Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fandom Classics Part 232: Dr. Rainbow Dash, MD, PhD, etc.

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

When I first heard that some show and movie assets/episodes had leaked, I didn't pay it much mind--those are all things I plan on watching anyway, but I'm not in any particular hurry.  But what I just found out is that the leak included the original series bible, and that I am excited for.  Seeing what the blueprint given to the show writers is, and what Faust's original vision for FiM was?  Sign me up!

But that doesn't mean I don't have time for some fanfic reading, too!  Head down below the break for my thoughts on Frontsevens' Dr. Rainbow Dash, MD, PhD, etc.

Impressions before reading:  I remember there being a little debate about this story when it first came out--specifically, whether or not it should have been tagged Dark (the author added that tag subsequently).  Having not actually read it, I'll admit that I don't yet know what the ambiguous darkness at the heart of this fic might be, though I can imagine a few possibilities based on the premise.  In any case, I do like the idea of taking Rainbow Dash's "special" learning style to an illogical extreme.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  After discovering that Dash can retain knowledge subconsciously when she doesn't focus on it, Twilight sets out to make her the smartest pony on the planet.  And to Dash's consternation, she succeeds.

A few thoughts:  I can understand why some people thought this was dark.  There's the implication toward the end of the story that Rainbow Dash murdered and skinned Twilight (though it is just an implication), for starters.  More than that, this is at its core a story about Rainbow Dash being robbed of her agency, without her consent, and her entire life being destroyed without her getting any say in the matter.  So, yeah, if you wanted to, you could call this a "dark" story.

But those things can happen in a story that isn't dark.  The Coyote and Roadrunner shorts aren't dark just because they're about a starving dog dying over and over, without recourse or hope of success (okay, certain individual shorts may get a little dark, but it'd be silly to say something like "those cartoons need content warnings!").  In other words, comedies can be "dark" without being dark, depending on the presentation, and whether the story's implications are ignored, mocked, or explored.

With that said, I did find that this story felt a little more grim than I think was intended, for two reasons.  First, there's the fact that Rainbow Dash's lifelong misery is explored, and that "lifelong misery" for a character readers sympathize with is necessarily is kind of a downer.  And it's not a relatively minor, silly misery, as in (for example) Skywriter's Princess Celestia Hates Tea.  This is a fic about Rainbow Dash being forcibly prevented from ever achieving any of her goals or ambitions and forced into an existence she loathes in its totality, and while the reason and presentation are absurd, they're still a fairly serious sort of absurd.

Which brings me to the other reason I think some people found this dark: this isn't much of a comedy.  That's less a criticism than it is an observation: there just isn't a lot of humor in this story.  There are, it's true, a few wonderful turns in the narration (the phrase "a slip of paper congratulating her when she cured all the cancers" comes to mind), but these are largely clustered near the end of the fic.  There is a lot of absurdity here, but it's never really treated in a comic light; there's not much in the way of escalation (the fic literally opens with Dash solving one of physics' central modern problems), the characters' reactions aren't particularly humorous, and the story is very light on actual jokes.  In the absence of a lot of comedy, people are going to look for what the story is "really" about, and the potentially-readable-as-dark elements are an obvious thing to latch onto.

In case it wasn't obvious, I don't view this as a dark fic.  I don't really view it as a comedy, either, despite it having a few funny lines.  If anything, I think the Random tag best sums up this fic.  It's true, it's not terribly random in terms of event, but it fits in terms of characterization (inconsistent by design) and focus (hopping all over, both in terms of tone and actual PoV).  As a random fic, it still has some weaknesses--the narration tends toward telliness, which makes the work feel slower than really benefits a sub-5k-word fic--but it does still represent itself well as an insane expansion on canon events.

Star rating:

Thus ends one of my better runs of Fandom Classics in recent memory; the last time I gave a rating below three stars was over a month ago!  But that's not to say this was an awful fic, either; it's just one that isn't very anything-in-particular.  It doesn't have a lot of depth, it doesn't have a lot of comedy, it doesn't have a lot of lore/worldbuilding... it's fine as a random bit of character destruction with an absurd show basis, but it doesn't leave much of an impression beyond that.

Recommendation:  If you find the idea of Dash learning against her will inherently funny, this is probably one you'll enjoy.  But if you expect "Dash learning against her will" to be the basis for some other humor--or for much of anything else, for that matter--you'll come away disappointed.

Next time:  What is a Name?, by Key Tapper


  1. I seem to recall that story being a lot funnier. <.<

    1. Me too. I just re-read it. I still found it hilarious.

      I think this is a case of Chris getting lost in moral implications and missing the forest for the trees, because he does do that sometimes. Never Was and Wouldn't Be spring to mind. Or his opinions on the new Godzilla for a non-moral example.

    2. It's undoubtedly dark, but I went back and read my review, and I think the humor for me was the juxtaposition in dumb jock Rainbow Dash spouting physics problems, etc. I'd still call it a Dark Comedy, or maybe Comedy/Dark.

      Grimfunny? :B

  2. "There's the implication toward the end of the story that Rainbow Dash murdered and skinned Twilight"

    Aaaaaaaand I'm clearly never picking this one up. My god, what is THAT!?

  3. I feel like this could have been taken to some greater extremes. Either more an out and out horror direction or pushing harder on the comedy. But as it was, it didn't do either of them enough to be really satisfying to me.