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Webcomic / Recall the Time of No Return

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Recall the Time of No Return is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan comic by GashibokA.

The comic begins on Twilight Sparkle's first birthday after becoming an alicorn. Her friends come across Doctor Whooves and his assistant in their TARDIS, and decide to travel far into the future in order to surprise her. However, the future they find isn't as bright as their present, and the Twilight they knew and loved appears to be long gone..

It was completed in January of 2018, and can be read in its entirety here.

This fan comic provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: This appears to be the case with future Twilight Sparkle, who — now the Empress of all Equestria — rules it with iron hoof, enacting terror on its citizens and arbitrarily ordering them imprisoned or executed, all under pretense of fighting Crimson Changelings that may be still at large and hiding among ponies. Later subverted when it turns out that "Twilight" is actually Zygon leader Queen Brotonia in disguise, and our heroes don't meet the real Twilight Sparkle until the climax.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: Doctor insists that one thousand years is enough to turn even a good, righteous person such as Twilight Sparkle into cruel tyrant, daring Roseluck to name one thing which never changes in time. The latter retorts "Your name! You told me the meaning behind your name! Has the promise within the name 'Doctor' changed with the centuries?". This makes Doctor reconsider his view and assume that the one who they thought is future Twilight Sparkle might be an impostor after all.
  • Ax-Crazy: Queen Brotonia. She hides it most of the time while posing as Twilight Sparkle, but when the jig is up, she acts like a total maniac, unleashing stolen alicorn magic with sadistic glee and zero concern for collateral damage. Heck, even her impression of Twilight comes off as downright psychotic at times. She mocks Fluttershy's appeal to compassion as "disgusting", she smirks when announcing her intent to kill Gold Lily and all in all, she treats hurting and killing others like some sort of sick amusement.
  • Bad Boss: Apart from tormenting her subjects on daily basis, the Empress will gladly dispense cruel punishment to her minions for slightest transgression, like ordering brutal execution of a guard who failed to hold Fluttershy in place when she suddenly attacked fake Twilight and struck her in face.
  • Bad Future: Princesses Celestia and Luna are long dead, and Crystal Empire had been sealed away once more, taking Princess Cadance, Shining Armor and Flurry Heart with it. This leaves Twilight with sole reign over Equestria. However, outliving her friends has did a number on her psyche, effectively making her lose what made her as a pony over the centuries. And then the Crimson Changelings attacked...
  • Batman Gambit: Implied. After Spike makes his Rousing Speech inciting ponies to open rebellion upon discovering that Crimson Changeling impersonating Night Star was working for Twilight, the scene shifts to Twilight herself (or rather, Queen Brotonia posing as her) sipping white wine in her chambers and smiling ominously, indicating that she wanted this to happen and provoked Spike's reaction so that she can draw the resistance out and wipe them out in open battle. What she didn't expect, however, is that heroes will use the battle as a distraction, infiltrate her castle — now that it's almost empty — and free the real Twilight Sparkle.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Queen Brotonia is dead and the threat of the Crimson Changelings a.k.a. Zygons are gone from Equestria for good. On the flip side, Twilight Sparkle died defeating Queen Brotonia in their rematch and could only hold herself together for one last goodbye with the Mane Five, effectively fulfilling The Prophecy. The reigns of Equestria are handed down to Gold Lily and Sterling while Equestria rebuilds from the devastation wrought in the conflict. As for the cast from the present, they return to their time with their memories of the future wiped due to possessing knowledge of future events while celebrating Twilight's birthday as originally planned, with the Doctor and Roseluck being exceptions to the memory wipe.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Pinkie Pie's reaction to learning what her friend had apparently become. The death of her actual friend in question right in her arms just made it worse.
    • Fluttershy is traumatized when a guard standing right behind her is brutally killed by Iron Wolf on fake Twilight's order as "punishment" for letting go of her. The fact that she gets covered in his blood certainly doesn't help.
