Season 23, Episode 7: Laid Back Shane
Written By Camille Ucan and Rose Johnson
Directed By Dianna Basso
When Thomas The Tank Engine and his friends traveled to the mainland to compete with engines from around the world in the Great Railway Show, one of Henry's fellow competitors in the test of strength was Shane Of Australia-a big strong engine known as the 'Whispering Giant' who had been working tirelessly to ensure he was in the best shape. Shane's carefree ways have made him many friends especially when working as a tour guide in the Outback with his coaches Aubrey and Aiden as he cracks jokes to the tourists, but his carefree ways could soon land him in trouble...let's go go go on a big world adventure back to Australia with the one and only 'Laid Back Shane'!
LAID BACK SHANE: In Australia, Shane has too much fun to stop and refuel until he runs out of coal and is stranded in the desert
- The story-while the concept of engines having too much fun/being too proud to refuel is nothing new for the series since we have had both good and bad examples of this with Spencer back in Season 7's "Gordon And Spencer" as well as in Season 16's "Welcome Stafford" and with Billy in the universally hated Season 11 episode "Don't Be Silly Billy", I actually think that giving this concept and moral of patience being a virtue an international twist with the carefree Shane of Australia managed to improve on what had previously been done with Billy since it allowed us to see a side of Shane's character that we hadn't seen before thus rounding out his character from what we had seen during the Australian episodes of Season 22 as well as in 'The Great Race-on top of that, Aubrey and Aiden got some good development and some good moments of humor too with how they are the voice of reason to Shane like Annie and Clarabel are to Thomas in how they constantly remind Shane to refuel on coal and water but to no avail due to Shane being too busy having fun! Some could argue that Shane felt out of character in the episode and while I can see why, you have to remember that Shane is a carefree engine who loves to have fun whenever he can!
- The animation-even if they had to reuse a lot of assets from Sodor in order to create the railways of Australia like they did for the Australian episodes of Season 22 such as Harwick Station in order to create Shane's Station, you can't deny that the team at Jam Filled still did an amazing job in capturing the beauty and rustic atmosphere of Australia from the iconic red-rock monolith as well as the dunefields full of termite mounds as well as the return of the Kuranda Rainforest from Season 22's "Banjo And The Bushfire" which not only features the return of crocodiles and koalas from the Australian episodes of Season 22 but also gives us our first example of emus in the series as well-in fact much like giving our main cast a whole new look with things like rivets and handrails, the team at Jam Filled have actually upgraded quite a lot on their animation of Australia ever since Season 22 and the movie!
- Teaching Australian culture-some or even many fans might be turned off by this due to feeling like that they are back in school learning things that they don't want to (as if they didn't want to learn anything before), I'm all for learning new things about different cultures because the closest that I have ever gotten to Australia was going to Outback Steakhouse for dinner on occasion and I did actually watch some of 'The Koala Brothers' when I was younger (anyone remember that show?) and it was great getting to learn new things as well such as the Australian slang that Shane uses quite a bit throughout the episode albeit not as much as he did back in Season 22 as well as Thomas and Shane singing the well known bush ballad 'Waltzing Matilda' and the different animals around the Kuranda Rainforest from crocodiles to emus to koalas...speaking of which, I am glad that Tamika from Season 22's "Banjo And The Bushfire" was mentioned when Thomas was teaching Shane about protecting and respecting the animals of the rainforest but at the same time disappointed that she didn't come back as well considering how she only had one episode last season to truly show off her character!
- The fantasy sequences-with this now being one of the major selling points for the series, this sequence triggered by Shane hallucinating from the extreme heat while holding onto hope for Thomas to bring back some coal for him to refuel was absolutely hilarious with the different ways that the animators at Jam Filled could have fun used coal to play into Shane's slow descend into coal fueled insanity from the ice cold coal ice cream being sold on the seaside where fishermen are catching swimming coal in their fishing nets and even vacationers playing volleyball with coal closing out with the skies raining down coal from above all around Shane...but what actually surprised the most about this particular fantasy sequence was not the creative uses for coal in Shane's heat fueled hallucinations bur rather that this is the first fantasy sequence in the entire series that didn't take place until the near end!
Overall while being the weakest out of all the Australian episodes that we have received so far in both Season 22 as well as with Season 23 so far mostly from reusing a plot that we had seen a few times before in the series, 'Laid Back Shane' is still a very refreshing episode to welcome us back to our railway friends in Australia and that is why I'm going to give it a rating of an 8.5 out of 10.
The Other Big Engine-9.5/10
Gordon Gets The Giggles-8.5/10
Laid Back Shane-8.5/10
SEASON 23 OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10