The Skeksis are a fictional species which act as the main antagonists in the 1982 fantasy film The Dark Crystal, its companion book The World of The Dark Crystal and the TokyoPop prequel Legends of the Dark Crystal. The word "Skeksis" serves as both singular and plural form for this species, with the singular being pronounced // and the plural //. They are described by concept artist Brian Froud as, "... part reptile, part predatory bird, part dragon." In the film, the Skeksis are represented by puppets engineered under the direction of Jim Henson. Jim Henson said that in the development of the Skeksis, the creators drew inspiration from the Seven Deadly Sins.
- 1 Concept and creation
- 2 Characteristics
- 3 History
- 4 List of Skeksis
- 4.1 Film
- 4.1.1 The Emperor skekSo
- 4.1.2 The Chamberlain skekSil
- 4.1.3 The Scientist skekTek
- 4.1.4 The Ritual Master (aka High Priest) skekZok
- 4.1.5 The Garthim Master (aka General) skekUng
- 4.1.6 The Gourmand skekAyuk
- 4.1.7 The Slave Master skekNa
- 4.1.8 The Treasurer skekShod
- 4.1.9 The Scroll Keeper (aka Historian) skekOk
- 4.1.10 The Ornamentalist skekEkt
- 4.2 Expanded universe
- 4.1 Film
- 5 Deaths
- 6 In popular culture
- 7 References
Concept and creation
Jim Henson was inspired to design the Skeksis by an illustrated edition of a Lewis Carrol poem showing two elegantly dressed crocodiles in a bathroom. He became intrigued with the idea of a reptilian race assuming control over a formerly splendid past society. Numerous names were proposed for the species, including Skekses, Reptus, Karackt and Skek-sis.
Henson himself commented on the difficulty of performing as a skeksis;
|“||There were days I could work 'inside' my Skeksis character, the High Priest (Ritual-Master), without noticing the weight. But if I was feeling the least bit tired or run down, it was as if a building had caved in on me.||”|
The skeksis are tall bipeds combining avian and reptilian features. They wear elaborate but threadbare robes of lace, velvet, and brocade which apparently keep the skeksis' constantly decomposing bodies intact and make them look larger and more intimidating. Their heads are beaked like a vulture's, while simultaneously sporting curved fangs. They have enlarged bellies and long reptilian tails, as well as curved quills on their backs. Like their urRu counterparts, they have two pairs of arms, whereof in the skeksis, only one pair is functional, the other atrophied. Despite their frail appearance, Skeskis are powerful creatures: skekUng, during the 'Haakskeeka' duel, destroys a block of rock with his sword, and skekSil single-handedly smashes a pilaster of rock onto protagonist Jen.
The Skeksis are the corrupt rulers of the planet Thra, having inherited it from their benevolent UrSkek predecessors, and embody the knowledgeable, yet unrestrained aspects of the UrSkeks' behavior. The Skeksis culture favors repetitive flamboyance, emotional pettiness, and a wasteful attitude toward life. Though they are capable of alliances, none trusts the others.
Due to the accelerated decomposition of their bodies, the Skeksis constantly search for ways to prolong their lives. Their primary method is to expose themselves to sunlight channelled directly through the Dark Crystal, its effect dependent on the conjunction of Thra's three suns. Another method is a form of acupuncture, in which power lines laid on their castle channels the planet's energy to them and feeds back noxious pulses, resulting in their kingdom's wasteland appearance. A third method is to directly drain the vitality from other life-forms by exposing them to reflected beams of the Dark Crystal. This has the effect of rendering the drained victims nearly mindless, which the Skeksis use as slaves. The life-force is collected in a liquid form and drunk by the Emperor, who briefly regains his youthful appearance. Originally, Gelflings were used for this purpose; but after their near-extinction, Podlings took their place.
The Skeksis have also created the huge, crab-like Garthim and the sentinel Crystal Bats. It is stated by Brian Froud in his book World of The Dark Crystal, that Skek-Tek the scientist created the Garthim, but every other Skeksis attributes creation to itself.
Originally, Jim Henson thought of having the Skeksis communicate through noises, though he later shot the film showing the Skeksis speaking a constructed language, based on ancient Greek and Egyptian, specially devised by linguist Alan Garner. The dialogue was later redubbed in English, as the original version proved unsuccessful in impressing test audiences. The original language is present in The World of the Dark Crystal and The Dark Crystal novelization, wherein (according to the former) it is "restricted to nouns, adjectives, and expletives", and has an object–verb–subject word order.
The products of a botched attempt by UrSkeks to separate their 'good' from 'evil' behaviors, the Skeksis emerged fully formed, but resentful. Soon after the division, a fight broke out among the Skeksis, resulting in a shard of the story's eponymous Crystal broken from the main rock and lost. The UrRu then left the castle to the Skeksis, who began to modify the UrSkek architecture with their own grotesque designs, and attempted to create a crystal of their own. The black rocks they created were reused as targets for the Haakskeekah ritual, translated as "Trial by Stone", in which the loser is stripped of his position.
