Saturday, 5 August 2017

Series 20: Engine of the Future

So... yeah, this took longer than expected. A combination of trying to get my life in order, fanbase shenanigans, wanting to talk about other episodes and not liking Hugo, the Extraordinary Engines episodes got put on the back burner for much longer than I'd initially intended. But with Channel 5 updating their milkshake! block and recently airing "new episodes", it's high time to finally get the rest of series 20 out of the way. Starting (since I'm still going by DVD order than air dates) with Engine of the Future.

If you've read my character analysis on Hugo, this review won't really come as a surprise to anyone. But I'm willing to take the character out of the equation and judge the episode on its own merits. And the episode is a boring, poorly written slog.

So the basic plot revolves around Hugo - something new and different - being ostracised by the other engines solely for being new... because we've never seen that storyline before... It happens so often on this show that a) it's becoming cliche and b) you have to wonder whether the engines suffer from paranoia. I could honestly forgive this if it added anything new, but it doesn't. If anything, it's the worst version of this plot that I've seen.

When Harvey and Rocky were ostracised, they were able to prove themselves in the end. And in Thomas and the New Engine, you could sort of understand why Neville was pushed away, and it took a level headed character to actually put the others straight. Here? Percy and Thomas feel bad for bullying, then try and win the others around. Well, that would have happened if this was competently written rather than being shoved out of the door to fit the theme for this year (which is funny since the non-Hugo episodes could literally be on any other release, while the Skarloey and Small Railways are both omitted despite being fairly extraordinary!). All we get is passengers talking about how great he is. And none of them actually talk to other engines.

Speaking of Thomas and Percy, if it's up to them to convince the others Hugo's alright, how did it even happen?! I can understand some believing them (Toby, Edward, Emily and, to an extent, Henry), but Gordon and James? Both can be pretty condescending to smaller engines, so how were they convinced?

This, to me, is a huge problem with episodes that focus on every character of the main cast in one go: they all have similar character traits for no other reason than "because the plot demands it". It's not as bad in the specials as there's more time to work with, meaning more time to flesh the characters out (unless it's a corporate mandated pile of misery like The Great Race). But it's just not working with episodes any more. And until they allow the characters to be themselves on a more consistent basis, this will not improve.

It's also a showcase of how stupid the engines can be. How could something like Hugo replace a whole fleet of engines like those on Sodor? Sure he's fast and can carry passengers, but that's literally it. His propeller is a safety hazard and he has no couplings anywhere (seriously, how did no one not notice this detail?!) so he can't exactly pull anything. So how is he even a threat? Even Stephen felt a bit dumb in this case, even if his reasoning seemed fairly solid.

The only characters I liked here were The Earl (who pretty much disappeared after the first scenes), Philip (his childlike charm is really starting to shine through now), Stephen (yeah, his conclusion on Hugo was silly, but it was logical and he actually did feel like, well, him) and Percy... well, once his childlike charm began to shine through.

Final Thoughts
Overall, this episode offers nothing new. It makes the engines look one dimensional at best and bullies (for no reason) at worst, Hugo has so little character that it's hard to actually care about him at all and the turnaround has no real catalyst and is rather rushed so that we can have the happy ending of Hugo being accepted. Maybe if Hugo had actually earned their respect somehow, things would've been slightly better?

I honestly feel rather bad for Hugo. Not because of what the characters do, but because he has such a great design and they put him in one of the most overdone plots since 2002. You know who he'd have played off better? Daisy. I know she had 4 episodes this series, but her being anxious would've made sense and Hugo would've had someone brilliant to bounce off of.

Episode Ratings
Series Rating (so far)

1 comment:

  1. Here are my ratings for the past 15 episodes after watching this season a couple times and rethinking a couple things:

    SS - 8.5/10
    TBF - 8/10
    HGTE - 9.5/10
    DATD - 8/10
    BTB - 9/10
    ST - 5/10
    RAD - 10/10
    PJ - 5.5.10
    BA - 10/10
    TWSDI - 9/10
    TRCATC - 10/10
    LMT - 10/10
    LTS - 9.5/10
    TCC - 8/10
    OTH - 9/10

    As for this one, well, I didn't mind it nor the other Hugo ep when I watched them both first time through. However, after a few more watches, I came to realize that the three episodes I didn't like this series were from Extraordinary Engines. It's funny because I had the same feeling how this episode would have worked with Daisy rather than the Steam Team being afraid of Hugo. I mean, come on. I may also say this with TSEG, but the worst part about Edward's role here (even if it only lasted 5 seconds) was that it came from the same person who wrote "Old Reliable Edward"! There are some ways in which this episode could have worked, which is too bad because I was really looking forward to Hugo; he didn't seem to have the personality flaws that nor Philip or Samson had in their respective debuts, but he isn't given much of a character here either. While I consider this not half as bad as another episode on this disc, it's still a disappointment.