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Craig of the Creek

Entry updated 23 August 2021. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (2018-current). Cartoon Network. Creators and executive producers: Matt Burnett and Ben Levin. Writers include Matt Burnett, Ben Levin, Shauna McGarry and Jeff Trammell. Directed by Stu Livingston. Voice cast includes Michael Croner, Zeno Robinson, Philip Solomon, Kimaya Thais and Noël Wells. 120 eleven-minute episodes (plus the pilot and five shorts). Colour.

"The Creek" is a woodland bordering a Maryland town, where local kids go after school, forming small enclaves therein. One group is led by Craig (Soloman), nerdy constructor of Heath Robinson-esque mechanisms, who plans to map the Creek.

Craig is joined by Kelsey (Wells), a self proclaimed "young Paladin and her parakeet" (who's called Mortimer), prone to internal Fantasy monologues (in an English accent), caped and wielding a tubular sword. She is steeped in fantasy tropes, devoted to the 17-volume epic Ythrith of Scriggith – Tales of the Dragonmancer; initially declaring "I don't do Sci Fi", readers of this encyclopedia can be reassured that she discovers "sci-fi can be just as compelling as young adult fantasies and oh boy! when you combine them you can have centaurs piloting spaceships". The third member is JP (Croner), a couple of years older, head somewhat in the clouds and inclined to the impetuous and whimsical (he briefly becomes convinced that he is an Alien).

The first series concentrates on introducing us to the creek's realms. For example, New Cardboard City's only inhabitant is Carter (Robinson), who turns his city into a giant cardboard Mecha to crush the original Cardboard City, having fallen out with its inhabitants. A dog, its head poking through a gap in the fence, will make your decisions for you (see Religion) with its owner protesting "how many times do I have to tell you kids to stop worshipping our dog!" A visit from a rebellious cybernetic soldier from 3030. Craig communicates with Helen (Thais), for whom the creek is always deserted, through messages left under a rock in a clearing (her cursive writing briefly mistaken for Elvish). Seeking answers, Craig consults the "science kids": when one posits the clearing is a rift in Time and space bridging two Dimensions another responds that M-theory in Physics is purely theoretical with no experimental evidence, which goads them into creating a doorway (during an electrical storm); but Craig and Helen meet only briefly before having to retreat because "the field matrix is destabilizing ... hurry, or you'll be lost in the void forever".

A prosaic viewer might argue we are perceiving the creek through the eyes of children who generate fantasy worlds from the mundane: after all, the child-built cardboard cities and mecha are impossibly impressive; perhaps the dog just arbitrarily licks things; the cyborg might be a cosplayer; Helen is clearly home-schooled, and two doors and a set of Christmas lights do not an interdimensional doorway make. Viewers can decide for themselves the length of shrift such arguments deserve.

Though the show is mainly episodic, a growing awareness of the territorial ambitions of the King of the Other Side of the Creek forms the main overarching plot. Created by ex-Steven Universe staff, Craig of the Creek is a strong, funny and inventive new series: unusual in having a Black lead protagonist, pleasingly diverse, and filled with fantasy and sf tropes. [SP]


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