"When single shines the triple sun
What was sundered and undone
Shall be whole, the two made one
By gelfling hand or else by none."
science fiction/fantasy film directed by Jim Henson
and Frank Oz
with creature design by fantasy artist Brian Froud
. Out of any of Jim Henson's works, this was probably one of the most complex, being done completely with animatronic puppets
in the well developed setting of the planet Thra
One thousand years ago, the Dark Crystal was whole. When it cracked on the day of the Great Conjunction of the planet's three suns, two new races appeared: the Always Chaotic Evil
and aggressive Skeksis and the Always Lawful Good
but all too passive Mystics (aka urRu). A few centuries later, the Skeksis discovered a prophecy that the elf-like Gelflings would heal the crystal, thus undoing their reign, so they sent their Garthim
to hunt them down and kill them all. All except for the protagonists
Jen and Kira, the last of their kind
Though it didn't do as well on its initial theatrical run, it spawned a cult following large enough to warrant a spin-off OEL Manga
prequel (Legends of the Dark Crystal
) by Tokyopop
and a graphic novel prequel trilogy (The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths
) by Archaia Entertainment
. Currently, the Henson company is holding a contest
to find an author for a new series of Young Adult novels. A sequel titled Power of the Dark Crystal
has been stuck in Development Hell
for years (to the point that Robot Chicken
did a skit on the matter).
In 2013, an "original cut" of the film was leaked on YouTube
, featuring extended/deleted scenes, less expository dailogue and the alien language that the Skeksis were originally going to speak until test audiences said no to it.
The Dark Crystal includes examples of:
- Absent Aliens: Inverted. No humans here; the Gelflings are pretty humanoid, but not human.
- Actual Pacifist: The urRu are kind, gentle creatures, but they do nothing to stop the Skeksis from destroying the land, enslaving the Podlings and committing genocide against the Gelflings. Justified in that the urRu could not act against their evil counterparts without destroying themselves in the process. Word of God says even if they wanted to commit suicide to stop the Skeksis, the urRu have no will to act, because all the strength and drive of the urSkeks is embodied in the Skeksis themselves.
- Adam and Eve Plot: Never directly addressed, but since Jen and Kira are the Last Of Their Kind, it's pretty obvious.
- Age Without Youth: Applies to both the Mystics and Skeksis (though they're not technically immortal), but the Skeksis suffer a bit more from it, especially when you learn that they weren't outwardly evil in their early days, but rather represented the passionate hedonistic side of the urSkek, and were rather pleasant to party with. Then as they aged for a thousand years, their true nature slowly manifested itself as a rotting from the inside out. They could reverse their decay by drinking the vital essence of other living creatures, but the effect was always temporary.
- Alas, Poor Villain: The Skeksis, when not plotting to kill Gelflings or drain Podlings of their life energy; are an Affably Evil, warped brethren who get along despite disliking each other, and their desire to keep living as separate entities is somewhat sympathetic until the priest kills Kira
- Alien Sky: The planet Thra's three suns.
- All There in the Manual: Pretty much all the names of the Skeksis and Mystics are featured in the novelization and "Art of" book.
- Even though the name of the planet this story takes place on is never mentioned, it's referred to in the novelization as 'Thra'. (An "e" was removed so it wasn't an obvious anagram for "Earth".)
- Always Chaotic Evil: The Skeksis were once very easy to get along with; by the time of the film, they slip into this trope.
- Always Lawful Good: The Mystics.
- Ambiguous Gender: SkekEkt the Ornamentalist. Word of God states that while there are no specifically female Skeksis (they're all meant to be an uncomfortable combination of both genders), SkekEkt is the most effeminate.
- Animal Eye Spy: The Skeksis with their crystal bats.
- Animated Armor: The Garthim, evidently.
- Artificial Limbs: The Skeksis Slave Master has a hook for a hand while the Scientist has a mechanical arm. Their Mystic counterparts have wooden limbs in the same places.
