Thursday, 24 March 2016

DVD Reviews: Start Your Engines!

The first of two DVDs featuring never seen on TV episodes from series 19 arrived last Monday, and since I've reviewed the episodes (finally), time to get to the DVD itself!

This release includes six new episodes:
  1. Two Wheels Good
  2. Reds vs Blues
  3. Slow Stephen
  4. The Little Engine Who Raced Ahead
  5. Best Engine Ever
  6. Philip to the Rescue
Like last year's exclusive release, this one has a real mixed bag. However, on the whole, I feel like this is the weaker of the two. Regardless of how mixed Dinos and Discoveries was, at least each episode sticks with the theme (or, at least, the majority do). This one doesn't. In fact, only two have a natural focus (and even then, one of those only had that focus in the second half) on the supposed theme of the DVD, while two had the theme shoehorned in.

I don't mind yearly releases like these having a theme. Heck, this whole year revolves around a "racing" theme. But when you have one with such restrictive story potential to the point where barely a third of the main content on a DVD supposedly promoting said theme has nothing to do with it, that's where my issue lies.

Bonus Features
This release has a combination of recurring segments and some brand new ones.

Really Useful Engines featured Bill, Ben and Marion this time around. They were really good descriptions of some great characters. There's little else I can say, really.

There was an abundance of The Earl's Quizzes, focusing on The Lost Puff, Percy's Parcel, Pop Goes Thomas, Percy's Lucky Day and colours. They were all OK; they were challenging enough for children, but I have a weird feeling that, since there were so many of these on one release, they could be replaced in the future. If so, that would be a shame as, although I'm not too keen on them, they were a good, fun way to test a child's memory.

Two new segments made their d├ębut on this release; the first of which being The Fat Controller's Tales, in which the North Western Railway's manager tells a story about a certain character. It's a bit like Mr Perkins Story Time, only the focus is on TV series episodes, not Railway Series stories. This one focus on Cranky, and his conflict in Kevin's Cranky Friend. It was a nice telling of a good episode.

And then, there came Landmarks of Sodor, which is like Mr Perkins' Postcards only in the style of an old documentary, and it's absolutely fantastic. These are my favourite segments that the team have done. This one focused on Whiff's Waste Dump and the scrayard, and they're both explained really well.

There was also a trailer for this year's special, The Great Race. I'm really uninterested in this one. If descriptions are anything to go by, it'll be a mish mash of previous concepts, 12 new characters for kids to wrap their heads around and a real, grand appearance for the Flying Scotsman.

The animation in this release is extremely high quality. With a new intro, Roll Call and end credit sequence, they haven't looked better than this. However, the fact that the intro and end sequences follow every episode, it just doesn't flow that well. It's more forgiveable with complete series releases as they don't feel like they're meant to be watched in their entirety in one sitting, but these do, so hearing the same song over again can get annoying.

Not only that, but the visuals for the segments (minus the trailer for The Great Race) are a bit smaller than the episodes, leaving a small black box on the outside. It feels rather odd, and makes them seem out of place when watching the DVD in one go.

The RRP for this DVD is £9.99. Most retailers sell it at £7.99, but Asda are selling it at £6. If you wish to get these episodes in HD, iTunes is offering the episodes (not the bonus features) for £7.99.

Final Thoughts
Even though the theme of the DVD wasn't followed at all for the most part, it's still a good release set at a good price (if you can get it for the best price to suit you). The episode quality is mixed, but the good episodes are probably some of the best of the show. I do recommend it, however, solely because they're DVD exclusive episodes. For now, at least.


  1. I find it a tad bit odd how you prefer Dinos & Discoveries over this when in reality, the overall rating for the episodes are higher than the ones you gave for last year. If you don't mind me asking, you haven't lost faith in Andrew Brenner, have you? The Great Race, to me, sounds quite promising. The plot seems inspired by Thomas And The Great Railway Show, especially with the big engines brought into the mix. Yes, lots of new characters and a special appearance by Flying Scotman, but Brenner managed to pull SLOTLT out of the bag with so many new characters and returnees so perhaps he can do it again. Still, I believe the trailer teases us much less of the movie than it actually should, but I'm still excited for the upcoming film.

    1. I gave that one a higher rating because, good, bad or mediocre, the episodes stuck to the theme. This one had random episodes that supposedly had a "racing" theme. That's more than likely the fault of the marketing department rather than the writing staff, but still. Also, I felt the theme last time was better as it gave more of a story variety, whereas this one was very restricted, which is probably why only two episodes stuck to it.

      As for "losing faith"? Absolutely not. But I'm definitely much more cautious about future releases. For me, series 19 was when the rose tinted glasses shattered, and I realised that the team weren't infallible.

      As for The Great Race, I seriously have no interest in it. From the plot points I've heard, it's just going to be a huge mashup of previous ideas lumped into 60 minutes. I'm also worried that those new international engines will stereotype more than celebrate their countries of origin. Then again, the fact they're total eyesores with random colours all over the place (except Carlos, he looks great) isn't helping them much.

  2. Hmm, I get your meaning on The Great Race and I respect your opinion, but I've seen the Behind-The-Scenes feature to this movie and I think I'm staying optimistic about it. Ashima's voice actress sounds very promising and so does Joseph May's singing voice (the soundtrack might be a highlight). Can't wait to hear John Hasler's. But then again, Thomas didn't have to get the lead role again this time round. What if it was given to Percy instead? That would seem more creative and see how he could play off against the big engines like he did in Percy And The Signal, rather than giving Thomas the lead every single time.

    By the way, when are you reviewing the rest of season 19?

    1. This was published before all of the visual promotional material that HiT posted surfaced, hence my lack of motivation for it. I still have my doubts, but I'm starting to soften to it slightly. Although I highly doubt it'll beat Lost Treasure.

      As for series 19, whenever HiT decides to release the DVD that the final five episodes are, apparently, being featured on. The only reasons I reviewed Diesel's Ghostly Christmas when I did was because a) the YouTube upload quality was great - which can't be said for the final five - and b) I just got sick of Channel 5 holding off on it (it wouldn't surprise me if it debuted this December)