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Tugs Episode Review: (1) Sunshine

By Yoamiwaii, Mar 5 2018 01:00AM

[Article By: Amiwaii]

Hit the rewind button to nostalgia as we dive into the first of my episode reviews for TUGS television series.

Let’s settle in for some ‘comfort viewing’ reviews of a piece of my childhood, which I’ll probably quickly ruin with my bizarre sense of humour and copious amounts of profanity (I swear, there will be meaningful, thought-provoking content in here somewhere!). It might be a kids show, but it’s far from kid friendly material compiled here. Reader discretion is advised.

In this week’s episode, we meet the regulars, who are in turn introduced to the chipper new guy, Sunshine, who quickly realises Bigg City is full of back-stabbing gits who will try to murderise you. Oh, and Ten Cents does a lot of shouting.

Just a forward note, this episode has both TV and VHS cuts, the latter being 20 minutes long opposed to 15 minutes with the TV version, so there maybe things mentioned in the review that only relates to one or the other, though I’m primarily focused on the VHS version.

I think before I really dive into the episode, I want to at least talk about the opening sequence so I don’t have to do so again down the line. There are two versions – on the VHS anyway, as I think they were still deciding on their definitive opening sequence. They have similar clips – in different orders albeit – and a few of the VHS episodes miss out chipper little Ten Cents getting his cool border with the TUGS title on it, which became the final version on all the TV episodes. But it’s not singularly the imagery of the characters that make the opening for me, it’s the narration and the music. In the case of the former, you get the authority-driven voice of Patrick Allen introducing us to the series: - ‘The tugboat, for its size, is the most powerful craft afloat. And the Star Tugs, are the power behind the docks and waterways that make up the Bigg City port. ((insert pause)) This… is TUGS!’

There is just something absolutely perfect about his delivery that really gives scale and substance to the world we are visually entering. Then again, this is the same guy who voiced public information announcements on how people could protect themselves during a nuclear attack; so yeah, this was a voice you were damn well going to listen to and take note of what he was saying. Also, when you listen to the narration, if you close your eyes, you don’t exactly feel like you’re about to sit down to a kids show. For a moment, you could easily think the narration and how the music flutters gently in the background that you’re about to watch an 80’s real life documentary about tugboats. There is just so much maturity given to the whole atmosphere, even with it being a show about anthropomorphic talking boats.

The music definitely gives away that it’s a product of the late eighties/early nineties with its use of saxophones punctuating the theme, which seemed a common instrument of that time period to appear in TV theme music. For its use in TUGS, it does seem like it would fit better for some cheesy, steamy romance-drama of its era, but yet it somehow works for a kids show. It has a light-hearted, jovial, albeit powerful cadence that really says this show is more than the genre its built for and you’ll find it’s greater than the sum of its parts. (To drift into a side note, there is just something about squalling saxophones that screams 'adult' content like no other. I’m worried I’ve been tainted by life at its most obscene. Rest in peace, my innocence.)

So with the title sequence out of the way, we finally delve into the episode! Welcome to the Roaring Twenties, my friends! We’re dropped into the heart of Bigg City Port, a bustling hive of activity. I’m guessing the Wall Street Crash hasn’t happened yet, as there seems to be plentiful work for the residents of the port, most predominantly our anthropomorphic boat friends! It’s the golden age of ocean liners, and the waterways are a prime form of freight transport. The scenery is visually gorgeous, an absolute marvel of model making. You get the 20’s feel with the worn, smoky architecture. Everything that inhabits the world fits like a glove; even the uncanny face-clad boats don’t take away from the atmosphere and meld in perfectly. In fact, they enhance it with their own type of colour, born from design and personality.

