Wednesday, 5 July 2017

DVD Review: The Complete Series 18


Written by
Andrew Brenner
Paul Larson & Laura Beaumont 
Mark Huckerby & Nick Olster 
Davey Moore

Old Reliable Edward
Not So Slow Coaches
Flatbeds of Fear
Disappearing Diesels
Signals Crossed
Toad's Adventure
Duck in the Water
Duck and the Slip Coaches
Thomas the Quarry Engine
Thomas and the Emergency Cable
Duncan and the Grumpy Passenger
Marion and the Pipe
Missing Gator
No Steam Without Coal
Spencer's VIP
Toad's Bright Idea
Long Lost Friend
Last Train for Christmas
Duncan the Humbug
The Perfect Gift

Bonus Disc - Dino's and Discoveries
Emily Saves the World
Timothy and the Rainbow Truck
Marion and the Dinosaur 
Samson at Your Service
Samson Sent For Scrap
Millie and the Volcano

Special Features

Release Date

Three years after S18's release on television and we finally have a collection of all the episodes from that season along with a bonus disc of the 2015 'Dino's and Discoveries' DVD. Prior to S20, this season was hailed among as one of the best but does it still hold? Let's find out.


Like all season collection DVDs, S18 consists 26 episodes that ran the course of 2014 on television. I bought some DVDs of Thomas & Friends at Rasputin Music and Ameoba Records while I was in California for a couple of weeks in June and some of them had provided booklets telling the consumer what's inside such as episodes and special features and other offers from the brand. 

Since HIT Entertainment and Mattel have paper advertisements in their DVDs to promote things in the UK like books, Drayton Manor etc. why not have a booklet showing us what the episodes are? 

As of the episodes, some still hold up. One of my personal favourites from this season looking back was 'Thomas the Quarry Engine'. The episode is simple and it feels like some early Awdry charm plus the engines singing 'I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside' is perhaps the most Awdry-esque thing to see in the episode. Rev.W.Awdry had always add some old nursery rhymes and things like in his books, although the song is a music hall song but it feels like something the Reverend would've done.

'Duck and the Slip Coaches' is another episode I always think of when I look back at S18. The episode is brilliant. While it showcases some railway practice, it wasn't the sole focus as the story is all about James taking credit about the idea of slip coaches even though he took the idea from Duck and claimed it as his own. It's a fun and charming episode. 

'Last Train for Christmas' is still in my opinion, one of my most favourite Christmas episodes from the season and of all time. What makes it so good is to show about the railway and why it serves the public even during the busiest time of the year, no matter what the weather. You see the engines have commitment on getting the passengers home in time for the Christmas holidays. Connor braves through the bad weather to bring home his last passengers and getting extra coaches so more passengers can fit and you see engines from the Fat Controller's railway ploughing the snow off the track so that Connor can get through. It's such a great episode.

I look back at 'Old Reliable Edward' and despite the reuse of Edward is old and not useful but he had proved his worth cliche. But I think it's good to showcases the younger generation of Thomas fans Edward's true character after years of him being such a downer about his old age, hating a crane and being a show off, watch 'Edward's Exploit' or 'Saved from Scrap' and then 'Saving Edward', 'Edward Strikes Out' and 'Steady Eddie' and you would see the major difference in his character. I quite like that the episode showcases Edward's sarcasm and teasing towards Gordon, a trait that needs more exposure. 

There are some episodes that I do considered as duds from this season ever since they were new back in 2014. 'Signals Crossed' is still the episode that was a good idea but had the wrong character choice. When I think back to the episode, I think it could've been better for Mavis rather than Toby. Although Mavis isn't the character that we've known since S3, she did say she's up in the quarry all the time. So why not have being nervous about signals? Mavis hardly had any episode to herself and it could be quite refreshing to see rather then seeing another engine from the steam team having an episode to themselves. 

I pretty much have mixed thoughts about 'Marion and the Pipe' ever since the episode first began and looking back, it wasn't bad but it certainly wasn't the most interesting episode. The writing felt it was all over the place as Marion found out that she had burst a water pipe and then realised it in the end that it was one the whole time. But it was great seeing Marion and she was a great character in the episode and the entire series. 

Another thing that makes the DVD collection at bit different compare to the rest is the added bonus disc of the 2015 DVD, 'Dinos and Discoveries' which consists six episodes from the 18th season. Some fans are bit critical about this idea and while they have their own opinions, I can see two sides of this. First off it's the idea. In the previous series collection (Series 17), the episodes from 'Spills and Thrills' were all part of one disc and are showcased in the production order. Why release the 2015 DVD when so many fans (young and old) two years ago had already bought it? But there's another side to this as well, not many kids would have the DVD when it came out in 2015. Sure there could be plenty of kids wanting the DVD and getting out of their parents' money but I don't think all parents would've gotten it for their kid on the day it came out. Clearwater Entertainment, run by Railway Consultant Sam Wilkinson, said that it's trying something new and could be a better value for money. 


