than 60 episodes with voice acting ringer Patrick Warburton ably doing the lead role.
What's your favorite piece of meta sci fi?