The opening lets us see the characters, steaming about their business like the hardworking boats they are. What you become very aware of as you watch the series is that there are no human characters shown at all, though any that are indicated are represented by bullhorn megaphones protruding from buildings and the like, which is a great aesthetic as it was a form of communication used in this line of business in that era. Overall, it’s an interesting device which gives more presence and power to the tug characters themselves, and gives you the impression they are somewhat self-sufficient and able to communicate and make their own decisions. I mean, they could have a human crew aboard navigating them, but the characters are treated as sentient individuals able to function as such, so it doesn’t really matter if this is even a factor or not. Of course, then my mind starts drifting into unchartered territory, where I start taking into consideration the value of this sentiency, and are they considered to be living beings? And if so, it makes you wonder about their use as objects of society, almost abject slaves created to serve human purpose, and then when they’re no longer of use, that scrapping them is like some form of euthanasia! And what about sinking, or being damaged by any means?! Do they suffer? Do they truly experience death?!

And then I stop, remember this is a kids show, and tell myself that it’s probably best not to think too deeply about such things.

Moving very swiftly on, we are introduced to the Star Tugs by their owner and series narrator, Captain Star… OF THE FUTURE! Though, probably future past to us watching it whenever, as who knows how long down the line he is retelling his stories. Certainly if he was running a tugboat company in the 1920’s, I very much doubt he’d still be around in the 80’s when the series was made. So yeah, whatever, it is what it is. The Star Tugs are collectively part of Captain Star’s Star Tug and Marine, and they each toot-toot their individual whistle style as they are introduced off-hand. We have the old paddle tug, O.J., the work horse harbour tugs, Warrior and Big Mac, the railway tug, Top Hat, the little switcher, Ten Cents, and finally the ocean-going tug, Hercules. These guys are the good guys and main focus of the series, with a new face set to come along shortly, but more on him later. On another note, the Star Tugs are also referred to as the Star Fleet, which instantly makes me think of Star Trek. I was half expecting a Captain’s Log, star-dated and all, to just suddenly occur for no apparent reason. It also gives me mental images of a tug randomly floating through space, screaming soundlessly into the vacuum. In space, nobody can hear you toot-toot.

Back on the water, our story officially opens at the Star Tugs pier, which really doesn’t seem big enough to comfortably moor up six boats of varying sizes. It looks like gridlock waiting to happen at an early morning scramble. Aside, five of the six Star Tugs have managed to gather in at dawn to be greeted by Captain Star, informing them that he has drafted in another switcher from upriver to help with the workload, going by the name of Sunshine. Top Hat, who we discover is a loveable tosspot, pompously takes a dig at Sunshine’s name, asking if he’s ‘only good for day work’. After a bit of banter with the cheeky Ten Cents taking a dig at Top Hat, Captain Star kyboshes the camaraderie to inform them that they’ve scored the big ocean liner contract for the towing in the Duchess, and they need to prove themselves. All his tugs are given their jobs for the day, with Ten Cents tasked to work with the newcomer.

Unfortunately for them, there is some earwigging from next door, as their neighbours are their rivals and resident villains of the piece (well, I say villains with a sort of wavering hand gesture, more like a load of conniving prats). These guys are: Zero Marine Bigg City – more commonly known as the Z-Stacks or Zero Fleet. Led by Captain Zero, whose megaphone jitters about like a man whose having coffee withdrawal, they are a team of unscrupulous scallywags who’d sell their grandmothers for half a pack of cigarettes and some Viagra. As news drifts in on the wind of the Stars contract fortune, the Z-Stacks are clearly less than pleased. The way Zero speaks to his fleet, I was half expecting him to have an aneurysm, or at least for him to lob his megaphone out the window. All his tugs are there, having to endure the barrage of verbal abuse. There is leader Zorran, and his cronies Zak, Zebedee, Zug and Zip. Woo, alliteration! So, anyway, Zero is pissed that the Stars are trying to secure the ocean liner contract, and like the dodgy bloke he is, he wants his motley crew to get the contract for him, by any means necessary. He hammers home that you pretty much got to do what you got to do in these ‘apparent’ times of corruption and bad business ethics, and that they’ll have to be devious to get ahead. Zip, the most naïve member of the Z-Stacks (and notably less of an asshole in some respects), bless his heart has no idea what devious means. Zero reminds him that he’s not expected to think, which is kind of silly, but yeah, whatever. Zero then motivates his tugs with compliments, even so far as to say that they are ‘better looking’ than the Stars, which – hilariously – Zak comments on, relishing the idea that he’s a dreamboat (PUN… or something!), despite sneering like a snake and sounding like he’s been smoking forty a day. Yeah, gorgeous, I’m sure (Ooo… sarcasm!). Inspired by Zero’s rhetoric, Zorran seems to hedge his bets towards success that their rivals are going to ‘miss the boat’ (Nice, Zorran, nice!), or ‘[his] name isn’t Zorran’, which Zip sheepishly questions is his name, isn’t it? Oh, you lovable rogues and dumbasses! They can be such pantomime villains sometimes, but you’ve got to love them! Though, throughout this whole loud exchange, didn’t Captain Star or any of his Tugs hear any of this clear as day scheming?! Good grief, there is literally a fence between them and Zero was being pretty damn loud about his scheming!

