Friday, November 10, 2017

Fandom Classics Part 235: The Three Whooves

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

I keep getting recommendations to watch Stranger Things.  And it sounds pretty good... except I don't have Netflix!  And unlike Hasbro, they seem to take a rather dim view of leaving their episodes up for free on Youtube or the like.  I'll have to see if any of my friends have a subscription I can leech off of, I guess.  That, or get into the shady underworld of actually seeking out and downloading the stuff I want to watch illegally, but if I remember right from skimming those piracy warnings at the start of feature films, that carries a sentence of twenty years in a siberian gulag.

And on the subject of popular sci-fi shows, here's a Doctor Who crossover!  My review of Paleo Prints' The Three Whooves, below the break.

Impressions before reading:  Given that this is an early-fandom Doctor Whooves fic--co-starring Derpy, no less--I'm understandably worried that it's going to have a bunch of lazy memes couched in suspect writing.  Of course, that's a worst-case scenario, but it's not like I haven't seen those stories before.  On the plus side, I do like the idea of the Doctor wanting to chose a nice, inconspicuous name when he decided to put down roots in Equestria, and settling on "John Smith."

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  The Doctor has happily retired, if only for a while, to be a husband and father to a favorite companion and her family.  But when the TARDIS receives a temporal distress signal, he's called to a particular time and place to prevent Equestria from ceasing to exist... and he's not the only himself who got the call.  And it's a lucky thing too, as the adventure at hand is going to take more than just one Doctor-companion duo...

A few thoughts:  First, a note about accessibility: while this isn't technically even a Dr. Who crossover (the Time Lords Chargers are explicitly Equestrianized expies), there's a lot of stuff here that's primarily targeted at Who fans.  Reading this without familiarity with both its sources material will probably not leave anyone hopelessly confused, but will mean missing out on a lot of references, explanations for characterization, and the like.  That said, this is more "general Who knowledge" than it is "you better remember these particular episodes and villains if you want to read this fic."

The story itself, despite its Equestrian setting, is very much in the tone of its other source.  And not just when it comes to monsters from beyond time and space; stuff like Dinky's father, and the events surrounding her birth, ring a lot darker and more flippant than FiM skews.  I found that bothersome (at least, in the MLP-set elements), but folks looking for that tone will probably be glad for its consistency.  Beyond "darker," The Three Whooves does capture a lot of other elements of that show, and does so in an undeniably positive way; it's got an eclectic mix of horror, heartwarming, and humor; it's got action that tends toward the cheesy but mostly takes itself seriously; and it's good at pulling  surprise (and surprisingly) emotional moments seemingly out of thin air.

The actual writing on the story, though, left something to be desired.  The actual editing is pretty good, but the author has a bad habit of using particularly odd LUS descriptors, and finding a wide variety for each character.  When the three ponies talking are, say, Ditzy, "John Smith," and Dinky, that still doesn't really impinge upon readability... but when three different Doctors and several companions start talking to one another, it can get hard to keep track of.  Which on is "the UNIT scientist" again?  Is "the ancient traveler" the old Doctor in the young body, or the young Doctor in the old body?  As you can imagine, it gets confusing.  I'm sympathetic to the problem of names when three characters are share one, but the presentation here is very much a weak point.  Beyond that, the slightly telly and thesaurus-padded prose isn't by any means the worst of offenders in either of those issues, but it does make the narrative style an ill fit for the more action-oriented scenes, and it does tend to obscure the humor of the piece by messing up the timing and interrupting the flow of dialogue.

I'll give the story full credit for originality, even as large elements of its characterization are borrowed, both from multiple past Doctors, and from common fandom of the time (hope you like your Ditzy of the "super-mom with aphasia" variety, as both character traits are played hard).  When everypony gets to unraveling the mystery of Violet Springs, there are some familiar faces from both shows (well, I suppose the Smooze doesn't have a face to be familiar with, but you know what I mean).  And the presentation of all the ponies without fandom personalities tends to be wildly original, in a good way--Sparkler's backstory was especially interesting, even if I found her stilted speech annoying to read.

The story is at its best when its mains are confronting the supernatural, or when Dinky is being cute/impassioned.  I think the draws of both are self-evident, but the monster/action scenes and the bits that have a heavy focus on Dinky play to Paleo Prints' strengths as a writer: coming up with powerful word-cudgels with which to bap the reader.  When the story turns to, for example, the Doctors' comedic playing-off of one another, the story tends to feel less effective; without a place to direct powerful narration, a bunch of overwordy vagaries are often substituted.  That said, this story does capture the overwhelming earnestness of both the better Who and FiM episodes at regular intervals (again, especially when Dinky is involved, though even the Doctor's angst about having a mortal family comes through in a highly dramatic but impressively sincere way).

Star rating:

I found I didn't terribly enjoy most of this story, but that it's high points were enough to get me through the long wanderings in between.  It's not a subtle fic, but when it drops an emotional appeal, there's a naked ardency which I found endearing.

Recommendation:  Fans of Doctor Who, particularly those looking for something with the tone of the show (the new one, anyway; I know basically nothing about the old one) but not necessarily representing itself as part of that continuity, should give this a look.  Readers who are put off by confusing or overwritten prose will probably want to pass, though.

Next time:  The Trouble With Genealogy, by Arroz


  1. "Supermom with aphasia" is maybe the best Derpy of all time.

  2. Darn, I'd have guessed three stars from the preponderance of praise you give. Only the third paragraph seems especially critical, though there are sprinklings of criticism in the more positive paragraphs. That said, you did say you had to wait for the good stuff, so I'm guessing it's mostly that.

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