Monday, 7 November 2016

Series 20: Love Me Tender

First off, I will never know why they turned to Elvis Presley for episode titles for a preschool show. Second, Donald and Douglas in a winter themed episode. How long has it been since we've seen that? It's fair to say that this information alone made fans excited for what was to come, but could Love Me Tender live up to expectations?

I regret not putting Donald and Douglas on my favourite characters list. They were honourable mentions, yes, but that was it. The reasons I didn't put them higher originally were a) fans going crazy for them (it reached a point where I ended up resenting the characters) and b) a fear of thinking I'd be too biased towards the era of characters I grew up with when there are some great ones that the current team have created. This episode, however, reminded me that they needed something more than that.

I know I've said it twice already for two different episodes, but this is probably the best one that's been written so far. Yes, it's a wintry version of Twin Trouble - even outright copying lines of dialogue - but unlike The Other Side of the Mountain, this didn't outright copy the episode it's based on. It took the basic elements from the former and made them better. It beautifully showcased how amazing these two can be, and you're easily able to tell them apart as each twin has their own distinctive traits (unlike Bill and Ben who have the exact same ones).

First off, the additional run-time that episodes have currently allows the team to add more depth to the conflict by taking their time to build it up. That's not to say that the 4 minute 30 second limit was bad; a lot of my favourite episodes had that run-time and it was very impressive the stories they were able to squeeze in to that extremely limited time frame. But the simple fact is that the longer you have to work with, the more you can add to the plot (in theory).

Second is that, unlike Twin Trouble, the twins didn't decide to work apart. They disagreed so much about which lines were most important to clear that Douglas' tender came uncoupled and Donald just decided to work with what had happened, leaving his brother (I love that they were referred to as brothers, by the way) high and dry.

With the differences between this and Twin Trouble out of the way, the positives of the episode in its own right. The biggest of which is the heart in the story. You can tell that, when push comes to shove, Donald and Douglas care deeply for each other, and didn't need a certain Pannier tank engine to settle one of their arguments. The whole thing seems more genuine.

Yes, some could say that Donald changes his attitude too fast, but when you have a family (or close friend) and discover that they're in trouble, you realise that there are more important things than dwelling on a petty squabble. Unless the family member in question really is that bad.

I also loved Toby's appearance. Not only was he used to make the point that it was important to clear the main line (even though it was also important to clear the line to the rescue centre), but he's the go between for the twins. Unlike Duck, who actually tells the twins how to react, Toby just reacts to what's happening without sticking his oar in.

Thomas, however, was kinda useless. Sure he told Donald that he had Douglas' tender, but so could anyone. He felt rather shoehorned in here, and the plot would've remained the same had Edward or Henry been in the exact same role.

One other oddity is them having Rob Rackstraw voice Donald. That's not to say he's a bad voice actor, but he sounds so similar to Toby. Why not just have both voiced by Joe Mills? Jonathan Broadbent showed that you can have one actor voice twins (Bill and Ben) brilliantly, and Joe did a great solo job in Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, so... why the change?

Fan Reaction

Final Thoughts
It's funny how a writer can go from writing my least favourite episode ever to my most favourite in such a short time. I'm also quite glad, as I really do think Davey is a good writer, so knowing he wrote Rocky Rescue was a real disappointment. He's proven that he can nail old and new characters and create some really fun, entertaining stories. Heck, he made an episode with Charlie in it and it wasn't abysmal!

For me though, this episode was, by far, his most heartfelt, and he told the story he wanted to tell beautifully. The moral was one of the best of the CG era, the characters were at their strongest and the voice acing did an excellent job at making Donald and Douglas feel like different characters.

Episode Ratings

Series Rating (so far)

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