Saturday, 17 January 2015

Series 18: Samson Sent for Scrap

And we come to the final episode of the series. The Afternoon Tea Express ended series 17 with a whimper, but let's see how Samson Sent for Scrap does for this series!

I'm not prepared to sugar coat anything: this episode is my least favourite of the series, and it leaves a sour taste in my mouth knowing it was the finale. And it's a shame, because the rest of the series has been top notch, for the most part.

For me, the majority of the problems can be attributed solely to how Samson was written. Yes, I get that he's proud and stubborn, but there's a difference between stubbornness and stupidity, and he crosses that line completely here. Trying to reverse into the wall of the Steamworks in an attempt to get out (despite probably knowing that he couldn't) is one thing, but thinking a car and a bike that look new are junk? That cannot be defended. He suffers no consequences for his actions, either. This is a prime example of character flanderisation, and if it continues, I dread to think how dark the road Samson takes will be.

Actually, that brings me on to my next problem: the animation lets this episode down. If they wanted Samson to think that the bike and car were junk, fine. I'm all on board with that. But the car (discounting the puncture) and the bike look brand new! They could have given the car and bike a few dents, maybe a few paint chips. It wouldn't have made Samson look an idiot and the conflict would have been stronger and more believable. Also, how did Harvey get the car in the truck? And why did no one object to putting the car and the bike in the truck?

Another problem is the end, where Reg was getting ready to scrap the contents of Samson's truck. Remember I mentioned "suspension of disbelief" in the Emily Saves the World review? Yeah, this is something I really cannot believe. In The Perfect Gift, Reg threw an old Christmas tree in the chipper without any second thoughts. Here, not only is he willing to scrap a car and bike that look brand new, but they're building up to it. Not only is it unbelievable, it's incredibly clich├ęd.

The final big problem is that it's so repetitive. Even the dialogue felt repetitive at points. This is actually one of the few episodes that felt like the Sam Barlow era was still lingering around. Again, I'm not saying the show will revert to those times, but the team really need to consider which formula to use. I'm all for merging old with new, but not in this way.

Scruff's appearance... confused me. It's nice to see him again, but why put him on scrap duty when it was clearly shown that he was struggling to get the job done? The trucks didn't really look very heavy either. The animators put so much effort into making us wonder why he was picked to deal with the scrap when he was straining with his load long before he reached the scrap yard! This is, again, a prime example of contrivance. Also, how did they fix his gasket in one day? You'd think it would be a sizeable job that took more than a day to complete. Lack of transitions really do make this story feel jarring (I know Tale of the Brave has problems with transitions as well, but at least the story it told was much stronger in other areas).

In fact, using transitions would make this story work rather well. Samson and Harvey could have been on scrap duty for a few days. After feeling proud of the good work he'd done, Samson gets carried away and decides to scrap the bike, bus stop and car when he comes across them. The story would have progressed better (if still a bit repetitive) and Samson's stubbornness would have been easier to buy, rather than him feeling flanderised.

I think the only thing I can truly say I liked was Harvey's performance, but even that had to fall flat eventually. I can understand why he was nervous around Samson; his pride and stubbornness can be intimidating. And yes, he's a good foil for Samson's stubbornness. But this could have been his time to stand up for himself and be counted, but nope... I do hope they raise his confidence in future episodes, because this could start getting really old, really quickly otherwise.

The voice acting though was brilliant, as was the Fat Controller's scene with his car. I'm not sure whether he's just extremely relieved knowing his car is safe or that he's expressing some desires he's had hidden for a few years..!

Fan Reaction

The Mad Controller's Corner

Final Thoughts
While The Afternoon Tea Express was a disappointment, this was a real letdown. It has similar problems to Signals Crossed, which is ironic since they were both written by the same people. But while that would have been great with a few tweaks, this would have been great with a lot of tweaking, with the problems here pushing it in to bad territory. The team did such a good job with Samson's character, but they blew it all sky high with this one.

Episode Ratings

Final (Running Total) Score

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