Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Series 19: The Other Side of the Mountain

It's fair to say that the next two could be my most anticipated ever. Ever since they aired in Japan, I've sounded off on them on Twitter quite a bit, but now that they've been released here, I can finally talk about them properly. The pressure's on, I'll admit, but here are my thoughts on The Other Side of the Mountain!

I don't really mind re-treads of older stories, or story types. As long as there's a decent amount of time between the original and the episode based on it (and the new take has its own spin on things), it's all fine in my book.

And then this episode comes along, takes the basis of Thomas' Shortcut and completely dismantles it. I'm serious, this took the series 17 episode and re-hashed every single element of it. The only things it did add just made the whole experience worse.

The first scene just angers me more than it should. Yes, Thomas' branch line hasn't really been relevant since series 3 as he's always gone where the plot needed him. But regardless of that, at least it was still made aware (in series 5 at least) how much he loved - and took pride - in his branch line. Now though? It feels as though it's implied that he works there... just because he likes it. Not because, I don't know, he earned it?! "Like" feels like a word that has little to no passion behind it, and its use here devalues that beautiful ending to The Adventure Begins by quite a bit.

As for the story, like I've said, it re-hashes every single bit of Thomas' Shortcut, only the pacing is all over the place. Bertie's re-routed, Thomas gets jealous (only here, Bertie hammers the point home), chat with Percy, crash, reconciliation.

What this episode adds is a long, drawn out third act that has a cop out climax (although, to be fair, it probably was the best they could do). Why is there a random billboard of a serene place with a rainbow painted on it in a grassy field by a country road? I'd get if they were advertising something on the poster, but it's literally just a picture that could be hung in an art gallery!

It also adds a weird sequence where Thomas dreams he can fly. Sure it was alluded to slightly in the scene at the sheds, and some could say it's a nod to Thomas & Bertie (because everything in newer episodes has to be a nod to a past event in some way). But in the grand scheme of things, it adds nothing to the story, it's just... there. It's not even been used to make a mainstream toy; at least then it would've had a point.

Also, that crash is the worst of the entire show. Sure it's unrealistic as hell and fans can create something better in Trainz these days, but its biggest problem is that, from a story standpoint, it's extremely forced and contrived. It's as ridiculous as it is solely to a) get Thomas to a point where he can see what's on the other side of the mountain himself and b) teach him to pay attention, which is something he shouldn't really need to learn considering he tried passing that lesson on to Paxton in The Lost Puff! Not only that, but it's a lesson that he has learned multiple times!

The big bright spot though is that the characters are great in this one (except Annie and Clarabel, who are either drunk or high here). Thomas and Bertie's dynamic was well handled and Percy's cheeky nature also seemed to re-surface. He's probably the best character of series 19, and I hope his development continues in the future.

Fan Reaction

Final Thoughts
In my reviews, I try and offer up solutions as to how an episode can be made better. But in this case, I don't feel I have to. Instead, I'll just suggest you watch Thomas' Shortcut. The story flows better, the moral is a lot stronger and it has a better, more understated crash that's a lot more effective. This episode is just creatively bankrupt.

Also, can we have Bertie in different conflicts with different characters? Maybe bring in more buses and he has to prove he can keep up with them? Heck, maybe have another episode like Edward, Trevor & the Really Useful Party? That was probably one of the most unique, interesting episodes of that era, with Trevor and Bertie playing off each other brilliantly. With The Pack rumoured to make a return soon, there's a golden opportunity to throw Bertie into the mix on the odd occasion!

Episode Ratings

Series Rating (so far)

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