Act 5 Act 2, Part 26 of 32
Doc Scratch Intermission, Part 1 of 6
Pages 3763-3832 (MSPA: 5663-5732)
NOTE: For once I managed to release a post ahead of schedule! God damn am I proud. I will leave for vacation June 9, so you should expect about three more posts before then.
Where we left off, Homestuck Disc 2 was taken to Doc Scratch for repair. Now, Doc Scratch takes over the narration for the second time, and helpfully changes the color scheme of the website so that his white text is easier to read. I think the color scheme change does a really nice job at changing the atmosphere of the site to a very different mood for Scratch’s section of the act.
The first thing Scratch does is take a look at the disc. He says about it:
She really did a number on it, didn’t she? It’s virtually unplayable like this.
What a shame. There are many moments trapped on this disc which you would have no doubt found to be quite exhilarating.
Here, Doc Scratch says that readers would definitely love to see more of the disc, rather than his narration, but despite acknowledging that fact, he starts to tell the story in his own condescending style.
Also, how exactly did the disc last seen in Terezi’s sylladex come into Scratch’s possession? Probably it just went there through meta narrative forces. But really, that’s actually a good question. I don’t know if there was ever an explanation to that or what. Maybe I’ll see how it got there, I have no idea.
But yes, I can fix it.
It will take time, though. I estimate, by which I mean I am certain by way of omniscience, that when I am done we will have reached just shy of the green circle on the card above. I’m sure you have already presumed this mark represents the beginning of Act 6.
Even though the story ends up going vastly different from how Scratch suggests it will—specifically, it’s way more than just him narrating how it goes—the statements above are still completely true in retrospect. The only questionable part is, when he says “when I am done”, does he mean done with his section of the story or done repairing the disc? Because if it’s the latter, Hussie’s self-insert later finds out that the disc has already been repaired for a while now if I remember right. Still, what he says above ends up being more or less true.
The disc should be ready to run in time to witness the Critical Event, a confluence of thickly interwoven, aconcurrent circumstances which have been meticulously arranged by myself, influenced to a much lesser extent by you, and by an even more negligible degree, our heroes.
Here’s Scratch being a smug bastard again. He says that he has by far the greatest influence on the progression of the story. He also references the old days when readers were allowed to submit commands, claiming that the readers had very little influence on the story. Despite that, even after user-submitted commands were phased out, readers still influenced the comic quite a bit, with fan theories and memes referenced later on, not to mention references to the general behavior of fans of the comic (Calliope) or haters of the comic (Caliborn).
The last part of the sentence, our heroes having an even more negligible influence on the fate of reality, implies that in Doc Scratch’s view, he—and more importantly, Lord English by extension—holds command over all but a small fraction of predestination. This further implies that he considers free will to exist in Homestuck, but only to a trivial extent.
If you don’t mind waiting here while I complete my repairs, I will tell the rest of the story. I will show you as well, as I recover data from the disc. But the visuals I supply will be nothing more than abbreviated snapshots, and my telling will be abridged.
Here’s something that for some reason I missed and never took a moment to think about. As said above, the images from the sections of the comic Doc Scratch narrates narrates were taken as data from the disc.
We then pick up the comic right where we left off: with Terezi about to flip her coin, but narrated by Scratch. This makes for a really interesting change of pace which I suspect is done partly out of media experimentation for the hell of it. Even if it may make the comic feel a bit jumpy, that is a completely OK thing to do given that Hussie said Homestuck is meant largely as an experimental work.
It’s so weird seeing this image un-glitched.
Turns out that the coin landed on the scratched side. Here’s what Doc Scratch says about this:
The Thief used her abilities to steal the fortune of her opponent, and forced the flip to yield what she regarded as the most favorable outcome. The Seer anticipated this move, correctly.
The Seer relayed her terms through the generally understood argot of an assassin. The result “go,” while at face value would suggest the Thief was allowed to leave, was actually the Seer’s code word for the threat of death. This was obvious to everyone, including the Thief.
Terezi’s trickery is back in action. This time around, she fooled Vriska into choosing the option that would get her killed. Well, not entirely; he says that she knew Terezi implied that option meant killing her. Scratch continues to explain that Vriska herself challenged Terezi to go through with killing her, and shows us that she failed to do so. This isn’t exactly true, but for now that’s what we’re led to believe.
This part, and some pages later on, turn out to be a mind vision. I’m noting this because there’s other sequences that have a similar thing going on, but instead of turning out to be a mind vision they turn out to be a doomed timeline or a dream bubble scene.
To continue the story, however, Scratch says that we need to switch perspectives to Rose, who is the other seer and the other hero of light. As is revealed later, this is done so we can be shown two matching events together, namely Rose fighting Jack and Vriska fighting Jack.
