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, the Tokyopop prequel manga Legends of the Dark Crystal and the Netflix prequel series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. They are referred to as an alien race in S03E07 of Farscape and are strikingly similar in appearance to the Halosians in S02E09 of the same show, which was produced by Jim Henson Productions. 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 skekSo
- 4.2 skekSil
- 4.3 skekUng
- 4.4 skekZok
- 4.5 skekTek
- 4.6 skekAyuk
- 4.7 skekEkt
- 4.8 skekNa
- 4.9 skekShod
- 4.10 skekOk
- 4.11 Expanded universe
- 5 Other appearances
- 6 References
Concept and creation
Jim Henson was inspired to design the Skeksis by an illustrated edition of a Lewis Carroll 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, wearing elaborate but threadbare robes of lace, velvet, and brocade to apparently conceal their aged and constantly decomposing bodies while appearing large 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. While having four arms like their urRu counterparts, the Skeksis have only one functional pair as the other were initially wing-like before they eventually withered and atrophied. Despite their frail appearance, Skeksis are physically powerful as skekUng mustered his strength to cut through solid stone during the 'Haakskeeka' duel while a provoked skekSil single handedly slammed pilaster 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, each acts only of self-preservation to the point of immediate betrayals to benefit their personal agenda. Despite their few numbers, the Skeksis have three known political parties that stabilize the Skeksis society despite some causing friction among them, especially if the Emperor greatly favours one party over the others.
- The Diplomatic Allegiance: lead by skekSil.
- The Religious Allegiance: lead by skekZok.
- The Military Allegiance: lead by skekUng.
Due to the accelerated decomposition of their bodies, the Skeksis constantly attempt to prolong their lives by using the properties of the Dark Crystal itself. Their primary method is absorbing sunlight channeled through the Dark Crystal, its potency dependent on 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 extracting the vitality from other life forms by exposing them to reflected beams from the Dark Crystal, a process that originally destroys the victims before it was refined enough to reduce them into nearly mindless drones which the Skeksis keep as slaves. The life force is collected in a liquid form that restores a Skeksis' youth and vitality, the Emperor eventually making law that only he can partake of it. Gelfling were originally used for this purpose until their near extinction with the Skeksis forced to use Podlings instead, with the youth inducing effects of the resulting elixir created from their life force lasting for a few seconds.
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, devised by the author 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 the urSkeks to purge themselves of their imperfections while returning to their homeworld during a Great Conjunction, an event where the three suns of Thra produce a pure light that hits the Crystal, the Skeksis are the embodiments of their original selves' worst inhibitions compared to their urRu counterparts. Moments after coming into being, two of their own were accidentally killed, and infighting among the surviving Skeksis resulted in a Shard of the Crystal being broken off and lost. The urRu then left the Castle to the Skeksis, who began to modify the urSkeks' architecture with their own grotesque designs while attempting to create their own Crystal. The black rocks they created were reused as targets for the "Haakskeekah" rite, translated as "Trial by Stone", in which the loser is stripped of his position. The Skeksis have other means of punishment among their kin that include being maimed by an eye-gouging Peeper beetle.
According to The World of The Dark Crystal and the The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance series, possessing urSkeks' knowledge but lacking their restraint, the Skeksis were initially a vibrant and jovial race as they tricked Aughra into a deep sleep to metaphysically observe the universe. Unopposed, they ruled Thra over a thousand years and kept the Gelfling tribes divided while presenting themselves as their lords and protectors. But the dynamic changed as the Skeksis aged into haggard shells of their former selves as the Dark Crystal is unable to properly prolong their lives due its connection to Thra, causing a epidemic called the Darkening that affects the planet's lifeforms. skekTek, with skekSil's help, developed a means to polarize the Dark Crystal's life-giving properties to extract life essence from Thra and its life forms to prolong their own lives. When the Gelfling learned of this and rebelled, they devised a prophecy revealing that one of them would end the rule of the Skeksis by restoring the broken Shard to the Crystal with the restoration of the urSkeks as consequence. When the Skeksis learned of this, they attempted to deter the Gelflings with Shard fabrications before using the newly created Garthim to wipe out the entire Gelfling race.
At the start of the film, skekUng succeeded skekSo as Emperor with only nine Skeksis remaining before skekTek was killed. Toward the end, protagonists Jen and Kira reunite them with the urRu to recreate the urSkeks who depart Thra.
