Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns’ Royal High Tea is taking place, and is the biggest chance for the parents of students to meet up with Princess Celestia as well as their teachers. Celestia is a bit unhappy as she soon notices the oldest teacher, Professor Inkwell, is getting older and a bit senile, and all of the students and other teachers mock her behind her back. Things really get bad when a mishap in the student area causes all the food to come to life, and Inkwell, to deal with it, brings a rabbit sculpture to life to eat all of the offending food ravenously, creating an even bigger mess and frightening numerous students. Floribunda, the head of the Pony-Teacher Committee, declares her a nuisance and danger to students and says she’s pulling her own student from school until she’s removed, and numerous other parents agree with her. This, in turn, gets the other teachers upset that their own jobs are being put in jeopardy to defend a single teacher who “needs to retire”. Celestia is torn, as years ago Inkwell was a powerful, skilled, and respected unicorn who was the first to rally to her during an attempted Canterlot invasion and helped repel the attackers, losing one of her eyes in the process. She ends up holding a Pony-Teacher Committee to have a hearing regarding removing her from school in which Floribunda and numerous other parents attend. At the hearing, she holds a competency test for Inkwell, presenting her with an “ugly, disgusting frog” and telling her to successfully cast a spell to turn it into a beautiful, less-disgusting frog. Inkwell looks at the frog a long time before refusing; saying the frog is fine just the way it is. On hearing this, Floribunda remembers how when she was a filly and was too embarrassed to have her picture taken for class due to wearing braces, Inkwell encouraged her and made her feel better about her image. The other alumni parents further reveal how as a result of Inkwell building their self-confidence when they were younger they became the ponies they are today. Nevertheless, Celestia states as no spell had been cast, Inkwell failed the test, and nearly decrees her to be removed, but Floribunda and the parents stop her, withdrawing their petition to have her removed on realizing how important she was to them, and her fellow teachers realizing how wrong it was to mock her behind her back. Later that night, Celestia checks on Inkwell in her office, thinking she’s lost her own confidence, but finds she merely fell asleep inside it. She covers her up and tells her to rest well, for tomorrow is a new class day.
I’m not sure if you can technically say this is all about Princess Celestia, but it’s definitely her at her most positive. This is definitely the best arc of the Micro-Series.
A theme that really has only got touched on once during the series in Season Two’s “Family Appreciation Day” was the opinion of younger generations toward the elderly ones. A bit sad, because that’s an important theme in modern society that few people think about. The fact of the matter is people are getting older and we have more elderly now than we used to, so how we deal with older folks as they may grow more senile and less able than they used to be is important.
Another aspect that hasn’t been explored is the effects of “adult peer pressure” and “school politics”. The fact is society may be run and dictated by certain individuals, but those individuals need to rally others to their cause to have any sway. It’s also a fact that rather than using such organizations and factions to benefit everyone, often they get used to enforce one’s own wishes. And yes, a matter of personal like and dislike, sadly, has influenced many a choice in a school, government, or any other organization simply because an individual commanded enough political power to let their own opinions have sway. We complain about it all the time in examples as obvious as the federal government or the state government, but it has sway over smaller scales as well. It may make for subject matter that’s a bit too advanced for kids…but not really. Children are used as pawns in these little wars from very young ages, for better or for worse. They’re already part of a “system” before they’re even old enough to recognize it. So perhaps it’s not such a bad thing for an arc like this to be read to the Y-rated crowd so they can recognize it now.
The story itself is great. As in other arcs, it gets so close to being “mature” that it almost loses the element of MLP:FIM in it. Especially considering how “adult” and “complete” all of the various OCs are in this one. With the exception of Princess Celestia, every last character in this arc is original, making this whole thing feel like fanfiction more than ever…but VERY good fanfiction. The flashback was great and really made you feel for Inkwell’s character. And to actually have a character lose an eye? True, Hoofbeard was missing a hoof in one of the comic arcs, but to show how she actually lost her own eye was rather heavy…and very endearing.
But most of all came the moral. In reality, Princess Celestia was the best character to tell this kind of story. The thing about the elderly generation and, sadly, the thing about people in general is we see people only as we’ve always known them or remember them and we dismiss them as the “snapshot” we see in our minds. That’s all they are to us. And if they’re troublesome or bothersome, they cease to even be snapshots of individuals and become more nuisances. As said in that one Twilight Zone episode, people who are difficult become “obsolete”. Figures that we wish would just pass on or fade away. But Celestia, being (nearly) immortal…she has the advantage of knowing people from the cradle to the grave and barely aging alongside them. She would have the best perspective that one could hope for externally of the “measure of a man/pony”.
And the moral does provide quite a challenge to the reader. The story never presents the tale that Inkwell is still a viable teacher. She’s clearly past her prime. The school would likely be better off replacing her with someone more competent and less senile. And yet…it asks us even if Inkwell can no longer provide a “useful service to society”, does that mean she’s worthless to us as a person? Is a person who can no longer give anything of consequence to us something worthy of being thrown away like a broken tool or a garbage wrapper? Or is any detriment or harder work they mean for us something of value because they were so important and special to us when they still had all of their faculties? That they’re worth keeping as part of society out of respect and honor and pony(or human) dignity? Is it worth us, the “younger generation”, feeling a bit “inconvenienced” if we let people who were once great and did things important for us know we still value them? That’s something we all need to examine ourselves and answer.
So, yes a fantastic arc. And even more fantastic was how Celestia handled it. Similar to the Season Two opener, she didn’t have to proclaim a decree or do anything special. Just “nudge” the Pony-Teacher Committee in the right direction.
If they had more episodes like this in the series and less with Celestia just giving Twilight her “mission for the day”, she might very well become as admired as she is by the bronies as she is by the citizens of Equestria.
The two teachers that features most prominently in this arc are OCs Ginger Snap and Giddilee (perhaps related to Ms. Cheerilee?).
The foals Inkwell is talking to at the start are pony versions of Huey, Dewey, and Louie, the nephews of “Uncle” Donald Duck from Disney.
When the High Tea begins, one of the teachers sitting at the main table looks like a pony version of Severus Snape from Harry Potter. A later panel also includes one that looks like Madame Trelawney from the same genre. Still another one shows a pony who looks like Minerva McGonagall, and a pony who looks like Donald Sutherland’s character in “Animal House”. When the food runs amok, filly versions of Harry, Ron, and Hermione are under one table.
The enemies attacking Canterlot in the flashback are never seen clearly seen. However, the first panel that gets into the flashback has a shadow being cast over the city “from a distance”. One way to look at it is to see it’s Celestia looking over the mural, but it could also be the shadow of King Sombra. Based on the nature of the attack, which resembles “Lord of the Rings”, it’s possible. Especially since Celestia’s comment “until they crawled into the shadows that formed them”.
Technically it isn’t…but the injury that took Inkwell’s eye is the closest we’ve ever seen to blood in the entire series.
One of the ponies that appeared to rally to Princess Celestia in the original flashback was the original Moondancer.
Inkwell’s chalkboard in the modern day has a drawing of Discord with the text: “Really a friend?” To be honest, she was spot-on about that. 😛
4 Stars out of 5