So apparently, we're looking at another year-long hiatus after season five ends. Now, I'm not a marketing expert, but isn't MLP still the closest thing that Discovery Family has to a cash cow? I mean, I get that the gap is probably so that they have time to push out the movie and some more Equestria Girls, but shouldn't keeping fresh episodes of your biggest show coming take priority over limited-release or direct-to-video movies?
It may well be that there's a perfectly good reason why this is a fiscally sensible decision; I just can't imagine, with my limited knowledge and nonexistent industry background, what it would be. Anyway, reviews of the mini- variety, below the break.
Seven Thousand, Seven Hundred and Eighty-two, by Educated Guess
Zero-ish spoiler summary: A scribe recounts to his children the tale of how his tribe came to posses its shamanic totem.
A few thoughts: At first I found the author's coyness with the species a bit annoying, but once I realized that that was, in fact, a key reveal, I retroactively became much more okay with it. The reveal(s) at the end are the big selling point here, and they're definitely executed well; despite some being more predictable than others, nothing felt like it should have been obvious to the characters going in, or like the reader was being deliberately misled, either of which I find frustrating more often than not (the story may be coy, but that's different from misleading). The tale itself is a pretty standard piece of tribal lore in both design and telling, and the conceit for that tale's telling is as stock as they come, but both are executed competently.
Recommendation: Readers who don't like pieces of legendarium needn't bother, but readers who enjoy classically styled tales and recontextualizing endings should definitely check this out. Also, the epilogue puts a bit of a dark (depending on how one reads it) humorous twist on the whole thing, but is definitely worth reading as a follow-up.
The Normal One, by Shotoman
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Carrot Top talks about her relationship with the Doctor and Derpy.
A few thoughts: This is a Doctor Who crossover, if that wasn't clear, but the SoL tag doesn't lie: the entire story is Carrot Top talking about her "friend of the Assistant" perspective on the Doctor's arrival and repeated visits/adventures with Derpy. It's a pleasant perspective, but this feels more like a brief character sketch of the Doctor than like a complete narrative. I also found the perspective a little off-putting, but not jarringly so; Carrot Top is addressing "you," one of the Doctor's former assistants, but beyond being a narrative vehicle, nothing is ever done with that.
Recommendation: Obviously, people who are put off by Doctor Hooves needn't bother, and I don't think I'd recommend this to someone who hasn't seen at least a bit of the new Who--there's nothing plot-specific one needs to know, but a general familiarity with the premise is a must. Within that context, I'd recommend this to fans of pure slice of life, who aren't put off by the idea of a story that's, essentially, just a pleasant conversation.
Please Open The Door, by naturalbornderpy
Zero-ish spoiler summary: The changelings launch an all-out assault on Ponyville, capturing or killing everyone in their wake. Applejack manages to barricade her home with only Apple Bloom inside, hoping to survive until the Royal Guard can come rescue them. Then, her friends and family start showing up at the door, asking to be let in...
A few thoughts: The premise never quite gelled with me; it's a classic shapeshifter/horror premise, but one that seems an ill fit for Equestria without some justification. And of course, even if that justification existed, AJ wouldn't be in a position to know about it... anyway, this story plays with the core idea (that anyone could be trying to kill you, even if they look, talk, and act like the people you know and love) in a number of classic, but nevertheless compelling ways, as long as you're willing to buy into the central idea. I thought the ending was something of a letdown, however; Applejack's breakdown (without going into more detail, I don't think that's too much of a spoiler) feels contrived to me, too absolute and too (seemingly) permanent to really buy, extenuating circumstances notwithstanding. For me, that took the story out of the realm of "psychological horror" and more into straight "descent into madness" territory, which... well, there's nothing wrong with being that, but I don't think the rest of the story really meshed with that decision, in terms of tone and focus.
Recommendation: As noted, this wasn't really "my kind of story," but I suspect that readers who enjoy paranoia-fests and the festering madness it incurs--and who are ready to accept the premise in the first place--will find it pleasantly dread-inducing.