top of page

Season 15 - Episode 6 Review: James to the Rescue

March 2011 saw the sixth episode of Season 15 of Thomas & Friends...

...but before the review, the usual disclaimer:

The views below are entirely those of the author and not representative of the Sodor Island Forums as a whole.

On that note, it's time to get this review underway...

James is better suited to being a fire engine than a rescue engine!!!


James to the Rescue

Writer: Sharon Miller

James shuns Toby's help and refuses to work as part of a team when Gordon needs rescuing. However, James soon has to swallow his pride and ask Toby to assist him.

Overall Impressions

From the moment I saw the story credits, I knew this was going to be a poor episode. That is pretty much how Season 15 has gone for me. The initial promise of new characters and sets has faded away very quickly, drowned under a deluge of alliteration, rhyming, and unnatural dialogue.

The repeated concepts I keep banging on about reared their ugly heads today in spades, and it is with the greatest of regret that I find myself unable to award any points to today's episode.

Enough is, simply, enough. The continuous and vacuous dross that kids all over Great Britain have been watching this last week has plunged new depths of negativity.

Why is it that writers - sorry, writer - feel the need to reiterate with every single episode, who and what each character is? "James is a..." "Edward is the oldest..." "Gordon is the fast..." and so on. I could understand if these were new characters. Or characters no one had seen for a long time.

But members of HiT's so called "steam team"? It's unnecessary exposition. Even kids watching the television series for the first time will understand who each character is, and what their personalities are like - or they should be able to, if the writing was up to scratch.

That we have had this in every single one of the episodes this season, and glancing back briefly at Season 14, most episodes last season, must say something about the level of writing. It pads out the start of the episode, frankly. It is dross, boring, and used normally instead of a decent beginning.

This is before I've even got onto the main storyline of this episode. Which, by the way, is the same story as yesterday. I can hear the protests from the HiT Entertainment writing offices already. Yes, it is in fact the same story as Edward the Hero, and taking an awful lot of concepts and story tidbits from other episodes (and dare I say it, one special!) dressed up with James and Toby arguing over the way in which they should put Gordon back on the rails.

Engine X repeats mistake three times and asks for help. This concept has been used and re-used so many times over the last two or three seasons (by the same writer) that it's no longer tired. It is dead. It is an ex-plot line. Please stop using it.

We then get the three actions of a "hero" - which, by the way, are not only lifted in basic concept and construct from the first episode of the series - Gordon and Ferdinand - but reused from yesterday's Edward the Hero episode. And - even more incredibly - lifted in concept from incident to incident! (Not to mention the Toby VS James storyline has been done to death over the fourteen previous seasons). Let's examine the problems.

Engine X and Y go to three different locations and help engines/people. Same as the first episode, using different characters. Then we look down another layer of writing, and discover that Charlie has once again got into trouble (as he did yesterday!), requiring water this time.

I'm sorry - we counted them up. Nitrogen have animated forty-three (43) different characters for the television, ranging from steam locomotive/engine (not "Steamie") to coaches, cranes and road transport. Are we seriously suggesting it was not possible to use another engine instead of Charlie? Why use the same character, in almost the same role, from yesterday?

The we go down another layer and discover Mavis requires diesel fuel to move - er, hang on a moment...haven't we just had that? Oh, it was water, not diesel? That's okay then.

The writing here just repeats, and loops, and rehashes so much that I simply do not believe the line that has been spun that the writers hands are tied, that there are guidelines, rules, and so on and so forth...or the latest excuse which states that two small Bagnall 0-4-0STs are too difficult to render in CGI.

I don't believe a word of it.

This season so far has utterly convinced me of the failings of the writing team. They can do so much better it is ridiculous. We have kids playing with their Thomas toys on YouTube who have come up with better overall stories than any of Season 15 thus far. Stories with proper beginnings, middles and ends that educate and entertain kids far more than any of the official episodes so far.

