Monday, 21 September 2015

Series 19: Who's Geoffrey?

It's here at last! After a bit of uncertainty as to whether they would or not, Channel 5's milkshake! block has begun airing the nineteenth series of Thomas & Friends! And so, here is my review of the first episode, Who's Geoffrey?!

After five series of other characters getting the series opener spotlight, Thomas plays the starring role in the first episode of this series. But will it turn out as poorly as his last series opening starring role?

I truly believe that this is one of the most relatable episodes for some time. Whether we want to admit it or not, there's been a time in all of our lives where we've done something wrong and tried to pass the buck. Here, that scenario plays out really well, to the point where the lie spirals out of Thomas' control.

I also really like how the rumour spread, unlike in Thomas and the New Engine, where the rumours are really mean spirited towards an actual newcomer. James' concerns are particularly humorous; feeling threatened by the possibility of another red engine on the North Western. Actually, that would be a really interesting episode..! Heck, maybe have him visit Arlesburgh to have him and Mike square off one time. That would be brilliant, too!

I also love Thomas' portrayal here. As I've said, it's very relatable to the audience, and it also feels like something he would say or do. That being said, it does feel pretty funny, and ironic, that he criticised the main line engines for making things up when they were late once, yet will make excuses himself here. Not a criticism, just a funny thought.

As for "Geoffrey" himself, some fans have said that his description sounds suspiciously like a red tender engine that was illustrated in The Three Railway Engines. Normally, I'd pay these theories no heed, but considering how much the team are using the Railway Series as a reference these days (especially if The Adventure Begins is taken into account), the similarities do seem rather striking..!

Other than that, though, there's very little to say. It's a very simple story with a simple moral that doesn't really take many twists or turns. Although, I do think the ending was a bit stupid. Yeah, it was nice that they showed that Thomas really had learnt his lesson - for now - but to end it in a similar way to how the story began feels rather lazy, especially when the balls appeared from nowhere.

On a side note, I'm beginning to feel rather sorry for Bertie. In episodes at least, he has very few roles, and most of them are just him being cut up on a crossing. Yes, I'd like to see more interaction with the roads of Sodor, but a variety of vehicles and situations would be much better than repetitive things like this.

Recently, Arc have had a bit of an overhaul of their animation. Rather than keeping to Nitrogen's style, for the most part, Arc have made things a bit brighter and more... realistic, in my opinion. The engines look fantastic with the glossier textures and there have been some great improvements overall. They've still got quite a few errors though.

Throughout the series, they've also added lamps and brake pipes to existing renders. For me, Spencer's looks the best. The express headcode is brilliant and the lamps themselves look amazing. They have a real BR feel to them.

The voice acting is great as per normal. It did feel strange to hear only one truck talking though. Whether this turns into a common occurrence really interests me, as I really wouldn't mind if they went that route. Yeah, on the whole, they're all troublesome. But it would be very interesting if they decided to give a few a bit of depth. After all, that's one of the things I really liked about Hector.

I also really like Percy's new voice. It was sprung on us rather suddenly, but Nigel Pilkington does an excellent job. He seems to have his own identity now with a more natural voice, which is far superior to Keith's who, not to intentionally take anything away from him, did sound really squeaky, high pitched and rather forced. It also felt like Cranky and Spencer's voices were a bit deeper as well, so credit to Matt Wilkinson and Sharon Miller's voice direction.

But, the star was always going to be Thomas' voice. I love John Hasler's rendition. It sounds similar to Ben Small's while still giving us a unique tint to it. He sounds a little bit deeper and, like Percy, a bit more natural. And his voice for "Geoffrey" far surpasses the one that Joseph May gave him.

But that's not where it ends, as the show now has a revamped intro! I must say, it fits so much better than Nitrogen's. Their intro was good, but watching it with Arc's animation didn't feel right (and it was rather disappointing that they weren't being credited for it). Now though, it looks a lot better using Arc's footage from previous episodes and specials (and Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure). I also love that more characters were featured than just having the standard "Thomas passing random locations". It makes the intro unique, and the fact that emphasis was put on the Friends part of the title was excellent.

