This may well be the most discussed Fraggle Rock episode of them all. I don’t think that I necessarily have anything new to add to the discussion. But it’s October, and I always get to feeling morbid in October, and this episode suits my current mood, so I’m just going to go with it.
It’s interesting that, for all the Fraggles’ preoccupation with death, and notwithstanding the numerous close calls, this is the only episode that deals directly with it.
Most Fraggle Rock songs are around a minute and a half to two minutes long. “Just a Dream Away” clocks in at 1 minute, 3 seconds. I don’t believe that’s a coincidence. I think that, in keeping with the theme of the episode, Balsam and Lee made a purposeful effort to write the most beautiful song imaginable, and then cut it off before you are ready and leave you wanting more, just as you aren’t ready to say good-bye to Mudwell when he goes.
I also think it was a purposeful decision not to have Wembley sing “Just a Dream Away” with Mudwell, but only sing the reprise with the Lizard. I think they wanted us to sigh wistfully for what might have been. Not that Wembley’s any slouch on his own; quite the contrary, I would stack this up against any of the great Wembley songs from Fraggle Rock, of which there are so many.
I think it was a rhetorically effective choice not to have Mudwell and Wembley sing the song together in the episode, but I don’t necessarily think that we need continue to deprive ourselves of that potentially inexpressible loveliness indefinitely. My dream is that someday somebody will remix it as a duet and release it that way. Add it to the list of Muppet injustices that I’d like to see set right.
Speaking of which, even the Steve-naysayers out there have got to admit that he really is the MVP (or one of the MVPs, anyway) of this episode; not only taking us on an emotional journey as Wembley but breaking our hearts as Sprocket, who becomes attached to a lost parrot but has to give it up to its rightful owners.
I once read something (that I can no longer find) comparing this episode of Fraggle Rock with the “Good-bye, Mr. Hooper” episode of Sesame Street. The person who wrote it may or may not have been the first person to draw that particular parallel, but she made the point that, unlike “Good-bye, Mr. Hooper,” this episode of Fraggle Rock didn’t have the reality subtext.
Well, I responded in my head as I read it, not intentionally, anyway. And yet, five years after “Gone, But Not Forgotten” first aired, Richard Hunt, who played Mudwell the Mudbunny, would die of AIDS, and this episode would become all the more poignant.
It’s hard to know what to say about Richard Hunt. He is something of an enigma to me. It’s nearly impossible to me to talk about him without mentioning my interest in personality psychology and temperament theory, which may only be interesting to me. Richard Hunt, to me, was the quinessential ESFP: playful, irreverent, audacious, skilled at improvising, funny, and charming.
And when I think about the characters he played, I mostly think of them as being light-hearted and silly and delightfully over the top. In contrast, the sweetness and subtlety– and ultimate tragedy–of Mudwell really stands out, and is all the more lovable for that.
I’m still unclear as to when, exactly, Richard Hunt was diagnosed HIV-positive. It does make me wonder if he knew when he was playing Mudwell and how/if that affected his performance, but until I have more concrete information on that, I should probably refrain from saying anything more.
With that, perhaps I’ll just say good night.