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 The Skeksis

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Invader Zim
Invader Zim

Posts : 1252
Join date : 2009-09-15
Age : 28
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Name: Invader Zim
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The Skeksis Empty
PostSubject: The Skeksis   The Skeksis Icon_minitimeTue Jun 08, 2010 2:44 pm

The Skeksis are a fictional species which act as the main villains in the 1982 fantasy film The Dark Crystal, its companion book The World of The Dark Crystal and the TokyoPop prequel Legends of the Dark Crystal. The word "Skeksis" serves as both singular and plural form for this species, with the singular being pronounced They are described by concept artist Brian Froud as, "... part reptile, part predatory bird, part dragon." In the film, the Skeksis are represented by puppets engineered under the direction of Jim Henson. Jim Henson said that in the development of the Skeksis, the creators drew inspiration from the Seven Deadly Sins

Concept and creation
Jim Henson was inspired to design the Skeksis by an illustrated edition of a Lewis Carrol poem showing two elegantly dressed crocodiles in a bathroom. He became intrigued with the idea of a reptilian race assuming control over a formerly splendid past society. Numerous names were proposed for the species, including Skekses, Reptus, Karackt and Skek-sis.

Henson himself commented on the difficulty of performing as a skeksis;

“ There were days I could work 'inside' my Skeksis character, the High Priest (Ritual-Master), without noticing the weight. But if I was feeling the least bit tired or run down, it was as if a building had caved in on me.

The skeksis are tall bipeds combining both avian and reptilian physical features. They all wear elaborate but threadbare robes of lace, velvet, and brocade which apparently keep the skeksis' constantly decomposing bodies intact and make them look larger and more intimidating. Their heads are beaked like a vulture's, while simultaneously sporting curved fangs. They have bloated bellies and long reptilian tails, as well as curved quills on their backs. Like their urRu counterparts, they have two pairs of arms, yet in the skeksis, only one pair is functional, the other being atrophied.

The Skeksis are the corrupt rulers of the planet Thra, having inherited it from their benevolent UrSkek predecessors. They are the embodiments of the knowledgeable, yet unrestrained parts of the UrSkeks souls. The Skeksis culture favors repetitive flamboyance, emotional pettiness, and a wasteful attitude toward life. Though they are capable of forming alliances, they are by nature extremely paranoid toward each other.

Due to the accelerated decomposition of their bodies, the Skeksis constantly search for ways to prolong their lives at all costs. Their primary method is to expose themselves to sunlight channelled directly through the Dark Crystal, though the amount of energy replenished to them is greatly dependent on the conjunction of Thra's three suns. Another method is a form of planetary acupuncture, in which power lines laid on their castle channels the planet's energy to them, then feeds back noxious pulses, resulting in their kingdom's wasteland appearance. A third method is to directly drain the lifeforce from other life-forms by exposing them to reflected beams of the Dark Crystal. The life-force is collected in a liquid form and drunk only by the Emperor, who regains his youthful appearance. This has the effect of turning the drained victims into near-mindless husks which the Skeksis use as slaves. Originally, Gelflings were most ideal in essence extraction until they were exterminated and Podlings were used in their place, their lifeforce having a temporary effect on the drinker.

They have created creatures such as the huge, crab-like Garthim to be their enforcers and the Crystal Bats to act as their eyes and ears throughout Thra. It is stated in the Brian Froud book World of The Dark Crystal that Skek-Tek the scientist created the Garthim but every other Skeksis wishes the sole credit for creating them.


Originally, Jim Henson thought of having the Skeksis communicate through noises, though he later shot the film showing the Skeksis speaking a constructed language based on ancient Greek and Egyptian specially devised by linguist Alan Garner. The dialogue was later redubbed in English, as the original version proved unsuccessful in impressing test audiences. The original language is however present in The World of the Dark Crystal and The Dark Crystal novelization. The Skeksis' language is ill-suited to descriptions of long, complex processes as it is restricted to nouns, adjectives, and expletives. The Skeksis language is shown to have an Object Verb Subject word order.


The products of a botched attempt by UrSkeks to purify their souls by using trapped sunlight from the Crystal of Truth, the Skeskis entered the world of Thra hating their UrRu counterparts and each other. Not long after the division, a fight broke out between the two races, resulting in a shard of the crystal being chipped loose from the main rock and being lost. The UrRu then left the castle to the Skeksis, who began to modify the UrSkek architecture with their own grotesque designs. The Skeksis apparently considered the division a great triumph, and attempted to create a crystal of their own. The blackened rocks they created though proved ineffectual, and were reused as targets for the Haakskeekah ritual, translated as "Trial by Stone", in which the loser is stripped of his position.

