Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Series 19: The Little Engine Who Raced Ahead

Here are my thoughts on the fourth episode of Start Your Engines!, The Little Engine Who Raced Ahead! (that's a mouthful of a title..!)

...oh dear. I really wanted to like Philip. In the trailer for the DVD, he seemed like a charming character with... not necessarily a soothing voice, but one that seemed to suit. Also, his design looked fantastic.

While I do still like his design and voice, his personality really grated on me by the end of this episode, and his second one didn't really help matters. It feels like Andrew wanted to introduce Philip in a similar way to Thomas in The Adventure Begins. The problem is that I don't think he properly understood what made Thomas' introduction so great. Either that, or he intentionally went in this direction to make the diesel boxcab seem different.

My main problem stems from Philip feeling like a child... from this generation. This being a generation where you can barely even talk to a child, let alone reprimand them, without someone saying that you're abusing them. Philip gets literally zero consequences for the problems he causes or for annoying other characters. Sure, the Fat Controller tells him off for going against safety, which is fine, but no one calls him out for bugging Gordon constantly. If anything, the others just play along with his delusions, which is one of the worst things you can do when it comes to character development!

Thomas' story with Gordon worked really well as the tank engine constantly teased him until Gordon managed to get his own back, showing what he's truly capable of and showing Thomas that he wasn't all that he thought he was and to be more careful around Gordon in future. What does Philip's story teach us? That you can be as annoying as you want and get away with it? Just... no.

Also, the end of the episode feels really abrupt. It genuinely feels like the first half could have been replaced with the second, and the second could have been re-worked to feature Gordon getting his own back. But instead, he gets no such treatment. He's just seen as a big baby just because someone was constantly bugging him, and he's the character that I feel the most sympathy for by the end of it.

It's rather telling that the best part of the episode is the part that's the most pointless. Granted, it shows how hard Philip works, and it shows what he can do when he concentrates (and some of his reactions do have a childlike charm to them), but they add little to the overall story. They could have been cut entirely, and the plot would have remained the same.

Fan Reaction

Final Thoughts
Considering he wrote Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure and The Adventure Begins at a similar time series 19 was produced, I really wouldn't have been that bothered if Andrew had just skipped this series and let the rest of the team handle it. And this is a prime example as to why. It just feels like little effort was put in to make Philip redeemable or give him any sort of development, and the story is all over the place to the point where it just... ends. It's a bad episode, through and through.

Episode Ratings

Series Rating (so far)


  1. I personally, didn't like Phillip at all, the episode shows a good storyline, but his way of acting spoils it.

  2. To be honest I get the feeling they're going to have more of Gordon and Philip in The Great Race, where Gordon shows him what he's capable of. It would make sense to do that, anyway.

    As for the episode? I'm still not sure. Maybe it'll get better as we see Philip grow (hopefully). I feel like it's good but yeah, my opinion on Philip keeps changing. I see your side, then the other, and I get a bit confused. :P

    1. Even if they develop him in future, it won't change the fact that he's had two with none. There's no excuse; they've 9 minutes to work with. Britt managed to adapt the Awdrys' stories, which had loads of development for various characters, in half of that time.

    2. ...yeah, unless they didn't want to develop him which is... strange.