- Ax-Crazy: SkekZok, the ritual master, is the first to suggest killing Kira when she is captured and is the one who stabs her to death.
- Balance Between Good and Evil: Literally; since the Mystics and Skeksis are actually two halves of one being - if one of them dies, so does their counterpart.
- Ballroom Blitz: The Podling villagers are enjoying a rowdy celebration when the Garthim bust through the walls and start capturing everyone they can grab.
- The Beastmaster: Kira can call out to just about any animal out there and coax it into helping her. There are a lot of weird animals out there and this ability comes in very handy.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Played with. The protagonists, the Gelflings, are obviously intended to be attractive, despite any Uncanny Valley that may be invoked by looking at them. The pure urRu are made to look noble and sagacious, and when they die, they fade into sparkles. The Skeksis, on the other hand, are clearly intended to look twisted, deformed and vulture-like, which is made even worse by their advanced age. Aughra, however, is quite hideous and warty, yet proves to be a helpful character. A bit of background checking shows that in the grand scheme of things, she's actually supposed to be True Neutral, and not one to take sides. It gets really confusing with the Podlings, who are supposed to be a good, Closer to Earth race, yet somehow they wound up looking Ugly Cute at the same time. Brian Froud did admit that he toned down their appearance from the earliest incarnations, because those were far too grotesque and potato-like.
- Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: Gelfling females have wings; males don't.
Jen: Wings? I don't have wings.
- Yet they're never seen to be used to actually fly up. More like falling with style.
- In the novelization, Kira explains to Jen that long ago, female Gelflings were able to fly properly rather than just flutter to the ground.
- Blatant Lies: It would be unwise to trust anything SkelSil the Chamberlain says. Fortunately, Jen and Kira don't.
- A Boy and His X: Though Fizzgig, an alien something like a cross between a terrier and a piranha, belongs to the girl, the trope is played straight in the prequel manga.
- Cat Scare: Fizzgig's favorite way of introducing himself.
- Circle of Standing Stones: Part of a ward that protects the Valley of the Mystics.
- Cool Old Lady: Aughra knows all the secrets. An elderly Podling is shown thumping a Garthim's back with her walking stick, although her feisty attack doesn't accomplish much.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Aughra comes off this way to Jen at the start, but by the end we see that she's a Bunny-Ears Lawyer.
- Cluster F-Bomb: By the standards of Thra, Aughra unleashes one on the Skeksis after they burn down her observatory.
- Con Lang: The Pod People speak one of the "foreign conversion" variety. It mostly uses Serbian words (or Croatian, or Bosnian - they're very similar languages), but is pronounced with an accent more akin to Russian.
- Consummate Liar: Word of God says the Skeksis have told so many lies to themselves and to each other for so long that the truth was lost centuries ago.
- Cute but Cacophonic: Fizzgig.
- Darker and Edgier: This is a Jim Henson film, the guy who did The Muppets and Sesame Street, although the main concept designer was actually more in the mystical and deep material that makes up the strange creatures. Storywise, it involves mass genocide, gruesome deaths, Fate Worse Than Death and Everything Is Trying to Kill You thrown into the mix.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Lampshaded by Aughra.
Aughra: Are you afraid of me? Afraid I'm going to EAT YOU?
- Deadly Decadent Court: The Skeksis.
- Defiant to the End: When the Chamberlain reaches for the dying Emperor's sceptre.
Emperor: Mine! ehh-ehh Mine! Not! I-I-I-I am still em... pe... ror.. I ... (dies, crumbles into dust)
- Desperate Object Catch: Kira throws the Shard to Jen just before she's stabbed, so he can heal the Crystal when the three suns align.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Aughrua, when cussing out (in her language) the Skeksis for sending their mooks to burn down her observatory rather than just asking her for the location of the Gelfling.
- The Skeksis are taken aback and one cries out in offense, "Oh, how rude!"
- Disney Death: Kira
- Disney Villain Death: The Skeksis Scientist. Although it was into a shaft into the center of the planet, and we see his opposite burn to death.