List of Skeksis
Also known as the Emperor and counterpart to the urRu urSu, the two originally the urSkek leader SoSu, skekSo is described in The World of The Dark Crystal as originally being an energetic ruler who enjoyed lavish festivity and wining at sporting events but age made him paranoid and spiteful to even his fellow Skeksis, elevating individuals to high positions only to depose them afterward. During the events of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, skekSo's attempts to harness the Darkening energies caused his body to corrode at a quicker pace compared to the other Skeksis. Once skekSo died, due to urSu willing himself to death to disrupt the Skeksis' hierarchy to give Jen a fighting chance against them, 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.
Also known as the Chamberlain and counterpart to the urRu urSol, skekSil is the Skeksis's chief secretary of state and next in line as Emperor of the Skeksis, being part of skekSo's Diplomatic Allegiance which also consisted of skekEkt and skekOk. But skekSil is despised by the other Skeksis for his wheedling voice and underhanded nature, most notably by skekUng. During the events of Legends of the Dark Crystal, skekSil made attempts to trick the Gelfling into distrusting the urRu while protecting his right of succession when it was being threatened by skekLach. In the first season of Age of Resistance, skekSil is revealed to have influenced skekTek in developing essence extraction and the creation of the Garthim. In the film, skekSil's confrontation with skekUng over succession resulted in his exile and he attempts to regain his position by capturing a Gelfling. Of all the Skeksis, skekSil's intentions are never fully revealed and seem contradictory, most notably when he forcibly brought Kira to the other Skeksis and refused to allow them to kill her. When Kira was brought to the Skeksis, skekUng had skekSil reinstated. When the Crystal was restored, skekSil was absorbed by urSol as they reverted back into their original urSkek form SilSol.
Also known as the Garthim-Master or General and counterpart to the urRu urIm, skekUng is the main antagonist after he succeeds skekSo as Skeksis Emperor. His activities in the years leading up to the Garthim War are unclear, but he is absent from the events of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, mentioned only in passing as the rest of the Skeksis consider recalling all of their number in their duel against the Gelfling, being identified as a "strong warrior" by skekVar the General. Being the second strongest of the Skeksis, he was previously leader of the military allegiance after replacing skekVar. He had a bitter rivalry with skekSil, which culminated in a duel for supremacy. Though the other Skeksis admire his ferocity, his constant failure to capture the surviving Gelfling fails to evoke the respect of his subjects. He is suspicious of skekZok's loyalty, and is constantly fearing a challenge to his authority. When the Crystal was restored, skekUng was absorbed by urIm as they reverted back into their original urSkek form UngIm, who leads the urSkeks back to their world.
Also known as the Ritual-Master and counterpart to the urRu urZah, skekZok is the high priest who oversees the Skeksis' rituals and leader of the Religious Allegiance. 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 Gelfling 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, as he insisted she must be killed immediately. Ironically, skekZok's impulse to kill Kira the moment she threw the Shard to Jen led to the Skeksis' downfall with skekZok absorbed by urZah back into their original urSkek form ZokZah.
Also known as the Scientist and counterpart to the urRu urTih, his obsession depraved to the point of amputating his two right limbs and replacing them with prosthetics, skekTek is the Skeksis who conducts his research and experiments in the Castle's Chamber of Life. Through both skekSo's abuse and skekSil's influence, skekTek learned to harness the Dark Crystal's ability to extract essence and created the Garthim. He is a personal opponent of Aughra, having mentored her when he and urTih were originally the urSkek TekTih. During the events of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, skekTek outfitted himself with a visual prosthesis after his right eye was ripped out by a Peeper Beetle as punishment for failing to prevent the Gelfling Rian from escaping with a vial of Gelfling. By the time of the film, he had replaced his jugular vein with a transparent external tube to monitor his own circulation and his right arm and right leg with mechanical prosthetic. Because of his maltreatment by the other Skeksis, skekTek outright called himself "the most abused creature in all of Thra". skekSil provided skekTek with Gruenak helpers before later killing them, using one of them for parts in creating the Garthim. During the film, skekTek sided with skekUng after he became the new Emperor and convinced him to let him drain Kira of her essence, but Kira persuaded all the laboratory animals skekTek experimented on to attack him, resulting in him losing his footing and falling down the Crystal Shaft into the magma below with urTih incinerated as a result. skekTek has appearances in Legends of the Dark Crystal.
Also known as the Gourmand and counterpart to the urRu urAmaj, skekAyuk is a gluttonous Skeksis who uses his status as the court's gourmet expert to devise menus for the feasts, preferring strong flavors and living prey. He is occasionally seen alongside both skekEkt and skekShod, being hypocritical in belittling his fellow Skeksis. In the novel, both he and skekEkt are part of skekSo's faction and support skekSil before turning on him once he loses, while in the film, he and skekShod ultimately support skekZok. When the Crystal was restored, skekAyuk was absorbed by urAmaj as they reverted back into their original urSkek form AyukAmaj.
