Fraggle Rock: 40 Years Later – “The Invasion of the Toe Ticklers”

Published: June 14, 2024
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Synopsis: Mokey takes a cute toe tickler into the Fraggle Caves to save it from being poisoned by the Gorgs. But the ravenous toe tickler has many friends who follow and cause chaos. The Fraggles round them up in Chimney Cavern, and Mokey tries to free them. Only to discover that they had a bigger plan than she realized. 

Original air date: June 11, 1984

“Invasion of the Toe Ticklers” is a classic tale of unintended consequences and how getting involved without understanding the bigger picture can cause more harm than good. Except in the case of Doc, where meddling helped save an irreplicable record of sea life that was millions of years old. Meddling is complicated. 

To open the show, Doc, frustrated from construction outside his house, discovers Sprocket is chewing on a fossil he found at the construction site. He quickly turns to action, determined to save these fossils and get rid of that “terrible racket.”

Meanwhile, Mokey is singing sadly about joy, only to be disturbed by a full-lipped, eyeless, enormous bristle-brush caterpillar who just loves tickling toes. Despite looking like a huge worm covered in toilet bowl brushes, it is adorable. It acts like a dog, but squeaks like a dog toy and makes a kissy face while it crawls over toes. Mokey dubs it a toe tickler and names it Agnes after spending no time determining what it is, where it came from, and what it needs. 

Ma Gorg knows what it needs, however. Poison. Because despite Mokey seeing it for the first time, Ma has noticed that every year these “pests” eat all her beautiful white flowers. She orders Pa to spray them with poison, so Pa orders Junior to spray them with poison, and Junior dutifully marches back and forth not spraying them because Mokey has taken Agnes into the  Fraggle caves for protection.

But Agnes has friends.  Many, many friends. And they crawl around and tickle Fraggle toes. And Fraggles giggle. And so many g’s in one place is so fun to say and Fraggles giggling are so fun to hear. It’s a Fraggle gaggle giggle gala. 

Ah, but there’s a darker side. Doc was excited about an order he secured to stop the construction work and save the fossils until he gets a call from Ms. Ardath upset that if the gas line isn’t put in, she won’t be able to heat the Captain’s Inn and it will have to shut down. 

Also, the flowers Ma Gorg wanted to save stink! Now that they are in full bloom and did not get eaten, they smell horrific. 

And for anyone has ever been tickled, you know the fun runs out when someone pees or someone cries. Also, these toe ticklers are super hungry (like a caterpillar…) and they are ravaging the caves. The Fraggles are fed up. They trap the creatures in Chimney Hole Cavern. (Don’t worry – Gobo assures Mokey this isn’t mass murder of ticklers and they can crawl out the top.)

Mokey, never one to let her narrow viewpoint stop her determination, vows to save the creatures whether or not they need to be saved and adorably puppet struggles to move the rock. Inside the cave are no toe ticklers, only hanging pods. Rather than stop to consider why they are in pods, Mokey decides this is a problem only she can fix and pulls Agnes’ pod from the attached vine, causing a rock fall that blocks the cave. 

Mokey’s determination to save things does not extend to herself and she quickly gives up hope, just as all the pods begin to glow. Raise your hand if you saw a metamorphosis coming. Thanks to the pressures of television time slots, we get a quick transition and… cute bristle-brush eyeless caterpillar is now a fuzzy jellyfish that flies, a creature that even Ma Gorg could love. 

Agnes saves Mokey from the cavern, the toe ticklers that turned into hairy giant jellyfish eat up all the stinky flowers, Mokey reunites with her friends, and Doc brings together a gas company and a geologist to reroute the gas line so it won’t harm the fossils. 

Mokey also identifies the problem – in the Gorgs, not in herself, but it’s the same thing: “Those Gorgs may be large, but they sure don’t see the big picture.” 

And Doc gives us the solution: “People solve problems through working out compromises.” 

The Fraggles round out this season with their take on the butterfly effect and how one action can cause a cascade of actions because everything is interconnected. Whether creatures have the best of intentions, like Mokey, or just selfish intentions, like Ma, when they took action without considering others or the bigger picture, they caused harm. But here is the heart of the Fraggles: the solution isn’t to curl up in shame or avoid getting involved. And the solution is the same whether the cause of the problem was altruism or selfishness or – as is often the case – a little bit of both. Problems are solved by looking at the whole story, seeking out different viewpoints, and working with others to come up with a course of action that honors and appreciates all the creatures involved and the role they play. 

Strongest Moment: The cave being overrun in giggling, destructive cuteness when the ravenous toe ticklers consume the place. It’s not just cuteness overload – it is a visual representation of how trying to protect can also destroy when the natural balance is disturbed.

Weakest Moment: Traveling Matt. His litter clean-up highlighted assumptions and protecting the environment, but not in a way that fit with the rest of the episode. 

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): I want to give it to Gobo for having common sense and being quick on his tickled feet to see the reality that the toe ticklers don’t belong. But I’m going to hand it to Mokey – she did save the toe ticklers from a poisonous death, even if she didn’t approach it the best way. So heart over head in this case. 

Most Classic Moment: Gobo is looking for Mokey to read her Uncle Traveling Matt’s postcard that he thinks she will like, a set up that is great because of the Wembley moment we get. As Gobo starts, “Dear Nephew Gobo” agreeable Wembley says, “Oh, she’ll like that.” 

Musical Highlight: Giggling Fraggles singing “Born to Laugh”.

Coolest Puppetry Effect: Mokey struggling to move the rock that covers the cave opening. It’s short, but sweet.

One More Thing…:This is quintessential Fraggle – a complicated topic told in a simple, cute, entertaining way. 

Click here to metamorphose on the ToughPigs Discord!

by Drake Lucas

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