Fraggle Rock: 40 Years Later – “A Friend in Need”

Published: March 8, 2024
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Synopsis: Sprocket chases a ball into Fraggle Rock, but he gets stuck in the Fraggle Hole leading into Doc’s Workshop. Now it’s up to Gobo and the gang to free him!

Original air date: March 5, 1984

In 1993, for the first and only time, Disney distributed Fraggle Rock. They put out five VHS tapes, each containing two episodes. The first of these was called “Meet the Fraggles.” The featured episodes were “Beginnings” (episode 1) and this one, “A Friend in Need” (episode 34.)

Six years later, in 1999, when I was fourteen years old, I broke my leg. I mostly spent the summer sitting around watching a lot of TV. That remained true during my family’s annual trip to my aunt Linda’s lake cabin. I went as usual, but I couldn’t swim or ride the jet ski, so I just sat in the cabin by myself. My cousin Angie had a bunch of videos there for her little son to watch, and one of them was that Fraggle Rock tape.

At the time, I knew of Fraggle Rock, but I hadn’t ever actually seen it. I’d read “Jim Henson: The Works” a couple of years earlier. Like most people who read it, I decided that I should see every single thing mentioned in it. But I was in middle school and it was the late 90s – you couldn’t just watch whatever you wanted like you can now. I could only dream of watching Fraggle Rock, a show I was certain I would love.

Until I found that tape at the cabin. What a thrill! Two episodes of Jim Henson’s masterpiece (the first two, I assumed, because I was meeting the Fraggles), and no one could stop me from watching them! Well, I loved them both. To be honest, it was considerably more fun than riding the jet skis. 

Over the next few years, I collected every VHS release of Fraggle Rock. A few years after that, I bought all of them on DVD. And now, as I said two paragraphs ago, I could watch them streaming on every electronic device I own. I’ve seen every episode at least twice. But this one is still episode 2 in my heart, and it always will always be special for that reason.

But when I put nostalgia aside, how does it hold up?

The main story is terrific, just as good as I remembered. But I don’t want to talk about that right now. We have more important things to dwell on. What I really want to talk about is the Doc and Sprocket sequence, because it has huge world-building implications. None of this is ever mentioned again in the show, so I want to explore it here. 

As we open, Doc brings home some remains from the wreck of a ship called “La Gorgola.” Obviously, this implies that it was owned by members of our favorite universe-ruling species. But that’s a Spanish name, so it probably wasn’t our main Gorg family. Those guys speak English! So at some point in the past, there was a ship full of Spanish-speaking Gorgs sailing through outer space! That seems like something we should have learned more about!

However, our story isn’t really about that. Doc pulls a ring out of the wreckage and tries it on. It gets stuck on his finger. But it’s not just any ring. It’s unmistakably a Doozer helmet that has been turned into a ring! 

Gorgs don’t usually carry around Doozer helmets for no reason, so how did they acquire such a thing? It seems to me that there can only be one explanation: Our Gorg explorers raided a Doozer colony (or did something worse) and stole the Doozers’ belongings. So these aren’t just Gorg explorers. They’re Vikings! 

Watching this episode’s opening scene, I had a vision of marauding bands of Gorgs. They’d invade helpless Doozer communities, take whatever they wanted, and then set off for Outer Space, where they must have seemed like giants among humans (who, remember, are only knee-high to the massive Gorgs.) 

This is an incredible revelation! The first-ever contact with a race of giants would have been a monumental moment for the people of Earth. This is something we should hear about all the time! Remember when they were trying to make a Fraggle Rock movie, back during the prequel-crazy days of the mid-00s? This should have been the premise! 

Anyway, the episode isn’t about any of that. It’s about ol’ Gobo bonding with Sprocket, and it’s a lot of fun! More on that in the end-of-review categories!

Strongest Moment: Towards the beginning, before Sprocket gets stuck in the Fraggle hole, he and Gobo play an adorable game of catch, nudging a ball and forth. 

Weakest Moment: Sometimes a whole episode of Fraggle Rock is enjoyable.

First Appearance Of…: Greaseberry leaves, which the Fraggles use as skateboards to slide around the Great Hall and which the Gorgs use to make butter.

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): This one is pretty much all Gobo’s show, Fraggle-wise. But the most valuable character is actually Sprocket, who spends much of the episode showing us worry and fear. It’s a master class in expressive wordless acting.

Most Classic Moment: Gobo does the ultimate slide, all the way from the garden to the Great Hall. Pretty hard to argue with that!

Musical Highlight: Jerry Nelson tears the roof off the cave with Gobo’s rockabilly “I Knew I Was Good.”

Coolest Puppetry Effect: The sequence of Gobo zipping around the caverns during the Ultimate Slide is astonishing, making use of many different effects (including chromakey, marionetting, and creative camera angles.) You can watch it above!

Fraggle Lore: Gobo learns to stop calling Sprocket a monster, which is a pretty huge moment.

One More Thing…: Wembley tries to attack Sprocket, who he believes has eaten Gobo. The sight of Wembley’s little arms swinging is hilarious.

Okay, One More Thing…: Another outstanding moment is Wembley trying to explain his nightmare about Sprocket eating Gobo – “Gobo nightmare, hairy bedroom!” He only regains his composure when the others turn him upside down.

Click here to steal greaseberry leaves from the Tough Pigs Discord!

by Anthony Strand

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