Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Series 18: Flatbeds of Fear

Episode 3 has come careering down the tracks, so here are my thoughts on Flatbeds of Fear!

I've read a lot of negative comments about this episode, and while I can understand some of them, I personally don't think this episode is that bad.

The main complaint I've seen is that it's an adaptation of sorts of Percy and the Monster of Brendam. And while I do agree, I don't see much of a problem with that. If they're re-using a concept that failed before and trying to improve it, wouldn't that be a good thing?

The second issue that some fans have had is with the repetitive, rhyming dialogue. Personally, I don't see the problem with it. Don't get me wrong, I can understand why it would annoy some people, but I'm not that bothered by it. Repetitive dialogue in situations such as this is meant to reassure those that may feel frightened, and rhyming is an excellent learning tool to make things more memorable. So as long as this is just a rarity this series, I have no qualms with it.

And then there's Henry's performance, which I understand is another issue that fans have with this episode. I don't get the issue here, either. Yeah, the role would have better suited Percy, but I personally think that could have been too predictable as well. Say what you want, but whatever age you are, an unusual sound will often make you feel uneasy. Fair enough, some of the sounds should have been recognisable, but with the fog and the weird sound, paranoia will start to kick in, meaning that anything you hear will sound creepy. That said, Henry automatically believing Thomas did feel... distracting.

But I'm not going to deny that this episode has its problems. First off, I highly doubt it would be so foggy for two days straight. If the whole episode had taken place throughout one day (act one in the morning, act two in the afternoon, act three in the evening and a fog free day), this would have worked a lot better.

Second, I find it highly unlikely that this would be the first time that anyone had delivered pipes on a windy, foggy day. I'm not saying that it wouldn't happen before now, but I do think that, considering how old Sodor is, it's rather unlikely. This makes the episode feel rather contrived.

Third is... well, a nitpick really. I can understand they rendered this shot to emphasise how fast Emily was going here, but still... unrealistic.

And the fourth one isn't really an issue, but more a point of confusion. This is going to sound really odd since I like the engine so much, but Stanley's a... strange choice to pull the "Flatbeds of Fear" in my opinion. He isn't really that old. That said, I can understand it in a way as well; had it been any other engine, like a member of the Steam Team, the scenario would've felt more contrived than it already is.

All that said, the animation here is top notch as usual. That fog effect was absolutely stunning; I'd go as far to say they were better than Nitrogen's. The angles were great and the facial expressions were really good, especially Salty's

The voice acting was really good, too. Henry's voice made his fear seem more believable than it would have been normally and Emily's was spot on, too. The stand out performer though was definitely Salty. His line delivery was fantastic! I really liked the music as well. The remix of Emily's series 8-12 theme was a nice little touch. It felt on par with the old version. And finally, the sound effect used for the wind blowing through the pipes was brilliant. It did actually make them feel spookier than the American version did.

Fan Reaction

Final Thoughts

As you can see, this episode was very mixed amongst the fanbase. I thought this episode was OK myself. The conflict was more believable than Percy and the Monster of Brendam, but it still wasn't perfect. The character interactions were still fun to watch while the animation and sound design were top notch. With a few tweaks to the story, it would have been the perfect way to fix the episode it adapted, but sadly, Paul and Laura's topsy-turvy record continues...

Episode Ratings
Old Reliable Edward: 9/10
Not So Slow Coaches: 7/10
Flatbeds of Fear: 6/10

Series Rating (so far)


  1. Personally, I didn't have a problem with Flatbeds Of Fear as it was better than Monster Of Brendam. However, they have the same basic storyline of Salty scaring the engines with a tall tale and causing "confusion and delay" because of it

  2. Henry in this episode to me now was 50/50, sure he may have behaved like a sissy coward, but on the other hand, I found it a good reference to the season 5 episode Haunted Henry.