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Broken Base / Thomas the Tank Engine

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Even a children's show about talking trains is not without its divided fanbase.

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  • Whiff. Oh dear. Whiff. A filthy steam engine, wearing glasses. Some find him charming, but many fans were disheartened feeling the show at this point had abandoned all and any railroad/railway realism it had left. Though, it should be noted that the original books had a minor character, the Ballast Spreader, who also had glasses.
  • Certain characters retaining their early HiT era personalities in the Brenner era (particularly Henry). Some think it gives the characters more unique personalities, while others feel it makes them too far removed from their original characters.
    • On the topic of Henry, fans feel his departure from the main cast in “Forever and Ever” to take up residency at Vicarstown was poorly handled. While some see the move as trying to be “Railway Series faithful” (due to the engines living at Vicarstown in the early books), others feel his move was poorly explained and done solely to write him out due to the writers despising him, and to make room for Rebecca. Fans feel that because he has been handled badly in later seasons, and with most of his season 22 appearances only being cameos, Henry should have been written out of the show altogether, just to save him from rotting away in the background.
  • Emily has been a subject of split opinion among the fandom ever since her first appearance in Season 7. To start off with, there were some who took a liking to her for her kind, sensible and mature personality, while others found her to be rather basic and felt that she didn't really add much to the series aside from being a way to balance out the cast's gender inequality at the time. The fact that the new series flanderized her into a bossy, controlling nagger didn't help matters, either. "Emily's Adventure" was a particularly notorious showcase of this, with her being rude to just about everyone she interacts with in the episode, telling them that they're not working hard enough not showing any form of gratitude to them when they help her. After watching the episode, most people, even her detractors, could all agree that Season 7 Emily would never do this. While she does revert to her original caring and helpful personality in the CGI seasons, there are still some shades of bossiness still hanging around occasionally (likely to maintain a Fatal Flaw for her like the other engines), causing some to have the same split opinions as the ones mentioned above.
  • Flying Scotsman finally being introduced in The Great Race had a mixed response. While in all versions he cares about his brother Gordon. They kept the Spencer-tradition going that any foreign British locomotive is always depicted negatively. The famous engine's graceful and humble character of the books was dropped in favor of turning him into a more pompous and arrogant version of Gordon. However, since all of his jabs were directed at Gordon, and he was shown to speak kindly to Thomas, he could just be teasing Gordon for fun without any underlying pomposity, and he does show concern for Gordon's well being during the titular Great Race, so his smokebox may not be so clouded with pride as it appears.
  • The change to Rosie's color scheme in season 21. Some feel it suits her name better (since well, roses are red) and signified her new mature personality, along with finally giving the TV series an engine to canonically have “NWR” lettering (which would also get another member in Rebecca). Others feel it ruins her uniqueness that her original livery presented, and they feel it was a pointless change overall as Red!Rosie has a massive lack of merchandise, the episode that finally acknowledged the change wasn't even about her, and that she comes across as more of a Flat Character than how she used to be.
  • Donald and Douglas' Sibling Rivalry in the later seasons. Some fans find their bickering to be humorous while the other half find it annoying and prefer their relationship in the earlier seasons.
  • Philip is another divisive character. Some like him for being Adorkable and among the few new characters to get an Awdry-esque character arc, while others detest him for being basically, an annoying child. It also didn’t help he was the reason Edward decided to transfer to Wellsworth Sheds, where Philip lives.
  • Nia is quite divisive. She has garnered some praise for her resourcefulness and kindness, while others pan her for supposedly being a Mary Sue. It doesn't help that she's taking Edward's place in the main cast, along with being criticized as a Flat Character due to her only character trait being a Token Minority.
  • Ace gets a lot of hate for being a toxic influence to Thomas, yet he also has fans, mostly because of his "Free and Easy" song.
  • Rebecca also falls into this following her introduction in season 22. Some fans like her for her Adorkable personality and expression (with some fans liking her only due to said facial expressions) as well as being based on a popular locomotive class, while others loathe her due to replacing Henry in the main cast and having a ridiculous over-the-top Eye Candy livery, the latter of which Mattel said was done in an attempt to please young children with low attention spans. It also doesn't help that many feel the writers missed the chance to make the relatively popular season 9 character Molly a permanent member of the cast, being another extremely shy yellow female tender engine.
  • Hong-Mei is another often hated character. Some enjoy her for being a fun engine, while others hugely despise her for having no character traits other than just being a female version of Thomas.
  • Duck, despite being a popular character whose return was greatly praised among fans, soon developed a broken base following his return in season 17. Him constantly saying his "There are two ways of doing things..." catchphrase grew tiresome among some fans. There's even a group who believe Duck was solely brought back purely to pander to older fans. And deride any appearance he makes in an episode regardless of how important it may be. Oliver gets it to a lesser extent as well.
  • Charlie. While the episode "Not Now, Charlie" redeemed him in some fans' eyes, other fans still find him annoying for his jokes.
  • Thomas himself. Despite the series' namesake, there are some fans who are tired of him appearing on every single episode and being featured as the main protagonist in every special, though a number of fans don't seem to mind.

