Friday, August 31, 2012

6-Star Reviews Part 97: Mines of Dragon Mountain

To read the story, click the image or follow this link

Below the break, my review of Mines of Dragon Mountain, by Hephestus.

Impressions before reading:  This was the second major MLP/Dr. Who crossover by the author; the first, Timelords and Terror, was also six-starred.  I reviewed it here, but suffice to say I ended up enjoying it a fair bit.  So based on that, I'm optimistic that the sequel will also prove to be to my tastes.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Following the events of Timelords and Terror, the main six and the Doctor return to Equestria after a bit of romping through time and space.  Although they came back hoping for some relaxation, they soon find themselves embroiled in deadly chain of plots which may imperil all of Equestria and beyond.

Thoughts after reading:  This is a straight-up sequel, and as such I do not recommend reading it without first reading Timelords and Terror.  That said, I don't think there's anything here which a reader would have much trouble picking up; it's just that the plotline and themes build directly on that story, and some of that is necessarily lost by reading the second absent the first.

With that out of the way, I'll observe that this story in many ways displays the same hallmarks as its predecessor.  Grammar/sp are mostly good; a few typos, but nothing terribly distracting (there was a fair bit of number confusion throughout though, and that was a readability issue at times).  On the technical side of things, there's a distressing lack of punctuation at times (missing apostrophes, missing commas, missing hyphens... it's all over the board, really), but this was the only significant issue present.  Mines of Dragon Mountain uses the Doctor somewhat more sparingly than the previous story, but I still think his characterization is both spot-on for Tennant, and engaging and appropriate in its own right.

The characterizations on the antagonists were where the story really shone, however.  Other than another G1 villain re-imagined as an eldrich abomination, almost all of the non-canon characters had richly developed personalities and complex yet understandable motives.  Zeitgeist "Ziggy" Stardust (a wealthy diamond dog introduced in the first story, and still one of my favorite name puns in fanfiction) in particular is given a very rich, nuanced role, and many of the story's best twists and turns revolved around his changing portrayal throughout the fic.

Unfortunately, I was less impressed with the characterizations of the canon characters, due to a problem which was also present in the original story: at times, Mines simply doesn't do a good job of meshing some of the darker elements of Doctor Who into the Equestrian setting.  For the first couple of chapters, I really enjoyed the characterizations of the main six, and of Rainbow Dash in particular (her brashness as a shield for her insecurity was played surprisingly thoughtfully in the early going), but as matters escalate they all begin to lose their individual characterizations and become dangerously generic.  There's no reason why Fluttershy should be reduced to a vehicle for techno-babble, or Applejack placed unironically in the role of strategic planner, for example.

All told, this story got a lot darker than I was comfortable with--or rather, it got darker in ways that I as a reader had trouble relating to.  While the first story generally kept Equestria a peaceful, innocent place, this story paints a much more morally grey vision of the ponies' world: one in which armies wielding laser-guns and hoodlum ponies willing to torture or murder to protect their bottom line seem distressingly unexceptional.  Frankly, these concepts just weren't very well integrated into the setting; there was never any explanation for why the Equestria from the show was such a radically different place than the one in the fic.  And when this began to extend to the characters... well, I thought that Spike filleting a pony's cheek completely open was pretty far removed from the way he acts in the show, regardless of the circumstances.  There needed to be a lot more work done to integrate the setting, and without that, some of the more violent scenes fizzled.

Also, a few fandom in-jokes in the latter part of the story stuck out to me in a bad way.  Perhaps I'm just a grump, but is "post that on Equestria Daily, I'm sure it'll get six stars!" really an appropriate response to a Spike telling a story, in a serious fic no less?

Star rating:  ☆ (what does this mean?)

On the whole, I enjoyed this story--the characters Hephestus created are a real pleasure to read, and the story itself is filled with enough twists and surprises to keep it fresh, even once it becomes obvious who's manipulating who.  But as a pony fanfic, it's got some significant problems.  Tone is an issue throughout, and some merely okay editing and a few poor decisions about what to include weigh it down.

Recommendation:  Despite giving it a lower rating, I think that most readers who liked Timelords and Terror will probably enjoy this as well.  However, it really works better as a Dr. Who fanfic than a MLP one; those looking for a faithful depiction of FiM's settings and characters (or at least, a well-justified departure from those) will probably be disappointed.

Next time:  The Contest, by Cold in Gardez


  1. I pretty much agree with just about everything that was written here (the too-violent happy show characters, the well thought out original characters and their motives (this was the strong point), the feeling that overall it was a Dr. Who episode and not a half-and-half crossover, etc.).

    The only thing I'll add (besides briefly mentioning that I wasn't a fan of the expositional info dumps) was that I thought the G-1 villain, Monsterman, was a failure. Parts with him such as the exchange with Spike seemed really out of place tone wise (I will add that Spike’s story would indeed get a 6-star rating on Equestria Daily, but again, that joke shouldn’t be there) and he came off as a campy, idiotic lug, whose power levels (I really hate this concept) seemed to be in constant flux (Twilight at one point throws him around like a rag-doll). Sure, Dr. Who is rather flippant but this guy was out of place in a story where death was common (for a pony fic).

    Overall, I really didn't enjoy it, but that's because I’m not a Doctor Who fan. Sure, I’ll watch it with friends, but that’s it. And this fict is pretty much a Doctor Who episode with ponies, rather than a half-and-half crossover that I wanted.

    One more thing (because it needs to be said), no Chris, you do not get Labor Day off.

  2. Aw, that's disappointing. I loved Timelords & Terror, so I'll at least check out the first chapter, but the problems you cited are big issues for me. I still haven't seen Dr. Who. What little I know about it is entirely due to this fandom (except that it exists, of course)

    Don't listen to Bugs, Chris. That rabbit's insane. Just give us an interesting discussion post

    1. My good fellow, we are posters on a blog that is devoted to the serious analysis of fan created writings based off of a children’s television program that is about a group of young, anthropomorphized, technicolor quadrupeds with hooves who live in an enchanted, serene setting and learn lessons that are supposed to be about developing intimate relationships with one’s peers, and thus I highly doubt any single Homo sapien that has read at least one post on this internet discussion site can make a credible claim that he or she is not suffering from even the tiniest amount of madness.

      However, because you are explicitly stating that my mental perception of reality is so far from acceptable that this website’s proprietor should not even consider 'listening' to me (if that was somehow possible given that have I have only stated my opinion through text, unless he has used a program on his computer that vocalizes to him what I have written), then I am afraid there is only one appropriate phrase that I can respond with. “Of course you realize, this means war!”

  3. It's been years since I've read this particular fic, but one thing that sticks out to me was how Zecora stuck around but never really did anything. The Doctor and each member of the main six all got character development or at least a moment to show off how awesome they were; Zecora was just there.

    Maybe Hephestus had some kind of plans for Zecora that didn't pan out for some reason. But I wonder if they just wrote themselves into a corner: Z had played a big role in Time Lords and Terror, so the author couldn't think of a logical way to write her out of this adventure, but couldn't think of anything to do with her, either.