I want to start by saying I'm genuinely quite surprised about the reaction to my previous post. Considering how popular it is in the wider community, I expected to be chewed up, spit out and harassed. But a lot of the responses have been really positive, and I'm glad that I've been able to make fans think about The Flying Kipper in a more critical way.
With that out of the way though, I think it'd be good to balance things out a bit by talking about an episode that I absolutely adore.
It's far to say that Edward had a stellar run in series 2, one that really hasn't been matched since. His starring roles were fantastic, his supporting roles just as good (if not better in cases like The Diseasel and Wrong Road). But the cream of the crop has always been this episode.
Edward's Exploit is the masterpiece that SIF and the fans who voted in their "Best Of" poll wish The Flying Kipper was. Because while the latter did have fantastic atmosphere and music, the former had everything.
The characters, first and foremost, really were at the top of their game. The big engines' looking down on Edward (Henry and James laughing at his expense while Gordon was straight faced in saying Edward should just retire), Duck and BoCo jumping in to defend him (which was really nice considering how he'd helped them in A Close Shave and The Diseasel respectively) and Edward just being a determined badass, it was a story that could only have fit these characters.
Although it was rather weird that BoCo knew Duck by name when they hadn't even met by that point in the books (Buzz, Buzz was the second story with Wrong Road and this following on). It's a minor quibble though.
Then there's the visuals. While not being as atmospheric as Kipper (at least until the second half where it gets close), it's still wonderful to watch. The direction is outstanding, especially having the crack happen off screen. Whether it was done due to budget constraints or to keep the suspense up to keep audiences guessing as to what happened I can't say, but it was still wonderfully done. The lighting was also superb, that's all I can really say about that.
Although, for an afternoon that was supposed to be "rainy", there's no water droplets seen anywhere on the sets (although there was a puddle on one) or on Edward. I'll let it slide though as I imagine it's fairly difficult to get an authentic rain scene looking right with what they had to work with.
The music too was absolutely brilliant. Granted, saying the music was great back then is stating the obvious, but in this episode it's on another level. Each piece suits each scene so perfectly that it could tell the story on its own. This is, I feel, something that a future narrow gauge episode with a similar premise (that I may get to soon) lacked.
The highlights for me are the theme when the weather changes and when Edward starts with the now altered train. The latter especially still gives me goosebumps to this day. Starting slowly and building to the triumphant piece where Edward realises he's got things under control, it's the most perfect blend of audio-visual storytelling the show's ever produced.
Speaking of "storytelling": I've said in the past that Ringo Starr wasn't a great narrator. He told the stories well enough, but I feel that his enthusiasm just wasn't there for the majority of his short tenure. This episode, however, he produced his best performance of his entire run. He captured the emotions perfectly and he made you care about what was happening, which is what the ideal vocal performance should do.
I also want to give a special mention to a person that's largely forgotten about fans: the editor. Sure, the director's job to ensure each shot looks right on screen and they give, I presume, a basic guide on how the episodes should look post production, but it's the editor's job to collate all of the footage and audio and squash it down into the time frame they have to work with, and Rebecca de Burgh Mound is the best editor the show's had.
She was consistently good throughout series 2, but she really produced something magical here. If it hadn't been for her amazing editing, I don't think this would've turned out as perfectly as it did, and I feel fans should be commending her as much as everyone else who had a hand in making series 2 so wonderful, and a series that hasn't yet been matched in terms of quality (although series 20 was agonisingly close)
Overall, this is the best episode of the entire show, and unless each individual element comes together again as well as this, it will never be topped. The characters and story are superb, and everything else around them just enhance the experience so much.
The model series had its limitations, of that there's no doubt. But this episode proved that those limitations mean nothing when there were so many people working on it who cared about making a preschool show look and sound as good as it did.