Saturday, 20 November 2010

"Favourite Character...?"

A very wise man once said this of his creations: "I don't have favourites. They are like members of the family".

I submit to that view too, because it is a fair and wholly good ideology. All engines are equal, and all engines have their place.

However, when I started The British Railway Series thread on the Sodor Island Forums, I wanted to gauge who were the most popular characters, and perhaps surmise as to why.

So I decided to check up on the results of the "favourite character" poll - which was started well over two years ago - and see where the characters currently stand. The results at time of writing, are as follows:

Allen[*******] (36 votes, 19.3%)
Stephen[***********] (54 votes, 29%)
Sir Ralph[*****] (24 votes, 12.9%)
Herbert[**] (13 votes, 6.9%)
Hawk[**] (11 votes, 5.9%
Nigel[**] (10 votes, 5.3%)
Tavish[**] (10 votes, 5.3%)
Scott[*] (8 votes, 4.3%)
Gronk[***] (14 votes, 7.5%)
Thompson[ ] (1 vote, 0.5%)
Arthur[ ] (2 votes, 1%)
Stewart[ ] (0 votes, 0%)
Geoffrey[ ] (1 vote, 0.5%)
Holden[ ] (2 votes, 1%)

By far and away the most popular character on the Sodor Island Forums Poll, was Stephen. This is to be expected to some degree. He is one of the three main characters, and has had pretty much the most airtime, appearing in every single episode and short to date. He had pretty much a full 1/3rd of the vote, at 29%.

Second was Allen, notable for his relation to the new build Peppercorn A1, 60163 Tornado. Taking home a commendable 1/5th of the total votes cast (19.3%). Allen was the first character introduced in the series, and has remained a firm fan's favourite ever since.

Next came Sir Ralph, with 12.9% of the total votes cast. This surprised me somewhat, as I feel to some extent he's the most developed of the three "main" characters.

Now the next character I expected to appear was Hawk, or Nigel - two characters with a very definite following, and both very humorous characters with a lot of airtime devoted to them, in comparison with other characters in the series.

However, storming into fourth place, with 7.5% of the vote, is Gronk! Given he has only appeared in a few episodes (most notably, Day of the Deltic, and The Parting of Ways), this surprised me a little, but it makes sense given he's probably the second most emailed about character. Everyone keeps asking when he'll return, and the answer is "sooner, rather than later".

In fifth place was Herbert. He's been portrayed as a younger, more naive character, with a good heart, and so I suspect much of his appeal stems from that. He's another character who will be developed more and more as the series develops, culminating in what I feel will be one of the "moments" to remember of the series for years to come.

Hawk came in sixth place. Given I get emails on a daily basis asking for his return, he's not proved so popular on the Sodor Island Forums, it seems. C'est la vie. I think his return to the series will be well worth waiting for. I seem to write him out and bring him back almost as quickly!

In joint seventh came Tavish and Nigel. The grumpy Scottish engine, and the grumpy Leeds tank engine both seem to have had much more airtime than other characters, yet neither in this poll has cracked the top five, despite some brilliant moments in notable episodes (Christmas, 1952, and Suburban Tank! to name but a few).

In ninth place came Scott. HOW?! He's Flying Scotsman, the most famous steam locomotive to come out of the British Isles. Has my portrayal killed the famous engine's popularity, I wonder?

Nah. Not even a little bit. The problem with the character of Scott is that I haven't reached the material which will cement the character once and for all as a BRWS regular.

Arthur came joint tenth with Holden. Arthur has had a full speaking role, but not much else, and Holden has only starred in a non-speaking role. That they've both had a full vote more than the characters which came in joint twelth - Thompson and Geoffrey - despite neither having more screen time than the latter two mystifies me.

Finally, in dead last, poor Clan Stewart. Wait until his first full speaking role - it's coming up, very soon.

Overall, I'm not surprised at the way the voting has gone, in all but the emergence of the plucky little diesel-electric shunter as a firm fan's favourite. I'm glad a diesel has made the top five - it shows the series is not so one dimensional as "diesels are bad, steam engines are good" - it's not that black and white, thankfully.

I'll be leaving the poll open for the foreseeable future, so if you're on the Sodor Island Forums and haven't voted yet, get cracking!

I'm make an update probably in the next year to see if anything's changed.

Until next time!

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