Monday, 25 August 2014

Series 18: Old Reliable Edward

As Tale of the Brave plays in selected Vue Cinemas across the country, series 18 has finally made its début here in the UK as well! And to kick off, we have a brand new, never-before-seen episode!

Out of all the Steam Team members, only Edward and Toby didn't have a starring role in series 17. Personally, I didn't mind as I'd rather see an episode tailor made to them rather than give them a role that could have suited other engines. Like this one, for example.

This is probably the best Edward episode since Edward, the Very Useful Engine, and definitely my favourite series opener up to this point. It actually feels like a more... complete re-telling of Edward and Gordon; rather than leaving us to guess what happens after Edward's polished. We're shown that Edward gets his own back, and Gordon's inconsiderate nature comes back to bite him.

When I originally saw that Gordon would mistake red trousers for a danger flag, I wasn't too keen on the idea; Gordon's may be arrogant, but he's not stupid enough to believe that red trousers could be a danger flag. But the animators disguised them so well, that it actually is believable. And it's also really funny.

That's another thing this episode nails: the humour. It's not laugh out loud funny throughout, but there are a few jokes scattered around that got a chuckle out of me, especially the conversation at the end. I don't think that even was a joke, it's just acted out so well that it's quite funny. Kudos to Keith Wickham for another fine performance!

And then we come to Thomas' appearance. I love it. It didn't feel shoehorned in and I could understand it. Plus, it's always nice to see the two oldest Sodor residents (yeah, there are older engines, but Thomas and Edward were the first two engines on the railway) work together to get payback on Gordon. Why doesn't it feel shoehorned? Because Thomas has had issues with Gordon before.

I really like the trick as well. Yes, it breaks railway regulations, and that's my only real issue with it. But from a narrative standpoint, I don't care. It gives a legitimate reason for Gordon to need Edward's help again and it resolves the conflict extremely well. And I love the early morning ambience. Arc must really like that time of day, as they rendered a lot of shots at dusk and dawn during series 17. Not that I'm complaining; anything to make scenes look more beautiful is fine by me! And it feels like the passage of time flows more naturally.

Oh yeah, and the length of Gordon's express makes his situation more believable, and the train more realistic as well. Yeah, real life expresses have between 8 and 12 coaches, but a 6 coach express is better than one with 2 or 3.  This is what the CGI series is capable of, and I'm glad that Arc's animators and the producers have realised this a lot sooner than the previous team did. Although the "wrong roading" is still a slight issue (nitpick).

As for the animation itself, it's fantastic. The angles are brilliant, the facial expressions are really funny at times and the new Knapford is looking so much better! The addition of points and an overhead signal gantry makes the station look more realistic and feel like.... well, a proper main station. For his directorial début, David Stoten (who, I must add, is British!) did a cracking job, and I'm looking forward to how he does in the future!

The voice actors did a bang up job, too. Say what you want about Sharon Miller as a writer, but she's a fantastic voice director. Couple that with the music and you have, overall, a brilliant episode.

Fan Reaction

Final Thoughts

I used this term for Thomas' Shortcut and I'm using it for this episode too: it's a modern classic. The conflict was great, the resolution was really funny and the characters all played off each other brilliantly. Also, I love the reference to Edward's Branch Line and the fact he's a mixed traffic engine and a banker. I never thought I'd hear that term on the show! If the other episodes are as good as this one, I'm really looking forward to what series 18 can offer!

Episode Ratings
Old Reliable Edward: 9/10

Series Rating (so far)


  1. Another great review!
    So are these reviews coming every day with each new episode then? Or like Season 17, in bunches of four or five?

    1. They're now being reviewed as they air, solely to make it easier for me, considering series 17's air dates were scattered throughout the year.

    2. That's great! Gives us something else to look forward to every day besides the episodes.
      Can I also ask where you find the screencaps of the episodes? They don't even seem to have the channel watermark on them...

    3. They're all uploaded by Channel 5 soon after they air

  2. I'm beginning to grow both sick and tired of Thomas being in almost every single episode of the show.

    1. "Beginning to grow sick and tired"? It's been an annoyance since series 8 and it's only a problem now?