The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: Season 1
September 1, 2019 5:41 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Return to the world of Thra, where three Gelfling discover the horrifying secret behind the Skeksis' power, and set out to ignite the fires of rebellion and save their world.
posted by Pendragon (59 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Really loved this ! Some reviewers complain about the puppets "lack of expression", but I didn't have any problems with this.

The voice acting is excellent and I really like Simon Pegg as the Chamberlain, really nailed the voice.
posted by Pendragon at 5:52 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to post after this because I've only seen the first episode, but...

The puppets are what they are. I think you have to accept that this is sort of another form of theater. I think it would have been a lot weirder to really radically change the puppet design from the film, and the final form might not have been any "better"; in fact, often the result of very articulated puppets is sort of freaky in a not-good way.

RE: the VA, the cast is really insane, I don't understand who opened their pockets for this. The VA for the scientist is really obvious once you look it up but it was driving me crazy watching the episode.

The combination of amazing puppets and sort of... OK to good CG is not super thrilling to me, but the show has a wonderful look and does avoid that sort of cheap SyFyness.

I'm watching this with the kids and I'm a little concerned that the whole show is obviously going to end super poorly for our heroes because... well... we've all seen the movie. I guess we'll see how that goes.
posted by selfnoise at 6:05 AM on September 1 [3 favorites]


BTW, I would love to see the old and new puppets side by side. The new puppets seem much more... colorful? But I'm wondering if that's the result of shooting on color-graded digital instead of film stock. I have a memory of the film being kind of washed out (and I did see it recently in theaters).
posted by selfnoise at 6:12 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


This is so great. This brings back everything that was lovely about '80s fantasy movies without its drawbacks--boring Tolkien or Conan ripoffs, cheap sets and costumes, bad gender roles. (They even bring back the "heaps of dry ice" set dressing technique without overdoing it.) Brian Froud's work is truly alive in this. Jim surely would be proud to see that a movie that wasn't appreciated in its time has had such love and such a strong followup in ours. I hope that this will do well enough to encourage more films of truly weird fantasy settings that don't focus on humanoid actors.

I have only watched five episodes, but selfnoise, how old are your kids? There's some real horrors in this. I yelped out loud at the eye-eating beetle and the slaves with their mouths sewn shut.

Simon Pegg is absolutely perfect as the Chamberlain skekSil. With his expanded role and screen time, you get to see why anyone would ever actually listen to something as creepy as the Chamberlain anyway; he's good at manipulation. Mark Hamill is also terrific as the Scientist skekTek, who alone among the Skeksis seems to show some kind of affection for a creature outside himself--his pet. (This will probably come to nothing, but it's an interesting character detail.)

(I am very fond of the Skeksis and Mystic naming convention with the lowercase prefix skek- or ur-. It emphasizes their lack of true individuality. Do these creatures reproduce, anyway? Surely they can't do it as half-selves? I understand there are some books of lore that have been published, which probably explain this.)
posted by Countess Elena at 8:07 AM on September 1 [4 favorites]


We watched the first episode last night. Way too scary for my seven-year-old who peaced out after 10 minutes. But he's also the same kid who said, of the original movie, "Is there a version of this movie for kids?"

I thought it looked gorgeous. The puppets are a little uncanny valley, but I got used to it. The voice acting is excellent.

I'm a little confused about the story just because I thought the beings that came to Thra were not the Skeksis but the creatures that bifurcated into the Skeksis and Mystics when the crystal broke. I guess we'll see where it goes?
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:07 AM on September 1 [2 favorites]


I'm a little confused about the story just because I thought the beings that came to Thra were not the Skeksis but the creatures that bifurcated into the Skeksis and Mystics when the crystal broke.

Yes, that is mentioned by the Heretic and the Wanderer during their puppet show in episode 7. They were called UrSkeks before they separated into the Skesis and urRu.
posted by Pendragon at 9:00 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


Don't forget to watch the making off documentary that's also on Netflix.
posted by Pendragon at 9:07 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


Yes, the documentary was great! I'd recommend checking it out after you watch the whole series - it's both a love letter to the movie and the production of the show, and the sheer artistry that went into crafting all those little details that made the Dark Crystal look so amazing.

