Monday, 13 July 2015

Episode review: S5E13: "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?"

Spike rides Derpy into battle
If there's anything around here more epic than this, I want it caught and shot now
After last week's wonderful episode, most of us were on a high. This mood was punctured a bit by the mess Hasbro made of their hiatus announcement, but at least we had one more ep before the break. This one, with its Philip K. Dick title reference, was that dreaded thing: a multi-credited episode. Scott Sonneborn wrote it, from a story by Jayson Thiessen and Jim Miller. Still, these things have to come good sometimes, right? And this one, mirabile dictu, did just that.

It's no secret that I'm not as much of a rabid Luna fan as a large chunk of the fandom, but I have been warming to her over the last season or so. This episode starts with another Nightmare Moon transformation – or so it seems, until we discover that it was all a dream. Still, it gave the team an excuse to bring back Rainbow Power for a few moments. I still don't particularly like it – certainly not as much as the Elements of Harmony – but it's pretty harmless here, and putting it in a dream allows us to pretend it doesn't really count!

Then, after a little bit of lampshading of Spike's side-character status, we get into the proper stuff. The Tantabus [sic] is almost literally a nightmare made flesh, and it proves to be a very dangerous opponent indeed. By the time it grows strong later in the episode, there's a very real chance that it could turn Equestria into a "living nightmare". I like it when this happens – when we're reminded that the world of My Little Pony is a dangerous place, as it has been since G1 days.

Luna struggling to maintain her complex spell
Luna does a lot of serious magic in this episode
This is Luna's first central role since "Luna Eclipsed" (as opposed to those eps in which she helped the CMC), and personally I think it's a good deal better. Although there's a potential plothole – why didn't she tell the Mane Six that she created the Tantabus earlier? – it doesn't cause any real problems. It's interesting to find that Luna is still unable to forgive herself for what she did; I do think the writers missed a trick by not having the Mane Six explicitly state their forgiveness at the end.

Dream worlds are always a tempting prospect for cartoon creators, since they can use them to do things that don't fit into their normal universe. So it is here, with the ponies' nightmares starting out moderately odd (Rarity) and proceeding through mildly worrying (Fluttershy) to extremely disturbing (Rainbow), then back to fairly gentle (Twilight). As it turns out, though, it's Pinkie who actually sets up the major battle to come.

And once the shared dream is built (impressive stuff, Luna!), there is where things go completely... well, I could say completely "Slice of Life" and you'd know what I meant! "Best friends" LyraBon as a pushmi-pullyu (or CatDog if your cultural memory doesn't go back before the late 1990s), the very brief return of Flutterbat, walking lampposts and Berry Punch's head floating off as a balloon. We also get flying muffins and a gigantic Derpy, because why not?

Princess Big Mac, transformation complete
And to think, this episode wasn't even written by Larson...
Oh yes, and Princess Big Mac. Not being any sort of anime fan, I didn't realise quite how obvious the Sailor Moon parallel was until it was pointed out to me, but it's hilarious even so. I hope it's a one-off, but it's another little nod to the fandom, of that I'm sure. This isn't my favourite scene from this episode, though: that honour goes to the sight of Hero Spike riding Giant Derpy into the fray – don't forget, this is a real, serious fight, even though we're in a dream.

The ending, in which Luna confesses her guilt and explains that she created the Tantabus is really rather moving, and I was happy to see her find peace at the end. (I do wonder whether we might see that dream world again, though.) Luna gets some pretty good development here, and I don't think anyone could now complain that she was the forgotten princess. (Celestia, on the other hand...) For all its odd blend of seriousness and weirdness, this is a very nice ep.

One final thought: anyone who read the Nightmare Rarity arc in the IDW comics will probably be struck by this episode. Although there are enough differences that it's much more than simply an adaptation, I do wonder whether that comic story might have had some influence on the writers. It's worth remembering that the arc after that one was a truly hilarious story about... Big Mac. The more you know, as the cool kids said a few years ago.

Twilight directs books from the dream-created old library
Note that Twilight never actually looks at her old home
Best quote: Princess Big Macintosh: "*zap* *zap* Eeyup!"
(Because I'll never get the chance to write "Princess Big Macintosh" here again...)

  • Excellent character development for Luna
  • A proper "monster" that posed an immediate, serious threat
  • Well-realised Dream Ponyville, with the right amount of weirdness
  • Fluttershy riding Evil Giant Monster Angel into battle
  • Several hilarious touches and callbacks
  • The all-too-brief resurrection of the Golden Oak Library
  • Great background and incidental music
  • Never really explained why Spike was left out to start with
  • Pinkie, talking about her nightmare to Luna, came across as rather stupid
  • If you want to be really picky, it should be "Tantibus"
  • Where are my songs, people? Where are my songs?