  • Cooldown Hug: Near the epilogue, when Mane Five finally reunite with the real future Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie acts in her usual, cheerful manner initially, but after a few moments, she suddenly leaps onto the bed and locks Twilight in a hug, crying. Although surprised at first, Twilight soon returns the hug, comforting her friend.
  • Crapsack World: Future Equestria was effectively turned into this under fake Twilight Sparkle's rule. Under the pretense of fighting against Crimson Changelings, many innocent ponies were mercilessly executed, and those who survive live in constant fear of their own lives.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Future Spike versus fake Twilight Sparkle. We don't get to see it, but the fact that the latter comes out of it completely unscathed and mocks her opponent by asking if that's the best he could do indicate that she defeated Spike quite easily.
  • Darker and Edgier: The comic takes place in future Equestria which turns out not to be a nice place to live in, and features explicit onscreen violence, bloodshed and character deaths.
  • Dead Guy on Display: After Queen Brotonia is defeated and killed, her corpse is tied to a pole in the middle of Ponyville — both to show everyone that she's been impersonating Twilight Sparkle for last seven years and that danger she and Zygons posed to Equestria is no more.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Rarity, upon seeing the future version of Spike.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: When cover of a Zygon impersonating Night Star is blown thanks to Pinkie Sense, Gold Lily remains skeptical about it and perorates that she is not going to suspect someone whom she knows for a long time just because of an accusation of a pony she just met... all while "Night Star" is transforming into its true Zygon form right behind her.
  • Everybody Cries: In the epilogue, Mane Five are all crying as future Twilight Sparkle is fading away right in front of their eyes. The only exception might be Applejack, who is covering her face with her hat.
  • Expy: Doctor Whooves for Doctor Who, of course.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Empress Twilight Sparkle (that is, Queen Brotonia) tries to be this. In general, she is composed and well-mannered most of the time, but her Dissonant Serenity when she has her subjects executed or tortured without a shred of remorse is a dead giveaway of how evil she really is. Also, she is outwardly nice to Rarity and Fluttershy when they are brought before her — ordering their release, offering them some R&R in her personal spa and inviting them to luxurious dinner — but her aloof and cold demeanor instantly tells that something is wrong with her. She drops the act entirely when it is revealed that she drugged the dishes served to her guests with sleeping pills.
  • Future Badass: Spike is a fully-grown badass in the future who is able to fight in both a humanoid and large dragon form. The real Empress Twilight is also this.
  • A Glass of Chianti: Fake Twilight Sparkle is shown sipping what appears to be a glass of white wine on two occasions (during dinner gone wrong and while scheming the downfall of the resistance).
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Empress Twilight, actually Queen Brotonia, is an absolute tyrant responsible for suffering all across her kingdom.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When fake Twilight Sparkle has her guard executed by Iron Wolf for a minor transgression, he is killed off-screen and we don't get to see his mangled corpse (safe for hooves) afterwards. However, that doesn't stop his blood from getting splattered all over the place. Including the body of shocked and horrified Fluttershy.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The real Twilight sacrifices herself to finally defeat Brotonia.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: In her dying words, Twilight apologizes to Spike and Gold Lily, claiming that she wasn't a good sister nor good teacher to them.
  • Hope Spot: In the epilogue, Twilight Sparkle supposedly survived her Taking You with Me attack on Queen Brotonia, with only the cost of her eyesight at first glance to the readers and protagonists. Then as the scene continues, Twilight proceeds to drop the bomb stating that she is actually dying after all and is using her remaining time to say goodbye to her family and friends before fading away.
  • Kick the Dog: Fake Twilight Sparkle, being a cruel tyrant, has a lot of those, but one example which arguably stands out the most is that she has one of her guards brutally and violently killed by an Iron Wolf — just because he accidentally let go of Fluttershy when she attacked Twilight in sudden fit of rage and struck her in face. She even twists the knife further by rubbing it in Fluttershy's face (now covered in hapless guard's blood) that it's supposedly her fault.