Besides the usual interest I have in hearing from the actors and creators of a piece of media I enjoy, I was constantly astounded by the technical details of the artistry involved in crafting the show's physical characters and practical effects. It's all just so mind-boggling and logical at the same time - of course the light will hit a real tactile object in ways you just cannot replicate with CGI even in this day and age, but it wasn't until I saw the test footage of CGI Gelfling + puppet Skeksis that the distinction became so apparent. The details of building the animatronics that help add additional microexpressions and movement to the basics of the puppet forms, and how everything ultimately boils down to "a hand in a mouth" and all these puppeteers having to carry 20-30 lb puppets on their arms while also maneuvering the rest of the puppet well enough to convey emotion and personality AND basic physical actions... wow.

I've gotten in the habit of checking out Netflix's subtitle/languages menu when I watch their productions now (to get the original language track for dubbed shows, but also out of curiosity in case there's a non-English language I want to brush up on), and I've started rewatching the whole series over again in Mandarin. The Chinese character subtitles sadly don't match up with the Mandarin dub, which is a bummer because I was hoping to practice connecting more pronunciations with their respective words (similar to how I ended up learning how to pronounce words in English I had only read but not heard before) - but the voice acting's been pretty good so far! Plenty of extra theatricality for the Skeksis that wouldn't sound out of place in a wuxia or other martial arts fantasy drama.
posted by rather be jorting at 9:43 AM on September 1 [5 favorites]


I am only 2 episodes in, and so bloody happy with this series. The magnificent world building. Interesting characters, and puppet work is amazing. Really nicely done with the blended CG backgrounds and scenery.

That said, the Eye-beetle may give me nightmares, only 8 episodes of horrors to go!
posted by DigDoug at 9:57 AM on September 1 [1 favorite]


> I'm watching this with the kids and I'm a little concerned that the whole show is obviously going to end super poorly for our heroes because... well... we've all seen the movie. I guess we'll see how that goes.

selfnoise, I guess it depends on your kids' tolerance for body horror going forward... like, I watch some dark shows on the regular and even I was taken aback by some of the body horror in the show at times. There's some thematic scariness, too, especially when it comes to threats against family members and being forcibly separated from one's loved ones. And, as one might expect, there's some significant deaths later on as well.

Overall, though, I wouldn't say things end super poorly for our heroes. I rewatched the movie after watching the show yesterday, and the movie felt so much bleaker and sadder and post-apocalyptic than the show, because you have all these clans of people that are just gone by the time the movie begins. Which you might think would make the entire show feel kind of gloomy or veering towards tragedy, but that's not the case! The episodes end up being a wonderful paean to life and fighting for it and owing your survival to your home and I guess it's what it says on the tin: AGE OF RESISTANCE. It gets dark without getting depressing, if that makes sense?

I've also seen a ton of tweets about how the show is like the Henson Company's Game of Thrones. So... I'd be cautious. But since you've already seen the episode, which had the essence-draining scene at the end, if your kids could make it through that ok, they might be fine with the rest.
posted by rather be jorting at 10:17 AM on September 1 [4 favorites]


Rian and the original's Jen look so much alike, I wonder if Jen is supposed to be his descendant.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 10:39 AM on September 1


(*the first episode, oops!)

I was wondering about Jen possibly being Rian's descendant as well! At the very least, he might be from the Stonewood clan, and maybe Kira's descended from the Grottans, with their ability to speak to animals.
posted by rather be jorting at 10:45 AM on September 1


Started the second episode.

This is gorgeous, and I don't mind at all any of the new effects.

Some of the music - feels like a throwback to swords and sorcery movies from the 70's/80s. Got a little bit of Basil Poledouris vibe (the use of brass).

Yeah, this reminded/ re-emphasized to me how dark the original Dark Crystal was - this is definitely not a children's show, unless you're raising children oldschool. Preindustrial oldschool.

I realize that this is largely made on the back of nostalgia, but what is the advertised children's age range? How old were you when you first saw 'The Dark Crystal?'

I probably saw it too young to understand (probably around the same time as 'Legend' and 'Princess Bride' and 'Neverending Story' and Labrynth, etc. - between 8 and 10-ish), but it catapulted into my A-list of movies after seeing it (again) during a summer session in college in the late 90's when someone in the dorms rented it and was playing it in the common area. My group of friends were all stoned out of our gourds, ask if it was cool if we joined them and had our minds blown. But it stands up perfectly viewed sober.

Hup looks a lot like Jacky Chan; the eyes, the nose, the hair, the colouration...