Plans and whatnot aside, we leave the Star and Zero peers, and get to briefly meet Hercules, who we’re told has got work up the coast, which means they lose his strength the day they need it. Obviously as the strongest of the fleet, the plot demands he go off and be busy somewhere else. It’s never actually explained what he’s doing, but as he’s a character that just to seems to turn up when he feels like it, we’ll just say ‘something, something’. Ten Cents moseys on over to tell Hercules about the Duchess and that it’s a pity he won’t be there. Hercules, all debonair (though looking somewhat smug), says ‘[he] hates to disappoint the Duchess’. You lady killer, you! Ten Cents asks if Hercules has seen the new Switcher, Sunshine, which he hasn’t, and the former is clearly impatient waiting for him to show up. Hercules promptly leaves (I assume so Ten Cents doesn’t keep blithering at him), though not before telling the switcher to look after the Duchess for him.

O.J. does a flyby (or is that float by?) and sees if Ten Cents has found the new switcher yet as he’s looking for him, which pre-emptively leads into the next scene of Sunshine making his appearance, his smoke stack seen drifting by behind some coals piles (he’s so dinky, bless him!). He then literally bumps into Ten Cents seconds later. Sunshine’s scared/shocked face is so cartoonish, I love it! The new switcher apologises and says he’s looking for Ten Cents, clearly not reading the writing on the bow he’s just bumped into. It’s so sweet that Sunshine keeps calling Ten Cents ‘sir’, despite the latter being just as much a veritable dogs body as him, but he’s a country boy from Up River and doesn’t quite get the hierarchy situation quite yet. And Sunshine’s verbal tick, his whistle, adds to the humour of his dialogue with Ten Cents, who clearly finds his new companion an intriguing fellow.

The following scene shows Zorran and Zak coming across Izzy Gomez, a tramp steamer looking for a tow. Izzy is definitely a character you couldn’t get away with today; he’s a stereotyped Mexican character with a sombrero, a questionable accent and depicted as lazy and cheap. I do like Izzy, he gets some great character moments, but yeah, you just have to keep telling yourself the 80’s was a very different time and try and breathe through some very cringe-inducing things surrounding him. It probably doesn’t help that when he asks for a tow, Zak quips that they don’t ‘[they] don’t accept bananas as payment’. Breathe, breathe… And then when Izzy asks if they are towing the Duchess, Zorran calls him a ‘South American heap of junk’… Yikes! Mexico isn’t part of South America, which makes the insult even worse, as either Zorran is just stupid or being intentionally a massive dick. Please, no more, no more…

Izzy informs them that the Duchess had already arrived that morning, and everyone is suddenly very busy, thus why he can’t seem to get a tow. Zorran and Zak are taken aback, as they’re clearly unaware of this fact – my favourite line of this is Zorran calling Zak a ‘dinky brain’; such an amazing insult! They quickly skedaddle with this fresh information, leaving Izzy sighing to himself that he needs to get a tow in to offload his bananas. I can’t imagine what the smell would be like if that lot went off! Zorran and Zak quickly get this information back to Captain Zero, who reaffirms that they will get the contract for him. Though, if the Duchess came in early, why don’t they just go meet her instead of the Stars? Like, really?

