Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Series 19: No Help at All

I feel rather torn about this one. So let's go through it and see if I come to a definitive verdict by the end of it. Here are my thoughts on No Help at All!

I really like Bill and Ben, but their antics are really starting to overshadow every episode they have a major role in. This has had a huge detriment on Timothy, who doesn't particularly feel like a well defined character. He never really tries to keep the twins under control, he just reacts to their tricks and comments in a sort of "that's just what they are" way. If they can't have him control Bill and Ben on his own, or with Marion, why not bring BoCo back and have him teach Timothy a thing or two?

This episode has a musical interlude... which really doesn't help Timothy (or Porter's) character whatsoever; instead, it's just there to show everyone working hard. It's fine and everything, but if I had to choose between a musical interlude or a scene of character development, I'd choose the latter every single time. I'd be a bit more lenient if the characters in question were actually well defined beforehand, but Porter's been an afterthought since series 17 and Timothy hasn't been all that interesting from the get go (although they did try in Tale of the Brave).

Another missed opportunity is to have Bill and Ben realise how much they needed Timothy. In fairness, they tried to do this with a scene at the docks, but a) it came out of nowhere (their comment before finding him felt more like one of their usual gags than an actual realisation) and b) it would have meant more had Porter not got involved. Sure it gave him a good moment, but it came at the expense of Timothy (he literally pulls in front of Timothy; it felt like he was being physically overshadowed as well as in terms of the story). And considering Timothy is the one who works with them, it would have meant more if he'd been the one to give them a reality check. If that fails, then bring Porter in for support.

The ending, though, was where the episode really disappointed. I was hoping that the twins would be forced to clean the clay pits alone in order to teach them to clean up after themselves. But... nope. It's the typical "work as a team" moral that's been done to death by this point. Granted, it's a lesson that Bill and Ben needed to learn, but it would've come across much stronger if the twins had actually put in some effort to clean the place up before Timothy and the others arrived.

Also, Thomas' comment about having "so many engines" is rather frustrating. Sure, it's true, but it feels less like an important line to advance the plot and more a criticism of the marketing team's insistence of adding so many new engines every year. After The Great Race, I get why the writers would be as frustrated as the rest of us, but surely there are better ways to tell them they aren't satisfied than use Thomas as a mouthpiece? His appearance adds nothing to the story; just have the Fat Controller stress about the current state of things, have Bill and Ben (or maybe Edward, who Timothy can talk to about his concerns beforehand?) suggest Timothy work at the Docks and Thomas' appearance (bar the cameo at the end for consistency's sake) can easily be cut.

That said, the basic story isn't that bad. It's similar to The Switch (which is better), sure, but it works well for Timothy, Bill and Ben. And the China Clay twins are as entertaining as ever, but they really need to do more with characters that have little going for them. Why should we care about them if they don't?

Fan Reaction

Final Thoughts
It's funny to me that an episode that's linked to a huge missed opportunity is, in itself, a pretty big missed opportunity. Sure, the story was better this time around and the continuity nods were great, but no one got any sort of development, plot elements felt rather sloppy, the music interlude felt unnecessary (and took time away from them which could've been used for the lacking development) and the ending was rather half baked.

Episode Ratings

Series Rating (so far)

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