Today’s Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock review was written by ToughPigs friend and Fraggle expert Beth Cook! For more of Beth’s work, be sure to check out her Fraggle music blog, Our Melody!
I’m still reeling. The sheer unlikelihood of it all. Watching my favorite show ever get rebooted had my heart doing cartwheels in my stomach; if they got it wrong, it would break my heart.
But as you’ve seen by now, the amount of people who had to truly, deeply care about this project to make it this good. The fact that new Fraggle content exists at all and is great?? It’s a friggin’ miracle.
I decided to rate every detail in the series on a scale of other contemporary Henson productions:
- The Happytime Murders = …okay I understand why this exists and I admire them for trying but please kill it with fire.
- Doozers = I so wanted to love this, and the idea is amazing, but the execution is ultimately disappointing.
- Kermit on The Masked Singer = OK YOU KNOW WHAT GREAT PUPPETRY IS HARD AT THE BEST OF TIMES AND TAKING OVER AN ESTABLISHED AND BELOVED CHARACTER AND HONORING THE ORIGINAL WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY MAKING IT YOUR OWN IS REALLY REALLY REALLY HARD AND I THINK MATT VOGEL IS DOING A GREAT JOB.
- The Muppets (2011) = I’m grateful for the new content and the heart is spot-on, but the execution is a little flawed.
- Muppets Most Wanted = Hey, this is actually really good! I hope more people realize that.
- Muppet Babies = Oh thank god they got this right.
- The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance = Holy $#!+… they took something that was already incredible and made it EVEN MORE INCREDIBLE.
This episode opens with a delightful game called Pop ’n’ Bop (Rating: Muppet Babies), but Boober, meanwhile, is doing laundry. In a moment of serene satisfaction, his baloobius starts to glow! Naturally, Boober panics and wants to pretend it never happened and makes Wembley promise not to tell anyone.
Traveling Matt sends Gobo the Bizzle of Secrets (an empty plastic water bottle). He asks Gobo to build a museum to hold all of these Outer Space artifacts, and mentions that he has sent for the Archivist to visit — “Keeper of all important treasures.” They’re all really excited for this new character, and so am I!
Cut to the Gorgs’ garden in autumn. Music like Enya + a sick beat. Approaching is a lavender Fraggle. She wears a flowing outfit of pumpkin orange and rainforest green, with a white hooded cloak that covers her eyes (in my notes I scribble, “Holy $#!+ is this me in Fraggle form??”) Her cloak flutters in the wind and she lowers it to reveal a head of short white hair, silver jewelry, and sparkly green glasses with a tiny orange star, pink eyelids with tiny rhinestones and purple eyelashes. She drinks from an acorn cap and hover-flies away. She’s all I aspire to. (Rating: Age of Resistance)
Boober’s baloobius glows again, and Wembley puts the Bizzle of Secrets on it to try to hide it. When the Archivist arrives in Fraggle Rock and the bizzle is nowhere to be found, I see that she’s like all the older women I admire (with the short white hair and British accent, she’s got big Dame Judi-Helen-Maggie energy), she’s lived long enough to stop taking anyone’s BS, but to assert herself in the kindest way. This is her “Could this meeting have been an email?” scene. (Rating: Muppets Most Wanted)
Meanwhile in our B-plot, I think this is the episode where Lilli Cooper fully won my heart. She manages to strike the exact right balance between Doc’s silly side and her serious side. Finally opening one of the packages addressed to Gobo, she muses, “What if I’m Gobo? Like a nickname!” (Ma’am, your quirky imagination is not an excuse for committing a federal offense by tampering with someone else’s mail.) Later we see her use a Rube Goldberg machine with trash she collected from the ocean to dunk a cookie in a glass of milk. I think this is a metaphor for the domino effect, as Sprocket demonstrates with his dog biscuits. (Rating: Age of Resistance)
Fed up with trash on the ocean (and in the mail!), Doc decides to take matters into her own hands and just put a recycling bin on the beach. But I have to wonder… Did Doc call the city to get a new recycling pickup spot added to the route? At the very least, is she going to pick it up herself? I need to know how she’s being a responsible citizen!
Inevitably, the rest of the Fraggle Five discover Boober’s secret. They, and even the Doozers, all try and fail to pull the bizzle off Boober’s baloobius, and Boober resigns himself to living in the museum. (Most Valuable Inkspot award goes to Boober’s overly enthusiastic new neighbor, Jookie, who reads the room and says “OK, I’ll stay out of your hair.” (Rating: Muppets Most Wanted)
The Archivist appears in a cloud of glitter and reveals that Boober isn’t the only one who once tried to hide a glowing baloobious. “I do glow, yes. Whenever I feel most at ease with myself. It’s glorious.” Boober learns to be okay with his glow when he learns he’s not alone. The same self-love that makes the Archivist’s baloobius glow also gives her the power to fly, inspiring Boober to do the same. (Rating: Age of Resistance)
You watch “The Glow,” and you know what it is to feel scared of the thing that makes you stand out. What if it means everyone will reject you? So you hide it, try to make it go away, and try to fit in. Or – maybe even more terrifying – it’s the seed of freedom. Something new that, if accepted, will propel you into an unknown future that you’ll have to build from scratch, because there is no blueprint or map you can follow. Sometimes you choose familiar pain over unpredictable freedom.
