Thursday, 4 September 2014

Series 18: Thomas the Quarry Engine

The ninth episode of series 18 has aired, so here are my thoughts on Thomas the Quarry Engine!

After being absent for one episode and a short supporting role in another, Thomas returns to the main star position with Diesel and Mavis in tow. Thomas and Diesel have made some pretty good stories in the past, but can they do it again in the present?

Well, for the amount of time they're seen together, I'd say the chemistry is definitely still there. Their argument felt like classic Thomas the Tank Engine, especially when Diesel referred to diesels as "revolutionary" (it's rather ironic that one of the DVD extras this episode was featured on in the US had Mr Perkins read Pop Goes the Diesel). Although one thing bothered me: Thomas' branch line does have a diesel running on it: Daisy! I hope that this isn't a sign that she's been completely forgotten about... And while Diesel did refer to Thomas as a "steamie", I'll let it slide since it's the only utterance of the "word" so far this series.

I really liked the panning shot of the quarry at the start, and the fact it was recognised as "one of the oldest" is quite a nice touch. It's rather refreshing to hear about the age of locations rather than the characters.

And yes, I love Mavis' characterisation here, too. It's like no one can do any wrong with her. Even in the Sam Barlow era, she was the only character that had any real personality. I'm also really glad that she was given a large role here after being largely forgotten about in the last series.

I really enjoyed the transitions here, too. They felt a bit like The Switch's, only the ending came together much better; I think there could have been more to get out of Luke and Millie's scenario, but everything fit together perfectly well with the time frame they had to work with here.

I quite liked the Mavis and Diesel part of the story. It was a bit repetitive, but considering they're usually assigned to goods traffic, there isn't really too much you can do without it feeling a bit repetitive.

That being said, I did enjoy seeing the conflict between Mavis and Diesel grow, which made the slight repetitive nature bearable, in a similar way to Duck in the Water. It's really interesting seeing Diesel's devious side clash with Mavis' work ethic.

As for Thomas' scenario, I like that his impatience builds up throughout. Considering he has a branch line to run, it's understandable. Toby's appearance... confused me, though. Yes, I understand why he's there (again, nice Railway Series nod), but it's 11:15am. If he was taking them for lunch, it'd be more understandable, but not supper, which is usually after the evening meal. That's my only real issue, which is a shame considering Arc have been brilliant when portraying the passage of time in previous episodes.

And then there was the runaway scene, which felt a lot like Thomas and the Trucks, only here the brake van was incorporated to make the trucks' force feel even stronger. I really like that these little titbits are added, as it makes things feel more railway realistic.

The crash was pretty cool too. Although I'm not sure how Thomas got from the quarry to Maron in the space of a few shots. But, to be honest, that's not really important. What is interesting though is the driver looking out to see what had happened. If only they actually spoke... At this point, that would be the only thing that would make the series complete.

Another plus is that the main characters of the episode actually resolve what happened between themselves. Again, it feels like the dialogue is natural. I also noticed Diesel's manipulative lie, kind of like his persona from Dirty Work. It's understandable, since he's the antagonist, that he'd shirk responsibility for Mavis' absence in this way. Oh, and I've no idea where Mavis got those balloons, but they are hilarious.

The ending though was the icing on the cake. Allowing Mavis to go down to the docks felt like a similar resolution to the one from Toby's Tightrope, both of which suit the stories that were told brilliantly. And that song was fantastic. Giving Teresa Gallagher the chance to sing was a nice surprise, and the rest of the voices did a good job as well.

And the animation was superb as per usual. They really know how to film dramatic scenes like the ones seen here, and they do so in unique and interesting ways. The music was great too. The instrumental for I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside really added to its appeal and made it a lot catchier. And that piece at the start when they were showing off the quarry was amazing. It's possibly one of my favourites music cues from Robert Hartshorne so far.

Fan Reaction

The Mad Controller's Corner

Final Thoughts

I'd say this one was definitely up there with Andrew Brenner's best. I don't think it was as good as Gone Fishing, which felt more relatable to me, but it's definitely as good as Old Reliable Edward. The conflict was great, the characters played off each other really well and that runaway scene was a thing of beauty. Yeah, there were a couple of nitpicks, but they really don't take anything away from the rest of the episode.

Episode Ratings

Series Rating (so far)

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