Also known as the Ornamentalist and counterpart to the urRu urUtt, skekEkt is the more effeminate of the Skeksis and wears elaborate clothing that reflects his vanity. 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 Podling slaves modified by skekTek for ritual choruses. He is occasionally seen alongside both skekOk and skekAyuk. Interestingly, skekOk and skekAyuk are loyal to skekSil like skekEkt (depending on the film and novel versions) before turning on him once he loses. When the Crystal was restored, skekEkt was absorbed by urUtt as they reverted back into their original urSkek form EktUtt.
Also known as the Slave-Master and counterpart to the urRu urNol, skekNa is 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 has a hook for a left hand and an eye patch to hide his missing right eye. 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. When the Crystal was restored, skekNa was absorbed by urNol as they reverted back into their original urSkek form NaNol. He was mentioned by skekSo in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, as he considers calling the rest of the Skeksis back to the Castle during their battle against the Gelflings, noting that he, like skekSa the Mariner, is "useful in a fight."
Also known as the Treasurer and counterpart to the urRu urYod, 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 skekAyuk and skekOk, he is a supporter of skekZok. When the Crystal was restored, skekShod was absorbed by urYod as they reverted back into their original urSkek form ShodYod.
Also known as the Scroll-Keeper and counterpart to the urRu urAc, skekOk is the smallest and most deceptive of the Skeksis who prides himself in his writing skills and owns a private library in the castle depicting numerous secrets. skekOk uses his talents as historian to alter the documentation of his kind's history to suit his propaganda while pleasing his shifting allies. In Age of Resistance skekOk is also shown to have diplomatic talents that rival skekSil's, being in charge of recording (and occasionally extorting) the tributes given to the Skeksis by the Gelfling. In the film, his loyalty is ultimately to skekSil while in the novel, his loyalty is to skekZok. When the Crystal was restored, skekOk was absorbed by urAc as they reverted back into their original urSkek form OkAc.
Through the years various comics and novels were made which serve as prequels to the events of the film, introducing various Skeksis. Over the time their living number, names, positions and even counterparts were changed. This is evident since current canon claims there were 18 Skeksis to begin with yet throughout all forms of The Dark Crystal media there are around 20 individual Skeksis names.
Also known as the General and counterpart to the urRu urMa, skekVar is a loyal military leader who tends to act impulsively as he killed All-Maudra Mayrin when she learned of her people being used by the Skeksis to prolong their lives. When skekVar was named the Emperor's new council in place of skekSil,he ended up being secretly murdered by skekSil in a scheme to regain their Emperor's trust while destroying skekVar's reputation. Before his death, he along with the Chamberlain, brought forth to the Emperor and Scientist the idea of Soldiers that would be soulless yet loyal: these would later become the Garthim. However, with skekVar gone, all the Skeksis, in particularly the Scientist, would later lay claim to their creation.
skekVar first appeared in the two volume Manga Legends of the Dark Crystal by Tokyopop, the three volume series The Dark Crytal Creation Myths by Archaia Comics and other media created by the Jim Henson Company, though his role in the story was slightly altered. His first on camera apperance was in the Prequel Netflix series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance performed by Kevin Clash and Katherine Smee and voiced by Benedict Wong.
Also known as the Collector and counterpart to the urRu urSen, skekLach is a sickly and jaded Skeksis who is also known for his role in overseeing the Gelfling's tribute. Appearing in the first season of Age of Resistance, skekLach is killed by exploding in a pile of pus when Deet uses her powers to redirect the Darkening's energy back at the Skeksis. His design and personality has differed in his various appearances: in the comics depicted with a mechanised arm and a scarred face, been more cunning in a battle of wits with the Chamberlain, while secretly withholding Gelfling essence for himself and using skekVar as a scapegoat.
He makes an appearance in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance performed by Helena Smee and voiced by Awkwafina.
Known as the Hunter and counterpart to the urRu urVa, skekMal is a Skeksis introduced in the J.M. Lee novel "Shadows of the Dark Crystal" who appears in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, wearing a spirit-like skull mask that conceals his scarred face. Considering himself a sportsman who relentlessly hunts his quarry down, skekMal is a brutal killer so feared even by his own kind that they tend to summon his services as a last resort. Thus few Gelfling knew of his existence as he eats his prey and keeps their skulls as his trophies. He is skilled in trapping and combat, being one of the few Skeksis to use his extra arms in a fight, with animalistic movement. Hired by skekSil to acquire Rian, skekMal's hunt brings him in conflict with urVa who eventually commits suicide to stop his counterpart for good. In Episode 8 of the Dark Crystal Age of Resistance, Aughra expresses some fondness for him, declaring that skekMal was "the most Beautiful of the lot" despite his scent of death.