According to The World of The Dark Crystal, the Skeksis were originally a vibrant and jovial race that possessed the wisdom and knowledge of the UrSkeks, yet lacked restraint and patience. They ruled Thra over a thousand years and apparently had good relations with the Gelfling people, until they began to keep Gelflings as slaves. Desperate, the Gelflings devised a prophecy, which revealed that a Gelfling would end the rule of the Skeksis by restoring the broken shard to the Crystal. When the Skeksis learned of this, their first reaction was to create multiple crystal shards to confuse the Gelfling search, and their second to destroy the entire Gelfling race.
At the start of the movie, only ten (later nine) Skeksis survive, with skekUng succeeding skekSo as Emperor. Toward the end, protagonist Jen and Kira reunite them with the urRu to recreate the urSkeks.
List of Skeksis
The Emperor skekSo
The first Skeksis emperor, skekSo is described in The World of The Dark Crystal as having originally been an energetic ruler who enjoyed lavish festivity and sporting events which he invariably won. As he aged, he became paranoid and spiteful, even toward his fellow Skeksis, elevating individuals to high positions only to depose them afterward. Once he died, skekUng succeeded him as emperor. In the film's deleted scenes, skekSo's decayed remains are cremated. He also has an appearance in Legends of the Dark Crystal. In the film, he is voiced by Jerry Nelson and puppeteered by Jim Henson.
The Chamberlain skekSil
As Chamberlain, skekSil is second in line to the Skeksis throne, but the confrontation with skekUng causes his exile. Even before the Emperor's death, skekSil and skekUng despise each other, with skekSil's trademark 'whimper' vexing SkekUng. Of all the Skeksis, skekSil's intentions are never fully revealed and seem contradictory, most notably when he forcibly bought Kira to the other Skeksis and refuses to allow them to kill her. In the film, he is voiced by Barry Dennen and puppeteered by Frank Oz.
The Scientist skekTek
The creator of the Garthim and of essence extraction. His fascination with anatomy went as far as replacing his right arm and leg by mechanical constructs, and his jugular vein with a transparent external tube, to monitor his own circulation. He is a personal opponent of Aughra, who admired his UrSkek form. While attempting to drain Kira of her essence, she persuades all the laboratory animals tortured by skekTek to attack him, resulting with him losing his footing and falling down the crystal shaft into the magma below. He also has an appearance in Legends of the Dark Crystal. In the film, he is portrayed by Steve Whitmire.
The Ritual Master (aka High Priest) skekZok
Until the story of the film, skekZok fancied himself skekSo's closest adviser, and sought to control the other Skeksis through false prophecies and apparitions, although they distrusted his divinations and practised their own. Though a contender for the throne after skekSo's death, skekZok sides with skekUng. Though he assists in the search for the surviving Gelflings with his crystal bats, he is nonetheless distrusted and feared by skekUng. When skekSil arrived with Kira, he was annoyed at skekUng's commands to drain Kira of essence before killing her. Ironically, it was the failure of the Skeksis to kill Kira immediately (as suggested by skekZok) that marked the Skeksis' downfall. He is voiced by Jerry Nelson and puppeteered by Jim Henson.
The Garthim Master (aka General) skekUng
Formerly the commander of the brutish Garthim, skekUng was physically the strongest of the skeksis after skekSo. He had a bitter rivalry with the chamberlain skekSil, which culminated in a duel for supremacy. Though the other Skeksis admire his ferocity, his constant failure to capture the surviving Gelflings fails to evoke the respect of his subjects. He is suspicious of skekZok's loyalty, and is constantly fearing a challenge to his authority. He is voiced by Michael Kilgarriff and puppeteered by Dave Goelz.
The Gourmand skekAyuk
The court gourmet expert, skekAyuk creates a different menu for each feast (preferring strong flavors and living prey), and eats gladly but is perpetually hungry. He is voiced by Thick Wilson and puppeteered by Louise Gold.
The Slave Master skekNa
The supervisor and disciplinarian of the skeksis' slaves, he is described in The World of the Dark Crystal as "purely and openly evil from the beginning" and in The Dark Crystal novelization as having "no imagination and no nobility at all". He dubiously claims to have an ear for music, and takes it upon himself to select specific slaves for skekTek to experiment upon. Along with skekTek, he is a strong supporter of skekUng, and at one point was considered for promotion to the rank of patriarch for his loyalty. He is voiced by David Buck and puppeteered by Mike Quinn.
