Netflix’s new fantasy series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is an intriguing prequel to the original 1982 Dark Crystal movie – but can you watch it if you never saw the original? Will you be able to follow the story of the Gelfling rebellion if you’re not already an expert in all things Skeksis, Fizzgig and Aughra?
Well, personally we’d recommend watching the original first before delving into the prequel – the Star Wars approach, if you will – but if you haven’t got time to fit it in, we may have a solution for you.
Below, we’ve summarised the main points and lore of the Dark Crystal film to prep you for the new series’ release. If you don’t fancy watching the film before you watch the new episodes, you can check it out but beware, 37-year-old spoilers are there. Given that the film is also available on Netflix you might do better to just watch it there. (It’s only an hour and a half! Go on.)
Still here? OK then…
The 1982 Dark Crystal film opens in the fantasy world of Thra, a once-bounteous land featuring four key sentient species – the cruel, vulture-like Skeksis, the good, slow-moving Mystics, the elf-like Gelflings and the small, jabbering Podlings. There’s also a lot of other fantastical creatures around, but these are the ones who, you know, wear clothes and whatnot.
Once upon a time, the Skeksis and Mystics were one race, but long ago a magical Crystal was cracked, splitting them into the amoral but ambitious Skeksis and the good-natured but largely unhelpful Mystics. Despite their sundering, however, individuals of both races remain linked, and disappear if their counterpart dies.
Before the events of the film the Skeksis took possession of the cracked Crystal, still an all-powerful artefact closely linked to the life and health of Thra, and they began to abuse its power to prolong their own lives.
However, in doing so they corrupted the Crystal’s power and sickened Thra, and after a prophecy predicted their monopoly over the Crystal would be stopped by a Gelfling, they massacred the race, apparently leaving only an infant named Jen alive.
Jen was raised in secret by the kindly Mystics, but at the film’s beginning his dying master informs him that he has a quest – find a crystal shard held by a mysterious wise woman called Aughra, and use it to heal the Crystal. If he can’t do so before Thra’s three suns align, the Skeksis will rule forever.
At the same time, the Skeksis emperor (linked to Jen’s master) dies at their castle, opening up a power-struggle between the brutish General and the weaselly Chamberlain, who both have their eyes on the throne. After the General triumphs the Chamberlain is exiled, and upon learning of Jen’s existence the new Emperor sends his beetle-like Garthim soldiers after him.
Meanwhile, Jen finds his way to Aughra’s orrery (in other words, a sort of planetarium) and uses his flute to find the Crystal shard. At this point the Garthim burst in, capturing Aughra and forcing Jen to flee again, at which point he meets Kira, another surviving Gelfling who lives in the swamp and can converse with animals.
Sharing their memories through a process called Dreamfasting, the pair later go to the Podling village where Kira grew up, until it’s attacked by Garthim intent on kidnapping Podlings.
Jen, Kira and her pet Fizzgig are almost captured – but the exiled Skeksis Chamberlain, hoping to gain their trust, instead calls off the troops.
The Chamberlain tracks down the pair again at some Gelfling ruins where they discover a prophecy – “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” – but his attempts to make peace between the Skeksis and the remaining Gelflings are rejected as a trick (which, to be fair, they were).
Instead, Jen and Kira decide to infiltrate the Skeksis castle to rescue the Podlings, travelling there on long-legged beasts called Land-Striders. Entering through the bowels of the castle, they’re met by the Chamberlain again who repeats his peace offer, which they reject. Enraged, the Chamberlain buries Jen in rubble and captures Kira, presenting her to his fellow Skeksis in return for his reinstatement.
Jen eventually breaks free just as Kira is being strapped into a machine by the Skeksis scientist, preparing her for an old procedure where Gelflings (or Podlings, at a push) have their life-force drained by the Crystal and turned into a serum that reverses Skeksis ageing.
Aughra (who was imprisoned by the Skeksis after her capture earlier) suggests Kira call on the animals also kept captive in the dungeons, and their combined effort helps free the Gelfling and kill the Scientist (elsewhere, his Mystic counterpart also dies).
Jen, Crystal shard in hand finds his way to the Crystal chamber where the Skeksis begin to gather, but drops it before he can fix the Crystal. Kira throws it back to him but is stabbed by the Skeksis’ ritual-master, dying just as Jen manages to insert the shard into the Crystal.
As it the Crystal heals, the walls of the Castle fall away and the Skeksis are confronted by the newly-arrived Mystics, who have been (really, really slowly) making their way across Thra for this very event.
With the Crystal power restored, the Skeksis and the Mystics recombine to recreate their original form, floating spirits who ascend to a higher plane after bringing Kira back to life as a favour to Jen.
The film ends with Thra on the mend, the Skeksis and Mystics gone and the captured Podlings free – though sadly the Gelfling genocide hasn’t been undone, leaving Jen and Kira as the only members of their race.
So there you have it! The new Netflix series is set many years before all these events, and at time of writing it’s unclear how closely the final episode will line up with the film (it’s possible the Henson Company will want to leave themselves a little wiggle room for a sequel).
But either way, you can consider yourself all caught up – and your Age of Resistance understanding should now be crystal clear.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance streams on Netflix UK from the 30th August