Fraggle Rock: 40 Years Later – “Fraggle Wars”

Published: April 26, 2024
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Synopsis: It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Emp… wait, wrong wars.

Synopsis: While on a camping trip, Mokey discovers Fraggle Cave, whose residents take her prisoner. When Red tries to rally the Fraggles to rescue her, both Fraggle Rock and Cave are set on a path to war.

Original air date: April 23, 1984

As the story commonly goes, Jim Henson envisioned Fraggle Rock as a show to end war. And sure, we’ve seen plenty of episodes so far that have explored things we can do that can prevent war, like listening to others and sharing resources, but so far, we haven’t directly confronted the nature of war itself. What can we do when violence seems to be the only path to resolution? Several characters offer plans, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.

As the episode starts, Red and Mokey are taking a camping trip, and at Red’s request, they head in a new direction and boldly go where no Fraggle has gone before. (Oh no, I seem to be mixing up my Fraggle Wars and Fraggle Trek.) As they drift off to sleep, Mokey prophetically claims that deep down, “all Fraggles are the same.” The next morning, she hears strange chanting and investigates, only to find that she’s stumbled onto Fraggle Cave, where the Fraggles are all muted colors and they sing in monotone. When she goes to greet them, they surround her and take her prisoner. So much for that whole diplomacy thing! And what’s worse, they won’t even explain why they’ve captured her. So we’ve learned to stay away from foreigners altogether, lest we be harmed for reasons we’ll never know. Great lesson, team.

Red, having spotted Mokey blindfolded and caged, races back to Fraggle Rock to rally folks to rescue her. That sounds reasonable. Perhaps having a team to negotiate her release would get her home quickly, or at least a show of numbers might intimidate them. But The World’s Oldest Fraggle reveals that Fraggle Rock is in a generations-old war with Fraggle Cave. I had no idea Doc and Sprocket lived above the musical puppet equivalent of the Korean War.

As the Rock Fraggles march towards the cave, armed with a mysterious “weapon,” Mokey earns the sympathy of her guard, Beige. He explains that the Cave Fraggles aren’t awful; they like to laugh, especially at the story of the Fraggle who had a daughter and a son. That’s the whole story. They sure do like when comedy conventions are subverted. (Maybe someone should introduce them to Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree.) And like most Fraggles, Beige even feels bad when they’re mistreating someone, so he lets Mokey take off her blindfold. The Cave’s Oldest Fraggle, on the other hand, also remembers they’re at war, and relentlessly interrogates Mokey about who she is and what her role is with the Rock Fraggles. It’s starting to look like the real moral of the episode is “never trust old people.”

Meanwhile, Red learns from The World’s Oldest Fraggle that the reason for the whole hostility is that the Rock Fraggles think the Cave Fraggles can’t take a joke. They only like the pie in the face gag because they think the cleanup is funny. With the battle about to begin, Red realizes what will truly save the day: comedy! She and Beige pick the one thing they have in common and throw pies in their respective elders’ faces. All the Fraggles laugh, and Mokey is set free. Who cares if it’s for different reasons? At the end of the day, Mokey’s proven right, there are some things that make us all the same, and that’s that everyone loves a pie in the face… except Doc, who gets into a prank war with Schimmelfinney because he keeps getting pied. Now that’s comedy.

Strongest Moment: Wembley’s attempted salute while a helmet blocks his vision. It’s such a small moment, but it cracks me up.

Weakest Moment: Maybe it’s just me, but I was expecting something funnier in Mokey’s interrogation. It’s just grinding her down with the same questions. Nothing about jokes or music or yelling “whoopee!” Seems like a missed opportunity.

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): He only got this one episode to shine, but thanks to Richard Hunt’s performance, Beige earns the honor this week. Too bad we never really saw him again. (Beige, not Richard.)

First Appearance Of…: The Cave Fraggles, those wonderfully monotonous characters. Real talk: I actually find them more fun than the Craggles.

Musical Highlight: While Mokey gets a great ballad to sing in “Sunlight and Shadow,” the Cave Fraggles’ number, “Ho Ho Ho (What a Funny World It Is)” made me fall in love with them. Get down with your laughing-at-the-number-31 selves!

Darkest Moment: I think the fact that the Rock Fraggles have a mysterious weapon at the ready implies there’s a darker side to them besides dancing their cares away. What does it do? How was it made? Is there a Fraggle version of Oppenheimer I can watch?

Fraggle Lore: Until the climax, Rock Fraggles hate Cave Fraggles for not having the same sense of humor and vice versa. Fraggles can be real jerks sometimes.

One More Thing…: So if the Fraggle groups don’t get along because Cave Fraggles work all the time instead of play, why don’t the Rock Fraggles hate the Doozers? There are some heavy-duty implications here.

Okay, One More Thing…: I’m establishing the LVF (Least Valuable Fraggle) award to give to Gobo, who doesn’t even show up in this episode. He missed a kidnapping, a war, and a pieing, he better be getting a stern talking to when he gets back.

Fozzie Bear: Stopping wars since 1976.

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by Matthew Soberman –

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