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- “Time's time! Why should I keep my passengers waiting, while Henry and James dawdle about all day on viaducts?”
Better Late Than Never is the fifteenth episode of the second series.
Work has become hard for the engines on the Island of Sodor. The viaduct on the main line is being repaired, with the arches being strengthened. As the Fat Controller is unwilling to close the railway during repairs, the work is taking a long time and all engines crossing the viaduct must cross slowly and carefully, lest they risk it collapsing under them. Because of this, the engines are often late making it to the junction where Thomas waits for his passengers.
Thomas complains that the engines are just going slowly to make him late; one morning he grumbles at Henry for his lateness. Henry defends himself by telling Thomas that they have to go at a reduced speed during the repair work, but Thomas is uninterested and he leaves to try to make up for lost time.
Normally when Thomas stops at the station, Bertie arrives soon after and his passengers go straight from him to Thomas. However, when the larger engines are late for Thomas, then Thomas is late for Bertie's passengers and now they often find themselves waiting on the platform, causing Bertie to become angry with Thomas. When Thomas arrives that day, Bertie tells Thomas that he thought he could go faster than that. He then remarks they should have another race, thinking he could now beat him causing an exhausted Thomas to become angry and blame the main line engines for "dithering" on the viaduct and claims it to be an excuse for laziness.
Another day, James arrives later than ever. He apologises, a hold-up at the station combined with the delay at the viaduct causing his lateness. Thomas, as usual, has no interest in excuses and leaves grumbling. He attempts to get to the station as fast as he can, but is unable to make up very much time. However things change when Thomas spots Bertie at the level crossing, where his radiator is steaming. Thomas tells Bertie he is late, but Bertie tells Thomas that he feels dreadful and his driver is unable to repair him. Thomas running so late is a bit of relief, as he can now pick up the passengers here instead of having them be stranded. Thomas no longer feels angry and is sorry for Bertie, and promises to send help at the next station. Thomas leaves and takes the passengers home.
When Bertie is repaired, he and Thomas make up their argument and both agree that sometimes being late can actually be quite useful.
- Annie and Clarabel (do not speak)
- Edward (cameo)
- Trevor (cameo)
- One Little Boy (cameo)
- The Storyteller (cameo)
- Sir Topham Hatt (mentioned)
- This episode is based on the story of the same name from The Railway Series book, More About Thomas the Tank Engine.
- Stock footage from Thomas' Train, Thomas and the Guard, Thomas and Bertie and a deleted scene from Thomas and Trevor are used.
- The ending was filmed at the same time as Bertie's Chase, since Thomas and Bertie are in the same positions at Tidmouth, although with different camera angles.
- In the US, this episode aired before Saved from Scrap; this means that the audience would not know who Trevor is. It also aired before A Close Shave.
- For the remainder of the second series, the viaduct is always seen undergoing repairs.
- Christopher Awdry's credit for the episode was originally shown when the episode was compiled with Break Van, later versions throughout the 1990's (most notably on VHS and Cartoon Network) used the end credits from Duck Takes Charge. When a future release came out, Christopher was given credit for the episode.
- When the episode aired in the Shining Time Station episode, Mr. Conductor's Big Sleepwalk, the ending was cut short when Bertie left.
- In the Nick Jr. version in the US, a few scenes and lines were cut:
- In the scene of Henry crossing the viaduct was a few seconds short, George Carlin's lines were cut and the last of the music was relocated to that scene.
- The scene of Edward crossing the viaduct a second time is cut
- When Thomas told Bertie he is late, it goes right to the close-up of Bertie skipping the last few seconds of the previous scene and music.
- George Carlin's line "With a last cheerful greeting, the two friends went back to work" was cut as well as the last close-up of Bertie and the last two scenes.
- Edward has Thomas' whistle sound at the very beginning.
- Thomas has to wait for James at the junction; James is supposedly bringing Thomas' passengers, but he is pulling vans.
- In many scenes, Clarabel is facing the wrong way.
- Bertie's face is loose when he says "Late again!" and is clearly being held in position by blu-tack.
- Thomas' eyes are wonky when he says "Time's time!"
- At the end of the episode when Thomas leaves the station, the track moves a bit by itself.
- In Ringo Starr's US narration, when Thomas says "They dither about on the viaduct and then blame Sir Topham Hatt's workmen," there is an echo in the background. This is audio from the UK version.
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