You may have noticed news of delays, cancellations, and general scrambling from most major TV and film production companies over the past few months. Today, Apple TV+ showed up with a surprise bit of good pandemic-timed news: a classic Muppet series’ return, built from the ground up to function within the constraints of stay-in-place orders across the world.
Fraggle Rock, a Jim Henson TV series that ran on HBO in the United States through the 1980s, has returned as a Muppets-in-Zoom concept. The new series, titled Fraggle Rock: Rock On!, will premiere a new five-minute “mini-sode” every Tuesday for the foreseeable future, and it sees familiar characters like Red, Gobo, and Mokey teleconference with each other. In the Fraggle universe, this is enabled by the series’ Doozer characters creating a series of “Doozertubes” to connect citizens in their natural, underground habitat.
In real life, meanwhile, Apple is advertising the fact that every Muppeteer and contributor is filming their sequences with iPhone 11 handsets while abiding by stay-in-place orders across the globe, though Apple hasn’t clarified anything else about the series’ production pipeline (not even a mention of Final Cut Pro). The first attempt is a sweet-and-chipper statement of purpose, complete with the distant-but-connected Fraggles joining together to sing a song (something that’s not necessarily easy to coordinate via shared Internet video feeds).
Since this new Apple TV+ version revolves around optimism and cheer, it doesn’t go too deeply into the original series’ gimmick of Uncle Matthew venturing into “Outer Space” (aka aboveground on modern-day Earth). Thankfully, we have some overactive imaginations at Ars Technica and have taken it upon ourselves to imagine what one of Uncle Matthew’s letters to his nephew Gobo might look like in early 2020, if they weren’t written through the family-friendly filter of the Jim Henson Company.
Here’s Ars Technica’s Lee Hutchinson with the Fraggle Rock fan-fiction you didn’t know you needed.
My dearest nephew—
Everyone is gone. The Silly People have vanished.
I roam a world newly made desolate and empty, as the machinery of the Silly Peoples’ once-great civilization slowly falters like a watch that lacks for winding. Their empires once stretched across this great globe—globe, yes, for my travels have revealed to me the hidden truth that the world is indeed a sphere without edge or border, bound by an Ouroboros of intertwined oceans—but the Silly People lie where they have all fallen, effaced, defeated by a nameless horror so small that a Doozer could hold a trillion trillion of them in its hand and not espy the thing’s deadly temperament.
For a people so outsized both in stature and manner, the Silly Peoples’ passing itself came to pass without bluster. Their end was marked not with the firmament-rending clarion foretold in their ancient texts, or under the false dawn of their terrible weapons, but with the wracking gasps on the lips of an uncountable multitude of mouths… an invisible fever, spread by the invisible wind. A plague, truly, to end all plagues.
I long to see the Rock again—to sound the crisp water of the swimming hole, to savor the taste of radishes and the feel of the adamant stone that shapes and surrounds our Fraggle world. And yet—
—and yet, I cannot. For the Silly People, you see, have given me one last gift.
The tightness in my chest now creeps, like a worm in the moss. Last night I lay awake long past the fall of evening, through the watches of the night, into the hour of the wolf, and I beheld a Moon not pale and light but drenched in a fell vermilion, even as a cold fist seized my heart, my eyes widened, and Luna seemed to crash down from her throne in the heavens toward me, plummeting even as I was pulled toward her in madness, in sick, febrile dreams that stain my pith helmet in sweat and damp my mustaches to a face gone sallow with corruption.
Though I still travel, I know I am already dead. The dark seed of the Silly People’s gift has taken root, and it sprouts a terrible tree.
Remember me, dear Gobo. Mourn me, perhaps. But—I beg you—do not follow me. There is naught here to find, save ashes.
Perhaps I shall visit the sea again, the soft sands lapped by unending water. The crying of the gulls shall be the last sounds I hear, a final song to sing me home. Think of me dreaming there.
Forever your uncle,