Off near Lucky’s Yard (a place that will be mentioned often in the series, as it’s a boat repair shop, and believe you and me, these disaster-struck tugs are using it often), Ten Cents introduces Sunshine to Sally Seaplane. I love how Ten Cents has to point out to Sunshine that she’s a seaplane, as if he’s fucking blind. Sunshine hilariously sort of wolf whistles at her as he drags out a ‘Hellllooooooooooo, Sally’. Way to play it cool, Sunshine, you horn dog. Thankfully, Sally doesn’t acknowledge that she’s being leered at like a piece of meat, and thanks them for the fuel. I’m not sure what this scene really serves besides just showing Ten Cents and Sunshine apparently doing some work. Sally herself doesn’t do anything else in the episode, or for the rest of the series for that matter. This is the only time she speaks. I suppose it gives some flavour to the harbour area, and breaks up the scenes with something different. I can see why they cut this in the TV version of the episode. Though, it would have been nice to see her in action in an episode, as there was so much potential. Oh well!

Ten Cents notices that the Z-Stacks look like they’re up to something, and the scene switches to Zorran with Zip and Zug, who are indeed, up to something. Zorran is pleased that Hercules is away, being that he’s the only boat in Bigg City who doesn’t take shit from the Z-Stacks, as he has too much common sense for their ridiculous chicanery. So as he’s no problem, their focus turns to the next strongest Star Tug in line, Big Mac, and they’re gunning to see that he gets knocked out of the picture. Zorran wants little Zip and Zug ‘knuckle’ the hefty Big Mac, and Zip is particularly dubious about how to do that. Zorran tells him they should ‘stuff him onto [a mud bank]’ while he is towing barges. Zug mentions Zip has done it to himself before so he should catch on. Poor Zip, such a butt monkey; aside, he’s impressed by such a ‘devious’ plan!

Izzy Gomez is still moored up in the same spot when Warrior happens by. Izzy is delighted, as Warrior is usually good for a tow. Of course, Warrior has no time to quibble over money or whatnot, as if he’s going to tow him in, he needs to do so quick because of the Duchess coming in. Izzy then informs him the Duchess has already arrived. Warrior with a ‘suffering stacks’ heads off to tell the others and promises to tow Izzy later, who I’m sure realised quickly he’d shot himself in the foot (or other boat related extremity) by telling Warrior about the Duchess. Poor Izzy, all banana’d up and nowhere to go!

Zip and Zug catch up with Big Mac, and offer ‘friendly’ assistance with the most suspect smiles and dodgy schmoozing imaginable. How the hell Big Mac falls for this is beyond me, seeing as Stars and Z-Stacks are heated rivals. You just couldn’t possibly trust these guys, oozing suspicion like cheap cologne and Zug smiling in a way that makes his face look like a wrinkly scrotum. But yeah, Big Mac is too nice. It was nice knowing ye, man.

We go elsewhere to see Ten Cents and Sunshine cruise on up to a gathering of O.J., Warrior and Top Hat, who are undoubtedly on edge because of the Duchess situation. O.J. asks if Ten Cents has seen Big Mac, which he hasn’t. Because his strength is needed to help bring in the liner, the switchers are ordered to go look for him while the rest of them try to deal with the situation themselves. We fade in then to the three harbour tugs beginning to bring in the Duchess with the Z-Stacks watching off to one side. I have to gush over how fantastic the ocean liner model is; she’s a real beauty!

There’s a weird scene cut with the Tugs and the Duchess moving together when Warrior and Top Hat are wondering where Big Mac is; it goes from a shot of Warrior and the Duchess moving, to a focus on Top Hat singularly at the lead, but neither he nor the Duchess are actually moving. It’s a bit noticeably jarring.

