Fraggle Rock: 40 Years Later – “The Beast of Bluerock”

Published: June 17, 2023
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Original air date: June 13, 1983

Fear has the ability to make us do crazy things. And apparently, according to this episode of Fraggle Rock, it has the ability to make us do stupid things as well.

In “The Beast of Bluerock”, an unexpected trio of characters all deal with the mystery of the titular Beast in varying ways. First we’ve got our de facto leader Gobo, who reads of Bluerock in his Uncle Traveling Matt’s journals. He explains that the lair of the Beast is uncharted, and although ancient Fraggles have attempted to find it, none have returned from the quest. Not even Traveling Matt himself had the courage to attempt it. Plus, it only appears once a year, two days after the Doozer Equinox. Sounds spooky! And dangerous!

Gobo’s response to this under-researched and under-explained Wikipedia entry is to go find it himself, but he quickly volunteers the rest of the Fraggle Five to join him so they can, uh, witness him finding Bluerock! Yeah, that’s the ticket.

In his fear, Gobo’s initial reaction is deny, deny, deny, even to himself. He won’t say he’s afraid, and he’d rather drag four unsuspecting Fraggles along with him to his doom than to admit it. What a jerk.

Meanwhile, Wembley has to make a big choice. Does he go along on Gobo’s wild goose chase, or will he stay behind to participate in Red’s First Annual Invitational Splashathon? Both are happening on the same day, and through a democratic vote amongst the Fraggle Five, Wembley is left with the paralyzing task of deciding what the group will do. In his own moment of fear – the fear of disappointing his pals – he (eventually) opts to stay behind.

This episode fleshes out Wembley’s indecisive nature in a really interesting way. Given a set of options in a less stressful situation, Wembley would drive himself crazy making a decision. But once the pressure is on him, that’s when he suddenly levels up and takes a stand. In this episode, he does it when pressured by his friends, and later on when standing up for his pal Gobo without hesitation.

The third character dealing with the concept of fear is the odd woman out. It’s Marjorie the Trash Heap, whose interactions with the concept of fear make this episode equally ridiculous and pointless. After Gobo runs off to tackle the Beast on his own, Wembley goes to the Trash Heap for advice. She confirms that Bluerock is one of “the most terrifying journeys in the universe”. In a futile attempt at helping, she tells him (through song!) to “jump up, turn around, and cross over”, which is the opposite of helpful. These actions do literally nothing. She may as well have told him to duck and cover.

So basically, Marjorie mirrors Wembley’s fear of the Beast of Bluerock, amplifies it, and then gives him vague and useless advice that could very well get him killed. But that’s hardly the worst of it. You see, after Wembley finds Gobo, they face their fears and manage to phase through the rock to see what’s inside. And it’s… Marjorie’s giant face? Yes, it was all a test! She’s been upkeeping rumors about Bluerock to keep the Fraggles out and to teach them a lesson about fear. Or maybe about working together? Or about how sometimes magical trash heaps can get real bored, so they create obstacles with flimsy lessons and literally zero reward just to help watch the days pass by through the eyes of an eternal and undying trash-laden demigod?

For a show that often has a deep and realistic lesson about fear and mortality in every episode, it’s overkill to have a story where the Trash Heap breaks out the magic wand to teach the lesson all over again. I guess we got some information about how Gobo and Wembley’s reactions to a scary situation might be, which is valuable for character development. But more importantly, we know more about Marjorie, and how she probably shouldn’t be trusted with all those magical powers.

Strongest Moment – Although the Doc and Sprocket moments don’t tie into this episode much, we do get to see Sprocket avoid going to the vet by putting a rose in his mouth and doing a flamenco dance.

Weakest Moment – Red Fraggle is up against Large Marvin in her Splashathon competition. Citing his size as an advantage, she calls him “the fattest Fraggle in the world.” We have no room for body shaming in Fraggle Rock, Red.

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle) – No one really stands out in an episode like this, but we’ll go with Wembley for finally standing up for himself for a change.

First Appearance Of… – Large Marvin! We’re finally starting a trend of including Fraggles who don’t look exactly like every other Fraggle!

Musical Highlight – Wembley and Gobo break into “Wemblin’ Fool”, mainly to point out that they’ve been acting like idiots, and the song is easily the greatest thing in this entire episode.

Darkest Moment – While searching the caves, Boober spots a “snack” in the form of an ancient Doozer construction. Wembley climbs out to the middle of the Doozer bridge (which was a terrible idea), and has to crawl off as it actively breaks and falls into the abyss. That right there is scarier than anything you’d find in Bluerock.

Fraggle Lore – The mention of the “Doozer Equinox” makes me wonder if all their seasons are named after the Fraggle Rock species. Is there a Fraggle Equinox? A Gorg Equinox? A Blustering Bellowpane Equinox?

Obscure Character Watch – The Flutebird peeps along during “Brave Boy, Jump Up”, and will later make an appearance jamming with the Troubadors in Back to the Rock.

One More Thing… – It’s so weird to see Boober, Red, and Mokey mostly sidelined for an episode. They pop up at the Splashathon and then attempt to join Wembley on his quest to find Gobo, but they’re separated almost immediately. It definitely highlights the importance of a B-plot, if only to get the whole gang into the episode in a meaningful way.

Okay, One More Thing… – I just can’t get over the fact that Bluerock was just Marjorie’s head. They didn’t even get, like, a medal or something. A light snack would’ve sufficed. Perhaps a hearty handshake.

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by Joe Hennes –

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