"The magic is always there, as long as we keep looking for it... "
—Uncle Travelling Matt
The story goes that Jim Henson was taking a long and boring trip and mused aloud, "I'd like to make a TV show that brings about world peace."The result of this idea was Fraggle Rock, produced for the CBC in Canada, and aired on HBO in the U.S. in 1983-87. The series depicted a colorful and fun world, but it was also a world with a relatively complex ecosystem. The different races of creatures were each connected through symbiosis, even though they never realized it. This was meant as an allegory of the human world, where each group was somewhat unaware of how interconnected and important they were to one another. Creating this allegorical world allowed the program to entertain and amuse while seriously exploring complex issues of prejudice, spirituality, personal identity, ecology, and social conflict.The series' triumph, by far, was being able to express all of this onscreen without being Anvilicious or insulting the intelligence of its young audience. By the second season, there wasn't an issue they wouldn't tackle. The writers refused to over-simplify any individual issue, and instead simply illustrated the consequences and inherent difficulties of different actions and relationships. Though the Fraggles do learn important lessons, they are rarely self-conscious about it.And furthermore, the series is fun as hell. With wall-to-wall music and engaging characters in a fantastic, well-realized setting, you barely notice that you're learning any life lessons at all. It also contains some of the most astonishing and ingenious special effects ever devised for a Muppet series. Many have argued that the series is even better when you go back and watch it as an adult with your own children.The ideals of friendship, being true to yourself and learning to love those who are incredibly different were the cornerstones of Jim Henson's work throughout his career, and he considered Fraggle Rock to be one of the purest and most successful expressions of that vision. In turn, many Henson fans have agreed that Fraggle Rock may be his masterpiece.A far less successful Animated Adaptation for NBC followed in 1987-88, which was animated by the same crew who worked on Muppet Babies. It was released on DVD in January 2010.A comic book continuation by Archaia Entertainment began in 2010 and is still running.A spinoff series based on the Doozers is in development.Not to be confused with where the pilgrims landed.
Absentee Actor: Gobo is missing from such episodes as "The Great Radish Famine" and "Believe it or Not", Mokey is absent from "All Work and All Play", "Believe It or Not", "The Challenge", and "The Trash Heap Doesn't Live Here Anymore", Wembly is absent from "Junior Sells the Farm", "The Battle of the Leaking Roof", and "Red's Blue Dragon", Red is absent from "The Trash Heap Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and "The Battle of the Leaking Roof" and Boober is absent from "Capture the Moon", "All Work and All Play", "Junior Sells the Farm", "Doozer is as Doozer Does", and "The Cavern of Lost Dreams".
In fact, it has been confirmed on the official Muppet wiki that the only character to appear in every episode is Doc (or his localized equivalent).
An Aesop: Each different variety of Aesop got to have at least one episode.
All There in the Manual: Where do baby fraggles come from? According to the book "The Legend of the Doozer Who Didn't," doozers who stop working turn into these!
Though it turns out that's just a story Doozer parents frighten their children with, as revealed in "All Work and All Play." Cotterpin Doozer wants to become a Fraggle, but eventually has to face up to the fact that the old story isn't true and that she has to remain a Doozer.
According to one of the "series Bibles" included with one of the season DVD sets, Fraggles are apparently egg-layers. This along with their feathers, beaks, and long tails, has led to some interesting logic.
This may be inconclusive or just inconsistent; Storyteller Fraggle mentions a fraggle hatching in "The Terrible Tunnel", but none of the Fraggles knew what an egg was in "Wembley's Egg" — yet Uncle Matt spoke of a chicken egg in "Capture The Moon".
Ambiguously Jewish: Marjorie, the Trash Heap. According to her performer Jerry Nelson, the network got a few angry letters from people whose kids asked why a pile of garbage talked like their grandmothers.
Ambition Is Evil: Bug-eyed Marlon Fraggle has "frustrated megalomaniac" written all over him.
Animated Adaptation: Ran for a single season immediately after the Muppet-centric series ended.
Rats: You are in the presence of the all-knowing, all-seeing Trash Heap! Nyeaah!
Cats Are Mean: The first thing Fluffinella does upon seeing Sprocket is attack him. This being Fraggle Rock, it later turns out that she's a lot nicer than she seems at first.
Character Development: The Doozer, Fraggles and Junior. The Doozers were all but invisible to the Fraggles until Cotterpin made friends with Red, and even more shocking was that by the final few episodes, Junior had stopped trying to capture (and kill?) Fraggles and was on a first name basis with Gobo.
On a more personal level, all the Fraggle Five went through some Character Development over the series. It's most notable with Wembley, who at the beginning of the series has no opinions of his own and just agrees with whoever spoke last, but over the course of the show learns to think a little more for himself and even stand up for himself when he needs to, to the point where Junior Gorg actually mistakes him for the leader of the Fraggles in the penultimate episode — but without losing his flexibility and gist for seeing everyone's point of view.