We’re quickly shown what’s happened to Big Mac when Ten Cents and Sunshine happen upon him. And surprise, surprise, he’s stuffed up on a mud bank! And even more surprising is that Big Mac is genuinely bewildered by his circumstances. I mean, there was no way his unscrupulous rivals could possibly do such a terrible thing! I want to know how Zip and Zug managed to get him up on the mud bank without him realising it was them, because he seems proper confused about how he got there. Of course, when Big Mac relays that he’s been waiting for Zip and Zug, as they’d apparently gone for help, Ten Cents uses the brain cells he’s been blessed with to know that they’ve done a dump and run. Before Ten Cents can initiate trying to help his naïve companion out of his predicament, they hear the sound of the Duchess’s horn, and Big Mac tells them there is no time and the pair should to go help with the docking procedure and that O.J. will tell them what to do. Ten Cents doesn’t seem pretty sure as it’s not his usual remit, but Big Mac offers words of reassurance to send them off, telling him to show the Duchess what the Star Fleet is made of. I’ll tell you what they’re made of: steel and stupidity. Because Big Mac has buggered himself, Ten Cents and Sunshine get to test their metal docking a liner, which is kind of good in a way for them to show they can hang with the big boys.

So we leave Big Mac to deservedly wallow on his mud bank (and think about what he’s done, and not to be such a dumbass in the future!) and head back to the Duchess, now with Ten Cents and Sunshine lending a bow. The Z-Stacks are slyly watching events, with Zorran waiting for an opportunity to scupper the Star Tugs operation. I notice during these events Izzy Gomez is suddenly in a different spot to where he was moored before. Wasn’t he still waiting for a tow to get into port? Why is he suddenly there, and who towed him? Or is he supposed to be taken somewhere else? Bit of a goof that!

Zorran has homed in on getting rid of Sunshine – not just thinking devious as Zip mentions, but thinking contract, and the opportunity arises when O.J. tells Sunshine to ease back. Zorran now sees his chance when he thinks nobody is looking and rams Sunshine from behind (minds out of the gutter, folks!). This sends Sunshine lurching forward into the rudder of the Duchess. A slight goof here is that Sunshine’s stack bends when it hits under the stern of the liner. Boing!

‘What’s going on back there? She’s out of control!’ Top hat exclaims… as the liner doesn’t move an inch. Yeah, no, Top Hat. She’s clearly NOT out of control. Out of control would be the ship flailing about like a dying whale. Yeah, it’s a pretty obvious production goof. But anyway, as we ‘imagine’ the situation is out of control, Zorran steps in to help keep things stable, evilly laughing pretty much at every turn, because that’s not obvious that you’ve been up to no good, right? RIGHT?! His companions are overjoyed with their plan coming together and praise their leader as he saunters off like a smug git.

Hang on a second, how the heck did some of the other Tugs on Sunshine’s side – like O.J. or Ten Cents – not notice Zorran anywhere near the former when he had his accident? Come on, I’m finding it hard to believe that they wouldn’t have at least turned when Sunshine had been launched towards the rudder to see Zorran skulking near his former position. But yeah, no, obliviousness and tunnel vision reigns supreme. Only Izzy Gomez, plot conveniently moored where he is, sees everything. Sunshine scurries away, confused about what happened, apparently having no sense of feel in his rear to recognise he was shoved. Wow, that was some tremendous rear-ending by Zorran!

That night, The Duchess decides to throw a bit of a party it seems for her arrival in port, as fireworks are going off ten to the dozen, and the Star Tugs are hanging out with her. Sunshine is sat aside, looking thoroughly miserable. You can’t help feel for him, getting stung by the Z-Stacks, those pricks. He slowly heads off, sure that nobody is going to talk to him again after the whole debacle. Speaking of the pricks, we head over to Zero Marine dock, where Captain Zero congratulates his Tugs for their shenanigans, and asks if anyone saw them, with Zak says that nobody saw them, completely unaware of a certain banana loaded tramp steamer who witnessed it all. Pleased with events, Captain Zero is going to offer their services to the Duchess lines the next day. And Zak, adding insult to injury, quips: ‘Poor little Sunshine; just wasn’t his day.’ BOO!!! YOU SUCK!!!

