THE DEATH OF REALISM IN THOMAS & FRIENDS (essay) May 23, 2020 7:33:36 GMT Ryan, henrythegreen, and 6 more like this
Post by CelestialFaerie (Josie) on May 23, 2020 7:33:36 GMT
I would like to preface this by saying that this is all... speculation? Yeah, sure, let's go with that. Take it with a grain of salt.
THE DEATH OF REALISM IN THOMAS & FRIENDS (and how Mattel might "fix" it)
A what-if essay by Josie
So, I've been thinking about the current direction of the series. I think it's a pretty safe assumption that most of us think the show has jumped the proverbial shark at this point. However, it's definitely not the first time this accusation has been put forth. As a matter of fact, I can think of a number of times I've heard this stated of past entries in the show's history, from the action-oriented stories of series 5 all the way to the bouncing and fantasy sequences of Big World, Big Adventures. Though I think there is one instance that stands out above the rest (but I'm getting ahead of myself).
So I'd like to propose a hypothetical scenario for the series going forward, after the hiatus. Let's see what you think:
Let's say that Mattel "sees the error of their ways," and decides to try and "win back" the older fandom by reversing some of the more controversial decisions of recent years. Starting off, most of the biggest changes are gone. Meaning the fantasy sequences (unless it drives the story a la Engine of Many Colors), bouncing, and the international episodes are out the window. As is the insistent focus on the "Steam Team" concept. Edward and Henry aren't permanently moved back to Tidmouth, but likewise, other engines rotate out as the story needs (i.e. "but then one night, Edward came to the shed"). More or less, the show returns to series 17-21, with stories mostly based in reality (to the extent a show about talking trains can do so), and possibly a few new RWS adaptations here and there. Only real difference being the presence of the new engines introduced in the last 3 seasons. Basically, the show returns to it's roots, and stays grounded.
You see, there needs to be some sort of trade-off here; we get the realism and quality of what quite a few have called the show's (B)renaissance back, but the Powers That Be still feel the show needs an element of something "special", a "WOW Factor", so to speak, to draw the kids in. And hey, why not play on the nostalgia of some of the fans who may have have become parents in the last, oh, say, 20 years?
So Mattel decides to add in something "fun". Something "whimsical". You might even say... "Magical".
They decide to re-introduce Lady (again). I mean, hey, it worked twice with Diesel 10, so why not? Except this time, it's not in a dream sequence. Nor does she only appear in a couple movies and a Christmas episode. She gets fully integrated into the lore of the current show, bringing everything from her debut with her. This means that, to an extent, Thomas and the Magic Railroad and Shining Time Station are for the first time made explicitly canon. Exciting, right?
Certain things get tweaked to fit with the show, so as to not be too disruptive. Sodor and Shining Time are on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, not "The Conductors' Special Universe", for example.
But Lady's magic stays at the core of her character, in whatever way is deemed fit. She may not be holding the universe together, but she definitely has some sort of magical power, which can be used in whatever ways necessary to create or move a plot forward. As an example, let's say Thomas wishes he was as fast and strong as Gordon and Rebecca. Lady uses her power to give him his wish. Thomas enjoys it at first, but gets overconfident, and ends up causing an accident, or Lady takes the power away just when he needs it the most. Thomas learns another "be who you are and go far" message. Rinse and repeat. But hey, at least the engines aren't bouncing around!
As a rule, a few stories featuring her, centered around her magic, are penned for each new series. But, inevitably, she appears elsewhere too, spreading her Gold-Dust-powered magic wherever she goes. Gotta justify all those new toys we made of her, after all! And of course, we've gotta see some other Shining Time characters. Human characters like new incarnations of Mr. Conductor (and maybe Junior!) played by John Hasler and Joseph May (i.e. the most recent narrators of the series), who facilitate new daring adventures and antics for Thomas. Or maybe even an anthropomorphic version of The Rainbow Sun (re-textured from an existing engine like Beau, of course, to keep costs down)!
There would have to be, of course, be a special introducing all this, where Thomas travels internationally with Lady to America through the Magic Railroad, order to save Shining Time from P.T. Boomer or something. Then they could use the Magic Railroad to travel to other parts of the world and help there. Maybe they get stranded without any Gold Dust and Thomas has to find his way around the world to get home! I'm sure it would be a great way to write stories about Thomas going off to see the world. I mean, it's not like he's ever left the island before, right?
You know, this all seems very... familiar, somehow... hmm.
If it meant finally getting rid of what's "ruining the series" now, would you be willing to accept some of the things that people thought were "ruining the series" twenty years ago? And all that may come with it?
Personally, I love TATMR, so I wouldn't be too broken up about it. I've always felt the series had an element of "Magic" to it, anyway. After all, anything's better than Big World, Big Adventures, right?
I'm gonna go watch The Adventure Begins.
Well, that was fun to write, even if it did get a fair bit more cynical than I originally intended. I've been thinking about how I've seen both TATMR and BWBA be cited as "the death of realism in Thomas" or something to that effect at different points in time. So I thought, hey, what if Magic Railroad had as much influence on the show as BWBA does? Where would we be? It seems maybe not too far from where we are now.
I think my point here was more or less, we've been here before. TATMR wasn't the end of Thomas then, and chances are BWBA won't be the end of Thomas now. Just relax, and maybe take some time to appreciate the 75 years of history this series has to offer.
And, just in case, be careful what you wish for.
(by the way, I feel I should clarify that this is mostly satirical, and all very tongue-in-cheek, especially towards the end. I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell of any of the obviously outlandish parts of this coming to fruition. Though I would like Lady to be introduced into the series proper, Mattel. Please and thank you.)