"We're Number One and we've just begun and now it's time to play!"
- Fraggle Chorus
The camera flies through a broken panel in a window of a workshop where a friendly-looking gentleman and his shaggy dog are hard at work on something. The camera then swoops through the cozy room and down into a strange-looking, jagged crack in the wall. It's lined with bricks and clearly goes down into the foundation. The camera dives right down into the hole, which turns out to be the entrance to a series of colorful tunnels. And very suddenly, the music picks up and we're right on the tailfeathers of a creature racing towards a big, central cavern. The cavern opens up and it is huge. It resembles the Crystal Caves of Bermuda that inspired it, but with a key difference - it is inhabited. The cave is filled to the ceiling with dozens of Muppet characters and each and every one of them looks unique. And they proceed to sing one of the best-loved television themes of the decade.
The opening sequence of "Fraggle Rock" is remarkable. In about a minute you're introduced to nearly all the major characters and species, you get little hints of everyone's personality, and you're given a geographical layout of the series' multilayered world. In some respects, the pilot episode of "Fraggle Rock" was almost redundant.
But what a fantastic pilot episode it is! "Fraggle Rock" was truly a series that hit the ground running at full tilt. There's a whole fantastical world to be set up here in only twenty minutes, and while they only hint at the ways these different creatures and lands are connected, they do manage to cover a lot. The characters aren't yet established as well as they'd be in subsequent episodes, but they each get their own little character moment.
The more I think about it, the more I'm kind of in awe of "Fraggle Rock" right from the beginning. Already Uncle Traveling Matt gives us a very funny -and yet, also kind of poignant- take on the humans through alien eyes trope. We have our first visit to the Trash Heap, who is a delightfully bizarre character even for a Muppet production seeing as she's basically an oracular compost heap that sounds vaguely like Steven Tyler - this was all based on the idea that the most informative items found by archaeologists are in ancient trash heaps, since they tell us more about daily life in ancient times. We get a surprisingly long sequence of Doozers building a bridge and it not only establishes what Doozers are and what they do, it's also Muppet technician Faz Fazakas saying, "Look at what we can do NOW!" The whole thing is already fantastic and -once again- remember we're only twenty minutes into the series.
Now, there are a LOT of excellent episodes in this first season and not a single dud episode in the lot. I'm going to have to limit myself to reviewing my very favorites, but know that season one as a whole is terrific, especially once we're halfway through the season...