(image is a screen shot from the show’s official trailer)
Sometimes reboots are little more than exercises in nostalgia. But sometimes they’re more, and Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock, is a great example of the latter.
Fraggle Rock isn’t science fiction. From its beginnings in the 1980s, the decade of my young childhood, it’s been a wonderful puppet show (and sometimes cartoon) about a cavern-dwelling society in a universe that blends reality and fantasy. Given the upstairs-downstairs dynamic (see below, pun intended), the current iteration of the show might qualify as a kind of science fantasy, but certainly not science fiction. Nevertheless, “Back to the Rock” has obviously hopeful strains and themes that runs throughout, and which situate the show well as a solarpunk-lunarpunk fantasy series.
Downstairs, or rather deep underground below a house, live the Fraggles. They’re a society that is a precursor for today’s budding lunarpunk genre. Making their home in a cavern accented with rich purple and blue lighting, Fraggles live an idyllic life.
They love to sing and dance their cares away. Playing and exploring are daily activities, and they only work for thirty minutes per week. They care deeply for each other and for their home, and they have an often anthropomorphized relationship with their natural surroundings. Water is a constant presence and theme, as are the interdependence of individuals and communities, and the notion of radical acceptance.
Also living below ground in the cavern are the Doozers. They’re small (even smaller than the Fraggles) and industrious creatures who, in contrast to the Fraggles, seem to never stop working. They’re constantly building radish-based structures that have received a serious upgrade in the reboot. What used to be clunky, boxy design in the original series now resembles sleek, elegant solarpunk architecture with a design based on triangular panels brought together to form fluid shapes.
Upstairs lives the show’s only human character, Lili “Doc” Cooper and her dog Sprocket. Lili is a woman of color and a PhD candidate in marine biology. She dreams of discovering a bacteria that eats microplastics and can be used to clean the world’s oceans. While she’s unaware of the Fraggles, Sprocket is not, and the pup constantly tries—but fails—to notify and inform her of the fantasy world playing out beneath them.
From community focus and stewardship of the natural environment, to radical acceptance, hope, and the central theme of the search for solutions to climate change and environmental damage, Fraggle Rock is without a doubt the most solarpunk show we currently have on television. Perhaps it’s even a first example of a work in a solarpunk fantasy subgenre. One thing is for sure, regardless of whether you’re a young kid or an environmental and socially conscious adult, this show will bring a big smile to your face.
Justine Norton-Kertson (they/he/she) is the co-editor-in-chief of Solarpunk Magazine and Android Press. They live in rural Oregon with his partner, puppies, cats, goats, and beehives. She can be found on Twitter @jankwrites.