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Early this morning, Netflix dropped the first season of the new series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a 10-episode prequel to Jim Henson’s groundbreaking 1982 fantasy feature film. The series is set a thousand trine after the bird-like Skeksis arrived on the planet Thra and tricked Auhgra (Donna Kimball, The Happytime Murders), the guardian of the Crystal of Truth, into entrusting them with the crystal. The crystal is a source of life for Thra, connecting all of the beings on the planet. The Skeksis declared themselves the Lords of Thra and the sworn guardians of The Dark Crystal. They soon discovered a way to steal power from the crystal, allowing them to rejuvenate themselves and in effect become immortal. However, over the thrine, the Skeksis became overly gluttonous, constantly seeking more power from the crystal, until there was no more left for it to give. The Emperor skekSo (Jason Isaacs, The OA), fearing the loss of their immortality, tasks The Scientist skekTek (Mark Hamill, Child’s Play, Star Wars) with finding a new source of energy. The Chamberlain skekSil (Simon Pegg, Mission Impossible) overhears this and sees an opportunity to help further his own goals and starts plotting something nefarious.
Meanwhile, the seven clans of fairy-like Gelfling who live on the planet are much alive and well (as the film opens, there was only one surviving Gelfling left). The various clans each have their roles and purpose and all work together as a well-oiled machine to keep the planet in balance. The Gelfling are blissfully unaware of what the Skeksis have been up to. They see these creatures as their saviors and are happy and eager to participate in the annual tithing ceremony, where they give an offering to their Lords in thanks for all they have done. However, the Gelfling start to experience some unusual things that have them start to question the status quo.
Rian (Taron Egerton, Kingsman) and his girlfriend Mira (Alicia Vikander, Tomb Raider) work at the citadel, where they serve as guards for the Skeksis and their Podlings. Head of the guard is Rian’s father, Ordon (Mark Strong, Kingsman), who doesn’t take his son seriously. Rian wants to prove himself to his father, so when he and Mira see a giant spider-like creature called a Spitter roaming the castle, he decides to handle the matter himself, recruiting best friend Gurjin (Harris Dickinson, Maleficent 2) to assist. Meanwhile, in the city of Ha’rar, Gelfling queen All-Maudra (Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech) is preparing for the tithing ceremony. Her youngest daughter, princess Brea (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch), is a bit of a rebellious free thinker. She has a thirst for knowledge and is eager to learn new things. She joins her mother and sisters for the ceremony, but what she witnesses doesn’t sit well with her. She is the first to suspect that the Skeksis are hiding something and may not be as benevolent as they appear to be. So she returns to the library to do some research, but the Librarian (Toby Jones, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) suggests she leave things be. And elsewhere, deep in the caves, Gelfling Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel, Game of Thrones, Four Weddings and a Funeral) is feeding the normally peaceful creatures that live off the land, when they suddenly turn on her and attack. These normally docile creatures are suddenly behaving quite unusually, which causes her much concern.
The Skekis’s misuse of the crystal has produced some unfortunate side effects. The crystal has become infected, and in turn Thra and its creatures are becoming consumed by The Darkening. The Gelfling are starting to notice that all is not as it seems, but if they don’t wake up and rise up soon to put a stop to the Skeksis, it could mean the end of the planet and life itself. The one thing they have going for them is that the Skeksis are so arrogant and look down upon the Gelfling. They have ruled for over 1000 thrine and believe that even if the Gelfling do manage to discover what they are up to, they are too weak and have no power to do anything about it. And this may be their undoing.
The series’ star-studded voice cast also includes Eddie Izzard (Ocean’s Thirteen), Caitriona Balfe (Outlander), Harris Dickinson, Shazad Latif (Star Trek: Discovery), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (The Cloverfield Paradox), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Hannah John-Kamen (Killjoys), Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones), Theo James (The Divergent Series), Louise Gold, and Kemi-Bo Jacobs (McMafia) as the Gelfling, and Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians), Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange, Deadly Class), Harvey Fierstein (Torch Song Trilogy), Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Ralph Ineson (Game of Thrones), Alice Dinnean, Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele), Neil Sterenberg, and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (True Detective) as the Skeksis.
Before checking out the premiere of this series, I re-watched the original film, since I hadn’t seen it in decades. I must admit that I wasn’t really a fan. It felt a bit dated, the puppet performances were a bit wooden, and the characters (especially the Skeksis) had harsh, screechy voices. However, watching the premiere of the Netflix prequel series was a very different experience. The show does a great job of setting up a much vaster world as it explores in greater detail the backgrounds and motivations of the various beings and creatures that live on Thra. In the pilot, we follow three different Gelfling stories as well as that of the Skeksis. And this will further expand over the course of the season. The show feels fresh and modern while still maintaining the aesthetics of the original, making use of Jim Henson’s creature shop to once again bring the characters to life. However, the Gelfling and Skeksis feel much more alive in this incarnation and seem to express more emotion. While there are light moments of physical humor and puppet smooching (that is what they call it in the closed captions), the series does get pretty dark quite quickly and may not be for really young viewers (though the series is only rated TV-PG). By the end of the first episode, I was all-in. After a horrific event, one of the Skeksis gives this amazing speech that just shows how arrogant these creatures are, and I would love to see them get their comeuppance. I look forward to seeing how this story plays out and how the Gelfling will finally discover that they have been oppressed all these years and rise up to overthrow the Skeksis. However, I’m a little nervous about their chances of success, seeing where things are at in the film. So will all of their efforts be in vain? This looks like it will be a solid production with an all-star voice cast and certainly worth checking out.
Catch the entire first season now on Netflix.
I’ll also be watching Carnival Row.
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