Monday, May 7, 2012

Fraggle Rock episode recap: "Beginnings"

As part of an attempt to bring happiness to life, I've decided to do recaps of episodes of Jim Henson's beloved 1983-1987 series Fraggle Rock. After all, Jim Henson had created Fraggle Rock with the intent of being a show "that brings peace to the world". He might not have succeeded in that regard unfortunately but the show did bring joy to a lot of people. I've had the season-by-season DVD box sets of this show for a while and haven't watched them in quite a while. It's just easier to turn on The Hub at 7 in the morning than just get a DVD and put it in the player for some reason. I figure it's time to head back into the Rock as I start to (at least attempt) revisit all 96 episodes.

Episode 1 - "Beginnings"

 The show of course begins with our first time hearing that main Fraggle Rock theme. It does a fairly good job of setting up the tone of the show and introducing the main characters, even if all they do is shout out their names. It gives us a good feel for the show regardless and what to expect. Though I will say I don't understand why Gobo randomly decides to go up to the Gorgs' garden in the middle of song and manages to survive a long dive for a Fraggle, but it's a show, I'll just relax.

The first characters we're introduced to our Doc and Sprocket, our two introductory characters in every episode. Right in we get to the point, Doc is converting an old abandoned room/shed into a workshop. Allow me to just get a bit picky about this for just one second: we never see Doc's actual house in the series, when we see an exterior, it's supposedly the front of the workshop. Later on in the series, it's more or less implied Doc lives in the workshop. Is this just a place Doc works or is it his home? I don't get it.

But enough about that, here comes Matt Fraggle, a Fraggle explorer who is finishing his exploration of the caves in Fraggle Rock when he comes across an "odd little tunnel" that is blocked. We can already establish that Matt is not the brightest tool in the shed, a delight aspect of the character that Dave Goelz brought to life so well. Back in the workshop, Doc starts clearing out the junk in the room, including a box that reveals the tunnel leads to Doc's workshop! Think of all the shenanigans we can get ourselves into now! Matt now discovers he can see into the "final frontier of Fraggle-dom!"

We're then introduced to Gobo for the first time, as Matt excitedly tells Gobo of his news and how he will soon be traveling into Outer Space, the world of the Silly Creatures (basically code-word for our world). He gives Gobo books of all his past studies, which gives us a fairly good explanation of the Rock.

"The center of the universe is, of course, that marvelous land known as Fraggle Rock. It is thus called because it is a Rock and Fraggles live there..."
We get our first glimpse of the delightful, fun-loving creatures as they sing a song celebrating life in the Rock. We also get our first character moments of Red, Wembley and Boober already setting up their mindsets perfectly. Apparently this was filmed halfway through the first season instead of right upfront, to give the performers a good vibe of the series. It works quite effectively, it serves as a good introduction.

Now, we get our first real Fraggle song and probably the most famous outside the show's theme song, "Follow Me". The song has become an anthem of sorts for Jim Henson and to a lesser extent Jerry Juhl, the show's head writer. Maybe even the whole Henson company altogether. Regardless, it's a beautiful song. 

Matt leads Gobo to the hole and tells him of his plan, Gobo will have to get postcards from now Traveling Matt every few days with tales of Matt's travels. Gobo is apprehensive but Traveling Matt gets into outer space no problems. He seems impressed by Sprocket but Gobo tells him to run from the "fearsome beast". As he leaves, Gobo realizes he'll have to do that every few days?

Traveling Matt has his first encounters with a fire hydrant, almost getting run over, kids with baseball bats. All just the beginning of the many antics Matt will get himself into over the 96-episode run.

Back in Fraggle Rock, Gobo is having moody doubts about what he has to do. He wants help but he doesn't want to open up to anybody about it. Wembley entertains him by playing a Doozer construction with what's quite a soothing melody. It also serves to establish the Doozers as a species in the Rock, building the constructions that Fraggles love to eat so. Gobo's still not too swayed so he goes to see the all-knowing Trash Heap. On top of that, we get our first introduction to Junior Gorg, another one of our iconic non-Fraggle five characters. A Richard Hunt character if there ever was one. But we'll talk more about the Gorgs in the next episode, it's time to talk about the Trash Heap, the eternally wise pile of trash the Fraggles turn to for advice, as her song explains. After understanding the mess Gobo's gotten himself into and gives him the advice "Get some friends. Friends help." The Trash Heap has spoken. Not to jump out of reality for a second, but she's right, friends do help, Gobo and I are on the same page of conflict here.

So in a matter of fadeout, Gobo has hit it off with some friends. Wembley, Red, Mokey and Boober are now ready to be part of our main cast. He tells the other four what happened, asking for advice, Boober gives him one of the funniest lines in the Rock - "You should crawl under the covers and moan and whimper." You really could make a whole book of Boober-isms. But, nope, the other four agree to follow Gobo up to Outer Space and give moral support.

Up in the workshop, things are pretty good to go and Sprocket watches the hole after he rolls a ball in. As the Fraggles arrive, they come across the "hideous round thing". Gobo goes out to check for a postcard now that the scene is clear and Sprocket's out cold. But Doc comes in with the mail, promptly tossing the random postcard in the trash, Gobo gets it out but Sprocket is ready to be a real dog for once and goes for Gobo. Mokey throws the ball back into the workshop distracting Sprocket. The Fraggle Five sings a song of celebration and after talk about how exciting it is in Fraggle Rock... "that's what's wrong with the place" as our first episode comes to a close.

"Beginnings" is far from the best Fraggle Rock episode but serves as a great introduction to the series and it's characters. The show would pick up more steam as time went on but for an introductory episode, it's really good and would make me want to stick around. It was really smart to film this later in the season, as we really do get a good feel of the characters rather than seeing the puppeteers channel them for the very first time.

That's that, now dance your cares away and for now, worries are for another day.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. I like the idea of FR episode recaps. Really enjoyed it.