Missed the first time around, but a planet with three suns is an interesting Four Body Problem. I also completely missed that the Skeksis are literally space aliens. This adds so much more depth to Aughra and the orrery the Skeksis gave her.

If this was written as scifi/ space opera, this could be very Vernor Vinge-y. This is so 70's space opera/ Michael Moorcock-esq my mind if reeling.
posted by porpoise at 9:49 PM on September 1 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying I've woken up in the middle of the night and watched an episode on my phone, but that's totally a thing that happened.

Am up to episode 8 so far. Really enjoying it. The gradual turn from straightforward LotR quest (complete with Galadriel voiceover and Peter Jackson style mountain-swooping direction) to fantasy GoT politics flows well. I'm wondering how it'll end up. Hope no-one goes full Daenethorys (yeah you know who I've got my eye on!)

Another thing that the beautiful creature design and setting really reminds me of is the PS1 game Abe's Oddysee. Which is backwards, since that was more likely slightly influenced by the original film itself.

I like the relatively facially inexpressive puppets, haven't seen the behind-the-scenes stuff yet, but I think it maybe requires/allows for more expressiveness from the main puppeteer through movement, rather than having a second or third person operating facial features remotely. Their physicality seems so natural that the (very) occasional incidence of bobbing Kermit-running makes me smile because I forgot the "actors" weren't real.

Love how the puppeteers and voice actors are listed together for each character. I know dropping Recognisable Names into a production instead of experienced voice actors is a legitimate bone of contention, but I couldn't have guessed who any of them were without seeing the (quality!) names go up. They really are the characters, not just some promotional draw.

Lastly for now, I don't know how this is rated PG when some of the violence is so harsh. Fast, bitey quicksand, FFS?
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 5:51 PM on September 2 [2 favorites]


This all sounds very intriguing. I love Brian Froud's artwork. As a kid, I really wanted to see the movie when it came out, but my mom refused because she thought it was too dark for me...? Or satanic? It's hard to say.

Anyway, I saw the movie in my thirties, and I was underwhelmed. It seemed okay, but there's nothing I remember about it, other than it had a cool look. Should I watch the series if there's no nostalgia in it for me, or am I best off watching other things?
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 8:46 PM on September 2


suburbanbeatnik, I was also underwhelmed when I first saw the movie recently (about a couple years ago). I wasn't born when the movie came out, and I can't remember borrowing or renting the movie as a kid, so I didn't have any nostalgia motivating me to watch the series. My friends who did have nostalgia for it, however, absolutely lost their shit when the the trailer hit Youtube a few months ago. Their enthusiasm was partially contagious, but I didn't really have much I was excited for besides the aesthetic (knowing that it would be animated with practical effects rather than mostly CG).

The show totally exceeded my expectations on every front. Everything! Characterization, plot, distinctive voice acting (something the original movie definitely lacked for me), elaborate fantasy art (I really want to look at Brian Froud's Faerie artbook, might just go ahead and buy it after this!), fun dialogue, emotional resonance, the works. It's dark without being depressing - there's a lot of humor interspersed with the dramatic beats. And, overall, I think it's enjoyable enough to merit multiple rewatches in the future.

(Though I'll probably skip over a few of the more disturbing scenes, because yep, those are also there! Bitey fast quicksand isn't even the worst of it, but it's certainly some of it...)
posted by rather be jorting at 9:24 PM on September 2 [3 favorites]


Responses to things other people have said:

Should I watch the series if there's no nostalgia in it for me, or am I best off watching other things?

This is likely the most elaborate puppet-based work ever created so it's worth seeing at least for that.

I don't know how this is rated PG

Yeah I'm not sure how showing someone tortured by having their eye eaten by an insect is remotely PG but I guess that's just the normal double standard re: sex vs. violence at work.

Random thoughts:

I think the highlight of this series for me was the heretic, not only because he was the fun Skeksis, but because it was nice to see that the Skeksis aren't 100% "always chaotic evil" (only 90%). Likewise seeing that the spider people and even the mind-control bugs aren't just blanket evil. And while I enjoyed the series on the whole, nevertheless I do feel a bit disappointed in how much it (and even more-so the source material) engages in the trope that good = smooth, childlike, mammalian and evil = messy, reptilian/avian, insectoid.
posted by Pyry at 9:46 PM on September 2 [5 favorites]


Rather be jorting, I just watched the trailer, and wow! I'm a sucker for high fantasy with glowing jewels and chaotic dark forces and Adventure, plus I LOVE practical effects, so I think I should resubscribe to Netflix and watch this.

