There has been a lot of speculation over the last few days about the future of the Great Western engine. This was all over the new range of Trackmaster toys based on "Sodor Blackout", a future episode or special possibly focusing on a power outage on Sodor (fan speculation, not fact). So far there have been two characters announced to be made for tie-in toys: Toby and Duck.
While some fans are still extremely sceptical over his return, I am definitely thinking positively, and I DO think the Pannier Tank Engine will return under Andrew Brenner's tenure. Some will probably read this statement and think "WHAT?!" Well, here are my two cents as to why I think he'll return.
And we start with the Engine Depot. When the Thomas and Friends website was overhauled in 2010, Duck was nowhere in sight. However, a few weeks ago, Duck, as well as Donald and Douglas, returned to the Depot. Yes, OK, the promo image they've used is from Series 12, but they MAY have done this to try and conceal the return until he's seen on television again. Some may say this was fan pressure to reinstate his page, but I think they brought the page back because of the new production team.
Throughout Sharon Miller's tenure, she never wrote an episode where Duck was featured. Before anyone says Series 12, she didn't write the episodes that Duck was in. Anna Starkey (Best Friends), Paul Larson (Excellent Emily and Saved You!) and Wayne Jackman (Gordon Takes a Shortcut) sharing that honour. Now that she, and the rest, are out of the picture, Duck's page can be seen sitting proudly between Douglas and Duke. Coincidence? I'm not too sure.
Now, we move on to Bachmann's incarnation of the Great Western engine. Bachmann have really been on an incredible roll with their Thomas licence, expanding on the HO range in a huge way with (to name a few) Edward, Mavis, Bill, Ben, Donald, Douglas, Diesel and of course Duck this year. I originally thought that a fan petition was the root cause of this sudden decision by the folks at Bachmann. I do still think that the petition may have had a big influence, but doesn't it seem strange that only now Sharon Miller's gone Duck's being created by Bachmann? Possibly, maybe I'm just overthinking it.
Then we come back to the Sodor Blackout situation. While they don't mention it specifically, they HAVE said the range is based on either an episode, special or other media products like a book or a DVD. This sounds extremely promising. What also sounds promising is the fact that YouTuber SteamTeam, who is an avid collector of Thomas magazines, said that when Andrew Brenner wrote stories for the magazines in the early 1990's Duck was in many of them, which leads me to believe that he mmay have a fondness for the character that Sharon Miller seemingly lacked. Which is unusual, as she'd happily bring in stupid characters like Bash, Dash, Ferdinand, Sidney, Norman, Belle, Captain while bringing in the death trap known as Misty Island.
Interestingly, SIF has pointed out recently that only Miller has written stories that include the Logging Locos and their home island, while only one other writer featured Charlie. So this begs another question: with the new production team, could they be shunted to the scrapyards? I have no idea, but I have my fingers crossed.
The Sodor Blackout range has already sprung a huge surprise, along with a large range of questions. The fact is no one can definitively answer any questions as of yet, but as the time draws nearer to the premiere airings of Series 17 with the new production team in charge the answers will be extremely unteresting.
I personally DO think Duck's return is imminent, there's a huge amount of evidence that suggests this. However, while it would be fantastic to see him again, I wouldn't want him to be rushed back to appease the fanbase in case his personality gets tampered with. But no matter what happens, it'll be interesting to see how Andrew Brenner can do. While he does have experience with Thomas and Friends, writing for the magazines when they were in the early stages and writing for a television series that's 28 years old is completely different. But I think that he can handle the pressure, judging by what he's written for other TV shows, and I do sincerely believe that Thomas' future hasn't looked this bright for years, whether Duck returns or not.