- Dissonant Laughter: The Chamberlain begins to laugh as the castle crumbles and the UrRu enter. It's clear he knows exactly what is going to happen next. It's ambiguous as to whether he's pleased by the prophecy being fulfilled or simply doesn't care anymore.
- Alternatively, he might have gone so hysterical that he has no idea what's going on anymore.
- Or is laughing at the irony that despite or even because of fighting so hard to prevent it, the prophecy came true anyway.
- Dissonant Serenity: The uhRu. When the Chancellor's hand is stabbed, his counterpart says unemotionally, "My hand", when a deep gash appears in it. When one of them are consumed by fire, the others glance but continue on unemotionally.
- Duet Bonding: Kira and Jen have a nice duet as they cruise down the river.
- Dueling Movies: In its initial run at the box office, it was a bit overshadowed by another film starring an animatronic alien creature that happened to be released the same year.
- The Dreaded: An interesting example in that it goes both ways. The Skeksis are feared as the unseen, genocidal, slave-making tyrants they are. Meanwhile, the Skeksis view the Gelflings—beings capable of ending both their rule and their existence as individuals—with reactions ranging from disgust to outright terror.
- Dying Race: The film provides the page quote. The Skeksis and Mystics are both slowly dying out because they are the two broken and incomplete halves of a single race of immortal beings.
- Eccentric Mentor: Aughra. The last thousand years have left her much wiser, if a little dotty.
- Either/Or Prophecy: "...by Gelfling hand, or else by none."
- Empty Shell: The Podling slaves and the Garthim.
- Enemy Without: Played with; each of the Urru and Skeksis are literally two equal halves of a whole being. Word of God says that in the past, the urSkeks tried to use the light of the Crystal to purify themselves by burning out the evil in them. Instead of purification, they achieved division because their darker halves were as much a part of their fundamental nature as their lighter halves.
- The End of the World as We Know It: Or the beginning. Same thing.
- Everything Fades: The Mystics fade when they die.
- Evil Tastes Good: The Skeksis dinner is lavish, served by mindwiped slaves, and contains at least one animal we're intended to sympathize with. Much gobbling and absurd sounds of enjoyment ensue.
- Evil Tower of Ominousness: The Skeksis castle. In the end, we see underneath it is really a beautiful crystal tower of pure cut diamond.
- Eye Scream: Aughra can remove her own eyeball at will and use it like a remote camera. While it doesn't hurt her, it certainly is weird...
- In the backstory, she lost her other eye and came to be how she looks in the film when she laid on the ground to watch the Great Conjunction. A beam of intense light struck her eye, destroying it and burning her badly. She considered the knowledge she gained from the experience to be well worth the loss.
- Fair Weather Friend: When the SkekSil the Chamberlain makes his move to take the throne, many of the other Skeksis whisper that they're all with him. After losing the trial by stone, they all gleefully turn on SkekSil on SkekUng's command.
- Fat and Skinny: SkekAyuk the Gourmand and SkekEkt the Ornamentalist are often seen together, and seem to share a common love of food.
- Faux Affably Evil: The Chamberlain. For a while he appears to be Ambiguously Evil, feigning sympathy and friendship towards Jen and Kira to try gain their trust but comes off as creepy and unnerving due to his monstrous appearance being a representation of his true nature. He quickly shows his true colours, trying to murder Jen once they soundly reject him.
- Five-Bad Band: While there are ten Skeksis, later nine once the old emperor dies in the beginning, only a few of them are given more than a single line:
- Fountain of Youth: The Skeksis use the light of the Crystal, focused by a reflector, to drain the vital essence of other creatures into a liquid form that they can consume to restore their youth. Podlings restore youth for a handful of seconds. Gelflings restore it for a longer period, but the rejuvenation is still ultimately fleeting. The Skeksis exterminated nearly the entire Gelfling race for their essence which ran out as a result.
- Flat Character: Most of the characters, actually. It's justified in the case of the Skeksis and Mystics due to them being only "halves" of an older race.