One more question. Will it make sense to me if I don't remember the original movie at all?
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 10:42 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


I think this explains things a lot better than the original movie. Absolutely not required, esp. seeing as this is a prequel.
posted by porpoise at 11:50 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


I did see (and love) the Dark Crystal as a child (it came out when I was fantasy-obsessed 8-year-old) but listening to this Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast episode about the mythology/backstory of it made me realized how much went tooootally over my head. If you want some backstory (along with a deep dive into "creatures with crystal body parts? it's more likely than you think!") it might be worth a listen.

Just finished episode two and even I had to look away at the end. I know there are kids out there that can handle this (I see the evidence on the Facebooks of friends with similar-age kids to mine) but for sure not my kid.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:36 AM on September 3 [3 favorites]


The opening episode has some pretty clunky expository dialogue, but it definitely evens out by the end of the first ep and was excellently engaging all the way through as an allegory for how the 1% are devouring the world and live off the blood of the poor, and need to be exposed as the alien monstrosities they are and then purged. (that is the message right?)

like, I watch some dark shows on the regular and even I was taken aback by some of the body horror in the show at times.

yeah, I did not realize this series was going to answer the question I didn't know I had - "What does a Skeksis piss-stream look like, especially when viewed from a low angle?"

(the answer is 'trifurcated')
posted by FatherDagon at 12:55 PM on September 3 [11 favorites]


yes, I was surprised at how much Skeksis skin there was in this, in that it was a nonzero amount

I actually put my arm over my eyes at that moment, as well as the moment that Aughra dropped her eye in the bath (for reasons that are still unclear to me), because I had already learned that this show was bonkers and would show me what it damn well pleased

but the line "public micturition?" will never not be funny
posted by Countess Elena at 1:11 PM on September 3 [4 favorites]


Seconding the love for Heretic, such a fun character and such a nice surprise.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 6:32 PM on September 3


One of the things I do find troubling about the show is the way the Podlings are treated. In both the movie and the show, they are second-class people: barely literate, barely comprehensible, filthy drunkards who are musicians and fools. Even Hup, as charming as he is, is played as a fool by the narrative: he thinks a spoon is a sword! And the sequence with the washing of the Podlings was, to me, kind of disturbing: why is it so degrading for the Gelflings to clean Podlings, and why do Podlings need to be cleaned in the first place?

It all reminded me of gross racist stereotypes about Native Americans, or about African Americans in the Jim Crow South. Podlings and -- what were the other people, the ones who served the Scientist? -- they aren't as cool and strong and noble as the Gelflings. Or as wise as the Mystics, or as powerful as Aughra.

I dunno. I like that there are multiple sentient species on Thra, but I don't like the presumed hierarchy.

That said, the show itself explicitly overthrew the hierarchy of the Gelfling clans, which gives me some little hope that they will do that with the inter-species hierarchy as well. Maybe.
posted by suelac at 10:24 PM on September 3 [6 favorites]


(that is the message right?)

I turned to my husband mid way through episode teal and said, "This is definitely an allegory about capitalism, right?"
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:36 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


I've seen a lot of people compare The Dark Crystal to Brexit specifically, but yep, I'd say it's definitely an allegory about capitalism! And also about the nature of power, I guess?

A few other takeaways I've taken from the season:
  • don't blindly trust authority or be unquestionably loyal to institutions just because they're the only institutions you've ever known
  • established hierarchies are actually arbitrary and false
  • sometimes the people in power have been lying to you your entire life in order to exploit you because they only have their own selfish interests at heart and they will literally kill you all in order to extend their own lives (or as FatherDagon summarized above, devouring the world and living off the blood of the poor)
  • maybe it's better to live in exile away from everyone you've ever known as long as you're with the person who gets you and makes you complete

posted by rather be jorting at 9:23 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


S04 - the climax demonstrates clearly that this is definitely not a children's show.

I'm increasingly loving it as as a (Heavy Metal-/ Valarian-/ Fifth Element-/Moorcock-/ Vinge- esque) scifi/ space opera show rather than fantasy.

The "magic is actually tech" is believable/ plausible, even.

I've always considered Henson et al. as "upright" and "wholesome" and whotnot, but to be in that business, that must be a stifling of imagination. TDC must have been a creative outlet under guise of "family film."

