Saturday, 12 August 2017

Series 20: Mucking About

The Extraordinary Engines episodes may be behind us, but there are still seven more episodes to go before the series 20 episode reviews come to a close (and that's not counting the series overview I'll be doing as well). So let's continue with Mucking About!

I really like The Pack. Their first couple of episodes were great, the spin-off was the best thing HiT produced in the model era and their return in Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure (except Jack, who returned in King of the Railway) was fantastic... even if they didn't have much character there. But now the characters that have been rendered have an episode and it's... OK, which is rather disappointing considering the characters they had.

I think the big issue with it is that Max and Monty learn... nothing. Granted, the spin-off episodes were self contained, so any lessons they learned were soon forgotten. But by the end of each one, at least their characters were in a different place than the one they'd started out in. They caused trouble and were soundly punished. That didn't happen here; instead they were just given a stern talking to - twice - and they instantly went back to the way they were. Because of this, it renders itself rather pointless in terms of development.

Something else that's pointless is Thomas receiving the same advice twice. It feels like they tried to force the moral onto the audience, especially since Thomas was trying to ignore them after Edward talked to him (by the way, the advisory role is the ideal one for Edward. Keep him that way). Maybe if Thomas had tried Edward's advice, failed and tried to get some different advice from Oliver? It would've led to a more interesting moral than "ignore those who annoy you".

Speaking of the moral though... I don't like it, and this whole episode explains why it's bad. Ignoring the problem doesn't make it go away, it just gives troublemakers an incentive to try harder to get your attention. That or they move on to "easy targets" and their behaviour gets worse. Case in point? When Thomas tries ignoring Max and Monty after driving across the line, they dangerously cross at the level crossing, then cause more trouble at the building site (which, by the way, is completely forgotten about after Thomas is rescued). Telling an impressionable target audience to ignore their problems will make them complacent, whereas simply telling the troublemakers to stop would've been more proactive.

Also, and this is more of a casting gripe than anything that affects the story, but Max and Monty's UK voices are awful - possibly the worst of the entire UK cast. It doesn't help that they're voiced by Tim Whitnall, who has a very limited range, and Rasmus Hardiker. Monty's voice (Rasmus) is definitely the better of the two, but each of them sounds far too high pitched and grating for the personalities they have. Why they couldn't have gone down a similar route as the US versions, which are brilliant, I don't know.

That said,. there were some upsides. I do think this episode is entertaining enough. Max and Monty were really fun to watch and the story suit them really well.

Also, I think the lesson that Thomas learned about not being able to make friends with everyone (or at least, still being wary of those two in particular) was surprising considering they're trying to push friendship more and more (and I'll get to why that's a detriment next time), but it was also kind of refreshing since... well, episodes usually end with characters being friendly with each other again, acting as though nothing had happened.

Final Thoughts
This is a below par effort. The story isn't that bad and seeing The Pack again was great, but the overarching message of ignoring bullies is utterly terrible and is only believed by those who are complacent. If I may get political a minute, hours before this post was published, fascists or Nazis or whatever you want to call them, used homophobic language, and outright murdered, those who actually stood up to their hate fuelled bigotry. I know that's an extreme example, but are we really supposed to ignore those evil... "humans" and allow their backwards ideologies to fester and grow? Because if we're taking this moral to its extreme ends, that's what it's telling children to do.

I'm being serious when I say that, had this not been as entertaining as it was, and Thomas not learned a decent moral at the end, this would've gotten a much lower score, as teaching kids empty platitudes like the one that Edward and Oliver advised is toxic and can only make things worse for kids in the long run.

Episode Ratings
Series Rating (so far)

1 comment:

  1. You know, I've watched this episode a couple times and while I think it's Davey Moore's second weakest episode this season, I actually don't mind it. What disappoints me though is that it's the only Pack episode this season, and Jack, Alfie and Oliver are kinda underutilized, because I think they all had some sort of potential since their return. Other than that, I liked it, though I do agree that the ending could have shown a little more balance with Max and Monty's character. I don't know that's a character trait about them that will change soon though.