Thursday, 21 September 2017

Series 21: Stuck in Gear

So far we've had two episodes starring Daisy and Diesel, one starring Emily and Dowager Hatt and now Harvey's getting some time to shine. Are they telling us implicitly telling us that the main characters are too stale to hold their own as the stars now? Or are they letting all the characters that are usually given supporting roles some of the spotlight before the main characters take it back for the Big World, Big Adventures theme next year? Either way, I've been really happy so far. But will Stuck in Gear continue the perfect run this series has so far?

Honestly? No. It's still a really good episode, and one that feels incredibly personal to me as I have the exact same concerns and anxieties whenever problems arise. And I do try and soldier on regardless. I realise that's stupid, but when that behaviour is ingrained into you from a young age, it's a very difficult habit to break.

Unfortunately, I felt that the episode didn't flow as well as the last three. It felt a bit repetitive, especially when Harvey tried to hide away from everyone. Granted, Harvey's problems occur after the second attempt so it's not as bad as previous episodes (and there's some character here, so it's definitely not as bad as series 13-16). However, after the last two episodes flowed so well, it's much more noticeable when the pacing stutters - even slightly - in episodes that do go down this route.

Also, one comment from Thomas felt incredibly ironic: "no one makes fun of a broken down engine". Are we just going to pretend that series 1-7 didn't exist? Heck, Mike's Whistle had Thomas mock both Duck and Mike for having faulty whistles while the small engines mocked in that episode and Useful Railway. I get that he was trying to lift Harvey's spirits so the lesson could stick better, but even a cursory glance at the show's past would make you realise how false that statement was.

Speaking of the small railway episodes from last series, they had something brilliant that this episode lacks: interactions between engine and crew. I understand why: they were probably concerned that the crew would've destroyed the plot. But they could've added to it had they just said the debris was jammed too far in to the gears. There's simply no excuse to not include crews any more, and the show would benefit greatly if they were given more freedom to interact away from Railway Series adaptations.

I also feel there was a missed opportunity here. We see Bill and Ben pass through the docks, yet they don't say anything either. Maybe if they had, Harvey's insecurities with regards to asking for help could've worsened, and it would've given his actions at the tunnel more weight rather than just being a similar action in a different location.

That said, the rest of the episode is really great. Harvey's current character is fantastic. We've seen so many characters that look unique and are incredibly boastful and cocky about it, so it's a nice change to have one that's more reserved about it. I feel that this was the character they wanted to give Hugo, but we never really grasped that since the other engines were so cruel.

The theme is really good as well. It's nothing new or groundbreaking, but it's definitely one of the better executions of it since it fit Harvey's character really well. Because of that, the lesson sticks much better than it would've done in the past.

I also really liked the ending. Considering this was his first job after being repaired, it makes sense (and it's pretty humorous) that he'd her a bit carried away. Especially since so long had been spent with his gears being blocked by the branch. It was also a great way to show that the lesson had stuck; very few episodes do that. Not even Pouty James, which was made to move James' character on.

Final Thoughts
This is definitely the weaker episode of the series so far, but it's still pretty good. Harvey's character is great and the theme is good. But compared to the last couple of episodes, the story didn't flow as well and it wasn't as funny. Couple that with the missed opportunity and the gaping plot hole (lack of crew interaction) and it earns the lowest rating so far.

Episode Ratings
Springtime for Diesel: 10/10
A Most Singular Engine: 10/10
Dowager Hatt's Busy Day: 10/10
Stuck in Gear: 8/10

Cumulative Total (So Far)

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