Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Series 18: Missing Gator

We've now officially reached the half way point of the series with Missing Gator!

I was nervous about this episode. The fact that it has Gator's name in the title made me think he was returning, meaning his emotional goodbye from Tale of the Brave would have been pointless. But was I wrong to be so nervous?

When will I learn not to doubt this team? They've proven themselves on multiple occasions, and this episode is no exception. It felt like they were re-affirming the bravery message to Percy, but I can see why fans may not like this as such since they did that near the end of Tale of the Brave.

Speaking of that film, it was a great idea to use footage from that as a flashback, while other shots of the two engines that were specifically added for this episode felt more like deleted scenes than specially shot footage. The key to these new episodes is "show, not tell", and I think they did a good job with that by recapping how much of an impact Gator had on Percy. Sure, they could've got more emotion out of the story by telling, but a) most of the engines (Salty especially) already know what happened and b) it may not have been practical with a 9 minute time frame.

This episode was a nice mix of a slice of life story with a bit of action, so it suits fans with different tastes. That said, some fans who like the action may think that the slice of life part would feel boring. I was pretty satisfied though!

I really enjoyed the variety of characters in the episode. While a couple only cameoed and others only said a few lines, none of them really felt too forced. Well, except maybe one...

Why was Thomas necessary? This was from the same person who wrote Duck in the Water, an episode that didn't need him, so didn't include him! That said, it did take place at Knapford, so it didn't feel contrived. And it did put more emphasis on Percy missing Gator, so it wasn't too pointless, I suppose

I was very surprised to only see Millie at Ulfstead Castle, especially since series 17 put so much emphasis on Stephen. I've nothing against him as a character (he's one of my favourites), but I actually preferred seeing Millie here partly because she was seemingly forgotten about in favour of "the Rocket" last series. Above all else though, it'll keep those "journalists" at bay for a while.

This was a very clever way of including Gator without actually bringing him back on a ship. It was also a fantastic reinforcement of the meaning of bravery from the flashbacks. I also loved the way the sequence was animated. Using the steam from Percy's cylinders to create the dream effect was fantastic.

Speaking of which, the animation here was amazing. The detail in the mine was brilliant; it was a nice way to show the passage of time in there. The main sticking point for me was why they actually fixed the bridge and kept the line running down there? This was an oddity from Santa's Little Engine, but at least the mine wasn't really seen there (which, come to think of it, makes even less sense!).

One thing I did feel slightly indifferent about was the runaway scene direction. Like yesterday's episode, there are some recycled angles, but this time it felt like the majority of the King of the Railway runaway was remade shot for shot. While I do love those angles in both productions, I also hope that this doesn't become a trend.

The voice acting is really good, but it felt... weird that they re-did some lines. I can understand Gator's as his shots were slightly different to the ones seen in Tale of the Brave, but why did they edit Percy's when none of the flashback shots he spoke in had changed?

Fan Reaction

The Mad Controller's Corner

Final Thoughts

I can completely see each side of the argument, and I agree that it feels like a near 9 minute version of Tale of the Brave, but I still really enjoy it. Friends who have such a huge impact on your life are really difficult to forget, and this was a great way of portraying that. Yes, they ended on that note in Tale of the Brave, but I felt it was stronger here as that film took place quite a while ago (Sodor time), and it shows that Percy still cares and values that friendship, which is a sweet, subtle moral to end the episode.

Episode Ratings

Series Rating (so far)


  1. I was personally wishing that Gator would never return to the series, to make the ending of Tale of The Brave and this episode more emotional. Just like a MLP:FIM fanfic called My Little Dashie. In the story, Rainbow Dash is transported to the human world and transformed into a filly, leaving her without memories of her former life. A man without much joy in his life finds her and takes care of her for fifteen years. But then at the end, when the others come to collect her, he is not allowed to go back with her and they never see each other ever again. I was hoping for that to happen with Percy and Gator in the Thomas TV series.

  2. I'd have agreed with you, but not because of that, but because Hiro's departure was a disaster. But considering the writers know what they're doing, I have no issue with seeing Gator from time to time