Which obviously inspired Meet the Feebles, a more obviously dark and coarser parody of the artform.
posted by porpoise at 10:42 PM on September 4


Henson actually thought of himself as an artist first and foremost, not specifically a creator of children's media. Because his chosen medium was something commonly thought of as exclusively for children, he got pigeon holed in a way that he did not really enjoy. One of the original pilots for The Muppet Show was called Sex and Violence.
posted by soren_lorensen at 2:29 AM on September 5 [7 favorites]


flagged as fantastic, soren_lorenson
posted by porpoise at 8:46 PM on September 5


We are only two episodes in (trying not to binge, because I'm sure it'll take awhile to get another season, if we do) and I just love it. The world is so immersive, the puppetry is beyond top-notch, and the acting is terrific. So far, it's taken a little bit of time to get back into the storyline (I find it a bit confusing to keep everyone apart), but it's getting better as it goes along. Can't wait to get to the next episode!
posted by xingcat at 8:09 AM on September 6 [2 favorites]


Because politics have broken my head I cannot watch the dark crystal without critical analysis. Outwardly it's an ecosocialist and maybe anti-colonial narrative. And yet...

The ultimate antagonist isn't an economic-political system endemic to the world itself, but a small vile clan of evil outsiders (in this case, from another planet) who control the government and culture and who suck the life essence from the pure, innocent and virtuous original inhabitants. They even have hooked noses. Literally the same blood libel theory as pizzagate/Qanon, down to the adrenochrome.

It's a pretty fascinating case study on how media can skirt the line between leftism and fascism. Indicting not the economic system itself but instead the people most benefiting from it is perilous and lends itself to conspiratorial thought about cabals and foreign blood. As Bebel said, "anti-semitism is the socialism of fools."

Anyway those are my thoughts about the children's puppet show
posted by Rust Moranis at 11:34 AM on September 6 [2 favorites]


That's a very unkind reading of the show, do you really think it's some sort of crypto-fascist propaganda ?
posted by Pendragon at 12:16 PM on September 6 [3 favorites]


That's a very unkind reading of the show, do you really think it's some sort of crypto-fascist propaganda ?

I don't think the writers are fascists, no. But all sorts of ideologies can be unintentionally or subconsciously propagated and I think that protofascist thought often naturally emerges from media under capitalism. I still like the show btw
posted by Rust Moranis at 12:25 PM on September 6 [1 favorite]


Well, that's one way to look at it...

I thought the design of the Skeksis clearly evokes carrion birds, as they have beaks rather than hooked noses (noses typically don't open in half to become mouths), and they're more vulture/buzzard-shaped than the generic bipedal anthropomorphic humanoid template used for the Gelflings or the Podlings.

Arguably one could consider Deet a Jewish analogue, as green-colored skin has also been interpreted as anti-semitic color coding, and she's been treated poorly by other Gelflings in the show because her character's clan, the Grottans, are considered inferior by default (based on a false hierarchy of clan superiority).

Also, the Skeksis rounding up the Gelflings prior to exploiting them to death tends not to paint the Skeksis as the Jewish-coded group here, imo. After all, the movie that the show is based on starts out with the exposition that most of the Gelfling race have been killed off during a major war...
posted by rather be jorting at 12:58 PM on September 6 [3 favorites]


Anyhoo, I've had the phrase "trifurcated micturition" in my head all week
posted by rather be jorting at 1:00 PM on September 6 [2 favorites]


The character designs and the underlying plot are from the early 1980s, so they could not have been created in response to our cultural moment. And I don't know what Brian Froud is like politically, but we know from Jim Henson's work that he wanted to make a better world for all children.

You could say that the plot was developed out of a fantasy tradition that was influenced by Grimm and therefore by folk anti-Semitism, but this would have to be true about any fantasy that comes out of that Western tradition. And, well, that's an argument, too. We're none of us bathing in clean water. People have described Tolkien's dwarves as anti-Semitic even though he is on record as supporting Jewish people, and I'm not saying they're wrong simply because of that fact.

And I guess you could say that they chose this cultural moment to bring out this story because ... but I'd rather not. If the whole history of the franchise were different, maybe, but no, I just think it's because giant raptor birds, blood-drinking creatures and dissolute nobles are all terrifying across times and cultures. But I don't think it's a foolish line of inquiry in this time and place. (And because of it I have now learned that adrenochrome is a thing. I had the idea people used to paint it on cuts before Neosporin was invented.)
posted by Countess Elena at 2:19 PM on September 6 [2 favorites]


If anyone is making a connection between the Skeksis and Jewish people, they're just making things up based on their own blind biases - and more importantly is showing their prejudice for the world to see.

