Let me take you back in time, to the early 80s. Television was in short supply, and that we could get our minds on was limited to three channels. Shows like Battlestar Galactica shone distant futures brightly on our screens, and the A-Team were comedy action in motion for the here and now.
So imagine every kid’s surprise when the starting sequence of the latter referenced the former show in a way we’d never experienced before. Despite their obvious differences in time and space, each show shared one obvious characteristic…they both starred Dirk Benedict. You don’t have to be Sherlock to get how gently your world is rocked when one show ‘falls into another’, yet that is precisely what happened. The A-team was ‘pointing to’ how Benedict appeared in both shows with a slight glance and finger raising moment of recognition by the actor in the opening credits. They went further, with one scene even showing the A-Team crew member (Lieutenant Templeton “Faceman” Peck) watching himself play the role of (Lieutenant Starbuck) in Battlestar Galactica on a TV in a motel room.
In this way, for me and probably countless others, a first experience of ‘meta intertextual’ humour was born, and with it was a lifelong love of of mine of ‘things’ that, to some extent or other, fit ‘inside themselves’.
p.s. as you read the section above, to make a point, I included two words with the intent of showing you first hand ‘something’ that happens in the mind when we receive information. The two words were ‘Sherlock’ and ‘gently’.
Intertextuality depends on whether you ‘make the connection’, whether you are ‘in on the joke’, whether you ‘get it’. In the case above I was connecting to a certain percentage of you by way of the word ‘Benedict’ to ‘Sherlock’ through the bridge of Benedict Cumberbatch; and ‘Dirk’ as in ‘Dirk Gently, from Douglas Adams’s work, to the word ‘gently’.
The first attempt may have got a ‘click in mind’ rate of 43% and the latter around 14% as it is slightly more obscure.
And did you spot another ploy above? I used the word ‘case’ when referencing the two detectives. It is very subtle, just me throwing in a word here or there, but obvious when you know the game being played.