I think the DVD is good value. Although as said before, I think HIT and Mattel should release a booklet containing the episodes since there's no episode listing anywhere on the cover. There are many good episodes in this DVD that would be enough to entertain a child and despite the Dinos and Discoveries disc, kids would at least be more interested that there are more episodes to watch. 


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails Exhibit



On Saturday, June 17th 2017, I went to the San Jose Children's Discovery Museum at San Jose, California, USA. I went there with my dad while my sister, mum and brother in law went to some shops down town. The Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails exhibition was created by the Minnesota Children's Museum in 2014 and it's an interactive and STEM exhibition for young children.

The activities include climbing on Thomas and pulling his whistle, fix Percy's 'wobbly wheels' at the Steamworks, be a ticket collector and plenty of other things. The highlight for me though was 'The Evolution of Thomas' exhibit that showcases the history of Thomas from the Railway Series books to the multi-million pound brand that it is today.

One of the biggest attractions to see, if you had grown up with the models that were used in the show before the CGI switch, was the Thomas and Emily models that were used on the show in their respective display cases although with a bit of wear and tear, although not as bad as Drayton Manor's treatment. But despite that they were kept in the best of their condition and it was amazing to see them up close and personal after seeing them on the screen for so many years.

Other things in the exhibits they had were clips from the model era with episodes from 'Thomas & Gordon' or 'Thomas Gets Tricked' as known in the United States, 'Henry and the Elephant' and 'Emily and the Rubbish' which is also known as 'Emily and the Garbage' in the US. They even played clips from the CGI episodes which are the Brenner and McCue era episodes such as 'Not So Slow Coaches' and 'Thomas' Shortcut' and they even played a clip from 'Shining Time Station' the show that started Thomas' success in the USA with Ringo Starr as Mr. Conductor. Other videos include Mattel creating toys for Thomas & Friends, which was for the revamped Trackmaster line, this exhibition was created in 2014 so it's not all updated to the recent years. It also has a small audio story narrated by Keith Wickham, although it was quite hard to hear due to the crowd.

The exhibition had other little things for kids to play with, such as the large wooden railway play table and a little play area for younger kids. There was even one part of the exhibition that I played with for a bit, which was this little play table and you release a wooden railway toy down this small roller coaster thing. I thought it was fun as it reminded me of exhibits at another place like this I use to go to back in my home country, Australia. It's called 'Questacon' which is a science and technology centre which is also in the same guise as this museum that I went to. The place is centred in Australia's capital Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory (A.C.T) and it's still running to this day. 

They also have a small Knapford station and one of them have small posters that were used for promotions for the show in the style of British Railway posters. There was even one for a weekend getaway to Misty Island, now who wants that? *crickets chirp*, no surprise.

It's a small exhibition, but just right for any young child. After the exhibition, we take a look around the museum and I thought it was quite fun even for an adult who is young at heart. One of my favourites was this air suction tube, you place a little soft felt ball and you see it being sucked around the tubes and fall into a basket. That thing had also reminded me of things that were at another museum that I go to in Sydney, my home city, called the Powerhouse Museum. In the 90's there were many fun things to play there as a kid and I still have fond memories ever since. 

After an hours worth at the museum, we stopped by the shop. The shop has things aimed what they have at the museum and they even have Thomas merchandise such as DVDs, Wooden Railways, Books etc. I manage to buy quite a lot in the end. One thing to make your visit interesting is that there is an exclusive Wooden Railway toy that you can only get at the museums that hold the exhibition and that is called 'The Sodor Mint Car'. 

It's a small wagon with plastic coins inside with the exhibition logo on the side and you can switch it around as it was shown on the box. I ended up getting two, one for display and one to open. I also bought two books which are 'Trains, Cranes and Troublesome Trucks' and 'Goodnight Thomas' both published by Random House and a 'Day Out With Thomas' cap for my little nephew and I bought the DVD 'Tales on the Rails'. 

In the end, the exhibition and the museum are great to visit. If you have children or young at heart, I recommend going to the museum it's great fun for everyone. The Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails Exhibition will be at the San Jose Children Discovery Museum until September 10th and will be travelling around the United States as far as 2021 according to the schedule provided by HIT Entertainment. Check it out to see if there's one heading to a museum near you.