Fraggle Rock: 40 Years Later – “Mokey’s Funeral”

Published: June 9, 2023
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Original air date: June 6, 1983

I think we’re all guilty of taking our friends for granted every now and again. We all have that one friend who’s not allowed to be in control of the music on road trips for fear that they’ll start playing their incredibly obscure Broadway showtunes playlist (it’s me! hi!). Surely you all know what it’s like to find out that maybe not everyone is as interested in your extremely unique obsession. It hurts being the friend in the group who folks turn to last in certain circumstances. We’ve all pigeonholed a friend based off a few traits, and maybe made them feel lesser than they are – even if by accident.

The episode “Mokey’s Funeral” presents a clear and concise lesson – how we should not cut out our friends from opportunities because of our own biases that get baked into a relationship, nor should we treat their strengths and interests as less important.

(And why yes, I am one of the three hosts of the newest addition to the pantheon of ToughPigs podcasts – Fraggle Talk: Classic. Full disclosure, we are nowhere close to talking about this episode in our recording sessions, so I’m jumping a little ahead in the process!)

This one is a Mokey episode, which you could very much guess on title alone. Mokey’s the first Fraggle we see, on her way to gather radishes from the Gorg’s garden. She bumps into Gobo and Red, who provide some pretty good banter (“I’m in charge of construction, he’s in charge of mistakes.” “My first mistake was asking her for help!”) as they inform her they’re going to build a boat at Sweet Water Grotto.

When Mokey expresses interest in helping, they instantly deflect her offer. They don’t even try to be polite and hide the reasoning, these two straight up tell her that she does “the artistic stuff” and they do “the practical stuff” before taking off, leaving Mokey to stew in her frustration (granted, Mokey’s zen levels of frustration are far tamer than everyone else’s).

As a poet myself who’s maybe not the most handy person around the house, this hits home. Mokey saying that just because she “writes poems and stuff” doesn’t mean she’s incapable is a very real feeling. Even if you’re not an artist, you’ve surely experienced something to this effect.

Mokey continues on her way, only to find that the entry to the Gorg’s garden is blocked off by a trap to catch Fraggles (complete with garlic gumdrops as bait). When asked by his Ma why he wants to catch Fraggles, Junior dramatically turns to the camera and says, “Because they’re there!” Mokey’s instinct is to get her friends, but with the words of Gobo and Red ringing in her ears, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

Mokey then daydreams about sacrificing herself for the greater good of Fraggle-kind (which, again, relatable) but decides it might be too painful. So, instead, she builds a copy of herself, who she lovingly names Rags. We then get our first of two numbers in this episode, this being one of the better known Fraggle Rock songs out there – “Ragtime Queen.” Kathy Mullens sings this song beautifully and with so much tenderness in the delivery. In it we get to see Mokey’s loneliness as she sings to a creation of herself, the only one she feels will listen to her.

When Mokey goes to show Rags to her friends, a classic TV trope takes place – she overhears them badmouthing her! She hears them say that her plan is dumb, and then they have the audacity to say “Mokey’s poems are better than her plans,” and “Yeah, and her poems aren’t much!” I mean, OUCH. Dunking on her poetry? When that’s her whole thing?? Harsh, dudes!

Upset, Mokey rushes off to put her plan into action, which seemingly works – Junior thinks he’s caught a Fraggle when he finds Rags, thus removing his trap from the garden’s entrance. But before Mokey can come out of her hiding spot, Red and Gobo approach to apologize for their insults only to see Junior come to the realization that the Fraggle he’s caught isn’t moving and must be dead.

We then get a sequence of Gobo and Red being caught up in their disbelief and grief, regretting the way they treated their friend who they believe is deceased. This adds up — after all, this is the lesson that the episode has been building up to since the first Fraggle scene. What caught me by surprise was Junior and Ma Gorg. Junior is instantly mournful of the dead Fraggle in his hands, believing he must have been the one who killed her. When he tells this to Ma Gorg, she tells him, “It’s a sad, sad thing to kill a creature,” and when he continues to grieve she says, “Junior, you’re breaking my heart.”

And just, like, WHOA. When you think of Gorgs, you think of them trying to whack the Fraggles with a club in their garden and get rid of them. Getting to see these two process the death of another is a powerful and unexpected moment. (And you just KNOW it was an intentional decision for Pa to not be present for any of this episode – chances are he’d have a much less sensitive approach to a dead creature.)