The Dark Crystal is fundamentally about anti-colonialism and justified rebellion. The Skeksis are powerful SPACE ALIENS with a completely alien moral philosophy (or lack thereof).
posted by porpoise at 5:43 PM on September 6 [4 favorites]


To me (E4), most of it seems like pro-environment, capitalism is eating the world we live on and we need to get together and stop it kind of stuff. Although maybe I'm seeing my own reflection in that (I'm only 62 for God's sake!).
posted by sneebler at 7:43 PM on September 6 [3 favorites]


Okay, so I am 4 or 5 episodes in now, and I Have Opinions.

First of all, the world building and the puppetry and in-camera effects are amazing. The CGI is supplemental and not at all distracting because I'm spending so much time thinking "holy shit they're doing this with puppets" that when bits that aren't puppets happen, I'm not upset at all. The puppets, especially the Gelfings, are much more expressive than you first believe they are. It's like, the more you watch them, the more you notice how they have subtle expressions happening nearly all the time. It's like living with a cat or dog and learning to read their face.

I'm loving watching this from a total 1980s special effects film state of "how the fuck did they do this" wonder. I wish we had more of this happening.

I'm really loving how they're creating a story worth telling about a world where we all know how the story ends. But the role of the Gelfings is so different in the film, and seeing the world in this place, and knowing what it will finally devolve into before it all gets resolved... they've done a truly great job at this.

I found it interesting how in either episode 4 or 5, there's a scene where a lot of Gelfings from the different, um, clans(?) are gathered together, and the puppet makers went to lengths to find ways to define different Gelfings through physical traits. I still don't know which group has which name or why or anything (who cares), but I can tell who come from the same clan (house?) more or less. And I like how siblings look like siblings but aren't carbon copies. The level of design in this production is so deep... It should be its own art study class of some sort.

Anyway, the whole plot that took several episodes to put together the warp of the weave has finally started to take off, and then it went in an unexpected direction and so... I'm glad it's not just following the basic expected beats.

I hope it continues to be exciting and revealing and also simply thrilling to look at.
posted by hippybear at 3:00 PM on September 7 [5 favorites]


Okay, the puppet show within the show made with puppets is transformative magic squared.
posted by hippybear at 6:49 PM on September 7 [7 favorites]


Okay, the puppet show within the show made with puppets is transformative magic squared.

So much this. The pecise timing with that pause before the mystic says "...puppetry" and then everyone else's reaction. Perfect and hilarious. All these scenes with the Heretic and the Wanderer were a brief but welcome respite from all the dark happenings. They were playing off each other so effortlessly and with so much chemistry it was easy to believe they'd been together many years. Later I looked up the voice actors and realized why!

My question when I was six or seven episodes in was "how did this get made?" Not the technical and effects stuff - I'm looking forward to watching the feature on how that was done. But like, who sat down in a meeting with whom and convinced them to make all this happen? How did they get all this money for a prequel to a beloved but relatively obscure movie over 35 years old?? Between the puppet building/tech, stage construction, linguists, costume designers, seamstresses, musicians and the rest of the artists involved they must have employed the equivalent of a large town for years to make this. Plus the army of puppeteers, and then the voice actors - some of who seem quite expensive. How many seasons are they committed to? Was there some secret hidden clause in the contract when Disney acquired the muppets?

However it happened, I'm glad it did. I forced myself to watch this at a moderate rate (i.e. not all in one weekend) to take in each episode and savor it. Amazing. I hope the writers have a defined multi-season arc set and that it won't either get cancelled too soon or go on too for too long. That said, there is also plenty of opportunity for offshoot series or movies. Ten episodes on on the Heretic and Wanderer developing their puppet show that ends just as the Gelflings show up? I'm on board. Two hour fake nature documentary about all the creatures we only see for a few seconds here and there - yes please. Keep building this world up, down, sideways, back and forward through time.
posted by mikepop at 8:43 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


Was there some secret hidden clause in the contract when Disney acquired the muppets?