In this picture above, Rose’s grimdark aura, which seemed big and mighty before, pales in comparison to the big weird, uh… white tube network thing? surrounding Skaia. This visual comparison is very much in line with Scratch’s tendency to portray our heroes as foolish little youngsters.
As shown in this zoomed-in picture, John, a god tier player, drilled a big hole into Skaia, but Rose made much bigger damage in the lower left corner of the picture through dark magic alone.
Note that the “STRIFE” in this picture is in a very different font from the bulky monospace font that’s typically used at times like this. I think that may be done to match with the different style of the Doc Scratch intermission.
Here we get our action scene of Rose fighting Jack. As I said a few posts ago, Hussie wasn’t certain at first whether or not to make the heroes of light fighting Jack into a flash. He goes into detail about the pros and cons of doing a flash vs. doing it with narration on his archived Formspring here.
Let’s Read Homestuck adapts the scene of Rose fighting Jack, as well as Vriska fighting Jack, almost as if it is a flash animation. Rose vs. Jack is especially noteworthy because in the video adaptation it is accompanied with the continuation of At the Price of Oblivion, the song that was used in the flash following [S] Seer: Descend.
Here we left our human Hero of Light.
She flew away to take vengeance on the Noir this side of The Scratch. That is, the one less angry and dangerous. The one not yet unmotivated by a compelling duel.
“The Noir this side of The Scratch” is a pretty suspicious phrase. Early in Act 5 Act 2, we thought the Scratch was used to banish Jack to the trolls’ session. Here, we are reminded of that repeatedly stated claim from long ago, but with the knowledge that the Scratch resets the game entirely. This suggests that while it’s still true that the Scratch forced Jack to escape the kids’ session, he escaped in a different way from what we were originally led to believe.
Compelling, but not particularly challenging.
The Seer wouldn’t win this duel.
My apologies if this spoils the outcome for you. I can’t speak as discreetly about such matters against this canvas.
I’m not sure what to make of Doc Scratch spoiling the outcome of the fight ahead of time, though I can definitely say it fits with Scratch’s massive overhaul to the narration’s style.
In these pictures above, we see new previously unseen uses of both Rose’s and Jack’s powers. I think this extended fight scene is mostly there for the sake of fanservice, but the good kind of fanservice, the same kind we get a lot of in [S] Collide.
I warned my neophyte protege not to stare into that ball.
I told her about stares.
Except you didn’t warn her about staring into the ball, pretty much the opposite! This is kind of a clever but somewhat forced pun.
I’ll remind you that the pacing of my account will be characterized by a reduction in granularity from what you have come to expect by way of an undamaged disc. You will imagine the remainder of the duel to be sensational, and I will continue my steady distribution of facts as if they were pieces of candy, poured from a bottomless white hemisphere.
The duel ends. The Seer dies. The Slayer departs. The Heir comes back to life.
I think this passage above implicitly references how Hussie decided against presenting the heroes of light fighting Jack as a flash. It may be annoying to some readers that he bluntly tells us these facts as if you shouldn’t be surprised by them.
This outcome was hardly a point of suspense.
It would be disingenuous of me to present it as such, and I will not belittle your intelligence with such a tawdry narrative ploy. It would be rude, and I am too well dressed for that kind of behavior.
In fairness, as Doc Scratch says, the fate of Rose’s duel with Jack isn’t all that much of a surprise, nor is John coming back to life. He is basically saying, “All this was obviously going to happen, so why would I dramatize it as if it’s some kind of huge twist?” Act 7’s material actually is predictable events dramatized as if they’re surprising twists, but that’s a whole different thing entirely. For now let’s forget that the current ending of the comic forgets all its narrative principles that make it what it is and go on.
Another thing Scratch says about predictable turns of events in the story is:
And for that matter, what sort of story would this be, with our human Hero of Breath made to stay a cadaver? Definitely not one the alpha timeline would allow.
This line seems to me like lampshading how the protagonist obviously isn’t going to stay dead forever, and how dead people coming back to life is not at all surprising in this story. He’s more or less telling us, “And also, of course John was going to come back to life, what did you expect?”
And what sort of spectator would you be…
If you’d forgotten the terms ruling the conditional immortality he won with his previous, similarly unceremonious impaling?
(1) I wonder if some readers getting to this point feel bad because they did forget about the idea of heroic and just deaths Doc Scratch told Rose about. This is in contrast to Aradia essentially telling readers that it’s OK if they didn’t get the hint that she was a ghost all along.
(2) I think John’s first death actually was pretty ceremonious. He was killed on a fabled magical slab of rock that would dramatically resurrect him as a god tier. His second death, however, was indeed unceremonious.
