Fraggle Rock: 40 Years Later – “Wembley and the Great Race”

Published: May 24, 2024
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Synopsis: When Wembley beats Gobo in a race with the help of Red’s coaching, he gets caught in the middle of their rivalry and fears for his friendship with Gobo.

Original air date: May 21, 1984

On the surface, it can seem like this episode is about competition, but really it’s about Wembley getting stuck in the middle of someone else’s competition. Sprocket, meanwhile, is in exactly the same situation—a pawn in the latest frenemy battle between Doc and Ned Shimmelfinney.

Matthew already wrote about the theme of competition in his review of “The Doozer Contest”, and it seems like Fraggles, on the whole, have a healthier attitude toward competition than Doozers. Fraggles have games and sports all the time, so competition is baked into their culture, but here we get to see how Gobo and Red’s competitive dynamic is harmful when taken too far. Of course, Wembley has the right idea from the start, that the important thing is just to do your best.

This is actually the second review I’ve written where Wembley is the main character, but it’s the people around him who need to learn a lesson, not himself. That feels pretty unique to Fraggle Rock in terms of the usual story structure of children’s television, and I’m grateful for it. All Wembley needed to learn was how to say, “This is your fight, not mine, so stop putting me in the middle of it.” Yes, he has had this “Stick up for yourself!” lesson before, and he will have it again. Like his fellow former doormat Fluttershy said, “I am more assertive. And yes, it took me a while to get there, but can you honestly say that you could learn something one time and completely change who you are?”

Wembley needed the boost of self-esteem that came from winning, but more than that, he needed Gobo’s reassurance that their friendship is not contingent on Gobo always being superior. He spends most of the episode terrified that beating Gobo will ruin their friendship, and Gobo, unfortunately, gives him every reason to believe that.

I’ve seen game nights end in hurt feelings with hungover apologies the next day. As a kid, I wrote a “sui—— clause” into the rules of Monopoly so that when I inevitably got fed up, I could leave the game and bequeath my dwindling money and property as I saw fit. I was always the worst dancer my high school dance troupe. I’ve wasted immeasurable time and shame unfairly comparing myself to my friends, family, and societal peers.

I recently got the courage to tell one of my oldest friends about how I’d been making harmful comparisons between us for decades, just in my own head, and how much time and self-compassion it took for me to work through that. She reassured me that we were on much more solid ground in our friendship as adults, gave context for the things she excels at, and told me about the things I excel at that she admires.

These days, I’m just trying to channel Wembley, do my best, and have fun. I much prefer cooperative board games, like Forbidden Island or Dungeon Fighter. When I feel envious of my friends, I try to remember how different we are—dandelions and jasmine grow in completely different ways, but they don’t bother comparing themselves to each other.

Life is not a race. And I’m willing to bet ten radishes on that.

Strongest Moment – Wembley pretends to be sick to avoid the third race, finally tells Gobo and Red how miserable they’ve been making him, then decides he is going to race, but he’s going to do it for himself. Yes, it’s adorable when Wembley explodes like this, because he’s a lil green fuzzy puppet, but I wish he didn’t have to. As Tumblr user animate-mush said in regards to meltdowns over seemingly “small” matters, “People don’t actually go from 0 to 60. If you think they did, you have failed to notice how long they’ve been at 59.”

Weakest Moment ­– Traveling Matt’s postcard segment is brief and forgettable, although it did allow Gobo to have the thematically poignant line, “Can you imagine anyone being scared into winning?” (at which point I yelled at the TV, “Yeah, gym teachers everywhere, can you?!”).

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle) – Wembley all the way, but I want to give a special shout-out to his pal Lou handing out rockcorn.

Musical Highlight – While I appreciate that Fraggle Rock will occasionally have a song that’s pure absurdity like the “Front ‘N’ Back Patter Song (Turn Around Now!),” “Friends Till the End” is the one that gets stuck in your head and is just wholesome as heck.

Coolest Puppetry Effect – We’ve seen the miniature remote-controlled Fraggle puppets run before, but now we’re seeing two of them together, running and turning at the same time and this is one of those “How did they do that??” moments for me.

Darkest Moment – Wembley: I… I guess I just didn’t want anything to hurt our friendship! And—
Gobo: ‘Hurt our friendship’?! Wembley Fraggle, we’re gonna run one more race, and you better run it fair, or you can forget about our friendship!
Wembley: [shrinking up and trembling]

Beth: [crying]

One More Thing… Look, I know there’s a perfectly logical explanation for this:

Someone just referred back to the script for “Wembley and the Great Race” when working on the script for “Playing Till it Hurts,” saw the names Dimpley and Noble, and decided to reuse them as established sporty Fraggles, followed by someone else just chucking in whatever background puppets were available on filming day.

But canonically speaking, this opens up a whole new can of wormholes.

Click here to never give up on the ToughPigs Discord!

by Beth Cook

You May Also Like…

Written by Beth Cook

Read More by Beth Cook

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This