We shortly cut to Izzy stressing that Warrior has forgotten about him and he’s got no clue what he’s going to do with all these bananas in his hull. Well Izzy, old friend, I think it’s time for a career change. You should host a cooking show about a hundred great recipes that use bananas! Though to be fair, I personally can’t name anything more than banana loaf…

As we head to the Star dock after the partying is over, we can clearly see Warrior has forgotten about Izzy as he pulls in, greeted by Ten Cents, who then thinks that he should go and find Sunshine. Top Hat disgruntledly asks him what for, to which Ten Cents – like the friend you always want – shows he’s understanding in the face of a mistake, and is concerned that Sunshine is feeling terrible, and clearly doesn’t want him to be on his own. Top Hat on the other hand, is less than sympathetic. Ten Cents asks O.J. what he thinks, and he just kind of verbally shrugs and says it’s up to him, so the former decides to be a good friend and go seek him out, telling his companions with a little cheek, ‘Don’t wait up!’. As he saunters off, Top Hat watches him off unimpressed, muttering: ‘There he goes. Always playing Mr. Nice Guy. What a bore.’. Wow, Top Hat, you’re a bit of a dick!

It’s all foggy in Bigg City Port as Ten Cents begins his search for his companion between the eerie warehouses, calling out Sunshine’s name to see if he can unearth him. Unfortunately, it has the opposite effect. Sunshine, thinking he’ll never live the situation down and that nobody will want him after this, is shocked to hear Ten Cents calling out to him and can’t face him, thinking he’ll never forgive him for what happened. As such, he does a runner (or floater… eww… okay, he scarpers!) further into the warehouse clustered port just before Ten Cents can catch sight of him.

Not realising Sunshine is hiding nearby, Ten Cents carries on his search, almost having a set-to with boat crossing his path, who seems to honk his horn with the water equivalent of road rage as Ten Cents looks terrified, which ultimately leads to him getting a bit pissed off as he shouts for Sunshine, which isn’t helping his case as Sunshine keeps himself out of sight in response. Failing to see Sunshine in the port, Ten Cents suddenly thinks to check out near Lillie Lightship and moves off. Sunshine miserably decides it’s probably best for him to try and go home.

Ten Cents arrives to greet Lillie, but finds she is not alone. Hercules just happens to be with her, too. Ten Cents is pretty surprised to see him: ‘Hercules! Thank goodness you’re back!’ Now hang on a second! Hercules was in the fireworks scene with the Duchess! It was clearly him moored up next to the liner as Ten Cents approached. Did the switcher just have some kind of brain fart?! Hercules says he has only just got back, so clearly this is a bit of a goof – rectified in the TV version as this scene with Ten Cents/Lillie/Hercules is cut out. But yeah, anyway, Hercules asks to see if everything went alright with the Duchess. Ten Cents is pretty sheepish: ‘Yeah, she docked, and everything.’ He quite conspicuously misses out the embarrassing mishap with Big Mac and Sunshine getting punted at the Duchess. Lillie seems a bit sharp with Hercules asking this, I think sort of indicating she’s curtailing his ego a bit there as he’s the one who does all the liner stuff usually. Ten Cents checks to see if they’ve seen Sunshine, which they haven’t. After what seems like a second of awkwardness, Ten Cents moves off to continue his search. I find this scene entertaining for two different reasons of perspective. One, it’s funny that Ten Cents is flustered in front of Hercules as it seems like he looks up to him, and doesn’t quite want to admit to there was a bit of a balls up in proceedings, despite being sort of entrusted to look after the Duchess for him; not that it all went badly wrong anyway as Duchess was happy enough to party with the Tugs and blast off fireworks. Plus, Hercules does seem like that one super cool guy you want to impress. And two, the awkwardness in the scene could also be perceived that Ten Cents has turned up and interrupted something going on between Hercules and Lillie, as they seem to be hanging out all cosy like. Total ‘ship tease’ going on here!

