SODOR ISLAND Essay Annex

Too Much Thomas?

toomuchthomas.jpg

At 21 years old, I could reasonably say that I have been a Thomas fan for at least 85% of my natural life thus far. However, events over the past months have made me think about what Thomas is in my life.

 

Perhaps the most relevant event, or series of events, that has caused this introspection is the continual release of new seasons of Thomas and Friends every year. From one season every 2-4 years, we are now faced with 26 or more new episodes every year and as many videos, compilations, new products and so on.

 

In addition to this seemingly never-ending influx of episodes, a wealth of information has come to light in the Thomas World in 2007, most notably regarding the Thomas and the Magic Railroad movie (see http://www.sodor-island.net/themagicrailroadminisite/ for more information). This information has ranged from the interesting (interviews with cast and crew of the movie) to the amazing (contact from Britt Allcroft herself!) as well as opening up a whole new perspective on what was widely regarded as being utter dross by the majority of Thomas – and indeed film – fans.

 

Perhaps I might be a little biased here – I’ve only ever seen the original movie once, and that was around 5 years ago when I was not as into Thomas as I am again now. I do remember Junior’s quite amusing accent though… But I digress. There has been an incredible amount of things come to light recently, but only minor snippets here or there have kept me interested or riveted. Perhaps if I’d seen the movie more than once I’d be more enthused about what is coming to light.

 

Nonetheless, TATMR is not all that has happened in 2007 – the Railway Series, for so long the middle of a long battle for publication rights, is back in print as of August 1, 2007 in England. This was news that was more than welcome to me at the time, and continues to be just as welcome now – as someone who did not get Christopher Awdry’s railway series volumes as they were originally printed, I am very pleased at the prospect of finally getting to lay my hands on these volumes, as well as the upcoming Thomas and Victoria.

 

All of this is, of course, not mentioning the seasons that come out every year and have done since 2002. I’ve not particularly liked many of the episodes I have seen of season 6 onwards, although this is balanced by the fact that I am no longer a member of the target audience, and haven’t been for a good 15 years or so. There are some episodes which have their moments, but on the whole they are quite disappointing.

 

There are several reasons for this ambivalence – first and foremost the amount of new characters introduced every season for one or two episodes before never being heard from again is a little grating. This trend began in season 5 and has continued on with characters such as Bertram, Elizabeth, Fergus, Neville and Rocky all being brought in in different seasons and only a few staying for a good amount of episodes. The characters already there have enough personality traits to being out different and exciting episodes, and I believe that there is no reason to continually introduce new characters for a “New Character” episode.

 

For example, Neville as a steam engine who looks like a diesel (I’m afraid I can’t really see the resemblance myself) but has a kind heart…there isn’t really anything further to be done with him, so why introduce him? Similar to Elizabeth and Fearless Freddie – both characters have been artificially inserted into the history of Sodor, contradicting the Railway Series. This not only introduces new characters, but does so whilst ignoring the original stories which brought Thomas to our screens!

 

In addition to the character overload, the episodes themselves are quite dull and repetitive – Thomas gets into trouble after ignoring others who offers to help, others help, Thomas learns a lesson he forgets by the start of the next episode. There’s only so many of those storylines I personally am able to take.

 

Also, a lot of the stories seem interchangeable. If I watched a group of, say, 8 episodes, some from season 8, some from season 9, some from season 10, I would not be able to differentiate between seasons (bearing in mind I have seen no season 9 or 10, and only half of season 8). I realize I am criticizing what I have not seen, but having read descriptions on the Sodor Island Episode Guide as well as the forums, I am somewhat informed.

 

I recently got my DVD of season 2 out and watched a few episodes. Even though I know them off by heart, I still thoroughly enjoyed watching them again. Is it because of my natural predisposition to the older episodes, or is it simply because they are that much better? I don’t know. I wrote an essay for this site some time ago titled Season 5: Underappreciated, or the beginning of a downward spiral? On reflection, I believe that it is both.

 

For someone who went on The Einstein Factor with Thomas the Tank Engine and the Railway Series (http://www.sodor-island.net/sodorislandcommunitysite/id13.html) I feel curiously dulled towards a lot of things that have come up in 2007. I don’t know why, I wish I could be more enthused about a lot of things which have happened in 2007, but having been witness to so much that has happened to Thomas already over the last few years (and only a few small snippets I considered good) I might simply be waiting for the fallout of this information.

 

Don’t get me wrong – I still love Thomas and the Railway Series. But it’s the older episodes that I love. Anything that’s come out since season 5 I can pretty much take or leave. Whether I’m alone in my view or not I don’t know, but I feel that it needed to be put out there.

 

Besides, it’s not just the official products that keep me attached to Thomas. The Sodor Island Forums themselves, with so many great people and talents, play a huge part in my continuing fandom, knowing that there are so many people who continue to love Thomas as much as I do. As well as this, I love seeing what these people can come up with as an improvement on the official products or as original works – and they are excellent, and well worth the effort.

 

In summary, I think that the influx of both information and episodes over the last few years has somewhat closed me out with regards to Thomas the Tank Engine – there’s just so much to learn and see that I personally can’t deal with it all and would prefer to keep with what I know and what my peers can create. But either way is fine for anyone.