This is before I get onto the subject of the bridge over the marshland. Large pacific engine, breaks bridge, requires help from Rocky the crane to get out...? Sound familiar?

It should do - because two years ago we had a one hour special in which the antagonist of the piece did exactly that! Gordon plays the role of Spencer, the whole scene is jazzed up with James doing some frankly incredulous (and stupid) actons...sorry, ACTIONS!

Has Percy had a lobotomy? Because now he's dumb and deaf. If he gets any worse, he will be the engine equivalent of Helen Keller. (Sorry Helen).

You get my point. The "what's a Percy" joke will continue for years to come whilst our poor little green tank engine gets his character assassinated very season. Percy's cheeky, not stupid.

Uninformed, maybe (see Percy and the Signal) but not so stupid that he hears a word, and then immediately gets it wrong.

I might add, that I am suspicious of that particular incident as it appears to be very similar to an incident in a story, in another series...!

You've read this whole review before, anyway. Each and every one of these reviews can be summed up with "Poor writing. Rehashing same concepts. Repeated dialogue used to pad out episode. Characters out of character. Reused stories, episode to episode. Fantastic CGI though!"

When the CGI changeover happened, there were certain PR promises made on the overall look and writing of the series. I was promised brakevans - yes Greg, my apologies, I must force that issue until we see movement here! But more than that, we were told the CGI would open up new possibilities for writing - and it should do.

But this series is being held back by writing which is so sub-standard, it makes the reviews of each and every episode repeat the problems of each and every episode in its own writing.

I haven't even touched the tip of the iceberg - like how dire the dialogue was today; alliteration, rhyming, repeated dialogue, all in spades! Even more bizarre, today, for some completely unknown reason, the voice actors were punctuating each and every word, name, and sentence in the same manner as William Shatner. Put simply, why? This hasn't happened in any episode previous to this one.

Overall this can be considered one of the all time worst episodes of Thomas & Friends.

Final Conclusions

How on earth are we expected to score these, when the stories and their characters have all been seen before, episode to episode, never mind season to season? I make this point every single day, the writing has to improve or else it will kill the series off. Certainly I think Season 15 is on course to be the worst series of all time, summed up simply by being thoroughly rehashed, poorly written, and badly conceived from the top of the writing team down.

Yet I feel to point the finger at the whole writing team at present is a tad unfair. Out of the six episodes, only one has come from another writer. Granted, up until today, the worst episode came from that other writer (see here), but the head writer should have her head screwed on right, and have the most basic grasp of each and every character, without reiterating it to everyone at the start of every episode.

The writing has gone beyond what I could excuse as being "tied down" to whatever necessary portions of each script HiT executives are purported to demand. But what do I then say I think is the reason for their poor form? Laziness? A poor understanding of the characters? A self-imposed format for each and every script?

How Thomas & Friends remains the number one children's brand can only be put down to the terrific job Greg Tiernan and Nicola Stinn do as director and producer for the series. The animation is beyond the best - no, scratch that - it IS the best in the business at this level.

If you can get such top notch animators to work on the number one children's brand, then you can surely afford to hire some writers who will not make each and every episode a rehash of the last?

It has become a running joke, I might add, at the Sodor Island Forums, that there is a queue of eager hopefuls lining up for the job of head writer.

Whoever gets it next - and surely, after this season, and the next, that job will be up for review - will have a thankless task to bring the show back to its roots and back to level ground after the pounding it has taken these last few years.

And to think - with sadness - how much I enjoyed Hero of the Rails, and how much it is has gone downhill from there...

Individual Episode Score: 2/10 - Gordon and Ferdinand 4/10 - Toby and Bash 3/10 - Emily and Bash 5/10 - Edward The Hero 1/10 - James to the Rescue
Total Season Score So Far: 16/60
Average Season Score So Far: 2.6/10

Quick Character Stats

Speaking Roles:

James, Toby, Thomas, Percy, Gordon, Rocky


Charlie, Captain, Harold, Mavis


bottom of page