As Doc Scratch explains why John’s death was neither heroic nor just, we flash forward to him on Dave’s land getting ready to scratch the session. Anachronic storytelling is back in action, as a little later we see him coming back to life onscreen and talking to Karkat. We see that he alchemized some cool stuff offscreen and took Rose’s needlekind specibus. It’s weird seeing the return of the game mechanic stuff that we haven’t dealt with in a long time now, but it’s also a nice throwback. I think the needlekind specibus serves partly to remind us that Rose, who died in a dark form fighting Jack, is the same girl who fooled around with knitting needles so long ago.
When the Hero of Breath dies for good, it won’t be as a scoundrel.
Many readers take this line as foreshadowing that John will die for real, but it was never really fulfilled. I think it really mostly means that John is a truly good guy and cannot go down as a villain.
If I had served as his mentor directly, rather than as his mentor’s mentor’s mentor, he may have stood a fair chance of perpetrating something underhanded.
John’s “mentor” presumably refers to Vriska, while his “mentor’s mentor” is presumably Mindfang who was herself mentored by Doc Scratch as she alluded to in her journal. At least, that’s the most logical interpretation I can think of. I think this interpretation of Scratch referring to himself as John’s “mentor’s mentor’s mentor” makes it more clear that he was behind all the ancestor stuff that helped cause the trolls’ cycle of revenge which was necessary for launching the game.
Doc Scratch saying that John was mentored by Vriska rather than himself transitions us back to her story. He also steps away for a moment, saying the following:
I trust you won’t mind if I step away for a moment. I have important guests arriving very soon. If you need me, I’ll be up here, making sure everything is in order, which it already is, and keeping an eye, which I don’t have, on the clock, which I don’t need.
This is where we start getting some serious parallel storytelling: we follow the storyline of what’s going on in the main panels, and also what’s going on in Scratch’s apartment in the banner on the top of the page, which is what “up here” refers to in the part quoted above.
From here on out, I’ll comment on whatever banner images I feel like commenting on, just like I do with the panels and text. Right now I don’t have anything to say about Doc Scratch preparing candy for his guest.
Vriska approaches the trolls’ Skaia, which we surprisingly hadn’t seen before. Perhaps it makes sense that this stunning sight is saved for after we learn how frog breeding works.
Vriska’s duel with Jack takes place on the trolls’ frog platform. I think it’s a pretty fitting place for a grand fight to occur.
Meanwhile in the banner, we start with seeing some stuff we already saw when Doc Scratch first took the narration. This reveals something a bit odd: from Scratch’s perspective, the start of this section of the comic takes place before he previously took over the narration for a bit.
Unfortunately, Vriska left a trail behind from where the trolls were, and Jack starts following it, confirming that fighting him would be a very bad idea. I think the pixie trail Vriska left behind ties in with her role as a light player, with tendency to be easily visible.
Scratch goes on to explain how this is the point where he hosted the reader from an earlier point in time as a guest while also hosting the reader in the future, then he once again returns to where we were.
The two Heroes of Light had challenged the same Jack Noir, the one straddling The Scratch and about twenty hours of his own time, to a circumstantially simultaneous pair of duels.
This line is a hint at the kids’ precise timeline that I never previously knew of. The part about Jack having twenty hours between fighting Rose and fighting Vriska implies that Rose’s fight with Jack took place about ten hours before the session was scratched.
Circumstantial simultaneity is a concept more complex than its temporal analogue, and is valuable for examining the properties of paradox space. It is the agent responsible for the major cosmic event which pre-extinction Alternians came to refer to as The Great Undoing. The same concept rules the innumerable lesser events by which this critical moment shall be catalyzed, including the break, my employer’s arrival, the detonation of a very powerful bomb, and my own death. It is an abstraction weaving together the fortunes of otherwise perfectly disparate chronologies, such as those bound to a pair of distinct sessions. It’s not fully comprehensible to a mortal mind, and the length I will go to explain it to you will not extend beyond this sentence.
If you read between the lines, Doc Scratch is mainly talking about the callbacks spread throughout the comic, and giving an in-universe explanation for them. I like how Hussie is making his technique of doing callbacks have a legitimate role within the story.
The Slayer was, for the moment, unmotivated by the Thief’s motion for a compelling duel. This side of The Scratch, he opted for a more ruthless and calculating policy of extermination. On his arrival, not about to repeat the mistakes leading to his banishment, he quickly obliterated all twelve planets, followed by Prospit and Derse, to weed out those who might outsmart him in the same manner.
Here’s that phrase again, “this side of The Scratch”. Once again, it’s a little suspicious to see this phrase when we now know that the Scratch resets the game. It also may invite worry if you consider where Jack might be able to go after leaving the kids’ session.
In the timeline we’re following here, Jack destroyed the trolls’ meteor and killed Karkat and Terezi, bringing them over to the frog platform as trophies. For now we really are tricked into thinking that this rather depressing turn of events is what really happened with the trolls. For Karkat it’s especially tragic because we last saw him afraid that he will die like so many of his friends did. At this point readers may wonder if this is a doomed timeline, because killing off two of the most loved trolls like this seems cruel even by Homestuck standards.
