Tuesday, 13 September 2016


No, this isn't a review of the episode (I've already done that). Instead, I'll be delving more into the character that made that episode so great. So here are my thoughts on Bradford the Brake Van!

Can I just say, from the get go, that we need more rolling stock characters? Yes, having loads of engines is fine, but they're not the only aspect of ensuring that a railway runs efficiently. You also have S. C. Ruffey and the Spiteful Brake Van, two fondly remembered characters that caused as much trouble as they possibly could. Heck, I don't think Hector was too bad either. He went through a nice character arc and ended up being James' adviser in James Works it Out.

The current team themselves have shown how well written rolling stock characters can be. Annie, Clarabel and Henrietta have been fantastic, Toad has quickly become one of my favourites after being given nothing since series 7, while the slip coaches were... pretty good. Not particularly groundbreaking characters by any means (even if that particular coach type had never been seen in the franchise before), but a solid base that they can work from in the future. And there's still Jerome and Judy waiting in the wings.

And now we have Bradford, who's already proven to be one of the best characters the series has had up to this point. Sure, his no nonsense approach is nothing new, but compared to someone like Duck, it's not as annoying as they're not forcing a catchphrase down the throats of viewers.

Not only that, but his true personality was completely unexpected. Sure, the episode description said that he was "a stickler for the rules" who could keep the trucks in order, but no one could've predicted that he'd act like someone from the military, especially since he was rather timid and uninteresting when he first arrived in the yard. It was great!

His pairing with Samson was, as I've said before, a great decision. We've seen that Samson can be stubborn and overconfident in his ability, and Bradford's is the perfect character type to keep him in order. The only problem is that his episode never really showcased that, and while I stand by my near glowing review, I can't help feeling that it would've been perfect (or as close as you can get to it) had Samson been in Thomas' place. Not only would it have given Samson some great development, but it could've delved into why their relationship is as strong as it is.

However, I don't think he'd have been as good of a character had it not been for Rob Rackstraw's fantastic performance. Something I didn't bring up in the review of The Great Race was that his characters just sounded so similar: Axel to Etienne, Raul (despite his "accent") to Nigel (that announcer). But Bradford sounds so different to any character he's voiced before, and his mannerisms have been nailed completely. It's his best performance yet (and I include his great performances as Toby), and it completes the character beautifully.

All in all, I love Bradford. He's a huge breath of fresh air, really entertaining and very well designed in pretty much every aspect (the decision to add two lamps at the front and one at the back still confuses me though). I really hope that he doesn't become this season's Slip Coaches: seen for one or two episodes, then completely forgotten about. He's far too good a character to be treated that way.

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