Okay, before I get into the actual topic, I feel the need to address something:
Cider and Alcohol
Applejack in and of itself is an alcoholic drink. It’s made by taking already alcoholic cider and ‘freeze distilling’ it. Barely freezing it and fishing out the ice. Since alcohol freezes at a much lower temperature than water, you’re effectively pulling the water out of the cider, and leaving the alcohol behind. This is called ‘jacking’ and takes a lot less effort than normal boiling distillation. This was very common up to the 18th century or so and is still done today though it is less common.
Calling non-alcoholic apple juice ‘cider’ is a very modern thing and is generally limited to the United States. Everywhere else cider is alcoholic. It isn’t necessarily very strong alcohol, mind you. Root beer and ginger ale were originally alcoholic as well, just very lightly alcoholic. You see, back in olden times drinking water wasn’t very common as you could get really sick from it. Most water sources had animals (and in some cases people), living in them, and if you drank that water, you’re also drinking their feces and whatnot. But alcohol kills the bad bacteria, so people got into the habit of creating lightly alcoholic beverages to drink. Small beer, watered wine, and the like. And everyone drank them, children included. It was only later (19th century onward) when the temperance movement kicked in that ‘soft’ non-alcoholic versions of drinks were marketed against the ‘hard’ alcoholic ones.
Cider is usually made from very specific cider apples, as general eating and baking apples have a different sugar profile. And due to the high sugar content, it’s easy and quick to ferment cider. You can create cider from normal apple juice in a couple of days. Just leave a jug of apple juice out in the sun in the summer for two days, and you’ll have hard cider. I did this by accident once. I went camping, and accidentally left a 2-liter bottle of apple juice in the bed of the truck over the weekend. You could’ve driven nails with the stuff, it was so hard.
And finally, apple juice doesn’t hold a head of foam. Cider, on the other hand, does. So, what the Apple family was serving to all those people? Alcohol. Probably not very strong alcohol (0.5-1.5% or so), but still. The time frame they were putting on creating cider from apples in the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000 episode was a bit compressed, but not really by that much and Pony magic might have made up the difference there.
Oh, and here’s something interesting: If pony digestion is anything like real-life equine digestion, it wouldn’t matter if it was alcoholic or not before they drank it. It was alcoholic when it hit their system. In order to pull nutrients out of grass and other stuff that humans can’t digest, equines have a fermentation-based digestion system. That’s why they go crazy over sugar-cubes and the like. Sugar gets almost instantaneously turned into alcohol in their system, and fruit is *full* of sugar. So if the ponies eat apples as a primary food source, they’ve probably slightly drunk all the time.
Okay, on the real reason I wanted to write up this essay. This is something I originally meant to work into a fanfiction (Doctor Whooves and the Spaniel Mane), but I got stuck in the plot itself and never finished it. I’m tired of looking at it, so I’m putting it here instead.
There is always an Applejack in MLP. Due to the way Hasbro kept track of its trademark toy names, when FiM premiered, most of the pony names were pulled from G3 instead of G1. Lauren Faust had wanted G1 names and appearances, but Hasbro had temporarily lost most of those trademarks (it has since reclaimed a lot of them). There were only two that they hadn’t lost: Spike, and Applejack. Mainly because they had also used them in G3 and had gone through the effort to maintain the trademarks on them.
Unlike the rest of the Mane 6, G4 Applejack’s color palette doesn’t match the G3 incarnation. Instead she has mostly G1’s colors. Big Mac actually looks more like G3 Applejack, coloration-wise. G1.5 is my own classification for the ‘My Little Pony Tales’ cartoon, so it doesn’t count as officially that was still G1. G3.5 was just G3 with a different art-style and a much, much smaller cast of characters, so it would be easy enough to just update the artstyle on the G3 Applejack and call it good. G2 is the hardest. There was a G2 pony that resembles Applejack in coloration, Bright Bramley (Bramley is an English cooking apple), but she is technically a different character. G2 was odd as I don’t think it had any characters in common with the other generations, but I might be mistaken. In which case, Bright Bramley might very well be G2’s Applejack, just under a different name.
With the ‘leaked’ G5 material, it seems like Applejack will be in that generation as well. So, with some stretch, it’s possible to say there is always an Applejack in My Little Pony. The various Applejacks are wildly different in characterization, but there they are.
So from a worldbuilding perspective, why? Why Applejack, of all ponies? It’s somewhat of an unusual name for a pony in children’s media (see the first half of the essay as to what Applejack means), so she stands out, even when she’s just in the background. Something wants there to be an Applejack.
Which, in my fanfiction story, was the premise. The Doctor traveled back a century or two, and found himself on the deck of Captain Applejack, fierce pirate queen of the Spaniel Mane. Who was being investigated by Jack Russell, a diamond dog time agent from the far future (yes, Captain Jack Harkness as a dog, sue me. I’m nothing if not derivative. That plus the joke 'Jack Russell, Terrier of the Seven Seas' just had to get into it somewhere. ), masquerading as her second mate. And the two must join forces to find out why Applejack is a fixed point across all time, and why this incarnation of Applejack may break that chain and endanger time itself.
Which is were I got stuck, of course, because none of the ideas I had as to *why* there was always an Applejack were very compelling for a narrative. There was something that each Applejack had to do in their own time-zones, that they had to independently arrive at, that lined up across time (sorta a morally good version of the City of Death serial from the 1979 run of Doctor Who). At precisely the same ‘time’ in each generation, every Applejack would do this thing, and time itself would be kept stable. But that could be anything, really. There was no narrative push for any one action that I could figure out, and even then, it wouldn’t make sense without seeing all the *other* Applejacks in their own timelines doing the same thing. And the story just bogged down into minutiae.
The real answer was the people in Hasbro responsible for tracking toy names just like the name ‘Applejack’ and likely has no idea what the word really means, the same way that Kellogg’s renamed ‘Apple O’s’ to ‘Apple Jacks’ in 1971. It has no relevance to anything, they just wanted a name that had something to do with apples, and probably thought it was connected with the old knucklebones game that is often called jacks in North America.