Fraggle Rock: 40 Years Later – “The Trash Heap Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”

Published: January 19, 2024
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Synopsis: The Gorgs decide to build a gazebo, and their chosen location just happens to be the home of the Trash Heap. Philo and Gunge summon Wembley and Boober for help, and the hesitant Fraggles must take action to prevent Junior Gorg from dumping the Trash Heap in the river!

Original air date: January 16, 1984

Question: Do people ever really change? Some people would say nope, no way, nuh-uh. Everyone has a set of habits, behaviors, and beliefs baked into them, and nothing will ever truly change them.

I guess that’s partially true. Consider this: Most people who are reading (or writing) these words right now have been big Muppet fans for a long time, and at this point in our lives, it’s not very likely that we’ll wake up tomorrow and decide we don’t care about those puppet shows anymore. On the other hand, I think most people are continuously changing, even if it’s just in little ways.

For example, I used to think avocados were weird and guacamole was bad and gross, and now I like avocados and guacamole very much. Clearly something about me changed, even if I’m not a drastically different person now than I was pre-avocado. That’s a good lesson for a kid-friendly show like Fraggle Rock to impart — and in true Fraggle Rock fashion, “The Trash Heap Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” does it with cleverness, nuance, and a silly hat.

Follow-up question: Once changed, can people change back? The Doc and Sprocket segments of this episode might lead you to think so. See, Doc has this ice cube, and he realizes it provides an exciting opportunity to teach Sprocket about the three basic stages of matter. Sprocket is less than thrilled to find himself in an episode of Mr. Wizard’s World, but Doc has a rip-snortin’ good time melting the ice cube, heating up the water so it becomes a vapor, then turning it back into water and then to ice again.

So there you have it: What was once an ice cube, even after going through several changes, can be an ice cube again. Therefore, a person who changes can change back to being exactly the same again. Right? Well, the stories of Wembley and the Trash Heap bring us to a more complicated conclusion.

Marjory the Trash Heap goes through the experience of being thrown in a wheelbarrow, transported, dumped, transported again, and dumped again – and she still looks the same when she lands in her new home. But it’s impossible for the Fraggles not to notice right away that her voice has changed, and it keeps changing, as Marjory’s performer Jerry Nelson cycles through a whole repertoire of vocal registers and accents.

She assures her friends that she’s fine, and there’s no reason to think she’s not. But a major life change like moving to a new home always leaves you a little bit different than you were before. Not only have you begun a new phase of your life, you’ve also left the previous phase behind you.

That happens to Wembley and Boober too. When they’re called upon to save the Trash Heap, they’re taken aback. Traditionally, they go to the Trash Heap so she can help them with their problems. But Marjory is completely confident in the Fraggles’ ability to solve her problem for once. And they do! They didn’t think they could, but when they have to, they do. And that’s got to change a person.

We’ve all dealt with big situations of various degrees of seriousness. I changed the first time I went on a date, the first time I had to go grocery shopping by myself, the first time I bought my own plane ticket, the first time I had to drive a box truck through New York City traffic for work, and the first time I rode Space Mountain.

But here’s the other thing: I didn’t change too much. I was still recognizable to my family and friends after each of those experiences, even though they all affected me. Just like Marjory is still mostly the same Trash Heap beloved by Philo and Gunge and Wembley and Boober. People (and trash heaps, and Fraggles) can change, but not all big changes have to happen at once.

This episode’s theme can be applied to so many potential life changes that kids and adults go through. Now that I think of it, I wish I had seen it before the first time my family moved to a new town, when I was eight years old. After we moved, I was a changed little Trash Heap — and yet, I was still the same little Trash Heap.

Strongest Moment: Wembley’s plan to prevent Junior from dumping the Trash Heap in the river relies on Junior’s tendency to sleepwalk. When Junior falls asleep, Wembley climbs in his hair and directs him to walk this way, walk that way, and to empty the wheelbarrow in a safe location. It’s fun to watch. And it’s kinda like Ratatouille!

Weakest Moment: Early in the episode, Doc tells Sprocket he’s gained some weight. Later, Ma Gorg says she doesn’t want lunch because she’s trying to lose weight. Enough already!

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): It has to be Wembley. That goofball is the hero of the episode.

First Appearance Of…: The Trash Heap’s new location! It’s behind the rock formation that separates Fraggle Rock, from the Gorg’s garden, which means the Fraggles will no longer have to go through the ordeal of sneaking their way over to her.

Most Classic Moment: I had forgotten that this episode has one of my favorite lines of the show. When Boober and Wembley are brainstorming ways they can help the Trash Heap, Boober responds to one of his friend’s ideas by saying “Wembley… Your brain is floating off into the sunrise.”

Musical Highlight: The Trash Heap has a song where her voice keeps changing, which is fun, but I really like “What an Awful Day,” the simple little song Wembley is writing by himself at the beginning of the episode. He rhymes “that” with “hat,” and insists that he has to wear a hat while singing it.

Fraggle Lore: How about some Gorg lore? Ma carries around an actual Book of Lore, which she uses to explain the concept of a gazebo to Pa, who initially thought it was a striped animal that runs fast. (Do they have… gazelles? or… zebras? in the Gorg world?) And the family says a blessing over their meal: “All thanks to the spirit of the great Gorgs and the generosity of the garden. Hey, nonny… nonny, nonny.”

One More Thing…: When the Trash Heap is reconstituted after being moved the first time, she speaks with a low, gravelly voice, and Philo reacts by exclaiming “She’s a fella!” The Fraggles and Philo and Gunge continue to be unsettled by Marjory’s stereotypically male-sounding voices. I can’t imagine anyone involved with this episode in 1984 ever suspected that this might come across as insensitive in a more enlightened time like ours, but I can only assume a story like this would be portrayed differently today.

Okay, One More Thing…: Wembley and Boober are the only Fraggles in this episode! It’s established that Gobo is off exploring the Ring Caverns, but what are Mokey and Red up to? They could be having their own, equally exciting adventure for all we know.

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by Ryan Roe –

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