  • Kubrick Stare: Fake Twilight Sparkle gives it to Doctor and Co. after the latter reveals that she laced the dishes she served them with sleeping drugs.
  • La Résistance: Led by Spike and Gold Lily underground.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • When seeing a Crimson Changeling for the first time, Pinkie Pie says that she would've came up a better name for them, like "Zygon".
    • The Prophecy itself ("Twilight will not outlive her friends"), which is actually a quote from show's writer Meghan McCarthy, who wrote those exact words on Twitter in response to fandom's concerns that now that Twilight has became an alicorn (which are either immortal or just very, very long-lived), she will have to watch her friends grow old and die.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Iron Wolves — which were created by Empress Twilight and which can be described as what Timber Wolves would look like if they were made of metal instead of wood — are so tough and resilient that a buck from Applejack does no damage to them. At the same time, they are quick enough to dodge Rainbow Dash's divekick.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The Origin short comic reveals that Gold Lily and Sterling were actually artificially created by Twilight Sparkle, by combining the "essence" of her and late princesses Celestia and Luna. After failing to create an incubator capable of sustaining the embryos, Twilight decided to impregnate herself with them, making her Gold Lily's and Sterling's biological mother.
  • Modern Stasis: Although action of the comic takes place one thousand years in the future, it doesn't seem that Equestrian civilization has advanced in that time at all. Which is odd, given the fact that in the show itself, it is clearly indicated via multiple flashbacks that in previous one thousand years (since Luna's banishment), pony society visibly developed from primitive, medieval age level to much more modern one, roughly of XIX-XX century era.
  • The Mole: Night Star, one of resistance leaders, is captured off-screen and replaced with a Zygon double in order to infiltrate the rebel hideout.
  • Mythology Gag: When fake Twilight Sparkle orders her guards to take Doctor and Roseluck back to prison, Fluttershy jumps in front of them, raises her hoof and yells "WAIT!" just like she did in Elements of Harmony when she stopped her friends from attacking a manticore.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Future Spike vs. Empress Twilight Sparkle (impersonated by Queen Brotonia) battle. We only see the start of it (with Spike transforming into giant dragon form) and the end of it (with Spike already lying defeated under fake Twilight's hooves).
  • Oh, Crap!: Fake Twilight Sparkle drops her smug facade and seems genuinely startled when Spike turns into giant, draconic version of himself in order to fight her. Subverted in that she defeats him easily anyway.
  • Pinball Protagonist: The Mane Five (sans Twilight). Although they are essential to the plot, they do surprisingly little in this comic — nearly to the point of being Demoted to Extra — and their role is reduced to somewhat of a Living MacGuffin as a part of The Prophecy. The focus of the story is mainly on Doctor and Roseluck (and, to lesser extent, on Spike and Gold Lily). Meanwhile, Mane Five spend most of their time bouncing around them.
  • Prophecy Twist: How the prophecy "Twilight Sparkle will not outlive her friends" ended up being fulfilled: While she has Complete Immortality due to being an Alicorn, this doesn't mean that she can't be killed. After her Heroic Sacrifice, she manages to hold herself together long enough to say goodbye and deliver apologies to her friends and family. The line meant that she would die as the Princess of Friendship surrounded by her friends who came from the past.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Most of fake Twilight's guards and minions (safe for those who were already replaced by Zygons) come off as cruel and ruthless, but they are not actually evil and just follow their ruler out of loyalty and genuine belief that everything they are doing, they are doing for the greater good, i.e. ridding Equestria of Crimson Changeling threat. At times, even they are disturbed by her actions.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: When fake Twilight Sparkle gives Fluttershy an angry look after getting smacked in face by her, her eyes briefly flash red. Later, when her real identity as Queen Brotonia is revealed and she reverts back to her true form, her irises turn completely red and gain Hellish Pupils to boot.
