Friday, 18 March 2016

Series 19: Helping Hiro

And lo, the fifth and final day of Channel 5's Thomas Week has arrived. Here's my review of Helping Hiro!

I've seen this episode a few times, and... I'm not sure what to think of it. But throughout this review, I hope to figure that out. We'll see where the positives and negatives are and go from there.

The first point of contention is... Thomas' behaviour. For me, it's a tale of two parts. Although his inquisitive, helpful side in the second is perfectly fine, his borderline obsessive personality in the first is... off. Yes, I know that they wanted to show that Hiro felt like a father to him, but this is something he really should have outgrown after The Adventure Begins. Even disregarding that, it's really jarring considering they've been seen together many times on screen since Hero of the Rails and Thomas has never acted like this around him. Unless he was just so glad that Hiro saved Annie and Clarabel in Not So Slow Coaches, but there was no explanation for it.

The accident was filmed really well, and the animators threw a lot of detail into it. Also, the guilt that Thomas feels is really well done. It's nice that they showed that he has genuine feelings about screwing up, and it feels more natural than the traits he had before then.

I also like that Thomas went back to Hiro's old hideout to try and find old parts to make up for his mistake. It feels really genuine. However, wouldn't Thomas have known that there were no parts there before he went searching? He was, after all, the engine who originally found Hiro, and there was nothing else there. He ended up having to look around Sodor for parts lest Hiro be scrapped!

And this is where my mixed feelings continue. Taking the episode on its own merits, it's OK, but recent years have shown that the writers want to add continuity back into the mix, and it's all over the place here. As well as Thomas' demeanour in the first half, Hiro can't move after his accident (by the way, why did the Fat Controller think he could?) yet Diesel can after his in Diesel's Ghostly Christmas, the search for the parts, etc.

That said, I like the use of Hero of the Rails footage for Thomas' flashback. It makes sense to use it rather than try and re-animate it, unlike references to model series episodes, which would really feel out of place if they used that footage. It's a bit of a shame that no one from Nitrogen was credited for the work they put in, but then they weren't when the series 13-16 intro was used for series 17 and 18, so I didn't really expect them to here either.

Going back to my problems, though, this is a pretty minor one: why would Harold turn around if only for plot convenience? It's stated that he couldn't hear Thomas, so he wouldn't have heard any puffing sounds, and he doesn't have eyes on his back, so he couldn't see anything either. As for his pilot? I'm pretty sure it'd be dangerous for him to look back and there are no visible camera's on Harold's rear either, so I doubt he would have seen anything.

And then there's the ending, which actually makes the whole of the second half of the episode pointless. Yes, it shows how determined Thomas is that he'd want to rectify his mistake, but you'd have thought that the Steamworks actually would have been the first place to check for parts, since it's the main port of call for broken engines? Also, Hiro's been there before, in Henry's Hero, which is another thing that's completely forgotten about.

Fan Reaction

The Mad Controller's Corner

Final Thoughts
This show really needs to decide what it's going to be. It's been two years now; it should have discovered that by this point. I don't really care whether it wants to be episodic or have tight continuity, but wanting to be both will just confuse everyone.

Having gone through this episode properly though, I can confidently say that I don't like it. I like that it tried to be a sequel to Hero of the Rails, but it's years too late and just feels out of place this far down the line. Thomas' personality in the first half should have been outgrown by this point, even if kids and overly obsessed fanboys can relate to it somewhat, and the ending just makes the second half feel like filler.

Episode Ratings

Series Rating (so far)

1 comment:

  1. Actually the Not So Slow Coaches idea is a really good one. It's a bit of a shame they just didn't go with that so there wasn't any confusion.

    Yeah, while I think the episode is alright, the show is still confused about what it wants to be. There's a mix of writing styles which is usually fine but if the writing style is like this episode it can drag the others down.