26 September 2012

Thomas the Tank Engine and his Racist Friends, "The Steam Team" Part One: Calling All Engines

UPDATE: This post has been completely rewritten, updated, and expanded upon HERE. I highly suggest that you read that blog post instead of this one. Thank you!

So my son has become obsessed with "Thomas and Friends" (nee Thomas the Tank Engine) and we have started watching the movies on Netflix, getting him Thomas and Friends clothing, train sets, etc. Well, in watching these trains, I am somewhat concerned with the "Steam Team" made up of Thomas the #1 Tank Engine, Edward the #2 Blue Engine, Henry the #3 Green Engine, Gordon the #4 Big Engine, James the #5 Red Engine, Percy the #6 Little Engine, Toby the #7 Tram Engine, and Emily the #8 Stirling Engine.

They do not like the diesel engines, and make fun of diesels, saying they are inferior to steamies (steam engines). To make my point, let me take the review of one of the Thomas and Friends direct to DVD videos, "Calling All Engines" by the wonderful Thomas the Tank Engine website "The Sodor Island Fansite" and tweak it from the P.O.V. of Thomas and Friends to one of Diesel and Friends.
Summertime is always beautiful on the Island of Sodor, and it’s also a very busy time for the Sit Topham Hatt’s engines, who get to show visitors all the splendid sights of Sodor. And they are especially excited when they hear of plans to build a brand new Sodor Airport. Percy looks forward to seeing the airplanes, while Thomas is chuffed that they will soon carry more passengers than ever before and show them all the wonderful sights.

Construction begins almost immediately, and Thomas and Percy are kept very busy shunting trucks of bricks and timber at the building site. The two engines are excited about seeing all the holidaymakers and airplanes that will soon arrive on the Island... but they’re far less enthusiastic about working with ‘Arry and Bert, who are the diesels working at the building site. Why? Because they are racist against diesels.

Later that day, Thomas meets ‘Arry and Bert again when is collecting Timber at the yard. The two Diesels have a “very important job” and want to let Thomas know. This makes Thomas cross, and he decides to be a bully – by shunting Bert’s truck hard just as the timber he is due to carry is being loaded. Thomas laughs rudely at them and scurries off to shunt trucks with Percy at the Docks.

But when they’re working, Thomas is confronted by Diesel, who has heard all about what Thomas did to ‘Arry and Bert. He warns Thomas that he also has an important job to do, and to make sure that the cheeky tank engine won’t make trouble for him the way he has for ‘Arry and Bert. Thomas has other ideas! Instead of giving Diesel the trucks of timber and bricks he needs for the building site, he gives him trucks full of bananas instead.

The engines then go to the Smelter’s Yard to collect some steel girders. But upon their arrival, they see the amazing sight of Diesel 10 crushing scrap metal with his giant claw. The two engines are scared, and decide to come back when Diesel 10 is gone. But on their way back to the sheds they find that the Sodor Suspension Bridge hasn’t been painted, the Airport is only half-finished, and worst of all – Tidmouth Sheds has been knocked down! Diesel tells them that the important job that he, ‘Arry and Bert had been given was building the new ones. But because of Thomas’s tricks – they couldn’t complete the job... and Sir Topham Hat sternly reminds Thomas that “bananas are no good for building sheds!”

The Steam engines are cross with the Diesels – even though it is Thomas’ fault that their home is not finished, and now they would have to find other places to sleep. James chooses to stay at the Coaling Plant, Edward goes to the Quarry to stay with Diesel, Henry and Percy go to the Smelter’s Yard, Gordon finds himself in a ‘tent’, and Thomas has to stay at Knapford Sheds with Emily – who’s less than pleased to share her shed with him.

But in spite of feeling wracked with guilt over the jobs that haven’t been done, owing to his efforts to cause trouble for the Diesels, Thomas is confident that everything can be put right in the morning. However, he doesn’t bank on a wild, destructive storm blowing across the Island in the night. It rips off roof tiles, flattens fences – and destroys the Sodor Suspension Bridge with its sheer ferocity.

When Thomas wakes the next morning, he is shocked to see the damage that the storm has left in its wake. The Airport building site is a complete mess, and it will take a lot of work to get things ready in time for the holidaymakers arriving. Sir Topham Hat is stern with the engines and reminds them that everyone will need to work extra hard, and Tidmouth Sheds will only be finished when all the other jobs are completed first.

Sir Topham Hatt sets all the engines to work. But there is a great deal of disharmony among the Steam Engines and Diesels. There is more disharmony in Emily’s shed at Knapford. Thomas keeps her awake telling her about his day’s work when all she wants to do is go to sleep!

The next day, Sir Topham Hatt gives Thomas the special job of delivering the new bridge section for the Sodor Suspension Bridge’s repairs, and warns Thomas that he may need help delivering it to the site of the construction. Diesel tells Thomas that Diesel engines could help – which makes Thomas all the more determined to do a good job without anyone’s help. He pushes the heavy load all the way from the Docks, up Gordon’s Hill and on to the Suspension Bridge.