We get a quick scene of Sunshine losing his bearings in the fog, before we go back to Ten Cents trekking about a bit more until he comes upon Izzy Gomez, who is not best happy at this point as Warrior has left him and his bananas high and dry. Ten Cents asks if he’s seen Sunshine, which eventually leads to the big reveal that Izzy saw that Zorran pushed Sunshine and caused his accident and it wasn’t a failure on Sunshine’s part. Ten Cents is shocked by this nugget of info and rushes off to tell the other Star Tugs the news, leaving poor Izzy AGAIN without a tow. It’s funny that in the VHS version, Ten Cents buggers off without a care, leaving Izzy and his bananas to go mouldy (depriving many of one of their five a day!), while in the TV version, he actually promises to sort something out for Izzy – which O.J. agrees to deal with in place of the whole Warrior arc of promising a tow, which is omitted from the TV version. The VHS version is definitely a lot more entertaining. Poor Izzy!

Ten Cents arrives back in Star dock and wakes up his companions to tell them about what Izzy saw. O.J. is dubious: ‘Sleepy Izzy? What did he see?’ (Though he’ll soon be called ‘Smelly Izzy’ if he doesn’t unload those fucking bananas soon!). Ten Cents explains that Zorran caused Sunshine to have his accident on purpose, and finally they put two and two together as to why the Z-Stacks were hanging around like vultures, particularly Zorran. Ten Cents vouches for Sunshine not being a clumsy tug from a day working with him, and the others, bar O.J. – who remains behind to tell Captain Star about what’s happened – help in the search for Sunshine, as Ten Cents hasn’t had any luck on his own. Though, wouldn’t Captain Star have gone home for the day?! Or does he live on his office floor?! O.J. figures Sunshine might have tried to head for home. So Ten Cents leads the entourage to head Up River to locate the switcher.

It doesn’t take them long to find him on the way Up River, as Sunshine has holed himself on the deadly Star Tug-hating mud banks and is in danger of sinking. I love how Ten Cents declares he’s found him, despite them all having turned up at the same time. Sunshine is pretty embarrassed in front of the ‘lads’ and thinks they should leave him since he’s caused enough trouble. Top Hat has to swallow some major humble pie when he admits that they were wrong and it wasn’t Sunshine’s fault after all. It definitely surprises Ten Cents that Top Hat has apologised, as it seems like a rare occurrence. Sunshine is relieved, and wonders if Captain Star will have him back. Ten Cents seems assured by this as Izzy told him everything. And suddenly, the hamster finally wakes up on its wheel in Warriors brain, as upon hearing Izzy’s name, he remembers that he was supposed to give Izzy a tow and races off… further Up River?! Hey, Warrior! Bigg City port is the other way, mate!

The next day, Captain Zero is close to bursting a blood vessel when he realises Zorran’s scheme was a bust, as he was clearly seen manhandling Sunshine, meaning they don’t get the contract. When he questions what kind of idiots he has working for them, Zip like the bright spark he is, says: ‘really devious!’, which instantly earns him the ire of Zorran. Bless Zip, he tried, he really did. The Z-Stacks try to apologise to their Captain, but Zero has a massive tantrum and tells them all to get out of his sight.

A few days later, the Star Tugs are lined up like they’re ready for the firing squad at the Star dock for a lecture from Captain Star, who tells them that Sunshine was successfully salvaged and taken to Lucky’s Yard where thankfully it was found he only suffered little damage. Captain Star believes they’ve all learned a value lesson about trust and friendship, and particularly some of them also had to learn about jumping to conclusions before knowing the truth. He hammers home that the most important thing about being a Star Tug after hard work is that they are true, honest and forgiving. The team mumble agreements throughout, all looking pretty ashamed of themselves; well, aside Hercules, who looks proper peeved that he’s getting chewed out when he effectively didn’t do anything wrong. But he could also be pissed off because he doesn’t actually fit in the fucking Star dock at all! I told you the Star Dock was too small!