The Character Died with Him: Doc's counterpart "The Captain" in the UK adaptation of the show was only featured in the first two seasons of the show because of Fulton MacKay's unfortunate death. The Captain's nephew P.K. took over the lighthouse in season 3. After P.K. left, for the final two seasons B.J. was introduced as the Captain's son.
Christmas Episode: Fraggles of course don't celebrate Christmas — instead, they enjoy The Festival of the Bells.
Doc and Sprocket's belief in the Fraggles (Gobo in particular) created the new tunnel and hole in the wall at the very end of the final episode.
Comically Missing the Point: Doc manages this frequently. In one episode, he's trying to figure out how he and Sprocket can communicate:
Doc: And now the "I want to be friends" gesture. (rolls on his back like a dog, limbs in the air)
Sprocket:(gives him a look)
Doc: I resent the implication that I've gone mad.
Most of the Fraggles manage it on a regular basis as well. The show's absolute king of the trope is Traveling Matt, who manages to misunderstand almost everything, and in extremely creative ways at that.
Traveling Matt is the undisputed master of this trope; his performer Dave Goelz even described his frequent misconceptions as the first of his three defining character flaws. note The second one being his clumsiness, and the third one being his utter denial of the first two flaws.
Continuity Nod: Tons. In part this was budgetary — custom Fraggle models reappeared frequently in crowd scenes after their debut, for example — but many were entirely script-based, such as Travelling Matt recognizing the hopping creatures.
Cool Old Guy: Apparently, the Fraggle aging process only causes an elderly Fraggle to sprout a beard Dumbledore would envy. The World's Oldest Fraggle is even louder and more energetic than the main cast, and wavers somewhere between Crazy Awesome and just plain terrifying by virtue of leading the happy, friendly, peace-loving Fraggles to war.
Amongst the Doozers, the Architect also was pretty rev.
Doc himself seems to be a fun person to be around.
Crazy-Prepared: Convincing John. This is especially noticable in his second episode, where he, called upon to do some spontaneous convincing, just happens to have rare Fraggle delicacies, two shirts identical to Wembley's, and even a trio of background singers waiting in his cave. it's Lampshaded by Gobo and Red:
Gobo: Where's this guy get all this stuff?! Red: I heard he was prepared for anything, but this is ridiculous!
Cultural Translation: Different actors played Doc's role for different countries. For example, the French version of the show took place in a bakery and in the UK Sprocket's owner was a lighthouse keeper called The Captain.
A Day in the Limelight: The episode "The Trial of Cotterpin Doozer" sends the entire main cast away, leaving recurring characters Cotterpin Doozer, Large Marvin Fraggle and Feeny Fraggle to carry an episode by themselves. "The Battle of the Leaking Roof" also focuses primarily on the Gorgs, leaving only Mokey and Boober with a tiny subplot.
Dead Guy Junior: Gobo, possibly. He was named after his great-uncle, whom Traveling Matt adored. Given Mattís own advancing age and the fact that the original Gobo is only seen in flashback, itís probably safe to assume that he is deceased.
Deadpan Snarker: Boober. Though he claims to have no sense of humor, he gets easily the funniest lines in the show.
Red likes to snark as well, her favorite target being Traveling Matt.
And Cotterpin Doozer, being both a young Doozer and being very tiny, is a straight-up Little Miss Snarker.
In the very first episode, Sprocket gets mail. It's his subscription to Puppy Dog Tails magazine.
In one episode, Ma and Pa Gorg go to wade in the brook... alone. When Junior wants to come along, Pa stutters out an excuse for why he can't. The implications are subtle enough for children to miss, but watching it again as an adult...
Granola Girl: Mokey. If she were human, you could easily picture her listening to sitar music and polishing crystals.
Grand Finale: It took the last seven episodes or so to wrap up all the major plots.
Growing Up Sucks: Cotterpin Doozer goes through this in the episode "All Work and All Play".
Grumpy Bear: Boober, at first. Turns out he just has a bad, bad case of OCD.
Humans Are the Real Monsters: Highly Averted, though Uncle Matt immediately identifies us as "The Silly Creatures". (This isn't really an insult, though, as Fraggles like silliness.) Later on, Doc agrees that it's a good name for humans.
Matt tends to hear words incorrectly. He misinterpreted "city creatures''.
In fact, some of the silly creatures are very friendly towards Uncle Matt, especially the little girl from "Let The Water Run" who shares her umbrella with Matt while it is raining, and a bunch of street punks who dress him up in punk clothes, in which Uncle Matt refers to them as the closest things a silly creature can be compared to a fraggle!