But a bigger challenge comes up when Thomas arrives at the bridge. Both he and Diesel want to lower the bridge section into place, and the workmen are keener for Thomas the showoff to do the job. Diesel is jealous – and has to watch while Thomas nervously moves the bridge section down into its new place. And he’s even more jealous when Thomas receives a standing ovation from the workmen for doing such a good job of lowering the section successfully! Thomas declares that Steamies are better than Diesels at everything! Diesel decides the time has come for revenge for all the bad things Thomas has been doing and saying...!

So when Thomas goes to collect some trucks of paint – Diesel lies in wait to strike. He rushes forward and sends the paint pots flying into the air – and spill their contents all over Thomas. Diesel laughs and scurries away – but Thomas is furious. This sparks a chain reaction of steam engines and Diesel engines biffing one another into dirty or awkward places – causing a terrible mess and a lot more delays for the completion of jobs. Sir Topham Hatt is most disappointed with all of them. The bridge hasn’t been painted and they will not be able to open the Airport – meaning no holidaymakers or airplanes will be able to come to Sodor that year. The engines are all disappointed at the situation.

That night, they all have worrying nightmares about what will happen to them. James dreams he’ll end up as a coconut shy, Gordon dreams he’ll end up as part of a children’s playground, Edward dreams he’ll be a scarecrow for Farmer McColl, and Percy dreams that he’ll end up working as a rollercoaster at the Fun Fair! But Thomas’s dream is the one that proves to be the most important to saving everything.

He puffs through the hills of Sodor in a misty, magical place. There, he sees Lady, a very special engine who worked high in the mountains, shunting trucks with Rusty the Diesel engine. Lady has a very special message for Thomas: “We always finish our jobs when we work together...” – something that Thomas and the other steam engines had forgotten all about in the midst of their racist feud with the Diesels.

Thomas knows exactly what to do – and more importantly, who to speak to about it. He hurries off to speak to the friendliest Diesel he knows, Mavis the Quarry Diesel. He soon finds Mavis at the Wash down and explains his plan to her, he wants to rally all the Steam engines and Diesel engines together for a special meeting to discuss the situation, and possibly see if they can get everything back on track again.

But by the time Thomas and Mavis have both spread the word to the other engines, it’s getting late and Thomas is far from home. He stops for a night in a siding, and needs to make a mad dash for the Coaling Plant where the engines are all assembled waiting for him. Tensions begin to mount, until Thomas hurries in to the yard to diffuse the situation before it becomes too heated. He encourages all the engines, both Steam and Diesel, to work together toward a common goal of being ‘Really Useful’ and bringing lots of holidaymakers to Sodor for the Summer. They can’t if everyone is bickering and arguing.

Sir Topham Hatt arrives with Harold to find out why the engines are all at the Coaling Plant. Thomas explains about the meeting and that the engines will all be working together to finish the Airport on time. Mavis helps Percy move trucks, ‘Arry and Bert help Gordon over the hill and Daisy the Diesel Rail-Car helps Toby to deliver workmen to each of the important sites.

With hard work and co-operation, the Airport is finally finished and the first airplane is on its way. But as Thomas tries to complete the last job alone he knocks over a water tower – damaging the runway and blocking the track! The engines are very cross; they feel like they’ve worked hard for nothing. Once again, Thomas has ruined everything!

Luckily, the runway is quickly given new tarmac, but they still need George to help finish the job. But he is too far away and too slow to make it there on his own. The engines need someone who can clear the line – and Harvey is also too slow to make it in time for the airplane landing. Then, Thomas has a bright idea – he knows one engine who could help save the day and put everything right... it’s just a matter of trying to persuade him!

Thomas plans to ask Diesel 10 if he can help clear the track. And although he is scared, Thomas plucks up courage and ventures over to find him. When Thomas finally finds him clearing branches at the foot of the hill, Diesel 10 makes it clear that he is reluctant to help a troublemaking steam engine. But Thomas works hard to persuade him, and explains the situation. Finally he wins Diesel 10 over by promising that he’ll be the most useful engine of all.

The engines are most surprised to see Thomas puff back with Diesel 10. As they watch Thomas and Diesel 10 set to work clearing the track, the other engines feel obliged to help too and begin shunting trucks away. With everyone working together, the tracks are finally cleared and Thomas is able to hurry off and collect George the Steamroller in order to mend the runway. George mends the runway in time, and the airplane is able to land safely. With everything in place – the engines could finally take passengers to and from the Airport.

With everything settled between the Steam and Diesel engines, everything returns to normal. But there is still one more surprise to come – Tidmouth Sheds is finally standing completely rebuilt and looking splendid with help of the diesels. The engines are thrilled to be welcomed home again, but their new home has one special new feature – a seventh space built especially for Emily to become a Tidmouth Shed resident... and she couldn’t be happier to join the others living there!

Unknown at the time, it would be 7 more years before the Diesels would get new living conditions, even though they still will have to live in their repair shed, the Dieselworks. That plot will be resolved 7 years later in “The Day of the Diesels”.
To be continued at http://OrthodoxScouter.blogspot.com/2012/09/thomas-tank-engine-and-his-racist_28.html and later at http://OrthodoxScouter.blogspot.com/2012/10/thomas-tank-engine-and-his-racist.html too.

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