The SkekSès are the villainous race in The Dark Crystal, one of two species to emerge when the Crystal cracked and divided the urSkeks.
The creatures are described in detail in the book The Making of the Dark Crystal: "For every Mystic there was a corresponding SkekSès... The SkekSès had control of the castle where the Crystal was kept; in its chamber they practiced their evil arts, hating each other as much as they hated the rest of the world."
Possessing all of the negative attributes of society, and none of the positive ones, the SkekSès live out a superficial existence of intrigue and plots against each other while struggling to retain their grip on Thra. They keep essence-drained Podlings as slaves, have their own personal army in the Garthim, and absolutely despise Gelflings, a race they think they have completely exterminated. There were originally eighteen SkekSès, but by the time of the Great Conjunction when they rejoined the Mystics, only eight remained. SkekSès is both singular and plural, but the plural form is pronounced 'Skek-sees'.
SkekAyuk is the SkekSès half of AyukAmaj, and serves as the Gourmet at the castle's court.
Like all the SkekSès, SkekAyuk wears an elaborate costume. A large handkerchief is tucked in SkekAyuk's sleeve to dab his mouth. He loves to eat. Often seen stuffing food into his cheeks, SkekAyuk is the fattest of the SkekSès.
SkekAyuk commands a host of slaves to create complex meals for the SkekSès - including Roast Nebrie (a SkekSès favorite). Yet in spite of all this, the SkekSès' spiritual disjointment makes them leave each banquet still raging with hunger. In contrast, SkekAyuk's alter ego, the Mystic cook urAmaj, prepares very simple and very satisfying meals by hand.
“ Nor did the feasts prepared by SkekAyuk the Gourmand and his teams of harassed slaves satisfy any appetite for long. Hot spices, sweet liquors, cream-rich sauces, were his delight; and he boasted he had a different menu for every feast. ” - The World of the Dark Crystal Pre-production notes for the film, as shown in The Making of the Dark Crystal, describe the Gourmet as follows:
“ a jowly, sweaty head with bushy eyebrows, and to be continuously involved with burping, spraying food and saliva as he talks, stuffing food into his cheeks, and lifting his head to swallow, like a pelican...Wine stanes and bits of incrusted food cover his clothing. Slave are always carrying trays of food for him - silver goblets, small sugar things, tidbits for him to nibble...Body bulges, tummy pops buttons, slits gape, pink extrudes. ”
Jim Henson described that many of the SkekSès were based on one of the seven deadly sins. SkekAyuk clearly represents gluttony.
SkekEkt is the Skeksi court Ornamentalist, or designer, at the castle. His Mystic counterpart in the Valley of the Mystics is urUtt the Weaver. "And skekEkt the Ornamentalist made clothes, above all for himself, rich fabrics that dripped jewels, the death of a hundred birds for one cloak. He first discovered the art of anointing the skin with a paste of clotted blood and diamond powder, to restore the sparkle of youth." - The World of the Dark Crystal Pre-production notes for skekEkt refer to him as an artist and interior designer. Jim Henson said, "We've never known whether these Skeksis were male or female. We always kind of liked the idea of them being some uncomfortable mixture in between, but the Designer is certainly the most feminine or effeminate." The Skeksis' love of fashion and luxury helps maintain skekEkt's position at court. SkekEkt's appearance is described in Henson's film notes to be "heavily made up with jewels and equipment of mascara".
In accordance to the Skeksis being based on the Seven Deadly Sins, SkekEkt seems to represent Vanity.
SkekOk is court Scroll Keeper for the race of Skeksis. SkekOk's mirror image amongst the Mystics is urAc the Scribe.
The Scroll Keeper is the smallest of the Skeksis, a fact which gets him picked on and laughed at. Yet SkekOk has his own power, he is able to rewrite the SkekSès' histories to suit his allegiances and propaganda needs -- which he does. SkekOk's traditional loyalty is to the Ritual Master SkekZok. The World of the Dark Crystal mentions that SkekOk is the least honest of all the Skeksis. "SkekOk the Scroll-Keeper kept the record of the Skeksis; he was the smallest, finest-featured, least honest of them all. He wrote and rewrote his accounts, and kept changing them to please one or another of his shifting allies. The truth was soon lost." - The World of the Dark Crystal Known as the Historian in pre-production notes for the film, SkekOk is also a kin to a professor, librarian or solicitor. His robe is described as "pleated, printed pages resembling a book...bookmarks may protrude from the robe, and his surcoat may resemble a green tooled leather cover with marbled flyleaves." However the most noticeable feature of the Scroll Keeper in the film are his eyeglasses.
