Episode Review: My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic (Season 6, Episode 13) – Stranger Than Fanfiction
At the start of the 21st century, the internet allowed fandoms from many different mediums and walks of life, to thrive in a way, that had never been seen before.
Suddenly, you weren’t just a smalltown boy with a few friends who knew what you were talking about, when you mentioned something obscure from a film…you could find like-minded persons on the world wide web…and feel like you were a part of something greater!
Of course, the internet has also reared up a dark side to fandoms. Messageboards would often have threads go on for many posts, while various fans argued over who was right or wrong, regarding some little detail. Something you considered okay, might then be thrown back in your face as being ‘the worst thing ever,’ and let’s not get started on persons who consider themselves, ‘True Fans.’
Even the series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has seen its fair share of different walks of (fandom) life. While some like myself watch the show and purchase a few things here or there, there are also some fans who go all-out, writing fanfiction, and even critiquing the show and its characterizations, down to the minutest detail.
Such fan machinations, seem to have been the basis behind this week’s episode, Stranger Than Fanfiction.
Rainbow Dash eagerly attends a Daring Do Convention, where an appearance by author A.K. Yearling (also secretly Daring Do in real-life!), is scheduled to take place.
While walking around the convention floor, Dash meets up with another fan of the series, named Quibble Pants (voiced by Patton Oswalt). At first hitting it off with their deep knowledge of fandom details, the two soon come to an impasse, when Quibble claims that the first books were the best, and everything beyond is badly written. Of course, Dash can’t reveal that she knows how Yearling writes her books, so she finds it difficult to explain why she feels Quibble is incorrect.
Of course, it doesn’t help that Daring Do’s arch-nemesis Dr Caballeron, shows up at the convention looking for Daring, and a relic she has recently acquired. This then leads to Rainbow and Quibble getting caught up in the madness, with Quibble ‘quibbling’ along, every step of the way.
So far, it seems we have been given a Daring Do-based episode, every other Season.
At the start, Daring Do was simply a character in a book (as seen in the Season 2 episode, Read it and Weep). It served as a great motivator to get Rainbow Dash to consider reading as something positive.
Then came Season 4’s episode, Daring Don’t, in which we found out that author A.K. Yearling, IS Daring Do, and all her stories are based on actual adventures she’s gone on!
While some were willing to accept this, I was with those who felt this was a bit too far of a stretch to accept.
And that, brings us to this Season 6 episode.
Writers Josh Haber and Michael Vogel do tag-team duty on the episode’s writing chores, but it feels like this leads to a tug-of-war on where the story should go. They want it to combine storytelling in regards to fandoms, but also bring forth another Daring Do adventure. This is very similar to how Daring Don’t brought fiction and reality into a head-on collision, but it never comes to a point where I could fully accept the circumstances here.
They even throw in a few references to the past episodes (mention of the Ring of Destiny, which was the artifact Daring was looking for in her last show appearance), as well as some references related to other films or series (I had to chuckle at one related to a film about a certain, ‘Last Crusade’).
Overall, the episode almost feels like some crazed mish-mash of the episodes Look Before You Sleep, and Slice of Life. The theme is to find common-ground amidst what may seem to be irreconcilable differences, but even Look Before You Sleep still seemed a more entertaining episode to me, despite its own cliches.
For me, one of the highlights in anticipation for this episode, was hearing that Patton Oswalt was guest-voicing as Quibble Pants. Oswalt is like a ‘friend of geeks’ within many fandoms (he’s guest-voiced and appeared on a number of shows like Gravity Falls, and Doc McStuffins), and I’m always eager to see him when he comes to town to perform stand-up comedy.
However, it feels like Quibble Pants might not get the same kind of fan-love as we’ve seen for other guest-voiced characters, like Cheese Sandwich, or Coloratura. Quibble’s constant need to verbally be right so much of the time, is a double-edged sword for much of the episode. While he may prattle on at times and be a bit too full of his fan-based knowledge, there are some times where that knowledge actually does come in handy. However, maybe scaling back a bit of his know-it-all personality, might have made him a bit more palatable.
The story also intends to combine fantasy with reality, when Quibble and Dash encounter the real Dr Caballeron, one of Daring’s old foes. However, Quibble’s encounter with him falls into that story plot of the doubting-thomas character, not realizing they’re in danger…until something comes along later that gives them a wake-up call.
One positive, was seeing A.K. Yearling having softened a bit from her rather non-plussed attitude in Daring Don’t (her ‘I work alone’ attitude in that episode was one of the factors that kept me from liking her). Here, she’s a bit more toned down, and seems more willing to accept other’s help in certain, dire situations.
One thing I did find myself questioning, was just how big of a fandom there is, to have a Daring Do Convention. There appears to be a lot of effort put into different booths and attractions on the convention room floor, but it feels like the world of Daring Do is largely confined to the book series.
One can see that it surely is meant to be a parody of the likes of the many different fan conventions for Friendship is Magic, but FIM has the TV show, an upcoming movie, the Equestria Girls spinoff, comic books, toy lines, and a number of different items to justify such conventions.
If anything, given the range of what the Daring Do fandom is given in Equestria, one could more easily see local book nights, where fans can meet in small groups.
Another small nitpick, is that Rainbow Dash ended up being included in a Daring Do story (along with being on the cover of the book, Daring Do and the Ring of Destiny), and noone on the convention floor calls Rainbow out on this (like maybe thinking she’s a Rainbow Dash/Daring Do character mash-up with her costume). Then again, many also rarely go ga-ga when they see that Twilight Sparkle is an alicorn, or that the show’s ‘Mane 6’ have saved Equestria several times over.
Overall, Stranger Than Fanfiction feels like an episode that was intended to be built with the best of (fan) intentions, but in the end, just feels like a hodge-podge of action, with not enough material to guide it to a satisfying conclusion.
Final Grade: B- (Final Thoughts: “Stranger Than Fanfiction” wants to act as an ode to the rigors of being part of a major fandom, but it never end up feeling wholly satisfying. It relies a bit on meta humor in the form of Quibble Pants, while also trying to squeeze in a new adventure, and send Quibble off on a wild ride with Rainbow Dash, into the real world of Daring Do. In the end, it comes off as a tale, where style, trumps substance. )