Sunday, 12 March 2017

S20 Ep.26: Useful Railway + Series Overall


Originally Written by
The Rev.W.Awdry

Adapted by
Andrew Brenner

Directed by
Dianna Basso 

Produced by
Ian McCue 

Air Date
31/01/17 - CAN
12/03/17 - JPN

After an encounter with a flock of sheep, Mike calls them silly and can't understand why Rex calls them useful. The Small Controller arrives and tells them they are now arranging to take wool trains for the local farmers. Rex is chosen to take the first train. Rex is over-confident, but gets his comeuppance when, by accident, a tractor's load spills onto the line, derailing him. Bert and Mike tease him, but say sorry when they come to take him home, and the Small Controller tells them their railway is more popular than ever.

- The slow-mo crash
- The expanded intro

- Thomas' shoehorning 

Of course we have our third RWS adaptation and what a great way to conclude a brilliant season. I will get this nitpick out of the way and yes it's about Thomas' shoehorning in this episode, he just felt like a pointless choice. OK so there might be a focus group that said they want to see more Thomas in the show and that's fine but there were episodes that are fine without Thomas and he doesn't need to be there all the time. They could at least chose Duck or Donald or Douglas in the episode, since the small engines are situated the Little Western or even or Ryan or Daisy since the 20th season is set after 'Sodor's Legend of The Lost Treasure' and the extension to Harwick goes through their branch line or just have the episode open on them without the need of a standard gauge engine interacting them.

There's not really any enough reason for Thomas now whenever he's anywhere in the series it's rather the local train or just because he's there. Why cannot be him taking a school excursion from his branch line to the small railway? They never done that before in the series. I don't mind if Thomas makes an appearance to please younger fans but Thomas' constant appearance kind of overshadowing the other characters.

With that out of the way, I still think this is another good adaptation that followed closely to the original story and despite Thomas' forced appearance, the expanded intro was nice to see as well with the small engines not taken seriously as serious engines until the end with them working hard while Rex was off the rails. The slow motion scene though, I don't mind it. It reminds me of the later years of the classic series when they made the crash all slow-motion. In the end though it was nice adaptation and a brilliant way to close off probably the best seasons so far from the Brenner/McCue era. I hope we see more of the Railway Series stories being adapted in future.


When S19 came to a conclusion, I said that I wouldn't get too hyped up for this season and after seeing this. I put it down as the best season of this era. The stories are fun and interesting. Some were mundane, some were funny and some were brilliant. I especially love the idea of adapting the Railway Series stories of the small railway engines and I hope the current production team keep on doing that as there are many stories that are still unadapted and deserve treatment now that the show has been converted to CGI. I see stories like 'Super Rescue', 'Stop Thief' and 'Triple Header' work as CGI stories.

One of the best things I see from the production team is how Davey Moore had handled the Daisy episodes. Her persona was the most consistent out of all the characters and I think maybe the writers should focus on one character rather than have a bunch of writers focusing on some of the characters (e.g - Thomas) That way they could keep some of them in continuity rather than being all over the place. For example, Thomas was cross about the idea of Hugo replacing him and the other engines and said 'You're fast and modern' and yet he wants to be streamlined to go fast. I understand that the writers had a limit of time to write these episodes to meet deadlines but they should at least try and be a bit more consistent with the characters so they can keep with one personality making Thomas going from his bland good guy side and his old cheeky side just doesn't work well. This is by no means saying that the writing team are bad, they had done great things to keep with continuity (e.g - The boarded up tunnel from KOTR in 'Missing Gator' was mentioned that it was re-boarded up)

This season had brought some goodness like Henry not being flanderized in his sacred persona and switch it around. While I'm not a huge fan of it, I think it was handled well in S19 and 'The Adventure Begins'. There were some interesting new characters such as Bradford, Hugo despite the unique choice of his basis his character felt a bit flat and disappointing. However SiF said that there are plans for the rail zeppelin by the production team and hopefully they do better with him. Bradford on the other hand was probably one of the best newbies we've seen this season and I hope we see more of him in the future with Samson as I think the two characters would work well together.   

I did say expect some flaws and there had been some this season unfortunately. Nothing is perfect but there needs to be a bit more effort into the show. You might say I'm complaining but I do that because I care about the show and I would like to see things improve for the better. I've already mentioned about Hugo earlier but one of my gripes is the fact that this season is somewhat before 'The Great Race' and the problem I see with that idea of episodes set before special is that there's clearly not any build up towards the 2016 special. No hints, no mentions nor anything related to the special. I understand that yes the episodes could've been in production when TGR was finishing its production stages or before the episodes were written, but I don't know much of the production stages that happened over at the now former Arc Productions and now Jam Filled Productions. 

