Ah, the episode that starts it all.
At first I was gonna go all-out with the recapping, blow-by-blow TWoP style. And then I remembered this is a 25-year-old children’s show about colorful muppet creatures. If you wanna watch the show, watch it. I’m hardly qualified to be a TV critic, so I’m also not going to spend too much time commenting on how good each episode as a TV show, either. I’m just here for the twisted alternatives readings of each episode’s messages, and I should not spend too much of my life on it.
So anyway, most of this episode is setup. First we meet Doc and his dog, Sprocket, who in the course of cleaning up an old disused room, unblock a hole in the wall leading to Fraggle Rock, undisputed center of the universe and home to the to Fraggles, the very pinnacle of civilization and culture. And of course we meet the main Fraggles: Uncle Traveling Matt, (the name is some kind of entertainment industry insider pun, and I love insider nerd jokes even when I don’t get them without explanation) Gobo, Red, Wembley, Boober, and Mokey. There are various musical numbers establishing the Fraggles as musically talented, fun-loving creatures, and Doozers as tireless little construction workers. Junior Gorg shows up just long enough to show that he is big and out to get the Fraggles.
We even meet Marjory the Trash Heap! I love the Trash Heap. The wise and all-knowing Trash Heap delivers the first lesson of the series to Gobo: friends help! Traveling Matt is out exploring Outer Space (what Fraggles call the human world. Do I need to explain this shit? Would anyone who’s never seen Fraggle Rock bother reading?) and sending messages back to Gobo through Doc’s mail, which Gobo has to risk confronting Sprocket to get. At first he’s too afraid to do it, but his friends support him and eventually save him from Sprocket. They helped! Traveling Matt’s need to go explore the world is part of another message, I think, if less explicitly put. Together I think they make an episode that is mainly about the value of taking risks in a supportive environment in order to try new things.
I’m not seeing a whole lot of possibly-unintentional subtext with this one, though it might just be that I’m tired and probably coming down with a cold. I did notice watching this episode that Matt seems to be the only old Fraggle. He’s also the only one with family. None of the main Fraggles have parents who are around, or siblings, Matt doesn’t seem to have any children, and I don’t remember ever seeing baby Fraggles. This is sort of weird! I mean, as a children’s show it makes a certain amount of sense, the lack of parents means that the main Fraggles can be independent without directly addressing their age, and the Fraggles definitely live in a kind of children’s idealized dream world, where there’s no work or school and they just do what they like with their time.
There is also the fact that Fraggles seem to have a pretty anarchic social structure. Not only are there no parents or teachers or bosses, there are no politicians or authoritative leaders at all. If a Fraggle wants something to happen, that Fraggle takes the action necessary to make it happen. The creatures with a defined power hierarchy are the Doozers, who just work all day and don’t live a life that is likely to be enticing to the younguns, and Gorgs, who we soon find out are pretty ridiculous in that they call themselves King and Queen of the Universe but pretty much live alone in a castle without anyone to rule over. Fraggles live in a universe where obeying authority and yielding to hierarchy is either boring or ridiculous. Kinda subversive, I’d say. And this point, at least, I am sure is completely intentional on the part of the show’s creators.