  1. I'm actually looking forward to getting to this one. Which is saying a lot.

    1. If you never actually watch it, you can look forward to it forever and never have to be disappointed. That's always the problem with anticipation. :P

  2. I do agree; the concept of this episode sounds just like the Nightmare Rarity issue, in a good way though.

    I do wish Celestia would get her own episode though; she needs one!

    1. Completely with you on the Celestia thing!

    2. Yeah, she seems to be so underused; she did have some moments to shine in Journal of the Two Sisters though, and I did find out that she got her own chapter book, kinda like the Twilight and Pinkie Pie ones you reviewed.

  3. I really liked this one. Not as great as the ”Amending Fences” but very enjoyable episode indeed. Also good review Logan. :)

    What I really liked about this episode is that imo this episode undid Nightmare Rarity arc and that betrayal that was Nightmare Moon fiendship is magic comic. I know some people like Nightmare Rarity arc but I really didn’t like how Heather Nuhfer has handled Luna and Nightmare Moon in the comics. The whole thing that the Nightmare Forces are the reason for the whole Nightmare Moon thing and that Nightmare Moon is separated thing from Luna just doesn’t sit with me at all. It just cheapens Luna as a character a lot. Plus in those comics there are so many plot holes and continuity errors, it hurts my head.

    As for show staff referencing comics I highly doubt that because show staff has said that they are forbidden by Hasbro to read any IDW MLPFiM comics. If I recall correctly Big Jim tweeted that the show and the comics will stay separated. Imo some people were opened to the idea that show references comics and I personally liked that idea too but after the ”The Good, The Bad, and The Ponies” and ”Root Of The Problem” fiasco I think that we are not going to see any references to the comic except the Cook and Price OC cameo. And if I recall correctly that was done as a thank you to them for launching MLPFiM comic line.

    Sorry if this sounds too negative towards comics. There are stuff that I really like in the comics but Heather Nuhfers Luna and Nightmare Moon stuff is just so bad imo.

    1. Yeah, I was saying similar when the comic came out. It was like the comics took all the sad-Luna stuff and concentrated it into an overdose of infantilisation – as if they were trying to excuse Luna with one hand ("It was the nightmare!") and assassinate her character with the other ("I have no character traits except being pathetic!").

      What a mess.

    2. show staff has said that they are forbidden by Hasbro to read any IDW MLPFiM comics.

      That seems very strange -- can you point me at a source? I really don't see why Hasbro would forbid staff to read officially licensed comics like these. I know the show writers can't read fanfics, but that's totally different.

    3. Actually I don't remember where I saw that. But now that you asked that I started to do some digging.

      In twitter Big Jim said that:" I still need to read them" in one conversation so I guess they are allowed to do that. I still have the feeling that they were not allowed to read them and read about it some where. But I am sure that Big Jim tweeted: " Rest assured that the comics and show will remain separate". Here:

      But yeah comics are basically b-cannon. if the b-cannon stories collide with the show, the show wins and this was imo the chase with this episode and with the Nightmare Rarity arc/Nightmare Moon fiendship comic.

      Sorry is this caused some confusion? I must have remembered it wrong. Have to ask this on twitter, hopefully I get an answer. :)

    4. Ah, that makes more sense to me. Thank you for replying! :)

    5. I agree about the thing with the comics and show being separate canons; that's how I see them.

      I thought Katie Cook wrote the Nightmare Rarity arc, but it looks like I was wrong. That arc looks good to me though (I haven't read it yet though).

    6. Great news! Jim replied to my tweet. I asked him:” Just wanted to ask that, are mlpfim show staff members allowed to read IDW mlpfim comics?” He answered:” As far as I know”.

      So show staff is allowed to read mlpfim comics if they so choose but they are not allowed to reference them in the show because like Jim tweeted sometime ago: Rest assured that the comics and show will remain separate".

      And now we know. :D

    7. Having now watched the episode, I don't think it is all that much like the Nightmare Rarity arc, if even similar at all.

      For starters, 'The Nightmare' didn't detract from Luna's choices by its mere existence. This was the part of the NR plot that annoyed me as it undermined the power of the very concept it was based on.

      Secondly, the personality of Luna is pretty much the opposite here. In the comic she is almost paralysed with self-doubt, but in the episode she shows a great deal of agency and force of will, believing that she can fix the problem herself.

      The episode is consistent with the characterization and circumstances the show has previously espoused, whereas the comic kinda threw that out and made up something new.

      I like the episode much more, but it suffered for squashing something fairly profound into a questionably-paced 22 minute episode.

    8. The Nightmare Rarity arc isn't bad, but usually the shows are better than the comics.

  4. Yep, finally putting to rest "the Nightmare did it" excuse, is a great thing. It gives Luna so much more depth of character! I liked this episode a lot.