Boober Fraggle and The River of Life

Did you miss me?

Sorry I haven’t been posting as frequently lately, but I honestly don’t see the point in posting when I really have nothing to talk about. It was just one of those weeks where my enthusiasm for writing went straight down the drain.

But hey, I’m bouncing back with some adoration of the man that is Dave Goelz in all of his glorious Dave Goelz-ness! Have I mentioned yet that Boober Fraggle is my favourite of all of Dave’s characters? If I have, I honestly can’t remember and I apologise if I happen to be repeating myself….yet again.

Tonight, I thought I’d take a look at my favourite Goelz performance in the Fraggle Rock episode ‘The River of Life’. This episode remains in my Top 5 and for a very good reason. While all of the episodes connect together in the single narrative of the importance of tolerance and co-existing peacefully, there are some that simply stand out because they take it a step further.

Before I dive into it, I’m going to give a quick shout-out to Steve Whitmire for his performance of Sprocket in this episode. Boober takes the cake, but Sprocket also plays a huge role and should be commended on his character growth as he and Boober unknowingly work together to save the Fraggles. Steve did an awesome job getting across Sprocket’s anguish through body language and an array of dog noises. Kudos, Steve!

Okay, so, as usual, we start the episode in the workshop, finding Sprocket fanning himself until Doc comes barreling in with some exciting news. Apparently there’s a guy that will pay Doc $100,000 if he allows the guy’s company to pour industrial waste into the limestone caves beneath the workshop. Sprocket had perked up at the thought of the money, but immediately panics when he realises where the waste would go- to the Fraggles! Sprocket protests the signing of a contract, but Doc assures him that these people are professionals and they have already begun to test the process. Horrified, Sprocket makes his way over to the Fraggle Hole and peers in, worried for his oddball friends.

Down at Fraggle Rock, we join Boober on his way to ‘anting’, a spectator event that Red and Mokey don’t seem to keen on. They’re on their way to the swimming pool in the Great Hall. Boober attempts to explain his enthusiasm, but is cut short when he smells something strange, an odour undetectable for the two female fuzzballs. Boober heads off to find the source.

Meanwhile in the Gorg’s Garden, Junior is watering his beloved radishes just as Ma and Pa decided to go for a ‘frolic in the creek’. Junior wants to go, but is forced to stay and continue his chores. When Junior goes back to his radishes and sprinkles more water over them, the radishes suddenly go rotten and shrivel, causing Junior to fall into dismay and confusion.

With that scene done, we have our set-up for the interconnection. Outer-Space is the cause of the problem and Fraggle Rock and the Gorg’s Garden pay the price for Doc’s lack of knowledge about the world beyond the Fraggle Hole. Water of course is the interconnecting factor that drives the story forward.

Water also happens to be missing from the water hole in the Great Hall, much to the disappointment of the Fraggles who just want to beat the heatwave. Uncle Travelling Matt, not one to give up so easily, goads the youngsters into filling the pool back up with water from Water-Wheel Cavern. With a song, that’s exactly what they do. Boober is still on the case of the strange scent, coming to the horrid conclusion that the water is polluted when he finds the source. But it’s too late! The Fraggles are already swimming!

Back in the workshop, Doc, completely oblivious to the fact that his tie has been done up backwards (not important to the plot, but I felt the need to mention it anyway because it’s funny), seems pleased with the progress of the tests. At first, he is confused by Sprocket’s protesting, claiming he’d never do anything to hurt the environment, but then realises that Sprocket is once again trying to convince him that there is life behind the wall. Exasperated, Doc gives Sprocket an ultimatum: if he can prove the Fraggles’ existence, Doc won’t sign the contract. Sprocket immediately runs to the Hole and tries his best to capture the Rock’s attention.

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Sprocket does his best to save his Fraggle friends by stalling Doc’s signing of the contract.

Seriously Sprocket, there’s a Fraggle Hole you can fit through down at the park near your house! Can’t you just go there and drag one of them out by their tail?

Oh, hang on, that wouldn’t work anyway, Doc hasn’t had his Magic Moment yet.

(Don’t worry, I’ll be talking about the Magic Moments in my next post, you’ll get the context soon!)

I really want to insert here, my love for Sprocket throughout this whole episode as it shows off his character growth. No more is the dog that would try to capture Gobo; the Fraggles are his friends! They’ve adventured together, played together and reached a common understanding that they want to get to know more about each other’s worlds.

Good boy! Have a dog treat on the house!

While Sprocket’s barking echoes through the caverns unheard, four of the Fraggle Five begin to suffer from the affects of the pollution, much in the same way that marine life suffers when there is an oil spill from a cargo ship. Throat Rot renders them hoarse and it’s not long before Wembley and Red begin to crumble under their own weight. This is not a good situation for anyone and Boober is panicking. I can relate to his anguish over suddenly having a huge amount of responsibility on one’s shoulders. Boober is a character of many anxieties and this is certainly not a situation you want to put a hypochondriac introvert in. At the very least, Gobo instructs Boober to visit The Trash Heap for answers, so at least the squat Fraggle has a place to start.

Unfortunately for Boober (and me as the anxious audience), The Trash Heap seems to know that this is one of the more significant episodes and decides to be extra sassy just for shits and giggles. The conversation (after watching the Gorg’s try to curb a new itch and lay blame on the Fraggles) metaphorically leads to the idea of Boober confronting Outer Space. “Find the source,” cries Marjorie in all of her trashy glory, but that’s far easier said then done for our little blue hero.

