Monday, 25 September 2017

Series 21: P.A. Problems

It's fair to say that week one of series 21 set the bar sky high. But with week two looking really good as well, it's incredibly likely that the quality is set to continue. Will P.A. Problems kick things off in the right way?

Let's get this out of the the way: this is really similar to The Fogman. Because of this, and the way both episodes concluded, they both have have the same problem: the moral is incredibly flawed. Yes, in certain circumstances, replacing old with new is not going to work. For example, Steam and YouTube use automated systems for... pretty much everything, really. These lead to false DMCA claims (YouTube) or terrible games being filtered through while the best ones are buried (Steam). These things would work better if there was some human oversight, but neither system does. And that's what both episodes showcased really well.

However, saying that all new technology is flawed and we should stick with the old is short sighted and stupid. New cars work better than old ones (although electric cars still have a way to go). New TVs are better than the old bulky, less clear ones. MP3 players are better than CD players. Ereaders are better than physical books, especially if you're going on holiday and read a lot.

My point is that, although new technology can be flawed, it shouldn't be dismissed completely. And I feel that this was where the episode dropped the ball. Yes, the new P.A. system was faulty (even sparking out for... some reason). But as far as we know, that's all it was. There's absolutely no effort to fix it and show that new things can work well if given the right care and attention. Heck, we never even discover what the problem was.

This is where The Fogman worked a lot better: they actually showed why the foghorn was not suitable in that situation when it caused the rock slide. And rather than get a new one at a much higher expense, it was easier, and probably cheaper, to bring Cyril back.

Maybe if there was a more concerted effort to fix the new system (a 20 second scene isn't enough, especially if it's the speaker itself is the problem, not the control panel) rather than constantly focusing on the fact that it was faulty, the moral would be stronger. And their decision to bring the old one back would've made more sense.

Another problem here is more of a niggle, but it's still a bit stupid. How do the workmen not know which train they needed to take? Wouldn't they have taken the same one for years?

Adding to that, how did no one know where the pigs were supposed to go? Goods have delivery notes, were they just forgotten about to allow that to happen? Granted, it's a funny scene, and seeing Lord Callan again was great. But on the whole, the scene (and much of the episode, to be honest) is really contrived.

That said, it was still enjoyable. And it's great that Edward got a solid amount of screen time (and on his branch line too!). And it actually felt like the role fit his character really well.  Considering how much they shoehorned Thomas into starring roles in previous series, it would've been easy to do the same here. But they actually went with the character that would really have suited the role best, and the story is all the better for it.

Speaking of which, despite the story being unoriginal, I do still think it's a good one. It's entertaining and really well paced for the most part. The ending is a bit slow though, and I do think more could've been done to fix the new system rather than discarding it the second something bad happened to it.

And although I've been critical of the "old vs new" theme, I do think it worked well here. Focusing on the "new things are great, but old things can be useful too" angle was much better than flat out saying "old things are best, new things suck" (like fans do on a regular basis). And it was rather funny that Edward was the one imparting the lesson since he was one being useful.

Also, it was nice to see more of Reg. Before Beresford was introduced, he was my favourite crane on the show, and this episode is another example of why. He's just so excitable and entertaining that it becomes rather contagious after a while.

Final Thoughts
Although the plot and theme are both similar to The Fogman, and it has a couple of niggles in its own right, this was another good episode. The characters were top notch and the story was solid. But with the slow ending and the difficult to ignore contrivances throuhout, it's definitely one of the weaker episodes so far.

Episode Ratings

Cumulative Total (So Far)

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