He can sometimes be seen taking notes when the Skeksis meet, despite the fact that he is known to arrive late. Early character plans focus on a two-sided personality of SkekOk: "When head projects out of collar, he assumes an academic, pedantic tone. When head retreats into collar, he assumes other persona -- babbling, cackling, childlike, falls asleep like dormouse."
SkekShod is the Skeksis' court Treasurer. SkekShod's Mystic counterpart is urYod, the numerologist.
SkekShod's powers of speech are severely limited, and he has trouble communicating other than through bribes. Within the SkekSè castle, SkekShod is administratively subordinate to the Chamberlain SkekSil, but his loyalty lies with a fellow intellectual, SkekZok. "SkekShod the Treasurer counted gifts, not time. None dared approach him without some offering; yet his desires were so inordinate and his powers of speech so limited that he knew no other way to get his will other than extravagant bribery." - The World of the Dark Crystal Pre-production notes for the Treasurer note a "collar shaped like an abacus" and "pockets sagging from weight". SkekShod can often be seen biting coins to test for gold, reacting to the sound of coins, stroking a casket under his arm, and constantly wringing his hands. The easiest visual cue for picking out the Treasurer in the film is the kerchief head covering.
SkekSil is the Chamberlain of the Skeksis. As Chamberlain, skekSil was second in line to the Skeksi throne. SkekSil's Mystic counterpart is the Chanter urSol. "Between skekUng the Garthim-Master and skekSil the Chamberlain there was bitter rivalry, for skekSil hoped his smiling poison and suspicious craft would lead him, not skekUng, to succeed to the Emperor's glory. Both were deceived." - The World of the Dark Crystal
The most well-known of all the Skeksis, Skeksil played a major role in The Dark Crystal. After the death of the emperor, his greed for power led to a challenge by the Garthim-Master, SkekUng the General, when he decided to crown himself the new self-appointed emperor. Without hesitation, SkekUng confronted SkekSil and issued the challenge for supremecy. The Chamberlain responded by declaring the challenge be a Trial By Stone. After the battle, the Chamberlain was outcast by the High Priest as punishment for losing to the new emperor, SkekUng.
Just as soon as the Chamberlain lost his place among the Skeksis, the remaining clan learned that the Gelfling, Jen, had escaped. As SkekSil saw it, this was his chance to prove himself to his fellow Skeksis. With the unauthorized help of the new emperor's Garthim, he traveled to the the home of Aughra, where the Garthim tracked the gelfling's location. After the Garthim demolished Aughra's home in an attempt to capture the gelfling, SkekSil plotted to lure Jen to the castle.
Later, as one of the Garthim attempts to capture Jen and his new companion Kira, SkekSil holds off the Garthim long enough for the Gelflings to escape. After the Gelflings find the ruins of their lost civilization and read the prophecy, SkekSil tries to convince them to go with him to the castle in order to "make peace" with the Skeksis.
The Gelflings reject the offer; however, after Jen and Kira sneak into the castle, SkekSil corners them and attempts to force them into going with him to the throne. As a last resort, Jen stabs the Chamberlain. Angered by this action, the Chamberlain tries to kill Jen by burying him in a pile of stones. While seemingly ending Jen's life, he grabs Kira and takes her to the throne to redeem himself and show his dedication to the emperor. After presenting his prize to the emperor, the Chamberlain is reinstated, and remains in favor until Jen heals the crystal, and the Mystics and Skeksis are reunited as urSkeks.
Pre-production notes for the film describe the Chamberlain as "resembling an overstuffed chair, with springs, sawdust, horsehair, webbing, sacking, and underfelt layered under a carapace of carved animal limbs and a collar like a headboard."
SkekSo the EmperorEdit
SkekSo was the Emperor of the Skeksis. His spiritual other half in the film is the Mystic master, urSu. In the film, skekSo is only seen shortly before his death.
