Wednesday, 6 November 2013

DVD Review: Merry Christmas Thomas/Big Bang Surprise



Written by
Sharon Miller
Max Allen 
Jessica Kedward & Kristy Peart
Geread Foster
Lizzie Ennever 

Merry Christmas Thomas! Episodes

MCT! Special Features
Down at the Station - Points
Guess Who? Puzzles

BBS Special Features
Guess Who? puzzles
Down at the Station - Engines

Directed by
Greg Tiernan

Release Date:

Distributed by
HIT Entertainment

My theory from last year was correct, in my 'Merry Winter Wish' DVD review, that they'll release this DVD this year. But with all four episodes from 'A Very Thomas Christmas', it's unlikely that the DVD may as well be a US only release like 'Schoolhouse Delivery'. Which means the UK is most likely to have 'Santa's Little Engine' released in time for Christmas in 2014. So since that it's now nearly a month until Christmas, let's see if this DVD is good enough for a Christmas present for the young Thomas fans of the UK.

With the episodes from 'Merry Christmas Thomas' the selection is in a mixed taste. I personally find 'The Christmas Tree Express' to the the worst of the S16 episodes due to its writing and character development, and considering at the time of its television run, the television stations in Australia and the UK had delayed the episode until the Christmas period. But the UK voice actors were good but with the way the script was written it was bland and bad and worth only one watch. 'Ho Ho Snowman' comes second, the whole idea of Henry being scared of a snowman that can 'talk' is just confusing. Charlie was right behind the trucks and Henry would know what he sounds like anyway! Of course there are two episodes from the 15th season, that were originally intended to be released for 'Merry Winter Wish' two years ago, to be honest I don't find these episodes enjoyable either considering that these two are from the worst written series in history of brand. But 'Percy the Snowman' had a nice hinder of S5 nostalgia but it didn't execute the episode well with its blandness and 'Tree Trouble', despite that I find the steam vs. diesel plot fun, it wasn't great episode as well. I kind of enjoyed 'Emily's Winter Party Special' but as Callum Walker (SI3DFilms) says on his views of the episode it is more of a 'fun comes first before work' storyline and it's certainly not a good moral for children of the target range. Plus it has the rehashed feeling of two episodes fused together from S9 or 10?, it's in the episode review but I do see as an OK episode, but the message is kind of wrong for kids when I look back at the episode. 'Salty's Surprise' is another episode that I liked, but not in the style of the classic episodes. I do have to say it was a rehashed plot of 'The Biggest Present of All' and Edward's role would've gone to someone like Percy or Thomas. 

Considering its writing at the time, before the changes in S17, it was nice to hear 'Christmas' again. I don't like to go through a religious or PC debate as I have no interest in the issue. Though it wasn't great hearing 'Happy Christmas Holidays', since I know they just omitted the word 'Winter'. But I'm glad that Andrew Brenner had cleared that up in the 'Santa's Little Engine' DVD that was released last month.

Now onto 'Big Bang Surprise'. There are episodes on that DVD that I don't like. 'Sodor Surprise Day' is weak and stupid. It is more of the Island's version of 'April Fools Day'. 'Thomas and the Sounds of Sodor' was OK but the music scene was just pointless since the people are only hearing the music for a few seconds. 'Happy Birthday Sir!' was a good episode and it shows Thomas has put his work first before fun, but the episode was too repetitive. 'Percy and the Monster of Brendam' is bad. Instead of being at Brendam docks, it's more like it's the 'Monster of Sodor' and I'm not mentioning the working title of the upcoming special 'Tale of The Brave' in 2014. If it were a S17 it would've worked for the Brendam branch line, since that Andrew Brenner and his writing team are focusing the Island with the Railway Series books. 'Percy and the Calliope' is the episode I liked the most, not just because of Hartshorne's rendition of the classic Thomas theme song, but because of it's moral about restoration and it's educational part about Calliope's and of course the vocabulary for the title. But the episode is still have some repetition and Percy did get air headed in the episode, such as putting coal and water in the Calliope and pushing it up the hill, considering that he pushed the whole thing along the main line! To make the Calliope work.

It is the usual on many UK DVDs. Have a segment with Mr. Perkins and then the episode. When you look at the major differences on the DVDs in the UK (this one) and the US (Santa's Little Engine). The US one, from this year, are more better. After a segment with Mr. Perkins we have a transition of silhouette engines and signals and then on with the episode without the theme song and leaving the credits until the end, this may as well go out to the past DVD releases prior the S17 ones. But the Perkins segments are enjoyable and entertaining to watch and I do hope we see the new and improved Perkins segments like in the recent Thomas DVD that was released last month soon. 

Of course we have the 'Down at The Station' segments and they're nice to watch and to let kids learn about what goes on on a real railway. Of course with a segment like 'Engines', it teaches kids about the differences of steam and diesel engines, this segment is used in the 'Big Bang Surprise' DVD. The one on 'Merry Christmas Thomas' is about 'Points', it is simple to showcase about the different tracks on the steam railway. I believe it would've been better if the new writing team (Andrew Brenner) did these segments, there are more things along the steam railway then points. Such as the people who work on the railway (e.g - stationmasters, guards, workmen) but with the Mr. Perkins segments that are written now for use on PBS over in America and hopefully other networks around the northern hemisphere about the steam railway, such as this one, hopefully we see these on DVDs as extras maybe? 

Both DVDs have a mixed bag of episodes that aren't as great as the ones from S17, obviously. But it is great value of two DVDs for the price of one, despite the stories. Now that Michael Angelis had left the series and compare his narration to Mark Moraghan, I think HIT had done the right choice. When you compare MM's narration, as I stated in my 'Railway Mischeif' review, Angelis' narration sound so bland and boring and had lost all enthusiasm and it shows in S16. Moraghan has that fusion of Angelis, Starr and Morris together and had put some enthusiasm towards the series to make the target range entertained. However when it comes to recommending Thomas DVDs for Christmas, I recommend buying 'King of The Railway' as it has a good story and with the history of Sodor at the beginning, it makes the Island of Sodor feel so real at first. Or if you're opened up to Thomas DVDs or if you're from the US, 'Santa's Little Engine' and the upcoming DVD 'The Thomas Way' from the US will be another recommendation as well. 

Rating: 3.5/5