Fraggle Rock: 40 Years Later – “The Day the Music Died”

Published: May 3, 2024
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Synopsis: When Gobo is chosen to write the Glory Song, all the other Fraggles stop singing so he can concentrate on writing. This has severe consequences for the Ditzies, a previously unheard-from species that provides the light in Fraggle Rock. Can Gobo figure out how to bring back the light?

Original air date: April 30, 1984

It occurred to me on this re-watch of “The Day the Music Died” that the Ditzies are the opposite of midi-chlorians.

Everyone knows what midi-chlorians are, right? Just in case: Midi-chlorians are microscopic organisms in Star Wars that live inside everything, and if a living thing has lots of them they can use the Force. Before the first prequel The Phantom Menace came out, Star Wars fans had ever heard of them, and the concept was not well-received.

Nobody had ever asked for a biological or scientific explanation for the Force. We were all perfectly happy just thinking of it as a magical superpower. When The Phantom Menace explained that you could determine just how Jedi-ish a Jedi is by taking a blood sample, it felt like a disappointment.

I don’t know how much of a devoted “fan base” Fraggle Rock had back in 1984, but I bet none of the show’s regular viewers were eagerly awaiting an explanation for where the light comes from in the underground caverns and tunnels of the titular Rock. After all, it’s a TV show. Those caves have to be lit so we can see what the Fraggles are doing. Can you imagine a “realistic” version of the show where the screen is pitch black 90% of the time? Well, stop imagining it. It’s preposterous.

But for whatever reason, the Fraggle Rock creative team (including episode writer B.P. Nichols) decided to go ahead and answer the question no one had asked. Fortunately, that answer ties in perfectly with the recurring themes of the show — and it makes for a pretty high-stakes story!

When Gobo has trouble concentrating on writing the Glory Song, the other Fraggles cease and desist all singing so he has some peace and quiet. Shortly thereafter, the Ditzies appear before the Fraggles pleading for help and explaining that they’re Fraggle Rock’s source of light. But the Fraggles quickly start running out of time to fix the problem, because they’re all falling asleep!

If this episode had revealed that the light comes from the Ditzies and left it at that, it would have been a nice enough piece of lore for us Fraggle nerds. But it goes a step farther by establishing that the Ditzies are nourished by music. They depend on the Fraggles and the Fraggles depend on them. It’s adding yet another layer to the tasty seven-layer dip of interconnectedness between the various species on the show!

Of course, the Fraggles already know about the Gorgs, the Doozers, and the silly creatures. Over the course of the series, it becomes clear that all four species can benefit from each other, even if one species is apathetic or outright hostile toward another. But the Fraggles didn’t even know the Ditzies existed until the Ditzies started pleading for help. Introducing this newly-discovered species is a pretty brilliant expansion to the whole “interconnectedness” thing.

In addition to his epiphany regarding the Ditzies, Gobo also learns that there’s nothing more important than music, and that sometimes it’s good to “do stuff you’ve always done before” rather than making major changes without thinking them through. Elsewhere in the episode, Doc learns that it’s possible for humans and dogs to communicate if he can simply stop overthinking it. That’s four life lessons in one half-hour TV episode!

And that’s why Fraggle Rock is better than Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace.

Strongest Moment: When the light starts disappearing, Gobo seeks advice from the Storyteller, then the World’s Oldest Fraggle, then the Trash Heap. This is a smart move, because it means we obnoxious fans can’t go “Heyyy, why doesn’t he seek advice from the Storyteller, the World’s Oldest Fraggle, or the Trash Heap? That’s what I woulda done!”

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): I’m tempted to give it to Wembley, who bravely accompanies Gobo on his quest to restore the light, even standing on his head for inspiration at one point. But I gotta give this one to Gobo.

Notable Special Effect: The Ditzies appear as swirling, twinkling specks of light. I don’t know how they achieved this effect, but it has a certain low-fi charm. In the final scene, it kind of looks like they just pointed a camera at one of these fiber optic lamps:

Most Classic Moment: Gobo plays his guitar in a cave full of unconscious Fraggles, and with each strum, several revitalized Ditzies fly out of his strings. As more Fraggles wake up, they pick up the song, and the cave gets brighter and louder and more musical. It’s lovely.

Cameo Appearance By: Fraggle Rock composer Phil Balsam, who plays the troubadour Uncle Traveling Matt writes about in his postcard.

Musical Highlight: When Gobo seeks advice from the Trash Heap, she answers in the form of the “Stuff Samba.” Gobo finds it frustratingly vague, but it sure is catchy!

Darkest Moment: The scene where the Ditzies are dwindling and the light is fading is quite literally dark!

Fraggle Lore: According to Mokey, the Glory Song is “the song that will sing of our generation, our entire cycle of the cave.” I guess that means “My Generation” by The Who is the Glory Song of the Baby Boomers.

One More Thing…: In “Stuff Samba,” the Trash Heap has a line that sounds like “When you don’t know from troubles/And your brain is in a shnew.” Or is that “schnu?” Or “shnoo?” Does anybody know what this word is?

Okay, One More Thing…: So, the Fraggles’ actions have negative consequences, including causing them to uncontrollably fall asleep, which is very bad. Gobo is only able to save the day because he’s awake, and as he wakes up other Fraggles, they’re also able to contribute to solving the problem. That’s right: This episode of Fraggle Rock teaches us that it’s good to be woke.

Click here to point out the indirect connection between the title “The Day the Music Died” and midi-chlorians via the “Weird Al” Yankovic song “The Saga Begins,” except now you don’t have to because I already did, on the Tough Pigs Discord!

by Ryan Roe –

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