Thursday, 24 September 2015

Series 19: Henry Spots Trouble

Episode 4 of of series 19 aired today, and here are my thoughts!

If there are episodes that are scrutinised more than Toby's, they're probably Henry's, as his character change has been one of the most drastic and, seemingly, permanent. But the question is: can they actually make that work for this episode?

"It's a kid's show". This phrase has been met with disgust whenever anyone mentions a bad animated show/film because people think that kids don't deserve quality entertainment. I've been known to be highly critical of that phrase in recent years as well, but I feel the need to use it for this episode. Why? Because there's a difference between using something as an excuse and using it as a defence.

No matter how much fans of Thomas & Friends (the show, not necessarily the Railway Series) argue the point against trolls or those who have an opposing opinion, the simple fact of the matter is this: Thomas & Friends is a kids' show. Always has been, always will be. Yes, there is a far reaching appeal to it, and that can't be denied and shouldn't be sneered at, but the primary focus of any episode is how it can appeal to children. And I think this one does that rather well as it understood something very important: the difference between talking down to an audience and talking directly to an audience. That's why, I believe, this episode has succeeded where series 9-16, as well as Steamie Stafford, failed.

Yes, the general theme is Henry just being scared of getting chicken pox, but kids can relate to this very easily. There are new things that they know little to nothing about, and that will scare them. So the basic moral of "___ is nothing to be scared of" is a very reassuring one, especially when it comes to something that they will experience further down the road. Yes, the catalyst to the fear here is only chicken pox, but they can take the basic lesson that's taught here with them so they can feel reassured later in life; whether they're facing a new school, college or university. Heck, even doctor and dentist appointments, or whatever new experiences a child faces.

This, to me, is what makes the franchise timeless. It's not the models, or the CG, it's having relatable characters and teaching relatable morals that can stand the test of time, and can be learnt by all ages. That is what a true children's show is truly capable of, and this episode, and this team, understand that wonderfully. It's also the reason I get annoyed when people use "it's a kid's show" as an excuse when terrible ones are created, but I digress.

With all that said, is the episode perfect? Nope. It does feel strange that Stephen and Bridget (nice to see them back, and referring to their grandfather as such) would be allowed out with chicken pox. If there were other kids around them at the station, they would be at risk of catching them. Although using Winston again was nice. He's not being used as an inspection vehicle per se, rather the Fat Controller's personal rail-car, but any opportunity to see him again is fine by me. It also keeps the pox from spreading on their travels.

Also, that near miss with James was a bit ridiculous. Granted, it did up the entertainment value slightly, and I can understand that they did it to emphasise the danger of Henry going backwards with the train, but it still looked pretty stupid

Discounting those things though, this episode was, for me, rather entertaining, especially the scenes at Kellsthorpe Road with the painter and Wellsworth with the Fat Controller. The painter gag really had to rely on the animation to work, and the animators did a brilliant job on that end.

Speaking of which, the animation here is great. There's not really much I can say without constantly repeating what I've been saying since Arc took over. They're brilliant, but they have their flaws. Simple as that, really.

The voice acting, again, is pretty spot on. Even though James' line delivery by Keith Wickham was really weird, he did an excellent job with Henry, displaying a genuine fear in his elderly sounding voice.

I also believe that, this series, Matt Wilkinson is by far and away the most improved actor on the cast this series. Cranky and Spencer sound a lot more mature and now Butch seems to have had the same treatment. His Scouse accent is a lot more prominent, and it's a bit deeper. It feels like Sharon Miller is giving him more direction this series, and it really shows.

Fan Reaction

The Mad Controller's Corner

Final Thoughts
I feel like this episode is one of the most underrated - or, at least, undervalued - of the show. Fans just seem to take it at face value: Henry being scared of another ridiculous thing and running off, neglecting his duties. Yes, I would like his character to have a bit more depth to it, but I don't think they see the underlying message that the episode set out to teach. And that, coupled with the good humour and great characters, is why I really like this episode.

Episode Ratings
Who's Geoffrey?: 8/10
The Truth About Toby: 7/10
Lost Property: 9/10
Henry Spots Trouble: 8/10

Series Rating (so far)


  1. Yet another great review with valid points. I love new series of this because it means a new review every day. I look forward to them just as much as the episodes.
    But the Stephen and Bridget could have gotten over the chickenpox by this point. The spots tend to hang around on the body for a little while after the virus has faded. They were probably safe to head back out into the real world without being a threat to other kids.

  2. At first I hated this, but now after realizing the moral, I absolutely love it. It's a relatable moral for anyone, and the only time where Henry's wimpy side worked to a tee

  3. A good moral yes but I don't particularly like this really really wimpy Henry. It's really annoying if I'm honest. It works for the CG series and tbf, it adds a lot of diversity for the 'main cast' if you will. I'm still on the fence about it but this episode was just too exaggerated, if that makes sense,