The Dreamatorium has always been a mysterious topic in Community. The holodeck-like room was first introduced during episode 3-07 ‘Studies in Modern Movement’ where Troy and Abed were willing to give Annie their bedroom and live in a makeshift blanket room rather than dismantle the Dreamatorium.
In episode 3-11 ‘Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts,’ Troy and Abed used an extended session in there to purge the weirdness out of them and in episode 3-12 ‘Contemporary Impressionists’ we finally got a few minutes of the room in action. This week, we finally get an episode that actually revolves around the sacred place. Was it worth all the build up and hype? Well, it depends.
A lucky break provided the Study Group an extra day to cram for their biology final. Before they head back to the grindstone they decide to take a little time for themselves. Abed asks Troy to accompany him in the Dreamatorium but Annie volunteers to join instead, thus freeing up Troy to have lunch with Britta. Abed didn’t care for the change and decides to let his frustration out in the Dreamatorium in the only way he knows how.
They decide to play out Abed’s favourite character Inspector Spacetime, which is Community‘s take on the popular long-running British sci-fi series Dr. Who. Abed takes on the titular character but instead of Troy filling in the role of sidekick, Annie clumsily fills his shoes with her bad accent and lack of an imagination.
Suffice to say, Abed doesn’t care for her lacklustre effort and was even more annoyed at her romantic meddling. He apparently played out numerous scenarios of Britta and Troy together in the Dreamatorium and was not convinced that a positive outcome was possible. From there, Annie and Abed proceeded to argue and investigate the social dynamics of the Study Group through the magic and mystery of the Dreamatorium.
‘Virtual Systems Analysis’ really required some major background information to appreciate or even understand what the hell is going on. People transforming into other people, settings constantly morphing into another, voices not matching the speaker, two copies of the same character talking with each other – for any newcomers to the show this must have been the most confusing piece of television since the sixth season of Lost. There was also some humour to be found within Abed and Annie’s interpretations of the characters but once again, without prior intimate knowledge of those characters beforehand, the one-sided stiff-as-a-board representations would certainly have turned off a lot of people.
Danny Pudi did a great job portraying a stressed out Abed, a side we hardly ever see. The Abed character is portrayed as a high functioning autistic who is emotionless and distant but generally is able to express himself through television and movies. In this episode, the character reached his high stress limit, reaching a point that his pop-culture database could not express for him and Danny Pudi did an excellent job being simultaneously emotive and stoic.
Beyond Danny Pudi‘s awesome performance there really wasn’t anything too memorable or funny even(!) about this episode. The notion that an episode about two college studies investigating the psyches of their friends as well as themselves through a room powered by their imaginations was not too memorable may sound ludicrous, but frankly, the execution of the story was not as well done as it could have been. This incredibly odd episode could have been another classic like episode 3-04 ‘Remedial Chaos Theory’ but instead it we are just left with another incredibly odd episode from Community‘s catalog.
Like I said at the beginning of this recap, was the episode worth all the build up and hype? If you wanted to see a Community episode pushed to its imaginative limits then yes, this episode fulfilled that. If you wanted to see another sitcom episode that will be heralded as one of the best of all time, then you’re going to have to imagine that in your own Dreamatorium because ’Virtual Systems Analysis’ certainly was not it.