Thursday, 25 December 2014

Series 18: Duncan the Humbug

Merry Christmas! Unless you're like Duncan the Humbug, then... suit yourself!

There are many different ways that this current crop of episodes have succeeded. Duck and the Slip Coaches produced a brilliant study of railway history while producing great character interactions. Last Train for Christmas understood the purest essence of the North Western Railway's purpose. This episode got something different right: the truest essence of Christmas.

This is yet another fantastic festive episode, and I truly believe that this year's crop of festive treats are better than last year's. While last year's were fun to watch, they didn't really... touch me all that much. But this year's understand to keep the heart there while keeping them grounded in reality; the Railway Series at its core.

And for me, all of that here comes from the moral: you shouldn't try and change someone to suit your standards. I can relate to it quite a lot, as I've tried to do the same while being on the receiving end. And from that, I've learned that everyone is different, and if you can accept them for your flaws, then they're worth keeping in your life.

This is a bit repetitive, but like Long Lost Friend, it actually felt necessary, not only to get the point across that Duncan is a humbug, but to show Duncan's conflict between wanting a repaint and being his usual self. I don't mind repetitive plots they play out well, which didn't happen during series 9-16 far too often.

There are, though, a couple of nitpicks I have. First of which being Thomas' appearance. It just was not necessary, and it felt really contrived for him to be that far from his branch line. Anyone could have taken his role and plot would have been the same.

The second, to me, is that conflict feels a bit contrived as well. Not Duncan's actions, they were perfectly understandable. Everyone else's did, though. There have been many wintry/festive episodes involving the narrow gauge engines, and I can imagine there are a lot of Christmases off screen, too. Yet they only get depressed about Duncan's behaviour now? It just seems to come out of nowhere, and it just feels... odd.

That one shot shows my feelings towards the animation. It's absolutely stunning. I know that I've moaned about Arc's mistakes over the last couple of years, but it's only because I believe that they can produce something like this.

The voice acting here was top notch, but hearing Rheneas from Ben Small again felt really bitter-sweet. While his voice for Thomas has been hit and miss throughout the CGI era, his voice for Rheneas has always been spot on. But since he said in an interview that some side characters he's voiced throughout his years as an actor were his favourites, it really shows with Rheneas. His replacement has some big shoes to fill.

Out of all the festive episodes Robert Hartshorne's composed for, this is definitely my favourite score because... well, it actually felt festive. It was a nice idea to adapt some carols for it, and they just completed the whole feel, which the previous two episodes' soundtracks, while they were good, lacked.

Fan Reaction

The Mad Controller's Corner

Final Thoughts
Again, this isn't a perfect episode, but the heart and, I have to say, humour, pull it through brilliantly. It has an amazing moral and a lovely Christmas feel to it. And while I did moan about the contrivances, they really didn't deter from something so beautiful.

Episode Ratings

Series Rating (so far)

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