Jim Henson Productions is NOT part of Disney, and they retain rights to several properties. This whole thing was likely Brian Henson going out and selling his father's vision strongly (and based on what I've seen accurately) and managing to get a ridiculous TEN HOURS of this world onto the screen.
posted by hippybear at 6:42 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


> But like, who sat down in a meeting with whom and convinced them to make all this happen? How did they get all this money for a prequel to a beloved but relatively obscure movie over 35 years old??

I was wondering the same myself, as I've already forgotten whether the making of documentary covered the funding mechanics (but I intend to rewatch to find out!). Vanity Fair has an article about how the various players got involved and how it took many years before approaching Netflix for funding. The expertise still came primarily from the Henson Company and people who worked on the original film, while Netflix provided the funding and resources to get things going.

Short excerpt from the VF piece: "Leterrier had always envisioned doing the project with puppets, but convincing a studio outside of the Henson Company to take on such a labor-intensive and costly endeavor seemed like a nonstarter. Netflix, however, was fully intent on puppetry, giving Henson and Leterrier the resources needed to turn their prequel idea into a full season of 10 hour-long episodes."
posted by rather be jorting at 1:19 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


I actually found the "Making Of" companion special on Netflix to be a little frustrating because it's quite heavy on the "how did this happen" and much lighter on the "what type of latex exactly are you using? Servos? What's CGI and what's not???? TELL ME????" than I'd have preferred.
posted by soren_lorensen at 2:06 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]


My favorite was Hup. Completely out of his depth but didn't care, endlessly courageous and a titan in his empathy and loyalty to those who earned it. I looked at the Washing of the Podlings scene as a fun mutual ritual between peoples who have been close friends a long time - a reminder that the Gelfling are powerful and deputized by the evil overlords, but also that defiance is possible and rewarding, even if you do wind up clean at the end.

By fun I mean dark AF. Foreshadowing. This series is real good at it.

Also, the Heretic is not the Heretic by nature. He is the Conqueror, and he was apparently horribly effective as the embodiment of conquest - which meant at one time he was worse than the General and the Emperor and the Hunter put together.

At some point he decided to be the Heretic. I'd like to see that story revisited more closely.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:46 PM on September 10 [8 favorites]


I had always been pretty certain that the prequel to The Dark Crystal was the Butter Battle Book, and that the Skekses and Mystics of the film were those few Zooks and Yooks remaining after the fall of the Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroos.

Shows what I know.

Anyway, this show is extraordinary in many, many ways. I had no idea Simon Pegg had that kind of vocal performance in him. His Chamberlain is on point. Just one of quite a few pleasant surprises.

Well... "pleasant."
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 5:33 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


At some point he decided to be the Heretic.

Did he DECIDE to be the Heretic, or is he living with massive brain damage from whatever is sticking out of the top of his head?
posted by hippybear at 6:07 PM on September 10


It's a hat. He tied it to his head deliberately to show he's a scholar, now. No, not kidding.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:15 PM on September 10


If you watched the Age Of Resistance Making Of and you want something more, here's The Making Of The Dark Crystal on Vimeo [~1h].
posted by hippybear at 9:04 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


It's a hat.

Wow, I had fully committed to him having brain injury, with his Mystic doing his best to humor and babysit him because what other choice does he have... Is this something in the script and I missed it, or the World Of Dark Crystal book, or do you have Secret Knowledge?
posted by hippybear at 9:07 PM on September 10


Yeah I'd also like to know where the nail=hat info comes from; I had assumed it was a typically gruesome skeksis punishment.
posted by Pyry at 7:17 PM on September 11


My question when I was six or seven episodes in was "how did this get made?" Not the technical and effects stuff - I'm looking forward to watching the feature on how that was done. But like, who sat down in a meeting with whom and convinced them to make all this happen? How did they get all this money for a prequel to a beloved but relatively obscure movie over 35 years old?? Between the puppet building/tech, stage construction, linguists, costume designers, seamstresses, musicians and the rest of the artists involved they must have employed the equivalent of a large town for years to make this. Plus the army of puppeteers, and then the voice actors - some of who seem quite expensive.

So, this is all explained in The Crystal Calls, but basically Lisa Henson met some guys who wanted to do a Labyrinth sequel, but after pitching it they were asked if they would do a Dark Crystal sequel, and they came up with an outline for a movie but when Lisa approached the head of original programming at Netflix (assistant head?), that person was a TOTAL FULL ON DARK CRYSTAL FREAK FROM CHILDHOOD and so that's how they got 10 hours (5 full movies!) of this world on screen. Netflix has barrels of cash to shovel at projects it deems worthy of a full injection of funding.

