Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Classic episode review: "The Ticket Master" (S1E03)

Fluttershy cuddles Angel while Twilight looks on
Gratuitous Fluttercuteness ahoy!
Apologies for the month-long break since my last classic episode review; unfortunately life got in the way. It does that. Anyway, today we're taking a look at what might be considered something of a transitional episode. This is the first episode that is part of the regular series, rather than being a pilot... but it's also the last episode to have Lauren Faust getting a writer's credit. In this case, she shares that honour with Amy Keating Rogers, who would go on to write many more. After the jump we'll consider how well it turned out.

To be honest, the answer is "not very". This is an episode which does not generally score very highly when S1 rankings are being compiled, and I follow the crowd in that respect. Co-written by the woman without whom we wouldn't have a show (or a fandom) it may be, but I'm afraid it's nowhere near the standard of many of its seasonal fellows. Actually, let's be even blunter about this: "The Ticket Master" is actually boring at times, and has a huge problem with its setup.
Celestia in Rarity's daydream
"Looks like I turned the Sun's brightness up a bit high"
I'll address the latter point first, since it's the single biggest drawback to the episode: why in the wide, wide world of Equestria does Princess Celestia (in Trollestia mode, it would seem) send Twilight only two Gala tickets in the first place? She saw for herself at the end of the previous episode that Twi had made friends with five Ponyvillians, so why not send six tickets ("and one for you, Spike") in the first place and save everyone the trouble? It's a horribly artificial setup and one of the times the series still feels immature.

The impression of things not having settled down quite yet is exacerbated by the final scene: how, exactly, are the likes of Applejack and Rainbow levitating their tickets? There are other examples too, such as Fluttershy's out-of-character ranting at Twilight when she and the others are arguing over who should get the spare ticket. Despite some useful scene-setting (the AJ v RD hoof-wrestle) most fans say that they weren't properly hooked until later in the season, and that isn't really all that surprising.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash hoof-wrestle
"Hey, AJ! Your hat is about to fall off!"
As for the boredom factor... perhaps the writers were constrained somewhat by still having to include all the Mane Six in significant roles; it's certainly possible to write a great ensemble piece (witness "The Cutie Mark Chronicles") but it does cut off the possibility of giving a subset of the group a greater chance to shine. The episode feels very predictable, in a "then this, then that" sort of way, and while there are some nice scenes (eg Twilight at the restaurant) there aren't enough.

That's not to say that this episode is devoid of interest; far from it. Some people find the Benny Hill parody chase scene a bit silly, and so it is — but it's still a lot of fun! Pinkie Pie also gives us an early demonstration of her eldritch powers when her reflection (only) remains in the fairground mirror. Her two little songs are nothing special, but they're not too annoying. Also, we get to hear Fluttershy sing, and no episode which gives us that can ever be truly without merit.

The aftermath of Twilight's emergency teleportation
Aren't dragons supposed to be fireproof?
On the whole, though, "The Ticket Master" is a rather forgettable entry in the first season, and it's not an episode I tend to go back and watch except when I'm doing pieces like this one. It would have been a severe disappointment had it appeared later on in MLP:FiM's run, but it can perhaps be forgiven some of its faults given that the show is not yet fully formed. That said, the story that follows is much superior, so being an early episode can't excuse all the flaws.

  • Pinkie is as fun as ever
  • The Benny Hill chase scene
  • Fluttershy sings!
  • A highly artificial plot setup
  • Too predictable
  • Inconsistencies in magic use
  • Doesn't hold the interest

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