- Friend to All Living Things: Kira, thanks to the Podlings. It saves her from being drained by SkekTek later.
- Fusion Dance: Foreshadowed by the Synchronization of the urRU/Mystics and Skeksis.
- Genocide Backfire: If there's only one race of people that can end your reign of tyranny you better make sure you wipe them all out rather then leaving a few behind.
- Giant Enemy Crab: Garthim. They've even got a bit of Fiddler-Crab likeness to them. One arm is a massive slicing claw, the other is a powerful gripping hand.
- Girls with Moustaches: Aughra. Word of God states that this is because she is a combination of both genders, but mostly identifies as a Cool Old Lady.
- Gone Horribly Wrong: The urSkeks quite literally caused a near-apocalypse-level event with the ill-advised and arrogant (if somewhat noble) decision to try and eliminate their darker natures. This single choice wrought, in it's 1000-year aftermath, the eventual near-extinction of one race, the decimation of a second, and the creation of beings of pure evil that ruled over the planet for an entire millennium.
- Good Is Boring: The urRu. Justified in that the passion, drive, and ambition of the urSkeks is embodied within the Skeksis.
- Grotesque Gallery / Ugly Cute: A fascinating case, since the entire world is composed of muppets and environment that are either deliberately alien or designed off of nature's less cute critters, making the whole thing one dark fairy tale based on look alone.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Kira, with her animal-related abilities and sweetness.
- Heel-Face Turn: Completely subverted with the Chamberlain. Defrocked and kicked out of the Skeksis' castle, he makes obvious peace overtures to Jen and Kira. When Jen stabs him for his pains, his friendly facade completely drops and he tries to kill Jen and promptly drags Kira back to the castle to redeem himself in the eyes of the other Skeksis. It's pretty clear that his promises of peace are Blatant Lies and his whole motivation is to capture a Gelfling or two in order to ingratiate himself with the rest of the Skeksis and get his position back. He is The Starscream after all.
- The Hero: Jen, not the most useful though
- Heroic Blue Screen of Death: Jen has one. He healed the Crystal, but Kira is dead. She comes back, but still... not to mention everything going crazy in the castle that makes one wonder if Jen actually succeeded.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Many of the cute little fuzzballs that force SkekTek into the bottomless shaft go down with him. Fizzgig too, though he ends up catching hold of something and gets rescued by Aughra. And of course, Kira.
- Hobbits: This is more or less what gelflings and/or Podlings are supposed to be. They're much smaller than all the other people in the setting, and the podlings are definitely merry.
- Human Furniture Is A Pain In The Tail: The eldest Mystic's "bed" is a wooden bench configured for his low-slung body, complete with a small platform for his head.
- Ironic Name: The Skeksis scientist's laboratory, where he keeps all those jailed critters and drains Podlings and Gelflings from their vital essence? Its official name is "the Chamber of Life".
- Conversely, it's a Meaningful Name for the Skeksis themselves, as they extract a life-prolonging potion from the Pod People and Gelflings in there.
- It's All About Me: Selfishness is probably the core character trait of each individual Skeksis. The accompanying material says that although they hate each other as much as they hate Gelflings, they need each other to maintain their hold over Thra; the minimum number of them to maintain the balance being ten. It's probably the only reason they don't kill each other off completely. Word of God says it's also why UrSu, the leader and wisest of the urRu chose to die—to unbalance the Skeksis by taking SkekSo with him.
- Jabba Table Manners: The Skeksis, sans SkekEkt, who happens to be a dainty eater. SkekAyuk the Gourmand is of course the worst offender (though a strong case can be made for SkekUng.)
- Killer Rabbit: Fizzgig looks cute until he opens his mouth.
- Furthermore, the animals in the Skeksis' laboratory use their combined cute fluffiness to escape and savagely maul the Scientist down into the furnace, saving Kira.
- Large Ham: The Skeksis in general, especially SkekUng.
- Last of His Kind: Jen and Kira both thought they were the last Gelflings left alive. And then they met each other...