I just realized that three of Skaia’s forms are have models here: from left to right, the third form, the final form, and the second form.
Meanwhile in the banner, Slick is dumping flammable oil around Scratch’s apartment. Here’s another appearance of an item (in this case the oil container from WV’s command station) that somehow ended up here. Is this apartment some kind of place where objects from pretty much anywhere turn up?
This is where events begin to outpace my awareness. The deeper into this dark pocket we explore, the more I will be forced to speculate. I rarely have cause to rely on probability, but luckily for you, my guesses are better than anybody’s.
I think it’s pretty suspicious that from here on out, Scratch has to speculate on what happens with Vriska fighting Jack when he’s supposed to know everything that happened. This seems to me like an early hint that these events he is covering are not the alpha timeline. He also refers to the knowledge of what happens with Vriska fighting Jack as a “dark pocket”, which hints that this is an offshoot branch of the alpha timeline.
Scratch goes on to point out that Karkat and Terezi dying is a callback to that dream bubble sequence where we learned about his origin. And it has a very subtle but definitely existent visual callback: compare this image to this one and you’ll see that both have the exact same arrangement of blood and hair around Terezi’s glasses.
I have always believed that a good storyteller should keep a comprehensive record of past events on hand. A scrapbook of personal significance, for instance, from which he may piece together current moments from past ones of a similar, if not identical nature. It’s more efficient.
It’s also logical, since there is essentially nothing new in paradox space. Everything that can happen is either a visual or substantive reproduction of something which has already transpired on a timeline, offshoot or otherwise.
This is yet another bit that seems like Hussie speaking through a character. In this case he’s speaking through Doc Scratch about why he always does so many visual callbacks. The scrapbook seems to be a metaphor for Hussie’s inventory of past pictures that he can call back to later on, especially because the pictures in the scrapbook are in order of they’re shown in the comic as shown not only in the picture above, but also in these two pages.
And if I’m going speculate on this duel, I might as well make use of earlier clippings.
For the Slayer, this was round one against the Hero of Light.
All I really need to do is flip it turn-ways, like so, and we have..
OK, this is actually pretty funny. It seems like this is a parody of how Hussie loves reusing earlier pictures, and Scratch himself is now doing the same for the speculatory section of Vriska’s fight with Jack.
Alternian text above reads “ANCESTRAL AWAKENING”.
I think it’s really fitting how the apartment fire is shown alongside Vriska going through an extremely flashy transformation.
While this happens, Doc Scratch sets off the fire alarm and Matchsticks, number 11 of the Felt, appears with his fire extinguisher. This is a bit of a surprise because Matchsticks is one of the Felt members who was dead before the story started. Since his special ability may not be clear just from looking at the pictures, Hussie clarified on his Formspring that Matchsticks uses fire as a gateway to time travel, which explains how he got here when he was supposed to have been offed a long time ago. I really like how the Felt members we didn’t see in the intermission are revisited much later right here.
This panel calls back to Rose’s fight with Jack (specifically this page) in several ways. Not only are they swordfighting and blocking attacks in the same way; both reference the auto-parry defense method used in Problem Sleuth. While the panel with Rose I linked to has “OGLOPARRY” written at the bottom, this one has “AUTO-PIRATE” written at the bottom in Alternian text.
There’s Clover to the left of Matchsticks. Even though he was supposed to be dead, he’s so lucky that he somehow ended up alive regardless.
In the picture above, Vriska deals significant damage to Jack, making this a seriously challenging duel, way more so than Rose’s duel with Jack.
Believe it or not, it’s a fairly common complaint that the comic has very few good fight scenes.
I never really understood that complaint.
The fight cuts off right around here, with Vriska and Jack having about the same chance of winning the duel; Scratch says that even though Jack should have natural advantage being a first guardian, he wouldn’t bet against Vriska. I think the fate of this duel is left ambiguous because otherwise it would paint Vriska as either too much of a hero or too much of a failure.
While that stuff happens, Slick throws the burnt horse hitcher at Matchsticks and then beats him on the head with a crowbar as shown above. This is a great throwback to the intermission where Felt members would always get killed left and right.
And it turns out that yes, Vriska fighting Jack was indeed only a mind vision. At this point readers may deduce the following: the mind vision is definitely Terezi’s given the strong resemblance to the mind aspect symbol, and she must have envisioned the stuff that happened at least shortly before she died because otherwise it would make no sense. Scratch also said that after Terezi and Karkat are killed, he can mostly only speculate on what happens next, which further implies that all this was a mind vision; at least, all that happens after we see the outcome of the coin flip because the outcome was said to be constant through all timelines.
I’ve covered a good 70 pages, so I’ll stop here. See you next time as Vriska meets her fate in a jumbo-length post.