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I actually like the CG a bit more than I do the models, even though it's had some pretty drastic changes in quality. The era where Michael Brandon was the narrator and Sharon Miller was the lead writer were easily the worst episodes of the entire show's run, CG or model-era (or in their case, both). When they got Mark Moraghan to narrate and Andrew Brenner to write, though, the episodes actually got really, really good, and by that point the animation and their choices for voice acting had also caught up and they both fit extremely well. They even adapted stories directly from the original books for the first time since Carlin was narrating. Sadly, both Moraghan and Brenner are now gone and the show's become decidedly more cartoonish in a way I'm not a big fan of. It's not back in the same depths of awfulness as the Brandon/Miller era, but still.
I don't know if you had them but, I also had a few VHS with Ringo Star as narrator. If you missed out on this you can watch them on you tube for free. they got up to season 10? They come in 2 versions, US and UK. I'd highly recommend it, because there's occasionally additional sounds and or dialog in the UK version when compared to the US(Carlin) version.
I've also noticed the CG is getting better and better. as for the writing, we have to remember this show is still aimed for children from ages 3-10. still some of those early Cg seasons, I think it was was 2-3 of the "teens" ,can't remember, were just god awful and boring. like we're talking caillou levels of boringness here. that or they were trying to mimic Dora the Explorer either way I'm glade the changed it up.
This one of my favorite episodes using the CGI.Spoiler
I really don't like the latest seasons "20+" way to many female engines, to much of what I consider "forced diversity" and the stories feel poorly written. It also feels like they're trying to change the series to target young girls instead of the core/key/established audience which is young boys. I'm hoping we don't have a repeat of what happened to Starwars, they changed the target audience and killed the franchise and have now recently made a loophole to get out of the debacal use "wizard space magic teleportation theory" in an effort to fix everything and regain the fans they treated so harshly. sadly I think its too late, many of these fans have turned to new forms of entertainment such as anime & manga which are made in Japan and have little risk of being changed by Hollywood and or its elite/social influencers.
Honestly, I think if they wanted to go this route, they should've created a sister series for Thomas and have had Rosie as the MP. you could still have the large amount of female engines and could have the ability to have a bigger pools for story options. Sorta like how we had she-ra after He-mans success?
Honestly, my biggest problems with season 20 onwards was the fantasy sequences, the downplaying of narration, and how, like the Brandon/Miller era, they started ignoring that the railway is supposed to be a working piece of infrastructure again. I like some of the new girl engines they've added though because, in all honesty, some of the older characters have similar personalities and the new ones can feel like a breath of fresh air sometimes.
The idea of a sister series seems interesting and I think it could work. I don't know how it could be best executed, but I'd hope it'd be good.
That episode is also one of my favourites. There's another Donald and Douglas episode in either that season or the one after that I really like where they're hauling a huge train of flatbeds alongside Emily and they basically start telling Emily each other's most embarrassing stories.
I guess I'm just looking at the series with a bit more of a hopeful eye since I don't totally agree with you, but I can definitely see where your complaints are coming from.
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