- Living Relic: Aughra, who is almost as old as the planet.
- The Load: Arguably, Jen. He rivals the Puma Man as a hero who accomplishes almost nothing.
- Load-Bearing Boss: An enormous subversion; Once the shard is rejoined with the Dark Crystal, the castle appears to fall apart inside and out in great chunks of stone and mortar. Actually the stone and mortar is merely a thousand years of accumulated filth and grime which is disintegrated by the power of the pure crystal, leaving a pristine castle of pure cut diamond as it originally was.
- MacGuffin Escort Mission: Pretty much the whole movie; get the shard to the Dark Crystal.
- Mad Scientist: The Skeksis Scientist
- Meaningful Name: Podlings. Word of God stated they were supposed to resemble potatoes.
- Mecha-Mooks: The Garthim, who are soulless constructs.
- Merger of Souls: The wise Mystics and the wicked Skeksis were created when the Dark Crystal shattered. They were two halves of the souls of the creatures which shattered the crystal, and a death of a Mystic also kills their Skeksis counterpart, and vice versa. In the climax of the film, the crystal is mended by the hero Jen, and the two races are made one once more.
- Mineral MacGuffin: The crystal shard.
- Monster Is a Mommy: A swamp creature called a nebry emerges from the mud and scares Jen, but Kira reassures him it's harmless. We see two baby nebry emerge beside the adult as the gelflings move on.
- Mood Whiplash: Jen is taken to the Podling village by Kira. They have a feast and dance to celebrate....then the Garthim arrive. In all likelihood, drawn in by the loud party.
- Jen and Kira's first meeting.
Kira: Here. I'll help you up. *Takes his hand; dreamfasting begins*. The first thing I remember is fire.
- We are introduced to the friendly nebry and its babies. The next scene? The Skeksis eating a roasted baby nebry.
- Mordor: The castle of the Skeksis and the land surrounding it are dark, barren, and forbidding. That is until the Skeksis are no more.
- Mythopoeia: The book The World of the Dark Crystal covers a lot of back story
- Needle in a Stack of Needles: Jen has to dig through a box of nearly identical crystal shards to find the one that actually is the missing chunk of the Dark Crystal. He identifies it after using a trick with his flute which he learned from the urRu.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Apparently, female gelflings have wings; who knew.
- Earlier in the ruins if you pay attention to the wall art, you can see some of the figures have wings.
- Nightmare Fuel - Flying bats that can see everything you do and adult-sized crab-cockroach hybrids that are remorseless and proven to break through walls. Yeesh. Also, the Emperor's death.
- No Body Left Behind: Jen's Master, UrSu disappears when he dies.
- Likewise his evil counterpart SkekSo crumbles into a pile of ash and dust when he dies.
- Noisy Nature: Most of the scenes of the flora and fauna of Thra are rife with animal/insect sound and there's a plant with seed pods that take off like little copters with an audible 'pop'
- No Indoor Voice: Aughra, the podlings, and the Skeksis. A quiet movie this is not.
- No Ontological Inertia: If a Skeksis dies, a corresponding mystic dies, and vice versa.
- Novelization: There is one for the movie which explains the names of the Skeksis and Mystics.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Enslaved Podlings are akin to Haitian zombies.
- Positive Discrimination: The female protagonist gets big pretty butterfly wings and superpowers. The male protagonist gets... um... to hook up with the female protagonist?
- The ability to read and play the flute.
- Power Crystal: The Dark Crystal.
- Precursors: The urSkeks The original form of the Mystics and Skeksis.
- Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: Yep, this one too.
- Psychic Link: The Gelflings exchange their backstories through a touch-enabled mindlink that Kira calls Dreamfasting.
- There is also one between the Skeksis and Mystics as they are the same being, as if one dies or is injured, the other dies or is similarly injured.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Fizzgig
- Rule of Three: The Great Conjunction of the three suns, the recurring visual motif of triangles.