Identical Great Nephew: In the flashbacks to Traveling Matt's childhood, we see that Gobo inherited his great-uncle and namesake's color scheme (orange with fuchsia hair).
Identity Amnesia In "Boober Gorg" Boober gets a thump on the head and ends up thinking he's Junior Gorg. Ma and Pa Gorg think so too.
I Gave My Word: When Mokey meets Begooney, she promises to come if he calls her. Trouble is, he keeps calling her and pulling her away from her other friends and commitments... but she goes because she can't bear to break promises.
I Just Want to Be You: The episode "I Want to Be You" is all about this. Red gets jealous of Mokey for being (so she thinks) more popular than her with everyone ("especially Gobo"), and spends the episode trying to imitate Mokey's hairstyle, voice, touchy-feely new age poetry, etc.
Impossibly Delicious Food: The Grapes of Generosity, so delicious that anyone who finds them will not want to part with them.
Invisible to Normals: The final episodes have a very strange variation on this one. Seems Gobo never had to go through all the stress of hiding from Doc all those years...
Lost Forever: The British localization of Fraggle Rock suffered this fate, when the master tapes were junked. Of the 96 episodes made, only 12 are known to survive. This is why there's never been a DVD release.
The Magic Goes Away/The Magic Comes Back: The finale. When it looks like Doc is moving, Gobo races to tell him that he cannot leave the magic — and gets there too late, finding only a cold, dark, empty, utterly mundane room stripped of all the life and joy Doc and Sprocket had infused it with throughout the entire series. Luckily, the message wasn't an order. It's a statement of fact.
Magic Music: Plays a role in a good number of episodes, and almost guaranteed to be employed whenever Cantus shows up.
Man Child: Doc certainly didn't have the most mature outlook on life, but he never lost his childlike sense of wonder either.
Manipulative Bastard: Sort of. "Convincing John can convince anyone to do anything." So he's got the manipulative part down. He isn't shown to be evil, per se, although he does convince them to do really silly things for no apparent reason, such as convincing Red that wearing a blindfold all the time is the only way to live. The first episode featuring him establishes that he was exiled from the Rock prior to the start of the series, but the Fraggles, being Fraggles, occasionally invite him to come back anyway when there's something they want him to convince them to do, like wearing clown noses.
Neologism: "Wemble", a verb meaning "to be pathologically indecisive". A "wembler" is a person who wembles, and "wembley" is an adjective describing a person who wembles (and it's also an acceptable name to give a child in Fraggle Rock — though according to Wembley, the people who named him apparently thought it meant "makes his mind up easily.")
When Wembley stops being indecisive, he demands he be called "Wilfred", which some have speculated might be his real name.
"Rev" is Doozer for "cool".
Never Say "Die": Averted like crazy. Especially in Boober's dialogue; he talks about death a lot.
Nice Hat: Gobo has an extensive collection of these, and he wears them in many episodes.
The Obi-Wan: Cantus again. "We see with our eyes. We know with our hearts."
Oblivious to Love: Uncle Travelling Matt has been the object of Storyteller Fraggle's affections since they were very young, but he's never noticed even when she invited him to visit the Kissing Cavern with her.
Running Gag: Quite a few, including Sprocket's reaction to any mention of Ned Shimmelfinney and Wembly's bad luck with that one pipe.
Serious Business: Satirized ten ways to Tuesday, most aggressively in the "Grand Poobahs" episode. Note that, in Fraggle society, major, far-reaching decisions can be settled with such things as who can stack the most pickles on the end of her/his beak.
Short Run In Peru: HBO divided the fourth and final season into two very short seasons. Fortunately, although it took an agonizingly long time, the Final Season set has been released!
Sneeze of Doom: In "The Perfect Blue Rollie", Wembly sneezes when he sneaks into Boober's hidey-hole to retrieve the rollie, waking up Boober. Then he sneezes and blows the rollie into a crack in the wall.
Stalker with a Crush: Begoony, a one-off character who was excessively lonely, acted much like this for Mokey. She took pity on his loneliness and befriended him, to which he responded by trying to isolate her from her other friends, and even going so far as to imprison her so she would stay with him always.
Verbal Tic: Wembley has a tendency to run around yelling "squeet squeet squat squat" or some variation thereof when he's happy or excited. It shows up in many of his songs, too.
He also makes curious cough-like noises randomly throughout his dialogue. It's revealed in an interview that this happened when Steve Whitmire had a cold, started coughing in his Wembley voice to be funny, and was encouraged to make it part of the character since it was frankly adorable.
When Trees Attack: Lanford, Mokey's pet plant, seems to be a very mild version of this trope. He really only actively dislikes Red, and he's evidently capable of relocating on his own since he turns out to be a member of the Poobahs even when Mokey isn't.