  • The running gag in "Duck and the Slip Coaches" where Emily gets left out of the sheds, a hilarious Take That! to those who thought that Emily replaced Duck? Or an incredibly mean-spirited joke at the expense of a character who ultimately didn't deserve it?
  • "A Shed for Edward" practically sent the fandom into a tizzy. Many view the episode's situation of of Edward trying to find a place to sleep as a thinly-veiled excuse to kick Edward out of the Steam Team and write the old engine out of the show. Others however, consider the situation as an emotional one, as well as considering Edward's move to Wellsworth to be a decent choice character-wise, since he's now properly situated on his branch line as opposed to the mainline, and tends to work best as a mentor character, which he can now do so for Philip.
  • Most episodes from the "Big World! Big Adventures!" series (season 22 onwards), particularly the international episodes. Of the Sodor-based episodes, "Forever and Ever", "Rosie is Red" and "Apology Impossible" are the most divisive.
    • "Forever and Ever". Some appreciate the message about change and related with Gordon's feelings in the episode, while others felt that Gordon was uncharacteristically mopey and regarded it as a Take That! towards the fandom.
    • "Rosie is Red". It gets praise for the moral that if a girl and a boy hang out, that doesn't mean they're dating, while the more hardcore fans argue that romance has no place on the show.
    • "Apology Impossible". Some like it for Philip's Character Development, but some felt that James was too mean in the episode, and that it would've been more fitting if Diesel had James' role instead since he had history in bullying other engines. A few thought James bullying Philip was in-character due to James' long-established hatred of diesels, while others felt that it made him come off as an Ungrateful Bastard towards Philip, as Philip had saved him back in season 19's "Philip to the Rescue".
  • Even the earlier seasons aren't immune to this. Some agree with Rev. Awdry's complaints about Seasons Three and Four, where the show started taking heavier liberties with their adaptations of The Railway Series novels, retooling some of the characters, as well as making their own (relatively less realistic) stories. Others believe these are as much a part of Thomas' "golden era" as the first two seasons, with most of the breaches being mild and forgivable compared to later seasons, and still consisting of memorable storytelling. Episodes such as "Henry's Forest" are of particular contention.

  • The Great Race itself is much more divisive than the previous specials, in no small part due to the sheer amount of characters introduced, many of said characters being relegated to background roles, the special being a musical (these fans objected to the perceived Disneyfication of the franchise), and Gordon and Thomas' streamlined forms (though Thomas' was a fantasy, it still got a ridiculous amount of merchandise). Some people were turned off by all of these factors and more, while others found the special a lot of fun regardless—or even because of—those factors.
  • Journey Beyond Sodor has also become rather divisive. This has to do with an increased amount of bouncing in the animation, along with maintaining the musical aspect of The Great Race, as well as Thomas once again having the main focus. There's also it playing with railway realism a lot more than season 20, which had been praised for retaining season 19's humor while returning to more realistic plots. Others however, enjoy the more dramatic story, having more focus on its new characters than The Great Race did, and featuring more of the mainland at long last.
  • Big World! Big Adventures! has split the fanbase even further than the previous two specials, with some panning it for the downgraded lighting and unrealism taken Up to Eleven, and others praising it for the soundtrack and the characterizations of Nia and Beau.

  • The faces. Charmingly simple or nightmarishly unsettling?
  • Fans seem completely split down the middle over the shift to CGI animation. Many fans find it a complete betrayal to the original model series, or a necessary move that opened up more potential for characterization and flexibility story wise.
  • Disputes over over the best narrator of the show are also common. Particularly between Ringo Starr and George Carlin.
  • Much fighting within the Thomas the Tank Engine community comes from the fact some of the older, nostalgic fans think either the new, younger fanbase are a bunch of morons (at least those who've outgrown the target demographic) or go out of their way to bash the writers over their tendency to treat the supposed young, bright minds as morons. Shipping and overused locomotive classes are also huge sources of backlash (shipping between humanized versions of the characters, though, is accepted and a whole fandom of itself).
  • Some of the changes in voice actors, or even just those between the UK and US dubs, are also of contention, especially since some sound vastly different from the other. Prior to that, the various narrators were also of debate between fans.
  • Season 22 has also been divisive among fans. Some like it for being a change of pace and testing different dynamics by incorporating the international engines (both newbies and returning The Great Race characters), while others hate it due to the faster pacing, Nia and Rebecca joining the main cast purely to force in more female representation, Edward, Toby, and Henry's roles being diminished to make way for Nia and Rebecca and appease the feminists who frequently target the show for its predominantly-male cast, and the focus on more gimmicks such as unrealistic fantasy sequences, over-the-top stunts (some of which actually take place outside of fantasy sequences) and wild animals. Some also hate the involvement of the United Nations on the new series, due to them pushing agendas and prioritising cultural and political messages over the storytelling. Everyone, though, agrees that the series was retooled by Mattel specifically to compete with PAW Patrol, which had taken a considerable amount of Thomas' market share.
  • Merchandising is also a divisive topic. Debates rage over which of the die-cast toylines is better: Ertl, Take-Along, Take n' Play, Adventures, or Push-Along. There's also debates over Tomica vs Trackmaster, Bachmann vs Hornby, the existence of Minis, among others. Just about the only thing fans can agree on is the superiority of the long-running and beloved Wooden Railway range over the Thomas Wood range that replaced it.

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