After Junior sings the second and final song (and wears a pretty amazing funeral hat), Mokey reveals to her mourning friends that she’s still alive. Red and Gobo (and Junior too) rejoice that it was just a dummy and not actually Mokey’s corpse. Back at the Rock, the Fraggles apologize profusely to her, even asking for her to share her famous “white birds and death” poem, which she happily starts to recite.

Cut to the Doc & Sprocket segment, we see that Doc has the hiccups and has tried everything to rid them (holding breath, running in place, drinking water, bag on head, etc.). When Sprocket asks to be fed (because, y’know, HE’S A DOG AND IT’S DOC’S JOB TO CARE FOR HIM), Doc hiccups and drops the food all over the ground. Instead of apologizing and picking the food up like a good dog owner, Doc proceeds to tell Sprocket that he can “eat it off the floor” and then says, “Sometimes I wonder why I keep a dog here at all.”

Wow, Doc, your dog has a name, my dude, and last I checked he depends on YOU to feed him! Justly, Sprocket takes off, though he doesn’t make it very far – he makes a new space for himself on Doc’s front porch. After Doc apologizes several times and a thunderstorm rolls in, Sprocket returns home and the two make amends.

There’s a clear correlation between the Fraggle A-plot and the Doc & Sprocket B-plot. In both stories, we see a friend not only taken for granted, but actively have their feelings hurt. It’s not until they are gone (whether because they’re “dead” or because they’ve left the house) that the initial friend realizes they are at fault. Both plots end with apologies given and the promise to do better next time.

And finally, in the postcard segment we see Uncle Traveling Matt in a mall. When someone drops a cup on the ground, he finds a “stone of great magic inside” and starts looking for “the wizard who had dropped it.” When he can’t find the owner, he’s shocked to find the stone in his pocket has disappeared and been replaced by water.  This is because the stone is an ice cube. Much like with Doc & Sprocket, you can draw similarities to the main story (though far looser).

However, I was mostly befuddled because I’m sure that Fraggles know what ice is. It’s been a decade since I last went through the series, but I KNOW there is at least one episode with snow in it! I know Matt is a spacey character, but surely he has seen a small chunk of ice before! Get it together, Matt!!!

Overall, this episode is solid from start to finish. The Fraggles’ lesson is clear and worth taking in (appreciate your friends not just for what you expect them to actively contribute), there are two great songs, Junior wears a jaunty hat, and there’s a couple of very tender moments. All in all, a joy to watch – but what else would you expect from Fraggle Rock?

Before we go into the wrap up – a shameless plug. If you haven’t yet, open your podcast app and look up Fraggle Talk: The Unofficial Fraggle Rock Podcast and give me, Adam, and Beth a listen!!

Strongest Moment: Honestly, the space this episode gives to Gobo and Red grieving the death of a friend and taking into account how they treated her is something else. We get to see them be in disbelief, turn to regret, mourn a loved one, and ultimately rejoice. What’s more, showing us the depth of the Gorgs once they actually are “responsible” for a Fraggle’s death is so oddly sweet. Fraggle Rock has a lot of strengths, one of which is that they aren’t afraid to give these heavier moments room the breathe.

Weakest Moment: None! This episode is so solid throughout! If I had to choose something, I guess not enough Wembley??

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): Unsurprisingly, I’ve got to go with Mokey. Her name’s in the dang episode title, after all!

Most Classic Moment: Hands down has to be ‘Ragtime Queen.’

Musical Highlight: As much as I’d love to give it to the other song in this episode (which, don’t get me wrong, ‘Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore’ is a great number and I love getting to hear Richard Hunt sing), it’s gotta be ‘Ragtime Queen’ again.

Fraggle Lore: Gorgs love garlic gumdrops and Fraggles hate them!

Darkest Moment: I mean, as much as I do think everyone mourning Mokey is the strongest part of the episode, IT IS DARK, Y’ALL.

One More Thing… Be kinder to the dogs in your life – feed them when they’re hungry!

Okay, One More Thing… Be kinder to the poets in your life – listen to them when they’ve got a new poem about white birds and death!

Click here to talk about how great Junior’s funeral hat is on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Julia Gaskill

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