Series 21 has come to a close, as has been confirmed by Micaela Winter's LinkedIn page and a tweet from Mattel (although Mattel said 16 episodes were produced when it's actually 18). With a month of production time lost, focus switching to their new marketing ploy and the release of Journey Beyond Sodor, I'm rather surprised they managed to get 18 episodes produced for this series (I genuinely thought there'd be about 13). But will the shortest ever series be one of the best? Let's take a look back at series 21.
As has become tradition:
- The episodes will be covered in order from worst to best, not by air/release date.
- This won't go into any major detail like the reviews. If you wish to read my full thoughts, click on the episode header of the review you want to read.
We're starting with a Helen Farrall episode. And as good as she's been since she was hired for series 19, this was easily her worst effort, and her worst series overall. Which is rather sad, especially if the rumours are to be believed that this will be her last series. Then again, it was said that she had three scripts commissioned only for us to discover she'd written five overall. So who knows what to believe?
There's so little to talk about here that I struggled to get the review out originally. In fact, this episode and the next one both suffer the same problem: they care more about the destination than they do the journey.
Same problems, different episode. A lack of originality covered by an ending that was designed to take attention off the fact that the rest of it wasted time. Only this time it was also designed to pander to older fans, confirming the headcanons of those who think this show and TUGS are in the same universe.
I still think that this one is held down by a thin plot, overdone humour and many contrivances. But the more I think about it, the more of an issue I have with the ending and theme.
This is a personal episode for me. I'm rather shy and reserved, and I struggle to ask for help as I think that I can do more than I really can. And this was a lesson that I needed to learn and keep with me. And I can imagine a lot of kids would feel the same way.
Helen Farrall's storytelling has been much sloppier this series. Granted, she did write two excellent episodes, but the majority have had some really stupid, disappointing mistakes in them. Here, the problem is making the diesels look brilliant while weakening the steam engines.
This theme will forever be problematic to me, because it always seems to come from the perspective of "why do we need to change when the system we have is fine?" Sometimes it is, other times you're being stubborn while the world evolves around you.
This was a great way to bring Terence back into the fold. He had a really fun, if unoriginal, character (unlike the model era) and the story did a good job of bringing him down a peg.
This episode was the nadir how how bad the fanbase could be with regards to getting information from the writing team. It would've been a nice surprise if a Twitter user (whom I can't remember the name of) hadn't bugged Lee Pressman about it. But there you go.
This felt like one of the freshest episodes the show had up to that point. Not just because it featured characters that barely get a look in due to where they're situated, but because the main characters were nowhere in sight. It had to rely on the strength of these three to make it work, and they pulled it off brilliantly.
This episode was the final straw for me with regards to my rating system. It's a "set in stone" system that says that I will always feel this way about the episode in question. In reality though, that's not the case. For example, my opinion on this episode has worsened since the initial review, hence it's the lowest of the 10s on this list. It's also the worst episode I've given a 10 (I've talked about what the future of the rating system will be here).
Have I mentioned that James has been a brilliant character since Pouty James? Because it's true. The only portrayal it's beaten by is his book variation. Not the idealised version that fans and the writers from series 8-16 (and even the current team for a time) like to think of from James the Red Engine but the snarky, arrogant James in every other book. But even then, the gap between the two James' is so small now that it's difficult to choose between them.
It's difficult to work out in which order some of these episodes were meant to air in. While a couple of the festive episodes had an imaginary sequence each (Carly was absent and Edward was at Tidmouth in all of them), this was full of them. It gives viewers a solid indication of where the show is headed. And because it all came out of left field, it took a lot of fans, myself included, a while to digest it all.
Honestly, the review speaks for itself here. The theme is excellent (and one fans still ignore because they'd rather focus on keeping Diesel as he was rather than watch him grow and become a more entertaining, complex character) and the characters are wonderful.
It's fair to say there's been a lot of angst towards minorities for decades. And the fact that the internet has given racist bigots more of a platform to spout their nonsense is even more troubling (and don't give me "it's just free speech". Free speech is not the same as hate speech). So it's rather heartening to see a show for an impressionable audience come along and tell them that being friends with someone who's a bit different is OK. Not that that's stopped fans lambasting said show for including an African based engine for really stupid reasons, but that's another story...
We've seen other engines take over as manager before. But it never really worked as they had to force in a conflict because having someone take over as manager wasn't enough of one for them. This episode shows them all how it's done by having a character who has no idea how railways operate and putting her in charge.
I don't do traditions whatsoever. I don't particularly want them all to die, but I do think they're only relevant these days to appease the stubborn conservatives who can't be bothered to broaden their horizons by trying something new because it might make them think about their worldview a bit more. So I was originally dreading this episode and where it could've gone. And thank God I was proven wrong.
I will never not love this episode. Admittedly, it has some weird bits in there, but it followed on from The Fastest Red Engine on Sodor really well and gave Edward his best episode since series 2.
Very interesting...thank you for this information...this will be passed on to the modeling team. Can you confirm they were the models used on the original show? https://t.co/VM54U8VqFA— Jam Filled (@JamFilledStudio) November 23, 2017
Hopefully this means they'll finally be improved, but that probably won't be known until series 23 (since the next special and series have been finished. Or, at least, they're close to completion)
there's a lot going against it..!
Series Rating: 8/10