Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Series 19: Salty All at Sea

Day three of Channel 5's Thomas Week, so here are my thoughts on Salty All At Sea!

I've said on a few occasions that some episodes from this era of the show have some sort of missed potential: The Frozen Turntable, Signals Crossed and Samson Sent for Scrap being the stand out ones. But... my God, does no episode drop the ball harder than this one.

This episode pretty much showed me that adding Porter was absolutely pointless. Why? Because throughout the entire thing, he says, and does, absolutely nothing. I had high hopes that he and Salty would create a really fascinating dynamic, with Porter's perfectionism and Salty's love of the sea, storytelling and overall jolly demeanour. And yet, when the ideal opportunity presented itself... nothing... This isn't really a case of me hating Porter now and more feeling sorry for how badly he's been neglected since Tale of the Brave.

Instead of Porter, they chose Thomas, the most blatant shoehorning of him that this era has ever had. I don't care whether his characterisation was spot on (that should be the default setting, not an accident), his role here was completely unnecessary. If you really wanted someone to lend a helping hand, send Edward, as he's old and wise enough to handle practically any situation. Also, it's his branch line they're working on!

How is Edward actually involved in the episode? Well, he appears for a few seconds wondering where his trucks (which we've no idea the purpose of, by the way) are and... that's it. At least Thomas & the Magic Railroad left him out completely since there was nothing for him to do there! That said, Arc adding a brake van behind him for his train was a nice touch.

Then there's the ending, which was basically there to say "this whole story was pointless. Thank you for wasting nine minutes of your time". Granted, Salty got over his fear, but the fact that they were too scared to actually end an episode with a side character away from the show for a while (I'd understand, somewhat, if it was a main character) is a huge disappointment. There was loads of story potential for Salty on the mainland and for the crew at Brendam with the diesel away, but... nope, they had to keep the status quo...

It's a real shame, too, as the story itself doesn't have a bad concept. Delving into Salty's psyche for an episode's conflict is excellent. It leads to a humorous irony, and it shows how much it could affect you if you start to believe your own stories.

Also, Arc's shot variety really shines here, especially their wide shots circling the docks and suspension bridge. I know that, like the characterisation, good animation should be the default at this point, but it still really impresses me how much they improve year on year.

Fan Reaction

The Mad Controller's Corner

Final Thoughts
A few months ago, I re-wrote this episode (apologies for the self promotion) with the intent of showing how much potential it missed out on. The show is called Thomas & Friends, which is something I don't think HiT and Mattel realise. The show has a rich cast of characters with a wide variety of personalities, yet their obsession with the Steam Team - Thomas especially - is completely stifling that. I just hope that this is the final series that puts a heavy emphasis on that particular concept, because it needs to die so that other characters, old and new, can have a real opportunity to show how valuable they are to the show.

As for this episode? I don't like it, not the way it is. I love the idea behind it, and I like a few of the details here and there, but on the whole, it's the definition of a good episode completely ruined by poor choices and huge opportunities missed.

Episode Ratings

Series Rating (so far)


  1. I agree with this entirely, to be honest. I don't blame Lee Pressman or Brenner, I blame HiT for reinforcing the "Thomas is God" thing. If Lost Treasure is anything to go by, we should be getting less and less Thomas.

    1. I honestly wouldn't have been surprised if Lee's first draft had Porter and/or Edward as the co-star before someone higher up said "nope! This needs Thomas!" and he just replaced the original co-star.

    2. Actually that makes too much sense... How come HiT doesn't realize that while Thomas is a great character, he isn't the only one? Porter and Edward are great too and should've gotten something to do.