Today’s article marks the beginning of a new bi-weekly spinoff series Weekly Human Wednesdays written by friend of the blog Kyle Mahoney. Every other week, Kyle will spotlight a different human character in a Muppet production, giving me a break from updating Weekly Muppet Wednesdays every single Wednesday. Enjoy!
JEROME “DOC” CRYSTAL
Gerry Parks (1983-1987)
Fraggle Rock Episode 101: Beginnings (1983)
Most recent appearance…
Fraggle Rock Episode 513: Change of Address (1987)
also seen in Fraggle Rock Comic Book (2011)
Best Known Role…
Old inventor whose workshop houses the tunnel that leads to Fraggle Rock; Sprocket’s best friend; The North American Society of Tinkerers Man of the Year (1983); Manager of The Captain’s Inn
Sprocket and Ned Shimmelfinny (most of the time)
“For the last time, Sprocket, there are no furry little creatures living behind that hole!”
WHO IS DOC?
Doc is the only fully visible human (or Silly Creature) character on Fraggle Rock. He and his best friend/dog Sprocket live in “Outer Space” where Gobo Fraggle’s postcards are sent. Doc is completely oblivious to the furry little Fraggles popping in and out of the hole in the wall, much to the dismay of Sprocket, who barks and attempts to describe them. In the first episode, “Beginnings,” Doc moves into and refurbishes his workshop, moving a crate revealing the hole to Fraggle Rock which leads Uncle Traveling Matt to explore the uncharted world of Outer Space and therefore send his nephew postcards that end up at the workshop.
Doc is an inventor (although in his heyday he was a barber) who doesn’t come up with the most practical inventions, such as attempting to sew a button onto a fried egg. Doc also has a love/hate relationship with his neighbor and friend Ned Shimmelfinny. Ned and Doc often squabble over trivial things and Ned sometimes leaves his pet cat, Fluffenella, in the care of Doc (much to the care of Sprocket). The only other consistent human interaction Doc has on the show is with Betty Ardath. In the episode “Doozer is as Doozer Does,” Doc was hired by Miss Ardath as the manager of The Captain’s Inn, a seaside bed and breakfast located near the workshop.
In the last two episodes of Fraggle Rock, “The Honk of Honks” and “Change of Address,” Doc learns that Ned must move to the desert for his health. Gobo (who learned that he must “feel” Doc in order for him to see him) sees how sad Doc is and touches his hand and says “Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll be alright.” Doc then sees the knee-high creature and realizes that his dog has been right all along. Seeing Gobo also gives Doc an epiphany, helping him to realize that he needs to be with Ned. In the days before he moves, Doc tries to lure Gobo back to the workshop so they can talk. When Gobo finally arrives, Doc asks him to move to the desert with him. Gobo refuses because he would miss his friends and Fraggle Rock too much.
Since he didn’t get the goodbye he wanted, Doc left a tape recording for Gobo in his workshop before moving. At their apartment in the desert, Doc finds a box against the wall just like he did when he first moved into the workshop. He moves and sees that there is no hole, he and Sprocket then realize that they, along with the Fraggles, are magic. When Doc realizes that he cannot leave the magic, Gobo emerges into the and he, Doc, Sprocket, and the rest of the Fraggles sing the theme song. Fittingly, Doc provides the final line: “Down at Fraggle Rock.”
Doc also appeared on the animated incarnation of Fraggle Rock where he played the same role but is only seen from the neck down (similar to Nanny in Muppet Babies). Doc also appeared in A Muppet Family Christmasas the initial renter of Emily Bear’s farmhouse in an attempt to have “a nice, quiet Christmas.” This is of course interrupted by the arrival of Fozzie Bear and the other Muppets and the residents of Sesame Street.
MEMORABLE DOC MOMENTS
- In “Boober’s Dream” Doc has dreams involving creatures who have furry tails and sing and dance, plus “little creatures that are green and wear helmets are symbols of work and creativity.”
- In “The Bells of Fraggle Rock,” Doc learns about all of the different ways people celebrate the holidays around the world. He then decides that he and Sprocket will try and celebrate all of them at once!
- In the rare “The Fraggles Look for Jobs” special Doc is seen by Gobo and Wembley as he walks around yelling at an empty leash calling it Sprocket.
- In A Muppet Family Christmas, Doc decides to help out his new friends by going out to look for Miss. Piggy in less than desirable conditions; it was cold enough to freeze your Winnebago. And when he returns, he returns in a full Mounty uniform claiming “I was searching through the snow and suddenly there was Miss. Piggy with this costumefor me.”
DOC AND SPROCKET…
Doc and Sprocket are a comedy team, like Laurel and Hardy or Abbot and Costello. But they are much more balanced, some days Doc will be the irrational one with Sprocket thinking logically and other days it will be switched. Sprocket is the only character that Doc interacts with for the majority of the series, but Sprocket’s human-like antics are part of the norm for Doc. We never hear about Doc having any family or relatives, so Sprocket is his only companionship. They are best friends; in “Boober’s Quiet Day,” Doc had trouble going one day without Sprocket to keep him company.
Fraggle Rock was well known for its many international productions. Jim Henson wanted the show to be universal, and for that to happen the Doc and Sprocket segments needed to reflect the culture in which the show was being seen. In Britain, the Doc character went from being an inventor to a lighthouse keeper named Captain. In France, Doc was a baker and in Germany Doc was once again an inventor. In all other countries, the original Doc and Sprocket segments were merely dubbed over.
WHY DOES FRAGGLE ROCK NEED DOC?
Doc is necessary to the Fraggle Rockuniverse for several reasons. Without him we wouldn’t be able to understand Sprocket as well. Doc is also needed to provide real-world applications to the situations that the cave dwellers below are dealing with. Doc also provided Fraggle Rock with its main representation in A Muppet Family Christmas since the Fraggles couldn’t just hang around Ma Bear’s house all night. Doc is almost like Kermit in a way, he’s just a normal guy who has all this craziness thrust upon him.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org