The Treasurer skekShod
Administratively skekSil's subordinate, skekShod is incapable of acknowledging anyone's presence unless offered some gift. Due to his limited vocabulary and excessive material desires,  he frequently bribes the other Skeksis into loaning him their personal possessions. Along with skekOk, he is a supporter of skekZok. He is voiced by Charles Collingwood and puppeteered by Tim Rose.
The Scroll Keeper (aka Historian) skekOk
The Ornamentalist skekEkt
Despite possessing a genuine gift as a designer, skekEkt is nonetheless described in The World of the Dark Crystal as an extremely vain and callous character who would gladly cause the death of countless animals for the sake of fabricating one cloak. According to skekSil's thoughts in The Dark Crystal novelization, skekEkt's uncharismatic depravity was considered excessive, even by the standards of the Skeksis, to the point where it would never command their obedience. He has the responsibility of giving the final say in the selection of experimental Pod slaves modified by skekTek for ritual choruses. The most effeminate of the Skeksis, he is frequently seen screaming, cringing, or affecting delicate manners. Along with skekAyuk, he is a supporter of skekSil. He is voiced by Brian Muehl.
Tokyo Pop came with 2 of originally 3 planned volumes called "Legends of the Dark Crystal", which took place 200 years before the events of the film.
The General skekVar
A loyal military leader, skekVar is distrusted by skekSo, who under the influence of skekLach, believes the general is seeking to appropriate the throne.
The Collector skekLach
The collector of gelfling prisoners, skekLach secretly tries to undermine skekSo's authority by withholding gelfling essence for himself, whilst convincing the emperor that the shortage is due to skekVar. He blackmails skekTek into remaining silent. He has a mechanised arm and a scarred face.
In Volume 2, two new Skeksis are shown in the Grand Banquet; skekCru the Mariner and skekEer the Spy-Master, standing next to skekVar the General as the Collector is praised by the rest of the court.
- skekSo expires in his deathbed at the beginning, leaving something he was in the middle of saying unsaid for lack of breath. He then progressively implodes piece by piece, starting with his beak, and crumbles into dust which was later cremated.
- As Kira cries out in the language of the creatures in the lab to incite a revolt against him, skekTek is toppled into the fiery pit beneath the Dark Crystal, where he is instantly incinerated.
In popular culture
Skeksis have made several appearances in other media, including television and video games.
- In South Park season 10 episode 7, episode entitled "Tsst", Ms. Cartman is enlisting the help of the TV nanny show, Nanny 911. During the opening of the show, several of the nannies of are shown and the last one to be shown is "Nanny Skexis."
- A homage to the Skeksis show up in the MMORPG World of Warcraft as the race called the Arakkoa, living in a place called, "Skettis".
- On their 2005 album Alien, Canadian metal band Strapping Young Lad included a song called "Skeksis". The song has melodic similarities with the film's main theme song. The band's frontman Devin Townsend later used the Dark Crystal theme's melody again during the song Gato off his 2009 album Ki.
- Mike Ski, lead vocalist for Erie, PA hardcore band Brother's Keeper, fashioned his unique vocal style after the Skeksis voices.
- The Halosians, a species inspired by the Skeksis, appear in an episode of Farscape, a production also using Jim Henson's special FX company. Crichton actually refers to these creatures as Skeksis in both the third series episode "Thanks for Sharing" and the issue of the Farscape comic "The Virus".
- Skeksis "at the rave" are referenced in the Scissor Sisters song "Return to Oz". Gary Kurtz was a producer for both The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz.
- In August 2013, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab - a company that produces body and household blends with a dark, romantic Gothic tone - debuted the first of their licensed The Dark Crystal perfumes. The debut included four Skeksis blends: Ung the Garthim-Master, SkekNa the Slave-Master, SkekTek the Scientist and SkekZok the Ritual-Master.
- Skeksis is a techno hit produced by British DJ Alan Fitzpatrick in 2012.
- In the EA game Spore, players can outfit omnivorous creatures with a vulture-like mouth called the "Skexibeast".
- David Odell (writer), Frank Oz and Jim Henson (directors) (1983). The Dark Crystal (DVD). Tristar.
- The Book of Habidabad - Of the Nature of Skeksis
- The Book of Habidabad - Production Notes
- The Book of Habidabad - Interesting Facts
- Smith, A.C.H & Odell, David (1982). The Dark Crystal. p. 186. ISBN 0-03-062436-3.
- As shown by the Chamberlain SkekSil when he is stripped of his robe
- Froud, Brian (1982). The World of the Dark Crystal. p. 132. ISBN 0-8109-4579-7.
- The Book of Habidabad - The Director's Cut
- The Book of Habidabad - The Language of the Skeksis
- Kessel, Barbara Randall & Arnohld, Heidi (2007). Legends of the Dark Crystal Volume 1: The Garthim Wars. p. 192. ISBN 1-59816-701-4.