Monday, 14 March 2016

Series 19: Toad & the Whale

We're back in business! Well, to be fair, it's only been a five day gap..! But who cares? Channel 5 are finally airing new Thomas & Friends episodes in a special Thomas themed week! So here's my review of episode one of five: Toad & the Whale!

This is a very special episode. With HiT Entertainment in charge, Thomas Friends hasn't really... gone there, so to speak. There's been no real hint or inference that things could die on Sodor when people barely get injured. Sure, there have been more accidents in recent years and the Fat Controller has had black eyes and a broken ankle, but there's still been no hint that they'd go so far as to put death in the show. But this episode punched a big hole in that wall and pulled off something that's near perfect.

Yes, I know the whale didn't really die, but it's heavily implied that that's the worst case scenario in this situation. And that, to me, took some real guts. And while I don't think they'll ever include death in the show to its fullest extent, this is another sign of how much the show is growing with the current team in charge, even if the series, as a whole, is a mixed bag so far.

Beyond that, the story itself is excellently paced. There's a natural flow to it and there are no points where you think "that part was unnecessary". One character might have been, and I'll get to that in a bit, but no plot points felt out of place or left up in the air.

Oliver has been... a disappointing return for some fans solely because he hasn't been the star of an episode, obviously forgetting that characters don't need to have starring roles to be great characters. They're also rather surprised that Toad has had more starring roles than him, not realising that Toad himself has had so much more development in two years than he's ever had from series 3-16. Point is that Oliver was great here. He and Toad played off each other really well, and the Great Western engine's reactions actually made sense. It would be hard to believe that a whale would wash up on shore until you saw it yourself, and you would probably trust professionals more than someone who has no experience in a certain subject, even if they have a great idea.

And, again, it's excellent seeing the rescue team working as a team throughout the entire operation. It makes the island truly feel safe and it shows that they can take something seriously when they need to.

However, there are still a couple of issues. First, it feels a bit weird that the closest harbour that they could find, from the Little Western, was halfway across the island at Brendam. What about Arlesburgh? Tidmouth? Elsbridge? I suppose Brendam could have been the safest harbour to release the whale, but that wasn't really made clear.

Second is Thomas' role. Now, him being at Knapford I've no real issue with; if anything, it was a brilliant use of his character. But wouldn't it have made more sense for Duck to fetch Rocky as the whole incident took place on his branch?

Also, and this is rather nitpicky and more an animation issue, but why was Rocky's arm up, and stabilisers hanging out, when he set off? It made sense in Duck in the Water as... well, James was being impatient and pompous. But here?

Fan Reaction

The Mad Controller's Corner

Final Thoughts
Well, it's finally happened. I never thought it would, but Helen Farrall, nearly 30 years after the airing of Edward's Exploit, has written my favourite episode of the show. Yes, it has its little problems, but so did the series 2 episode. This has an excellent story with fantastic characters, suspense, drama and a lot of heart, and that's all I really ask for in a Thomas & Friends episode.

Episode Ratings

Series Rating (so far)

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