Monday, 21 November 2016

Series 20: Saving Time

After the last two DVD releases, I thought my work was done for the year. But Channel 5 threw a spanner in the works by announcing a week of five new episodes! Considering series 19's farcical schedule, this took me by surprise, but it's great that they're releasing new episodes steadily and consistently. So, let's stop wasting time and start Saving Time!

I don't like Samson. At all. The team had the perfect opportunity to introduce a character that they could actually develop during his episodes in series 18, yet he remained unaltered throughout and became a one note annoyance. That said, I was willing to give him a second chance, especially after Bradford the Brake Van, which introduced a character that could've reined his behaviour in a bit.

And to my frustration, he's just the same now as he was back then. I'm honestly getting sick of the lack of character development in the current era. Granted this hasn't always been the case; classic characters like Henry and Toby have developed so much that they feel like their old selves again, and Marion is one of the most rounded characters they've introduced.

I'm also not saying that characters need to change so much that they're unrecognisable from the episode they debuted in; they still need flaws to create conflicts after all. But the fact of the matter is this: James and Gordon feel very one note during this era especially, and Samson's going in the exact same direction already (well, he was already there by the time Samson Sent for Scrap ended, but after being absent for a series, I'd hoped for some improvement with the character).

You'll notice I haven't talked about the episode all that much. There's a very good reason why: it's boring. In fact, it's one of the most boring episodes this team has ever written. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for slice of life episodes, but at least make them engaging and fun. This just feels as though there's no heart in it whatsoever.

Remember Fish? Not the superb one from 1995 but the mediocre one from 2004? Yeah, this is that, only worse. At least when Thomas learned his lesson, he didn't try and turn it into one big joke and actually did the job he was told to do. If you're going to produce a moral for a show, keep the jokes and the actual message apart! It just makes the whole endeavour pointless and sends kids mixed signals.

Fish also gave us a rather good crash, despite being slowed down. This gave us yet another scene with a near collision. Can we just stop with scenes like this? It was fine in Toad's Adventure when we thought there would be a huge crash as it was the first time the team had done that sort of thing. But that set a precedent, and when scenes like that are repeated over and over again, there's no tension there as we know that all will be well.

There were some good points, though. Thomas was great here, and the fact they didn't excuse his appearance was even better. Yes, I'd prefer him on his branch, but if the role suits him, I'm fine with that as well. His cheekiness played off Samson's pride and stubbornness really well and I'm glad that Andrew hasn't forgotten that side of him.

I also like that other narrow gauge engines showed a bit of character, too. It didn't save the episode at all and Sir Handel is still rather bland compared to what he was in series 4 (and is in the books), but at least it's something.

Also, anyone else think that Peter Sam feels younger now in terms of personality? It's great. The one thing that disappoints me though is that all of these short appearances makes me yearn for another narrow gauge based episode or two. Knowing they aren't forgotten is nice, but knowing they're capable of carrying an episode on their own (but not being given that chance) is rather sad.

Fan Reaction

The Mad Controller's Corner

Final Thoughts
Andrew Brenner is fast becoming one of my least favourite writers on the show. Sure, three of his four solo specials have been great, The Adventure Begins was superb and he has written some good episodes here and there. But his bad episode count is building up frighteningly quickly, and this can be added to that tally. An unoriginal story written in the most forgettable, boring way and a frustrating main character combine to make this one a real slog to sit through.

Episode Ratings

Series Rating (so far)

1 comment:

  1. I totally get where you're coming from with this episode, though I personally don't mind it too much. Yes, Samson had nothing new in terms of character development, but I accept the character for who he is. My only glaring problems with this one was:

    1) it probably should've been done in the previous episode with Bradford (whom I'm surprised didn't show up considering he and Samson are a team)

    2) Stanley and Diesel felt kinda wasted tbh. Thomas' cheeky persona was fine, but look at it this way: Stanley is strong enough to have been in Thomas' place, and Diesel could have flattered Samson and encouraged to "save time" the way he tried to. That way, Samson could have learnt his lesson about listening to Devious Diesel.

    Other than that, Paxton and the narrow gauge engines had fun and entertaining roles, and Thomas/Samson dynamic was fine I guess. Samson owning up for Thomas seemed like quite sublte characterization from the way I see it. I get how you feel about Brenner now but his other works from this season were much better than this. Surely he's no Farrall or Moore, but I still like him better than Miller, and ESPECIALLY Allcroft. But I do agree. I hope Samson gets some more development in future rather than constantly making mistakes all the time. 6/10.