SkekSo had ruled the Skeskis since the split of the Crystal, and the division of UrSkeks. He was part of a political alliance with skekSil, skekAyuk, and skekEkt. In the early part of his reign, skekSo had shone with glory, leading feast processions and dances, beating all his rivals in tournaments. As the Skeksis aged and diminished, skekSo kept authority through favoritism, suspicion, and sheer courage. But soon his sight weakened, his body rotted with ulcers, and the other Skeksis awaited his death.
Production notes for the film emphasize the Emperor's dying face "going dark like a piece of bad fruit", as opposed to Master urSu turning into light. For the final deterioration of skekSo, a puppet was made of a wax with high melting points so that it would crumble and melt away at different rates. Skeksis decompose so quickly because they have no soul to slow the process.
“ The Skeksis joined nothing except to make new combinations of evil. SkekSo the Emperor in the first days of his glory proclaimed otherwise; he held court not only over the Skeksis but over many Gelfling that went to serve in the castle. They shone in his glory; they carved and sang and painted and danced from the pleasure of the court. On all the days of feasting the Emperor led the processions and the dances of life and pleasure; his voice heard above a multitude; and always in the tournaments he bore down all rivals. In those days the Skeksis were still radient with energy, never still. But that radience diminished as their true nature showed and worsened; none was more terribly changed than the Emperor. His power he kept till the end; no other Skeksis held ascendancy other than through skekSo's favor, easily withdrawn. But his vigor lessened, his suspicions grew, his sight weakened, ulcers burst from his skin. He sought elixirs and enchantments to restore his rotting body, never more than a few days success. All awaited his death; his courage never failed. ” - The World of the Dark Crystal Although no performer is given a puppeteering credit for the Emperor in the film's ending credits, it can be inferred, based on information given in The Making of the Dark Crystal, that Jim Henson performed skekSo: "A few leading roles had been assigned well in advance of shooting. Jim Henson would enact Jen, the dying Emperor, and the Ritual-Master."
SkekTek is the Skeksis Scientist. He plays an important part in the story, since it is his job to drain captured Podlings and Gelflings of their life essence. This process turns the victims into slaves which perform the work at the Skeksi castle. It has also been stated that the Scientist altered the slaves' vocal cords to fit them for the castle choir.
Before the UrSkeks split, it was the Scientist who gave Aughra the most help in building her observatory. SkekTek's alter ego amongst the good hearted Mystics is urTih the Alchemist.
SkekTek later met his death when the animals in his laboratory retaliated with the help of Kira, pushing him into the shaft of the Dark Crystal, where he fell to his death. Sadly, this death also killed urTih.
Steve Whitmire later used a voice similar to the SkekTek's for Marlon Fraggle.
In pre-production notes for the film, skekTek, who was also called the Doctor, is "identified by his self-mutilated body, especially an artificial leg and bionic arm. His pale, pink-white neck is held in place by a brace with metal bits, and his body is fed through chrome and plastic tubes. One eye is fitted with a telescopic eyepiece." "To betray is to break the circle of trust. The Skeksis came to betray all friendship, without reason, without need. The end of my friendship with skekTek the Scientist is still bitter. Before the division, TekTih of all urSkeks gave me most; then his divided soul became Alchemist and Scientist alike. When the urSkeks first came to the World he taught (Aughra) all the movements of the skies and designed the great Observatory. And in return (she) gave him all (her) knowledge of the rocks, even to the secrets of the metals. SkekTek kept some real power of thought, but in truth he had become only a juggler of ideas, of memories from his previous life. Then he had studied the light of the Crystal and used it for the division; now he studied the wounded Crystal, and by that light he saw his ways to acts of darkness. Two great evils I charge against him. First, that he learned the art to make beams of light from the Dark Crystal, which he burned into Pod People's eyes to make them living ghosts, his perfect slaves. After the light had struck them no light lived in their eyes, but they obeyed; that was all. And the second worse evil was to use dark light to draw the essence of life, to drain it from the living to make a drink for the Skeksis, above all for the Emperor. This essence gave them back their youth and vigor for a while, only for a little; but many Gelflings were victims forever." - The World of the Dark Crystal