Monday, 1 September 2014

Series 18: Toad's Adventure

While everyone's excited about the release of Tale of the Brave, we can't forget that series 18 is still in progress! Today saw the sixth episode air: Toad's Adventure!

Before I begin, yes. I can definitely see the relation between this episode and series 5's Busy Going Backwards. However, I believe that this effort beats the other one hands down, and I'll get to why I think that later.

As for the episode itself, I think it's brilliant, and a definite step up from Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler's last outing, mainly due to the fact that they picked the right characters to feature in it! The only real thing that sticks out is that this isn't Toad's first adventure. That said, I'm perfectly happy with them forgetting series 5's "continuity" since it makes it easier for me to!

Speaking of continuity, I love that, like Duck, the writers mentioned that Oliver worked on the Great Western Railway. It wasn't as in-depth as Duck's reference was, but it was still a great nod. What was even better was Oliver telling of his adventure from Escape!. And yes, I can believe he'd "forget" Douglas' contribution since he was being boastful, and when you boast, you often forget the vital information. And since Toad is annoyed by Oliver's storytelling, it gives Toad's wanting of an adventure more credence than just moaning about which direction he's travelling.

Another thing I loved was how James was brought into the situation: moaning about brake vans feels like a reference to the 1987 annual story Percy and the Brake Van (intentional or not, it's a really nice touch). It meant that James was taught a subtle lesson regarding the importance of brake vans while Toad had his own little adventure.

I also have to commend the entire team for the humour here. Part of it was down to Keith Wickham's performances as James (his sarcastic tones make the UK version far superior than the American counterpart), the Fat Controller and (thank goodness they aren't leaving her out) Dowager Hatt!

There was one thing that confused me though: why was Thomas was taking them to the opera? I do think the writers need to get the philosophy of having Thomas appear in every (standard gauge) episode out of their heads. He's just not necessary at times, here especially. If they wanted to choose a small(ish) engine to take them, they could have used Edward.

That said though, the climax was brilliant. Yeah, it was unrealistic to have three trains on one line together like that, but it made Toad feel more like a hero, so it doesn't bother me that much. Besides, it was brilliantly filmed!

This shot actually makes this better than Busy Going Backwards. The guard doesn't jump out, he does what he can to slow the train down. In addition, the scene doesn't last long, so the tension is extremely high throughout, whereas in series 5 Toad's situation went from being tense to downright farcical and, at the end, laughable. And in the end, Toad was made out to be a laughing stock. Here, he actually does something heroic, gets praised for it and rightfully comes out on top (although more recognition for the guard would have been nice as well).

I really enjoyed the ending, too. It felt right, and since Toad hadn't had a story to tell before, it was nice that all the engines gathered round to hear it. On a tangent though (and don't worry, this won't affect my thoughts or score of the episode): PLEASE DO SOMETHING WITH STANLEY!! Ahem, sorry. Lost a bit of my "professionalism" there..!

Anyway, the returnees! And yes, I agree with the general consensus that Oliver is out of scale. And while there are a couple of other things different compared to the model, I still love the look of him. The additional features are fantastic, the face is spot on and his voice is fantastic!

As for Toad? Well, he looks almost exactly like his model, which is brilliant. His voice sounds rather nasally, but it's not distracting. And it's definitely a step up from his "voice" from series 12.

The animation was brilliant, yet again. The action scenes were brilliantly filmed, the attention to detail in the express coach was fantastic and everything else looked as gorgeous as ever. The music was great as well. I liked the theme at the start, it just sounds really good.

Fan Reaction

The Mad Controller's Corner

Final Thoughts

This is a great episode that brings back two well loved characters really well. It's another example of taking a flawed concept and turning it into one that works. I'm really looking forward to future episodes from Huckerby and Ostler, but I do hope that they remain as consistent as this rather than be all over the place like Paul Larson and Laura Beaumont...

Episode Ratings

Series Rating (so far)

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