Thomas and the Royal Engine (Thomas & Friends)
"Thomas and the Royal Engine" or simply "The Royal Engine" is the final episode of Season 24, the final double length special in the series, as well as the last episode of the original Thomas & Friends series from 1984-2020 in production order. It serves as the franchise's 75th anniversary special. It was released first in the US on May 1st, 2020, then a day later in the UK through television on Channel 5's Milkshake! block on May 2nd, 2020.
Thomas is selected to take Sir Topham Hatt/The Fat Controller to London for a Royal Appointment, but without the knowledge of how to get there, their journey is filled with a great deal of confusion.
Why It Rocks
- The story premise is really fascinating. This episode has done a plot like this before in "Lady Hatt's Birthday Party" from Season 5, but of course, with Thomas and Sir Topham Hatt going to London for a Royal Appointment with the Queen of England, it still makes the episode very enjoyable.
- For the first time ever since Season 12, live-action is used in an episode. But with Prince Harry giving out a special introduction to kick-start the episode.
- There's one funny moment with Thomas' driver chasing after a squirrel after the squirrel took his hat.
- The amount of continuity is used, we get Classic era continuity, the recent Arc/Jam Filled era continuity (itself), as well as continuity from the Railway Series:
- The events from "Thomas Meets the Queen"/"Paint Pots and Queens" are mentioned.
- Thomas saying "Little engines can do big things" from the non-canon AMW.
- Gordon mentioning his way of getting to London from the Railway Series story, "Gordon Goes Foreign", which was also planned to be adapted to a TV series episode for Season 2 (which we all thought was Season 3), but was cancelled.
- Sir Topham Hatt taking over Thomas' fireman's position being called back from "Lady Hatt's Birthday Party".
- A photograph of Sir Topham Hatt and his wife, Lady Hatt from "Rosie is Red".
- Gordon being built at Doncaster.
- Henry having his rebuild at Crewe in England was mentioned from "The Flying Kipper".
- Prince Charles mentioning the events from "Big World! Big Adventures!" in the near end of the special.
- The Queen making an iconic mention of the books about the railway being a reference to the TV show's origins.
- Sir Topham Hatt mixing up suspicious with auspicious was clearly made a similar reference to the final story from the Railway Series, "Centenary".
- The Duchess of Loughborough is a really great character who we all want to see more from after this episode. What's better is that Rosamund Pike voices the character, and even she stated she loved working on the show, even for this episode. But sadly, this is no longer the case due to the end of the 1984-2020 series, as well as the start of the already bad to begin with All Engines Go! reboot.
- Sharon Miller joined the voice cast to voice as Queen Elizabeth II, which shows us Sharon Miller is a great voice actor even if she wrote some pretty mediocre/bad episodes, and her voice for the Queen is brilliant.
- It is really faithful to the 75th anniversary of the Thomas and Friends franchise, and truly deserves the title of being called "faithful".
- The animation, while sometimes still flawed in some areas, was a pretty big step up and improvement from the previous episodes of the Jam Filled era. Particularly with the mud and water effects.
- The voice acting is still great as usual. Especially with John Hasler and Joseph May voicing as Thomas in the UK and US dubs respectively.
- Spectacular soundtrack by Chris Renshaw, the show's latest composer of the 1984-2020 TV series.
- Thanks to this episode being the last one made in production order of Season 24 after 36 years worthy of the 1984-2020 canon. This episode graciously ended the 1984-2020 series on a high, but really positive note.
- The way Beresford swings Thomas with his hook, as how it was criticized in "Journey Beyond Sodor", is rather dangerous considering he would have dropped Thomas for picking him up with his hook like that.
- Although a hidden depth there, the story can be a bit slow-paced at times.
- While Thomas's driver and fireman are more active compared to other episodes (and definitely more active than in Seasons 13-16), they could have done a bit more, such as help Thomas decide on what route to take, and Thomas's driver should not have let him leave without the fireman, Sir Topham Hatt's demands notwithstanding.
- This being a Season 24 episide, the distracting body movements are still present, though they are not as jarringly overused as in some episodes or even in Thomas' Magical Birthday Wishes.
- As is common with the international episodes from Season 23, some of the mainland locations, particularly the London station, are obviously just redressed Sodor locations.
- But to be fair, the Classic era did this before with "Rusty to the Rescue". It could be that way due to budgeting reasons, so this is somewhat forgivable.
- Production-wise, this episode, as the standalone special of the twenty-fourth season, is placed after all the regular-length episodes. It serves as the series finale of the twenty-fourth season and the final episode to take place in the original continuity established in the first season, as though some promotional material continues to use the numbering scheme, the Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go! is a total reboot to the series, which makes this the last episode of the 1984-2020 series produced.
- Prince Harry's introduction was recorded on January 2020.
- Similar to how Wilbert Awdry criticized "Henry's Forest" from Season 3, Allcroft was critical of "Thomas and the Royal Engine"'s marketing, particularly where Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex was involved. The next day, however, she changed her mind on the episode and quickly clarified that her "concern was, in no way, about the actual writing of this story", and passed on good wishes to the writer, Michael White.
- The music played as Thomas and the Fat Controller are getting ready to go to London is similar to the Beatles' 1965 song "Day Tripper", former narrator Ringo Starr was the band's drummer for several years.
- Henry was the only former Steam Team member to speak in this episode, while Toby was the only former Steam Team member not to appear.
- Prince Charles can be seen holding a toy version of Thomas without a face - this is possibly a reference to Wilbert Awdry's original models.
- This was the first time ever since the twelfth season episode, "Best Friends", to use live-action. Also the first time since Thomas and the Magic Railroad to involve real life humans.