They didn't have years. They began production at the beginning of 2017, although design had been going on for a bit longer than that.

Just the set building for the thing is a mammoth feat. I'm still in awe of the complete artistic achievement of this small army who got to do magical play-work and bring this to life!
posted by hippybear at 7:40 PM on September 11 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure if there's a canon description of it as a scholar's hat, but my reading was also that the Heretic had a big ol' railroad spike in his brainpan, if only because I don't think the Skeksis would exile him without also doing something suitably horrific to mark him as "other" for all the world to see. Then he went and coped with it by using it as a clasp for his scarf. I think it's a great example of the depth of contextual storytelling in this series - a whole chain of events and decisions this character has made and the gruesome consequences he's endured, all of which is present but mostly unremarked upon, just implied with a piece of his costume.

Same kind of depth if it's a hat symbolizing his scholarly journey I suppose, just a little less grisly. I like it rewards that kind of scrutiny, either way. In lesser fantasy storytelling it kind of breaks the spell to ask obnoxiously detailed questions about the window dressing, but The Dark Crystal always seems to strengthen under that pressure.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 2:10 PM on September 12


I am a life long fan of the original movie, and mostly loved this series, except for one small detail:

SPOILER DISCUSSION FOLLOWS





Ok, so we see the General crumble to dust in the last episode, but he is very much alive in the Dark Crystal movie, and commands the Garthim, fights with the Chamberlain, etc.

WTF?
posted by Fleebnork at 6:10 PM on September 14


I found an answer to my question on the internets:

The General in Age of Resistance is SkekVar.
The General in the movie is SkekUng and is mentioned by the Skeksis when they talk about recall all Skeksis to the castle.


I heard them say there were other Skeksis around Thra but I didn’t know that detail.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:18 PM on September 14 [1 favorite]


I really didn't love the original movie at all, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this series. I don't normally like puppet stuff (apart from the Muppets because I'm not a monster) and all the stuff about unexpressive puppets faces and their mouths not moving in line with their words would normally have bothered me - but I was quickly won over by this show regardless. The world building is so rich and detailed, and the CGI so carefully used, and the characters so nuanced with little grace notes abounding (I loved the relationship between The Heretic and The Wanderer; and the little bit where Rian is highly doubtful about Deet's smoke bombs). And of course that voice cast. Insane. I will say that at times the body horror got too much even for me. I had to close my eyes or turn away whenever the Collector's disgusting pustules got the spotlight. Ugh.
posted by unicorn chaser at 3:16 AM on September 16 [1 favorite]


As far as hats go, I'm happy that the Heretic is clearly a descendant of the Wiseman's Hat from Labyrinth
posted by happyroach at 5:26 PM on September 16


I heard them say there were other Skeksis around Thra but I didn’t know that detail.

I found this handy chart on reddit. And also this video: skekVar & skekUng the Skeksis Generals
posted by Pendragon at 2:18 AM on September 17 [4 favorites]


I thoroughly enjoyed the series, and was very happily surprised to connect to it emotionally much more than to the film (which I loved and still love).

My only nitpick/disappointment was with regards to the process of draining Essence. In the film, we saw that the light/power from the Crystal was directed down through a reflector crystal, and that the draining of Essence caused the subject (Podling) to become a mindless slave. It seems like Kira was about to have the same thing happen to her, as her eyes began to go milky.
In the series, the process uses the actual Crystal, and explodes the subject (Gelfling) completely. And the Podlings are already working as slaves, without having been drained of Essence.
Additionally, the (Podling) Essence obtained using the film method used caused visible rejuvenation, although it was very temporary. The series (Gelfling) method seemed to only cause the Skeksis to feel rejuvenated, but with no visible change. Strange, if it was more powerful.
I can make up my own head canon to explain this all away, but is it already covered in the book series or comics? Even if it is, it would have been nice for the series to give a nod to the film. Some comment by the Scientist about how he wanted to improve the process to make the Essence more effective, or that if the process didn’t destroy the subject, maybe they could be used for some other purpose.
Like I said, I loved everything about this series (ok, maybe the Skeksis’s tongues were a little too animated), but this seemed like such a big change without any in-show explanation.
posted by LEGO Damashii at 12:44 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


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