The Christmas Tree Express (Thomas & Friends)
"The Christmas Tree Express" is the twentieth and final episode of the sixteenth series in TV broadcasting order. This is the eighteenth episode of Season 16 in production order according to The Complete Sixteenth Series UK DVD.
Rheneas wants to go to Misty Island to find a Christmas tree. It will make a nice surprise for his friends at the Blue Mountain Quarry, but when he asks Toby to take him there, Toby is strangely reluctant. He's a little scared - he's heard that there are strange things on Misty Island.
- The title is misleading: You'd think the episode has anything to do with a Christmas tree express train, but it's something completely different than what is expected.
- Apart from being a typical Misty Island episode, it's also a "Toby's scared over something small" type of episode.
- There are three noticeable plot holes and continuity retcons:
- Toby has been to Misty Island before, so why would he be scared of going to Misty Island if he has been there without having any trouble?
- "We don't have a Christmas tree". Then wouldn't Rheneas just go and collect the tree from the Wharf and take it over to the Blue Mountain Quarry himself?
- What's so necessary about Toby not stopping if he is too scared? He has a driver, his driver could apply his brakes to make him stop and go take a different route.
- The purpose of the Logging Locos and Misty Island makes the episode pointless since Toby or Rheneas can fetch a Christmas tree back on Sodor instead of having to go to Misty Island just because it exists.
- The constant shoehorning of the Logging Locos and Misty Island are both why HiT Entertainment needed to stop making the writers of the series or even Sharon Miller shoehorn them in episodes when neither Logging Locos are needed if they serve no purpose to any story at all. The same should go with Misty Island because fans and parents might have already had enough of those characters and Misty Island and got tired of seeing the same three engines over and over again.
- This episode's purpose of Toby and Rheneas going to Misty Island is completely pointless to begin with. As stated earlier, either Rheneas or Toby can just go to the Wharf to pick up a Christmas tree and take it over to the Blue Mountain Quarry themselves than go to Misty Island for a tree.
- By Toby commenting about the fact Christmas wouldn't feel like Christmas without a tree, he would know by now that things are still Christmas without a tree. It's not like Father Christmas/Santa Claus would be disappointed there is no tree present. He would still give people presents regardless.
- As usual, the three strikes formula, alliteration, rhyming, and narration are annoying than ever, even with the narrators constantly stating the obvious.
- Rheneas constantly telling Toby to puff his hardest has gotten more repetitive and annoying than it is grating. Speaking of Rheneas, he is mostly annoying in this episode despite being one of the few likable characters in the same story, which is the least of this episode's problems.
- Even the pacing of this episode feels slightly boring. Mainly with Toby having to puff all around Misty Island to find the Christmas tree despite having a phobia of that island.
- What's the moral of the episode?
- Although HiT Entertainment took the criticism from Hilary Fortnam in 2011, they still kept Christmas being referred to as Winter Holidays in the US version, let alone annoy North American fans of Thomas in general because of how grating it's gotten. It was a minor issue in the Classic Series (notably Season 6's "It's Only Snow"), but here in Seasons 8-16 it is more frequent. Also, the whole "Winter Holidays" thing was an excuse from HiT to try to be more "politically correct" with people of different religions, even though it was already stated from Fortman that Wilbert never called Christmas the Winter Holidays in any of his books or adaptations of his stories.
- Overall, this is not a good send off for Toby's role in the Nitrogen era because of the flanderized personality he was given from Season 8. Not to mention, this is a rather lousy but weak send off to Season 16 in broadcasting order, and because this was the eighteenth episode in production order, it would not make a good season finale for Season 16 at all.
Note: Don't add in the fact this was Sharon Miller's last episode written for the show before moving onto being voice director because this episode is not the last written episode from her, "Happy Birthday, Sir!" was.
- The dynamic between Toby and Rheneas is a really great concept for character chemistry, despite the latter being poorly executed and not well written thanks to the pointless shoehorning on Misty Island.
- For once, a Christmas/Winter themed episode is aired on Christmas Day instead of having it aired Post-December in the UK. This would explain why the episode didn't air in the UK and Australia on that day unlike the air dates given for America and Japan.
- This episode is thankfully not the last episode of Season 16 according to the UK DVD of Season 16. "Happy Birthday, Sir!" gets to be the last episode of the Nitrogen era instead, and that episode has ended the Nitrogen era/HiT CGI era on a much better note as well as Sharon Miller's writing career on the show before sticking to being a voice director completely.
- Rheneas is chained down on the well wagon, unlike Bertie in "Stop That Bus!" from Season 15.
- The term "Winter Holidays" would no longer be mentioned ever again in both English dubs starting in 2013 with Seasons 17-24 maintaining Christmas.
- As usual, the animation and visuals from Nitrogen Studios look really good.
- THis is one of the few times we have seen Toby interact with any of the Skarloey engines, mainly Rheneas.
- Pretty good ending: Toby and Rheneas collected the Christmas Tree and they both take it to the Blue Mountain Quarry.
The episode was received negatively among fans and critics of Thomas the Tank Engine. It was given a 2.9/10 on iMDB.com.
- An arrangement of James' theme by Robert Hartshorne plays throughout the episode, although he doesn't appear in this episode.
- This is the only episode where a narrow-gauge engine goes to Misty Island.
- Most British television listings give this episode an alternate title, "The Christmas Express".
- This is the only sixteenth season episode to air in the US and Japan before its official UK broadcast, as well as the Australian broadcast.