Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Series 19: The Truth About Toby

Another day, another brand new episode! It's The Truth About Toby!

It's fair to say that the last Toby-centric episode was rather mixed. While it had some great moments, there were a few problems. But could this episode get right what Signals Crossed couldn't?

Well, kind of. While I do think this is better than the series 18 offering, it does still have its problems. And, in all honesty, I think it comes down to what happens at the scrapyard with Toby.

I'm perfectly fine with Toby running out of coal there, even though they probably should have stopped on the way, but at the beginning of the episode, they mention that Toby's sideplates are "rattling again". Why couldn't that have been part of the story too? Reg lifts Toby into the air; they could have easily had one, or both, of his sideplates fall off while this happened to make it feel like that little detail hadn't been forgotten. That and it would've made even more sense for the others to think Toby was being scrapped.

That said, Henrietta was portrayed brilliantly again here. She feels like (please don't lynch me here) a nagging wife who you know you should probably listen to, but your own pride as a man prevents you from doing what she says. It was also interesting that she was the only one who believed that Toby wasn't going to be scrapped.

It also felt weird who they showed to be concerned about the rumour. Gordon and James feel like the kind of engines who wouldn't care regardless, unless they're showing that they really do care, which would actually be an interesting character study for a future episode. Meanwhile Connor and Caitlin, from what I can recall, have never had any sort of interaction with Toby on screen. By the way, why did they have to keep saying "Old Toby's going to be scrapped"? It feels like there's no real need, other than to force Toby's age down the combined throats of the audience.

Going back to the characters, there were a lot of interesting ones used. It was nice to see a wide range from all the eras of the show, whether they made much sense to include them or not. That being said, at the end, Thomas is the one that felt guilty about the rumour. While he probably should (he was the one who spread it beyond the docks), why was Salty not pulled up about it? He was the one who planted those seeds of doubt in the first place.

And now for Toby himself. He was portrayed rather poorly in Signals Crossed as he's treated a bit like an idiot. Here though, he feels a lot better. Like I said before, his relationship with Henrietta feels really genuine and his demeanour on his own just feels... right, and a lot more endearing than it was. Fingers crossed that they stick to this portrayal in the future.

I'm also glad that Reg got another episode to shine. He feels like Colin and Merrick done right, and it shows that you can be stuck in one location while still being memorable. Granted, Cranky proved this as well, but since Reg isn't seen as often, his appearances feel more special. Also, his ideas to get Toby noticed were very clever, and rather humorous, especially him lifting Toby up, which also helped to move the plot along well. And no, I have no issue with that scene whatsoever as it was plot relevant and Reg was pretty desperate for ideas.

The animation here is fantastic as per usual, but the best thing about it is the editing. There have been some rather interesting scene transitions in recent years, and this episode is no different. They're just brilliant, and it shows how far they've come in such a short time, unlike Nitrogen who, with all due respect, really didn't improve that much during their time on board.

On a side note, I love that they finally gave Stanley a lamp and brake pipe. It really lifts his look. It also looks like they've altered his smokebox's colouration. In series 18 it felt too white, but here it feels silver, like it should. While (spoilers) Ryan has replaced him as my second favourite character, Stanley will always have a place in my heart. Using his American voice though was... odd. Whether this is permanent or not I don't know, and probably won't unless he gets more speaking roles. But if it is permanent, I won't mind! Matt Wilkinson really doesn't have that much range, so having someone take over a couple of his least memorable roles is fine by me, even if it means he has an American voice - it worked for Victor, after all!

I really like Toby's new voice. Is it as good as Ben Small? It's hard to tell for the moment, but I can tell you that Rob Rackstraw give him a lot more range: soft spoken and gentle for the most part, yet urgent when he needs to be, which is fantastic and, in that respect, much better than he used to be. As for accent? Like I said, it's still early to tell. But I still maintain that Toby's best voice was the one from Thomas and the Magic Railroad.

Fan Reaction

The Mad Controller's Corner

Final Thoughts
This is one of Toby's best episodes since HiT took over. His character is handled very well and the conflict is really good. Yeah, they could have done more with it, especially with the sideplates (why mention such an important detail if you're not going to do anything with it?) and yeah, it does feel really contrived due to the lack of engine crew for Toby and him running out of coal when he could have stopped somewhere to get some, but they are minor problems to an episode that does a "don't always believe what you hear" moral far better than Thomas and the New Engine.

Episode Ratings
Who's Geoffrey?: 8/10
The Truth About Toby: 7/10

Series Rating (so far)


  1. I am not going to say I dislike Toby's new voice, sure it will grow on me, we've been used to Ben Small's for years, giving the new guy Rob time, I thought it was a good voice, I bet if he'd voiced Toby from day one everyone would like it. it sounds similar to Travis in Bob the Builder but same voice artist I guess is the obvious answer. Also Stanley has his US voice but I liked the episode, I liked the way both Toby and Henrietta were portrayed overall and nice range of characters.