  • Rousing Speech: Spike delivers one to ponies gathered in resistance hideout, shortly before launching an open rebellion.
  • Say My Name: When Empress reveals her intent to "remove" Gold Lily:
    Spike: But she's your star pupil!
    Queen Brotonia: [smiling] What does it matter?
    Spike: [transforming into giant dragon] TWILIGHT!!!
  • Shapeshifter Mashup: When real Twilight Sparkle is finally released, Queen Brotonia reverts back to her true form... except her head, which instead turns into rather grotesque parody of Twilight's face, complete with red eyes, slit-like pupils and deformed mouth.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of rebel ponies wears a white, hooded robe and uses retractable blades attached to her hooves as weapons. Sounds familiar?
    • Magical barrier conjured by Twilight in order to shield herself against Queen Brotonia's attack bears more than a passing resemblance to A.T. Field.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: When Fluttershy tries to remind Empress Twilight Sparkle (actually Queen Brotonia) what she used to stand for as the Princess of Friendship, she laughs it off, claiming that times have changed.
    Queen Brotonia: Don't expect me to sympathize with you and your pitiful sentimentality. It's disgusting.
  • Single Tear: Gold Lily sheds it in awe that the real Twilight Sparkle she knew and loved is finally back and about to make things right.
  • Slasher Smile: Fake Twilight Sparkle, when siccing one of her Iron Wolves on the heroes upon the discovery of her treachery. After she is exposed as Queen Brotonia, this is pretty much her default expression during first half of her battle against real Twilight. Made even more disturbing by her Glasgow Grin.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: When her actions are questioned by Rarity, Empress Twilight tries to justify them as a necessary evil and something that must be done in order to deal with Crimson Changelings, claiming that her subjects are just "pathetic idiots" who cannot understand that. Which is just another clue that this is not the real Twilight Sparkle.
  • Taking the Bullet: During final battle, Queen Brotonia fires an energy blast at Twilight's castle, powerful enough to destroy it along with entire surrounding city. So Twilight just flies in its path and takes its entire force on herself. It ends up nearly killing her.
  • Wham Line:
    • By Doctor Whooves in pages 214 and 215:
      Gold Lily: Even if you are right, I don't possess the power to open it. That's locked by Alicorn magic!
      Doctor Whooves: I know. That's exactly why I brought you here.
      [proceeds to take off Gold Lily's cloak]
      Doctor Whooves:'re an Alicorn.
    • By Twilight Sparkle in pages 216:
      Spike: Twilight! Where have you been?
      Twilight Sparkle: Somewhere far away. I had to find something.
      Spike: What were you looking for?
      Twilight Sparkle: Our new hope. [shows infant alicorns Gold Lily and Sterling]
    • By Gold Lily in page 246 regarding the external power source of Queen Brotonia:
      Gold Lily: It's receiving magic energy from somewhere.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Empress Twilight Sparkle is frequently called out on her actions by multiple characters, including Rarity (when Twilight refuses to let her and other Mane Five go back to their time and creeps Fluttershy out while insisting that they stay with her), Fluttershy (when Twilight has her friends imprisoned and openly mocks the idea of friendship) and Spike (when Twilight demands to pass Gold Lily over to her so she can kill her). It all falls on deaf ears, because that is not the real Twilight Sparkle.
    • Gold Lily delivers a harsh chewing out to Pinkie Pie when she understandably questions the idea of killing Twilight and claims there must be some good left in her. Gold Lily retorts that they've all been fruitlessly waiting for Twilight to snap out of it for last seven years and proceeds to count how many innocent ponies were killed in that time. Needless to say, it drives Pinkie to tears.
  • The Worf Effect: Spike is now a Future Badass that can summon weapons to his hand with ease and take on a large dragon form that can decimate battalions of Iron Wolves to molten slag. Then Empress Twilight (actually Queen Brotonia in disguise), waltzes in to confront Spike and the next we see of the two is him being defeated offscreen.