There was also a revamped Engine Roll Call. Some fans are going to be disappointed by it as Eggplant LF said they'd be remaking "the classic theme" as in the one from the first seven series. But let's face it: to kids, the "classic theme" is the Engine Roll Call, so it made more sense to use that. As for the song itself? While it does fit better into the current series instrumentally, the singing will need getting used to. For now though, I'll say it's "fine", since it is an improvement on the previous one and especially that rubbish rock version that was produced a few years ago.

As for the footage used in it? I like it. Even though the song itself hasn't changed lyrically, it feels like they're telling us visually that while the eight starring characters from series 8-16 are still the main focus, there are other engines on the railway that are just as important as the "Steam Team", which is actually what I was going for when I remade the original song four years ago. I'm not saying that they used my ideas as inspiration, as that would be ridiculous; they're professionals who know what's best for the show, but one can dream..!

Anyway, I also love the shot during the end credits with Thomas, Annie and Clarabel at Ffarquhar. I don't really know why, but it really touches me. That or I'm just happy that Thomas doesn't stop in the middle of nowhere to pose any more (I'm looking at you, series 8-18..!).

Fan Reaction

The Mad Controller's Corner

Final Thoughts
I know that this has nothing to do with Thomas and Gordon, but the structure does seem familiar: a simple story with a good moral, that only really happened due to a contrivance. Depending on how much that bothers you will influence your liking of this episode. I personally don't mind it that much as I doubt they'd go that far into railway operations (seeing who's on the Fat Controller's books) for a story. But the story they did tell was coherent and the moral, as I've said, was a really good one.

Episode Ratings
Who's Geoffrey?: 8/10

Series Rating (so far)

1 comment:

  1. I know this is a relatively old post, but I thought I'd reiterate my thoughts on the new Engine Roll Call that I expressed on SiF back in September:

    I wasn't disappointed that the "classic theme" ended up being Engine Roll Call. Back when Eggplant LF confirmed that they were revamping the classic theme I was more than happy to accept that said theme could easily be Engine Roll Call, but I expected them to do the following:

    a) scrap the kids' choir, and have an adult singing the song (perhaps with kids providing the backing vocals) to bring the song more in line with the songs we've been getting since the move to CGI,

    and b) change the lyrics or drop them all together, since the concept of the "Steam team" is a relic of Seasons 8-12.

    So I was a little disappointed when it turned out that, in fact, neither of these things were rectified. They've made the song more pop-like, presumably to make the song appeal more to a slightly older demographic, which is all wonderful and everything but the fact that a kids' choir is still doing this singing just nullifies this to some extent, and it makes it seem like the new Engine Roll Call doesn't know what it wants to be.

    And in an age where any engine can get their own episode, the lyrics have no place in the series. Yes, visually the intro shows us that there are more than just the Steam Team on the railway, but my point is, why can't the visual and auditory sides of the intro work in harmony, rather than clash with each other? What does "they're two they're four they're six they're eight" even mean anymore?

    I feel that Engine Roll Call should have been given more drastic changes to make it more reflective of the current series. I suppose it could be argued that HiT/Mattel want to retain a sense of familiarity for their existing viewership, but the bitter ten-year-old in me says that HiT shouldn't worry about that, since Engine Roll Call itself was an example of changing something from the ground up, familiarity be damned.

    Don't get me wrong- between what we've seen of Series 19, The Adventure Begins and Legend of the Lost treasure, it's been a great year for Thomas. But considering how Mattel wants to make the series less babyish and more appealing to the broader demographic, it seems odd that they'd revamp Engine Roll Call only to not change the vocals, and reshuffle the voice cast only to not drop/downplay William Hope.