Previously known as the Conqueror, eccentric in personality, skekGra originally served as a militant leader in the Skeksis until he and his urRu counterpart urGoh both received a vision of the eventual reunion of their races into their original selves. Both desired to merge back into the urSkek GraGoh, but skekGra was cast out by the Skeksis as "The Heretic" for his attempts to convince them to rejoin their urRu counterparts. skekGra and urGoh were forced to live together in self-imposed exile in the Crystal Desert where they waited for the Gelfling Rian, Brea, and Deet so they could give them the Crystal Shard that was concealed in the Dual Glaive sword they forged.
In Age of Resistance, skekGra is performed by Damian Farrell and voiced by Andy Samberg.
Introduced only in the "Legends of the Dark Crystal Volume 2: Trial by Fire", he was an ally of skekVar the General. skekEer was the Spy-Master, but neither his urRu counterpart nor urSkek name has never been depicted or identified. Since the new books and the Prequel show, skekEer was remove from the canon.
skekSa and skekCru
The Skeksis Mariner skekCru was first introduced in the 2nd volume of Tokyo Pops "Legends of the Dark Crystal" and was a political ally of skekVar the General, along with the Spy-Master, skekEer, and had little to say in the manga. The Mariner would be revamped as a female Skeksis called skekSa (also known as the Captain) and was as a major character in the J.M. Lee novel "Tides of the Dark Crystal", making her a canon Skeksis. Her urRu counterpart was urSan the Swimmer; they made the urSkek SaSan. skekSo mentions skekSa in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance while considering recruiting more Skeksis to help battle the Gelfling, noting that she, like skekNa the Slave Master and skekUng, is "useful in a fight."
skekLi was the Skeksis Satirist who wrote stories for the enjoyment of the Skeksis. His urRu counterpart was urLii the Storyteller, making the urSkek LiLii. He was the main antagonist in the J.M. Lee novel "Song of the Dark Crystal", making him a canon Skeksis. skekOk mentions him in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, when skekSo considers recalling more Skeksis to help fight against the Gelfling.
skekHak and skekYi
These were two Skeksis seen at the end of Volume 2 of The Dark Crystal Creation Myths of Archaia Comics, and who died immediately after the botched division of the urSkeks when a rogue Skeksis killed their urRu counterparts: one was strangled while the other was thrown into the fire shaft under the Crystal. skekHak's urRu counterpart was urHom and the two formed HakHom the urSkek Carpenter, while skekYi's counterpart was urYa, making the urSkek YiYa whose position is unknown. Their deaths established the knowledge of the Skeksis and urRu still being connected, with the former race leaving their counterparts alone out of self-preservation. They are indirectly referenced in Age of Resistance by skekZok when he mentions that no Skeksis died between the events of their creation and the Gelfing's rebellion after the news of skekMal's first death.
Confirmed Canon Skeksis
These Skeksis are the ones who appear in the original film, the Netflix prequel series and J.M. Lee novels ("Shadows of the Dark Crystal", "Song of the Dark Crystal", "Tides of the Dark Crystal" and the yet-to-be-released "Flames of the Dark Crystal").
- skekSo the Emperor
- skekSil the Chamberlain
- skekVar the First General
- skekUng the Garthim-Master (also the 2nd General and the new Emperor)
- skekZok the Ritual-Master (also known as the High Priest)
- skekEkt the Ornamentalist
- skekTek the Scientist
- skekShod the Treasurer
- skekOk the Scroll-Keeper (also known as the Historian)
- skekNa the Slave-Master (originally called Executioner and would have been given the title of Patriarch)
- skekAyuk the Gourmand
- skekLach the Census Taker (later Collector)
- skekMal the Hunter
- skekGra the Heretic (formerly the Conqueror)
- skekLi the Satirist
- skekSa the Mariner (also referred to as the Captain)
- The Skeksis frames were modified and reused in the second season episode of Farscape - "Out of Their Minds", 18 years after the release of The Dark Crystal.
- In the second episode of the 2014 television series Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge, the contest's theme revolved around the Skeksis.
- In the Scissor Sisters self-titled debut album, released in 2004, the Skeksis are referenced in the last track "Return to Oz".
- 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.
- Alan Garner IMDB credits
- 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.