It could've been good to see Gordon mentioning about brothers to Douglas and despite how much they annoy you or anger you that you should care about them still as they are your brother who looks out for you. He doesn't have to mention Flying Scotsman as many kids might have bought or seen the movie. I liked this idea in S19, season before special, because I think it would flesh out the characters more, especially the ones that were on the sidelines, but with how the way the season turned out looking back, it didn't add much considering that there wasn't a special to work off from to bring the characters from that to the show. I also think the distribution of the show should've been delivered more properly as well. If you read the reviews on Amazon, especially in the US, from parents, no matter how dumb they can be they do bring out some good points such as characters that there kids don't even recognised since this is set after the 2015 special and I think HIT and Mattel should go back to what they did in the first that was series set after special.

I think ARC Productions had gone out with a bang, there animation was so detailed and amazing to look at and to be honest out of no disrespect, it made the 2010 Nitrogen animation look very dated. It was great at its time but it doesn't hold up anymore to me at least.

But looking back at S20, I still enjoyed it more than I did with S18, despite the flaws. What am I looking forward to S21? It's sad to see though, from the people on Twitter, that 'The Great Race' will have no impact on the upcoming series, I don't know though if that's true or not, with the exception of Vicarstown station and Flying Scotsman, which I'm thankful for. But it's no big surprise, given as how Ian McCue had stated in a interview with 'The Guardian' last year that the international engines are one-off's. Which make sense considering that they are there for the Great Railway Show. Which is also a shame too considering that there are engines like Yong Bao and Freida who have great potential for stories in my opinion, maybe there should be more of that 'Great Race Friends Near and Far' mini series on the official YouTube channel.

Although I think Thomas' last two appearance were a bit forced in however, I didn't mind his constant appearance this season. Thomas is there but he wasn't given too much dialogue and he was at places where I see he's suppose to be at (e.g - Knapford station) however I think when it comes to roles any other character could've been suited more better (e.g - replace him with the scottish twins in 'Mike's Whistle') I hope the writers continue on with this in the future.

I hope for S21 we see characters that get enough focus such as the Skarloey Railway engines or Oliver. For the latter I wish since his return to screen in S18 he barely had any episode to himself and more of it was focused on Toad. Not that I hate Toad but I think there be focus on the engine that pulls him around. You could perhaps make an episode where he learns something new as the wikia stated 'Oliver is an engine who is willing to admit that everyday is a learning curve'. Maybe he could learn about the slip coaches from Duck as he can be conceited about learning the practice itself, he was conceited about his escape from the scrapyard and use his 'Resource and Sagacity' as he a way to do things and wisdom too. Sure it could work with engines like Samson or James, but no one in the current generation that are just starting to watch Thomas had seen who Oliver is and I hope he won't be the next Rosie, an engine lurking in the background with little to no dialogue at all.

Speaking of Rosie, I'm looking forward to her screen time this year in S21. Looking back, Rosie was handled poorly by the previous team with her persona. She was considered as a tomboy but we never saw that coming from her. A tomboy is suppose to be a girl that has the same characteristic and behaviour of a boy, a bit like Misty or Zoey from Pokemon. Although the former did have some girly traits but only little. Rosie in Season 10 had none of that we never saw this tomboy persona she was given. How the way she was handled was a bit more like a bland girl.

She would also get a new coat of cherry paint and the NWR logo, which is nice but it might stick out like a sore thumb since the other engines don't have one as well. I think the paintwork that she would be given now would expose more of her tomboy persona as the pink didn't reflect that. Not at all and it was more of a stereotypical way to say she's a girl because that's what it is. I'm glad that the production team had listened to fans and I'm looking forward to see how they handle Rosie in S21. She would also be given a NWR logo, I hope one day the production team would do that to all of the engines. You can have them located other than their side tanks or boilers. Like the sides underneath the coal bunkers on the tank engines or on the sides underneath the cabs of the tender engines or on the buffer beams on engines like Percy, Duck, Oliver etc. It adds a bit of realism towards the show.

However in the end there could be quite a few surprises for next season. I also would like to give thanks to Ian McCue, the now former producer of Thomas. As he is now senior producer for all of HIT's brands, including Thomas. Thanks to him for bringing Thomas back to his roots and expressing the great history that the brand has and good luck to his replacement, Micaela Winter.

I will be releasing the two episode reviews for Glynn as for some reason they weren't shown during the UK's run of S20 during Christmas 2016 and they weren't shown through Japan's screening of S20 as well. It is indeed strange about those two episodes and I hope we will get word about them.

So now, I'm looking forward to see what the production team would bring for S21 and 'Journey Beyond Sodor'. Thank you to everyone who had read my views on these episodes between 2016-17. More reviews will be coming soon.