That’s why it helps so much to connect with someone who’s been through the same thing, whether it’s someone who can hold your hand, or all you’ve got is an anonymous post online or a book written a hundred years ago. If you’re very lucky, this person can not only commiserate, they can become a guide, a mentor, someone further along in their journey who can show you what it looks like to live freely and fully.
To learn to appreciate your unique glow can be like lighting a candle. It may seem small in the grand scheme of the world, but it means the world to someone who’s been living in the dark. And a single candle can light a thousand more.
The Archivist is everything I want to be when I grow up. I, too, would like to travel the world, walk into the room in a cloud of glitter and flowing robes, inspire self-acceptance and self-love, break into song, and fly. (And archive stuff? That would be very satisfying to my library-loving, spreadsheet-making, Order Muppet heart, but how much archiving did she actually do? Like, in itemizable terms. With the museum open, she proclaims her “job is done”?? I want to know what she does next. Does she just go around helping Fraggles love themselves and give a cursory once-over to the artifacts she’s summoned to see?? How is she keeping track of these artifacts?? I NEED TO SEE HER ARCHIVES LIKE I NEED… to eat something and go to bed.)
The closing credits start to roll and I’m left with the biggest smile on my face. I still can’t believe this exists. Like Leslie Carrara-Rudolph sings,
If this got made, then anything is possible
If this got made, then my dream can come true
If someone took the time to make this a reality
There can be passion in everything we do
Strongest Moment: The entire conversation and song between the Archivist and Boober. “I thought I was alone. I thought glowing was bad.” “Glowing can’t be bad. Look at me; I’m pretty dang cool.”
Weakest Moment: The writing in this episode is a mixed bag: mostly great, with a few lines that feel awkward. But only one moment in the entire season gets a rating of Happytime Murders from me, and it’s this one: As the Archivist travels through the Gorgs’ garden, Marjory and the boys look on in awe. They all say how cool and beautiful she is, but when Philo & Gunge keep going on, Marjory jealously says, “OK OK OK, now back to me.” Women being envious of each other for male attention wasn’t funny in the 80s and it’s not funny now. And it’s very un-Marjory-like. Elle Woods taught us better than this.
MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): Even though I’ve spent this whole review raving about the Archivist, I’ve got to give it up to loyal friend Wembley. He tries to help Boober in every way he can, even when that results in prolonging Boober’s dilemma (promising to keep his secret), ineffectiveness (hiding something by covering it with something transparent), or absurdity (an unnecessarily elaborate plan involving Wembley disguising himself as the World’s Oldest Fraggle but looking more like a decrepit schnauzer).
The Grand Return Of: Junior Gorg bonding with plants. With the new water bubbling up from the ground, Pa forbids Junior to water the plants and orders him to build a fountain instead: “We need to find a way to protect it and flaunt it!” But Junior finds a sapling that can move and respond to him, so he secretly waters it and names it Junior Junior. Remember Geraldine, his radish friend that the Fraggle Five temporarily stole in original series episode “The Great Radish Caper”? Junior Junior is like Geraldine, but reciprocal. (Rating: Muppet Babies) This C-plot doesn’t connect with the others in this episode, but it will become crucial later in the season.
Classic Musical Moment: “Chase the Wind,” originally sung by Red in the original series episode “Playing Till it Hurts,” has never sounded more gloriously heart-swelling and tear-inducing, and I’ve been listening to it on repeat.
New Musical Moment: “Glow Away,” which the captions describe this song as a ‘country ballad.’ Even though the song mentions the word ‘baloobius’ more than once and is pretty specific to Boober’s unique situation, it’s somehow also deeply relatable. (Rating: Age of Resistance)
Coolest Puppetry Effect: Even though this episode contains flying Fraggles, Red swinging Boober around by his baloobius is the best use of the Rotating Red Mechanism – watch for it in at least two other episodes! (Rating: Age of Resistance)
Special Appearance By: Cynthia Erivo, British actress, singer, and songwriter, is darn close to EGOT status: Tony and Grammy award-winning, and Oscar and Emmy award-nominated. I admit I’d never seen anything she’s appeared in before now, but the moment she started to sing, I wanted to binge it all. (Rating: Age of Resistance)
Darkest Moment: Pa Gorg to Junior: “No! No more loving things!”
Fraggle Lore: We get introduced to Rock Shelf Cave, the new home of “The Traveling Matt Museum of Traveling Matt—Hooray!—Matt Museum.” We also hear about Sticky Floor Cave, and we even get to see the Cave of Everlasting Darkness – sort of. I do love a good glowing-eyeballs-in-total-darkness puppetry trick.
One More Thing: At the beach, Traveling Matt’s voiceover says, “I was recently at the edge of Outer Space where – not to bog you down with scientific jargon, but – hard stuff meets wet stuff.” …Am I allowed to make a dirty joke in a ToughPigs article?
Okay, One More Thing: The words “incredibizzle” and “incredibaloobius” are now in my vocabulary forever, amen.
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by Beth Cook