Sir Topham Hatt Is Miscast

Thomas tank engine day, Bressingham

Thomas, a tank engine who apparently has friends (Image via Wikipedia)

Sometimes, back when my son was little, he’d watch the show Thomas The Tank Engine And Friends. I don’t suppose he is still watching now that he is outside the show’s target audience.

For those of you who’ve never seen it, the show centers around the steam engines on a railroad on an island called Sodor. The trains (and a few other, vehicles) are the only things that move in the stories. People and animals are figurines that remain static. As the engines work around the island and interact with each other they learn about things like manners and being a good friend.

A man called Sir Topham Hatt operates the railroad. Sir Topham Hatt is portrayed as a benevolent manager who patiently directs the activities of the trains. From time to time, he provides gentle verbal reinforcement of the lessons the trains learn. He can play benevolent, but I think he has another side.

Sir Topham Hatt’s Dark Side

Sir Topham Hatt. Benevolent manager or tyrant? (image via wikipedia)

The part of Hatt that the show’s producers don’t feature causes me a lot of concern. I think he is a harsh, violent man.

I remember watching one particular episode with my son. There was a reference to a train called Smudger. I don’t recall what the engine did to offend Topham Hatt, but I know the response was really harsh. Hatt had the engine’s wheels removed and converted him to a generator. They showed the former steam engine sitting behind a building, sadly chugging away, doomed to never travel the rails again.

Recently, someone told me of another episode where Sir Topham Hatt planned to dismantle a coach because it was old and slow. Is that the proper response to “old and slow”? Did the man forget respect for the aged?

It’s clear that Sir Topham Hatt has a dark side. Demons within, perhaps from some repressed emotional trauma, control that dark side. It bubbles within him. Sometimes it boils over. Despite his best efforts to keep a lid on it, it overwhelms him.  When it overwhelms him, his desire to inflict injury in the name of railroad efficiency manifests in horrible ways.

What To Do? What To Do?

The Thomas show is a great vehicle (see what I did there? Thomas, vehicle. Boom) for helping children learn about the value of things like cooperative work and being humble. But Sir Topham Hatt’s “issue” threatens to derail the series as surely as Keith Moon’s drug use presaged the end of The Who’s reign as the world’s greatest rock band. The only way to handle what insiders call “the Hatt problem” is for the producers to acknowledge it and use it to their advantage.

It may be time to consider splitting Sir Topham Hatt off from the kids show and let him be cast in roles more suitable to his harsh personality. Fred Astaire didn’t play cowboys, that wasn’t his type. Topham Hatt should also play to his type. Hatt’s acting career might be better suited to roles in zombie movies or tales of simple men descending into madness.

Wherever he is cast, in whatever role he takes, Sir Topham Hatt can thrive if he is allowed to play the sort of role he is best suited to. Those of us who’ve seen glimpses of the harsh man he is know that he is not suited to teach gentle lessons.


16 Comments on “Sir Topham Hatt Is Miscast”

  1. Do you think he might be related to (or even the alter ego of) the Monopoly guy?

  2. I think part of his problem is that he is hen-pecked. He is motivated by fear of his wife.

  3. Laura says:

    It sounds like he spends all his time working — maybe he just needs a little balance in his life. He should relax — let his hair down, if he has any. A vacation would probably be a good start. Do you think The Jolie would be willing to take him under her wing on her next trip?

  4. Amy says:

    I would be nicer if I worked around anthropomorphized locomotives if I were him. I mean, he could meet with an “accident” quite easily.

  5. Lenore Diane says:

    Ah Thomas… he still appears on our television set from time to time. “Thomas, you have caused confusion and delay.” Sir Hatt states every episode. Just as the Man in the Yellow Hat says to Curious George, in every episode, “Be a good little monkey.” What is it with men and hats?

  6. Debbie says:

    Ah, Oma, you’ve taken me back to when Domer was watching Thomas and Friends. He never much liked Sir Topham Hatt — probably recognized his mean streak! He didn’t much like men wearing dark black, either, come to think about it!

  7. Pie says:

    Sir Topham Hatt is Tony Soprano.

  8. planetross says:

    I once met a backpacker who was an illustrator for Thomas the Tank Engine.
    … I lost my train of thought after that and asked him if he wanted a beer.

    note: I’m glad I grew up on Yosemite Sam and Elmer Fudd hunting wabbits.

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