- The supplementary material makes it clear that this is present in Thra on a cultural and spiritual level: their cosmology, mathematics and art are all influenced by the number three, and Aughra criticises the urSkeks for attempting a division based on duality alone when threes are so important.
- Scenery Porn: In pretty much every single frame. The film was actually created far more to show off the world Henson and Brian Froud had created than for the story.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong:
When single shines the triple sun,
What was sundered and undone,
Shall be whole; the two made one!
By Gelfling hand: or else by none.
- Seven Deadly Sins: Word of God says the Skeksis were orignally meant to be based on this, but they grew to ten in total later. You can sort of recognize which sin each of them represents:
- Avarice: SkekShod the Treasurer.
- Envy: SkekSil the Chamberlain.
- Gluttony / Sloth: SkekAyuk the Gourmand.
- Lust: SkekEkt the Ornamentalist.
- Pride: SkekZok the Ritual Master.
- Wrath: SkekUng the Garthim Master.
- Sissy Villain: SkekEkt is the most flamboyant of the Skeksis, but all of them are rather fragile due to their old age.
- Smug Snake: SkekSil the Chamberlain, who is constantly grinning and often humming as he plots.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: Kira.
- Spiritual Successor: Labyrinth, MirrorMask, and others. Highly influential within the fairytale branch of fantasy's evolutionary tree. Not to mention the world of practical puppeteering.
- Staff of Authority - The Skeksis emperor carries a scepter which designates his office. In the death scene of the first emperor, Chamberlain indicates his eagerness to take over by reaching for the scepter.
- Starring Special Effects: The whole film.
- Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The urSkeks. The companion book suggests that they are not native to the planet.
- Synchronization: Between the urRu and the Skeksis
- The End of the World as We Know It: ...or the Beginning of it.
- There Is Another: Jen believed he was the last surviving Gelfling until he ran into Kira (and vice versa).
- The Resenter: SkekZok the ritual master is visibly resentful of SkekUng's rise to power. He even questions the new emperor's competency when it seems the Garthim have failed to capture Jen. In the written material, SkekZok was described as the old emperor's favorite and he had his own ambitions to take the throne when the emperor died. Unlike SkekSil, SkekZok just didn't have the balls to make his play for the throne against SkekUng.
- The Starscream: SkekSil the Chamberlain tries to grab the emperor's scepter even before he's dead.
- Total Eclipse of the Plot: Sort of, although it's suns blocking one another rather than a moon blocking the sun.
- To the Pain: Not content to simply drain the life essence from the Podlings, SkekTek the scientist is fond of explaining the process.
- Unflinching Walk: Augrha casually walks through the castle as it is falling to pieces around her.
- Viewers Are Goldfish: The narration and Jen repeat what we already know a lot.
- Verbal Tic: The Chamberlain's whimper.
- Villain Ball: One of the Skeksis stabs Kira after she throws the Shard to Jen, even though holding her hostage is the one thing that might've stopped him from using it. Instead, they're reduced to pleading with him to stop when Kira's blood is fresh on their hands and he's got nothing left to lose; yeah, like that's going to work.
- Volumetric Mouth: Fizgig has a mouth as big as his body when fully yelling.
- When The Suns Align
- When Things Spin, Science Happens: Aughra's oversized orrery.
- Winged Humanoid: Kira and other female Gelflings.
- The prequel comics also reveal that the Skeksis once had ornamental wings that eventually atrophied and rotted away. When the Chamberlain is naked, you can see he has an extra set of limbs (like the Mystics) on his back.
- Wing Pull: Kira.
- World Building: What Brian Froud and Jim Henson did before making the movie.
- World Half Full: By the ending. Sure, the Crystal is healed, the urSkeks are restored and the land becomes green and good again, but the Gelfling race is still all but extinct with seemingly only two left, not to mention the decimation of the Podling race. There's a feeling that while things are much better, they aren't as good as the time before all the strife began.
- World-Healing Wave: The result of healing the Crystal.
- Xenofiction: Fantastic Planet meets Lord of the Rings, rated PG.