Captain Star then instructs them to look to port as little Sunshine strolls on in, now decked out in his new livery, as he’s become the newest member of the Star Fleet. His fleet mates toot their appreciation, and Ten Cents moves over to welcome him officially and appreciate his new look. Sunshine is clearly chuffed with his ‘bonny new colours!’, and we leave the episode on a happy note as we roll into the credits sunset.

And there we have it, the first episode of TUGS in the bag! For an opening episode, it’s a great primer to the settings and the main protagonists without any long-winded introductions. It gets right down to business setting up a plot to showcase the Star Tugs and Z-Stacks as rivals and some of the everyday types of things that happen in Bigg City Port. I like the decision to have Sunshine turn up as a new character rather than already a part of the Star Tugs, with his outsider status making him an unproven element who gets treated badly in the face of something going wrong because the majority of the protagonists don’t really know him. There’s certainly some elements to the episode I think are questionable in the way they play out, the main one being why the Z-Stacks didn’t actually capitalise on the Duchess apparently turning up early to try to sweet talk their way into docking her long before the Star Tugs knew anything about it. Even so, the episode is a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to the world of TUGS, dishing out humour and morality messages aplenty. While it might not be the most exciting in some respects, there is a lot of plot elements going on to keep you thoroughly engaged.

My final rating for the episode ‘Sunshine’: 7 out of 10 Stars!


★ Devious, man, devious! Not only was the use of the ‘devious’ running joke a thoroughly entertaining part of the episode, but I have to give a shout out to Zip for really making it work so well!

★ The never-ending saga of Izzy and his bananas. Poor guy couldn’t catch a break!

★ Ten Cent’s jaunt to find Sunshine was thoroughly enjoyable, with all the shouting, scaring the shit out himself and gate-crashing a ‘cosy’ moment between Hercules and Lillie.

★ I’m appreciating the model designs in this episode, from the backdrops to the Duchess. Top notch work to give you a great feel of a busy 1920’s harbour!

★ The feel good moment of the Star Tugs all banding together to find Sunshine after they discover the incident with the Duchess wasn’t his fault. Extend that to when Sunshine comes in right at the end after becoming a Star Tug!

★ Zorran being about as discreet at his villainy with all the evil laughing as someone streaking across a football pitch. He’s a fantastically smug git.

★ Ten Cents and Sunshine’s first meeting and the beginning of their long running bromance! It’s thoroughly sweet and funny that Sunshine fumbles over his introduction and keeps calling Ten Cents ‘sir’.

☆ To say this is an episode about Sunshine, for a fair part of it he’s just kind of there, and doesn’t really establish himself as he just follows Ten Cents around. It just slightly odd in the way they go about having him there and not really give him any sense of presence.

☆ The Z-Stacks not capitalising on getting the info first about the Duchess turning up early by going to meet her before the Stars get wind of it. Instead, they focus on knuckling Big Mac, which isn’t the worst idea to take out the next big muscle of the group, but it’s hard to believe that with them being known rivals that Big Mac would be that damned gullible to accept help from a clearly suspicious acting Zip and Zug.

☆ A few goofs like Top Hat and the Duchess not moving in a few scenes when they are meant to be, and that noticeable one when Top Hat says the Duchess is out of control when she clearly isn’t moving at all. Then there’s Sunshine’s paintwork changing from his Up River colour on his bodywork to the Stars colour, even before he joins the Star Fleet at the end. Oh, and Izzy moving for plot convenience, because you could tell he was elsewhere earlier in the episode without being towed.

See you in the next episode!

Images © Cardona/Mitton/Everybody else who has a slice of the pie

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