Netflix’s highly-anticipated new series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, expands the world of Jim Henson’s classic 1982 film, The Dark Crystal. The property has seen novelizations and comic books in the 36 years since it premiered, but the new series is the first on-screen return to the world of Thra, where the Skeksis rule and the Gelflings are desperate to save their world (and themselves) from the vulture-like creatures.
The world-building in The Dark Crystal is intricate, the details explained primarily through expositional dialogue in the first film. If you haven’t seen it, don’t fret — the movie is currently available to stream on Netflix. But if you want an even more thorough breakdown of what’s happening in Thra (or if it’s been a long time since you’ve seen it), look no further than right here at The Beat. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Dark Crystal (also known as the Crystal of Truth), Thra, Aughra, the Skeksis, the Mystics, the Gelflings, and more before you dive into The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Spoilers for the film to follow, of course!
Thra, before the film
Since Age of Resistance is actually a prequel, it will give us the most insight into what the world of Thra looked like before the events of The Dark Crystal. Plus, there’s a series tie-in coming from BOOM! Studios/Archaia in September, which explores the world of Thra in the years before Age of Resistance.
However, based on the exposition of the film alone, we know some rough details about the world and its occupants, which the new series will dig into in more depth.
The Crystal: The titular character, if you will. We know the planet of Thra has a large, magical crystal with regenerative properties. Other than that, we don’t know much — except that the crystal cracks 1,000 years before the events of the film. When it cracks, new life appears on the planet and changes the balance of the ecosystem.
The Mystics: Also called the urRu, this is a race of benevolent wizards that appear when the crystal is fractured. Rounded and almost dinosaur-like in appearance, the Mystics embody wisdom and kindness.
The Skeksis: The second race that appears when the crystal cracks, these are sharp, vulture-like creatures consumed with power and malice. They use the energy from the Crystal to preserve their youth and enslave others.
Gelflings: Gelflings are a race of small, elvish creatures that live on Thra. They were a thriving race on the planet until the crystal splits. After the split, it’s prophesized that a Gelfling will heal the fractured crystal and end the rule of the Skeksis. Lisa Henson and director Louis Leterrier said the prequel will focus on Gelfling culture. This potentially means the prequel will be very dark: by the time we get to the events of The Dark Crystal, the Gelfling race has been completely wiped out, with the exception of two survivors who were just children when the Skeksis committed genocide in order to preserve their power.
In the most recent trailer for Age of Resistance, we see the Gelflings gear up to take on the Skeksis. Even knowing the outcome of the Darkening, it’s hard not to root for them in their fight.
Thra, during the film
The Dark Crystal establishes a lot of what we know about Thra’s past through exposition and then introduces us to new characters to build on that world. Throughout the film, these characters are working to fulfill or prevent the fulfillment of a prophecy that could change the trajectory of Thra forever.
The 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.”
Jen: Jen is one of only two Gelflings left in the world at the beginning of The Dark Crystal. He’s raised by the Mystics and told that it’s his job to find the Shard — the missing piece of the Crystal — and heal it before the planet’s three suns align. If he fails, the Skeksis will rule for eternity.
Aughra: Aughra is an astronomer who holds the Shard Jen needs to restore the crystal. She doesn’t seem to be a Gelfling, Mystic, Skeksis, or any other creature we see in the film, so it seems likely we’ll get more information on her mysterious past in the prequel.
Kira: Kira is the second Gelfling left on Thra after their people are massacred, though Jen was unaware of her existence. Kira was raised by a race of creatures named Podlings and has a deeper connection with nature than Jen as a result — she can communicate with animals and knows the lay of the land better than he does. Together, they work to restore the Crystal and defeat the Skeksis.
Podlings: Smaller than the Gelflings and significantly more into dirt than any of the other creatures on Thra, the Podlings are captured by Garthim (creatures made by the Skeksis from memories of sea creatures on their first world) and brought to the castle so that their life essence can be drained. The essence is used by the Skeksis and the Podlings themselves are turned into slaves.
Dark creatures: In addition to the Garthim, who are brutal monsters that are huge but ultimately quite stupid, the Skeksis also created Crystal Bats and Spyeyes to do their bidding across Thra. The Crystal Bats carry lenses of artificial crystal that transmit everything they see back to the Crystal, which is kept in the castle where the Skeksis live. This allows the Skeksis to see everything happening in every corner of the world, no matter the time of day. The Spyeyes are small, bug-like creatures that the Skeksis attach to prisoners to force them to serve as unwilling spies.
Landstriders: Moth-like creatures on impossibly tall legs carry Kira and Jen to the castle so Jen can heal the Crystal. These gentle, protective creatures can run as fast as the wind and are formidable opponents to the Garthim, not just because of their speed but because of their defensive stingers and maneuvers.
Thra, after the film
By “after the film,” we mean here’s what happens at the film’s end, and how it changes the world and unveils clues about the past. If you want to read more about The Dark Crystal after the movie ends, BOOM! Studios released the 12-issue series The Power of the Dark Crystal through its Archaia imprint, from Si Spurrier, Kelly Matthews, and Nichole Matthews. The comic adapts an unproduced screenplay, so it’s arguably canon.
The Crystal: Jen and Kira are successful in infiltrating the Skeksis’ lair and reaching the crystal, which they heal, though not without a cost. Kira is fatally stabbed moments before Jen can put the Shard back in its rightful place.
UrSkeks: Surprise! Turns out the Skeksis and the Mystics are two sides of the same coin. They had previously been one race, the UrSkeks, but when they shattered the crystal, they were split into two separate entities. Now that the Crystal is healed, the two halves of each creature can rejoin. Healing this broken race of creatures also frees the other occupants of Thra, as the Skeksis are essentially dead. The UrSkeks ascend to a higher plane after being restored, but not before first healing Kira. The Podlings are also released from their stupors, and the dark creatures created by the Skeksis turn to dust.
So all of that said, we know the prequel will take place in a Thra that still has other Gelflings, before their massacre — the setting seems to be about 100 years before the events of the movie. While The Dark Crystal was a story focused on restoring balance, it seems fair to assume Age of Resistance will be about the unraveling of balance. Will the prequel inject new narratives or perspectives into events that the movie might have left out? And how will it balance the idea of hope and growth with the tragedy we all know is coming for the Gelflings?
All 10 episodes of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance hit Netflix on August 30, 2019. For a look at the timeline of Thra and its inhabitants across mediums, check out the infographic below.