On his way back to the Rock, Junior snatches Boober up and the Gorgs proceed to lay threats upon the already shaken Fraggle. Luckily, Boober decides to introduce them to the concept of the Silly Creatures and reveals the truth. Pa suggests to invade Outer Space, but it’s quickly down turned due to Pa being proportionally-challenged. So it’s back to Boober to save the day which he verbally resents, causing Pa to state the painful truth

“I’ll make it country-simple, you Fur-ball! If you don’t get the message across to these jokers, you might as well kiss your hat good-bye! Because you know what?” snarls Pa.

“What?” whimpers Boober.

“Without clean water, we ARE ALL…GOING TO DIE!”

There you have it, ladies and gentleman! That classic, endearing, ‘we know that you’re kids, but fuck you, you’re gonna learn about how shit reality really is’ Fraggle Rock charm we all know and love!

At this point, Boober is ready to crap himself and Dave Goelz begins to outdo himself performance-wise. Running to Gobo and the others for help, Boober sees just how badly they’ve deteriorated since he last saw them and it could not be more clear that things are screwed unless he does something. So he does do something…..he crams himself under a rock, only to be telepathically ‘tut-tutted’ by The Trash Heap, who once again reminds him how much is at stake (because apparently all of his friends dying wasn’t a clear enough sign as far as she is concerned). Boober resigns himself to the idea of begging and grovelling to the Silly Creatures.

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The Fraggles have Throat Rot!

Speaking of which, our other hero is getting plenty of practice in as Sprocket whimpers and whines, preaching his anguish to Doc. “Don’t sign the contract!” he tries to say. Doc is severely conflicted: Sprocket hasn’t been able to prove the existence of lifeforms down in the caves, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any at all. The poor man wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he knew he had harmed another being…but…but the money…..Doc decides to take a walk before he makes a final decision.

Now at the other side of the Fraggle Hole, Boober is ready to make his plea and my god this scene makes me cry every time! Easily the best moment of Dave’s career as far as I’m concerned. Everything about it is stunningly emotional, from Boober’s submissive body language, to the meek and terrified intonation of his voice, it really does hit me right in the feels.

“Hello? Sir…or Madam….It’s Boober Fraggle here. One of the insignificant creatures who lives down here in the caves? I’ve come to beg and grovel…”

Then Boober gets down on his knees in one of the most poignant shots of the entire series.

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The Plea for Fraggle Rock: Dave Goelz’s most emotional performance on the show.

“On behalf of the Fraggles and the Gorg’s, I beg you to stop contaminating our water. I’m on my knees begging for that right now. Okay? Oh please, please stop poisoning us! We’re just helpless little creatures who mean you no harm….We don’t wanna die…I’ve tried to think about why you want to hurt us, but it doesn’t make any sense…We’ve never done anything to you, have we? Taken anything from you?”

With that last question hanging in the air, Boober has a realisation and runs off to ‘rectify the problem’, but for a moment, I just want to sit back and revel in that incredible speech that Dave just takes and tears your heart apart with. It says so much about who Boober is: as far as he is concerned, he is a tiny speck in the bigger picture, but there is a part of him that still hopes that he and his fellow Fraggles can matter. In this moment, he let’s go of everything and just appeals to common decency. There’s no reluctance in his voice when he includes the Gorg’s: they matter too at the end of the day. The first time I ever watched this series, I liked Boober before this episode, but this scene earned him a special spot in my heart.

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere that Boober’s speech rings out into an empty room, but I’m far too tired to dwell upon it tonight. The next scene has Doc and Sprocket return to the workshop after their walk. Doc’s mind is made up- he’s signing the contract! Sprocket attempts one last time to convince him to turn the other cheek, but Doc proceeds to justify his decision….only to find a pile of Uncle Matt’s postcards sitting in the Hole.

Boober thought that the Silly Creatures were mad because Gobo kept sneaking in and ‘stealing’ the cards, so the logical thing to do is give them back. This is a huge breakthrough for Doc- finally some evidence supporting Sprocket’s “theory”! The dog in question is both stunned and elated.

Back in the Rock, an anxious Boober sings the correctly named ‘It Makes You Cry’ because it makes me blubber every goddamn time, only for something amazing to happen….Clean water is dripping from the cavern walls! He runs off to find his friends just as Doc informs Sprocket that he turned the waste disposal company away. He waved the contract and the money bye-bye because the new evidence of life beyond the Hole was too important to ignore.

Sprocket is overjoyed (and so am I!). Doc finally contemplates who could be living back there and ordered for the caverns to be flushed out with clean water. It’s a miracle! The Fraggles recover from their illness, the Gorg’s radishes are restored to their full-health and Sprocket gives the postcards back, just happy that the Fraggles seemed to have gotten his warning barks from earlier.

And that ladies and gentleman, was ‘The River of Life’, a PSA for the environment and the conclusion of Boober Fraggle’s character arc!

Boober would never have done what he did in this episode during Season 1. Boober never outgrew his anxieties, but he did learn to deal with them as he went. His appreciation and love for his friends will overtake his fears when there is a need for it and it’s a shame there’s not a lot of characters like him on television these days. Kids who are like I was back then could definitely benefit from Boober’s influence.

As I mentioned earlier, I intend to discuss how episodes like this play into the bigger picture during my next post. I should probably stop here before I fall asleep, but I promise you I don’t intend to stray for as long as I did this time.

See you guys soon!

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