According to The World of The Dark Crystal, the Skeksis were originally a vibrant and jovial race that possessed the wisdom and knowledge of the UrSkeks, yet lacking any form of restraint or contemplation. They ruled Thra for over a 1000 years and apparently had good relations with the Gelfling people, inviting them to their castle and reveling with them in festivity and song. As time passed and the Skeksis morality decayed along with their bodies, they began to keep Gelflings as slaves. Desperate, the Gelflings sought counsel in prophecy, which revealed that a Gelfling would end the rule of the Skeksis by healing the Dark Crystal with the shard it once lost. When the Skeksis learned of this, their first reaction was to create multiple crystal shards in order to confuse the Gelfling's search. Later, they had the Garthim carry out the genocide of the entire Gelfling race.

By the start of the movie, only ten Skeksis survived, with skekSo's death leading to skekUng succeeding him. However, skekUng's reign was short lived as Jen and Kira survived the massacre of their people, eventually finding each other and fulfilling the prophecy that destroyed the Skeksis and reintegrated them into the urRu to recreate the urSkeks.

The Emperor skekSo
The Skeksis Skeksi10

The first skeksis emperor, skekSo is described in The World of The Dark Crystal as having originally been an energetic ruler who enjoyed lavish festivity and sporting events which he invariably won. As he aged however, he became increasingly paranoid and spiteful, even toward his fellow skeksis, elevating individuals to high positions only for the pleasure of seeing them fall later. Once he died, skekUng succeeded him as emperor. Prior to the actual succession, in the film's deleted scenes, skekSo's decayed remains are gathered and cremated as part of Skeksis funerary tradition. He also has an appearance in Legends of the Dark Crystal.

The Chamberlain skekSil
The Skeksis Skeksi11

As Chamberlain, skekSil is second in line to the Skeksis throne, though the confronation with skekUng in Haakskeekah not only cost him his position, but also led to his exile as a result of skekUng's first decree. As evidenced before the Emperor's death, skekSil and skekUng despised each other, with skekSil's trademark whimper always vexing SkekUng. Of all the Skeksis, skekSil is the most devious, attempting to trick Jen and Kira into thinking he wishes for peace in order to capture them and return to the castle as a hero. When Jen stabs skekSil on the right hand with the crystal shard, he crushes him into the rubble and kidnaps Kira, using her to regain his title.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

The Scientist skekTek
The Skeksis Skeksi12

The creator of the Garthim and the science behind essence extraction, the other Skeksis fear him out of ignorance of his work. His fascination with anatomy was so great he went as far as amputating one of his arms and legs, replacing them with mechanical constructs. He also replaced his jugular vein with a transparent external tube, in order to monitor his own circulation. He is a personal nemesis of Aughra, who was once a colleague of his when he was an UrSkek. Whilst attempting to drain the gelfling Kira of her essence, she managed to rally all the laboratory animals tortured by skekTek to break loose and attack him, resulting with him losing his footing and falling down the crystal shaft towards the magma below. He also has an appearance in Legends of the Dark Crystal. 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

The Ritual Master skekZok
The Skeksis Skeksi13

An arrogant high priest, skekZok fancied himself as skekSo's closest advisor, and sought to control the other skeksis through false prophecies and apparitions, only to bitterly discover they distrusted his divinations and practised their own. skekZok spearheads the various rituals the Skeksis practice such as the "Ceremony of the Sun", and sees their laws as absolute, thus he is the most eager to kill off the Gelfing race quickly. Though a contender of the throne after skekSo's death, skekZok sides himself with skekUng, who becomes the next emperor. Though he assists in the search for the surviving gelflings with his crystal bats, he is nonetheless distrusted and feared by skekUng. When skekSil arrived with Kira, he was annoyed at skekUng's commands to drain Kira of essence before actually killing her. Ironically, it was skekZok's killing of Kira that marked the Skeksis' downfall. He is the tallest of the Skeksis.

The Garthim Master skekUng
The Skeksis Skeksi14

Formerly the commander of the brutish Garthim, skekUng was physically the strongest of the skeksis after skekSo. He had a bitter rivalry with the chamberlain skekSil, which culminated in a successful duel for supremacy after the death of skekSo, becoming the new emperor of the Skeksis. Though the other Skeksis admire his ferocity, his constant blundering in the capture of the surviving gelflings fails to evoke the desired respect of his subjects. He is suspicious of skekZok's loyalty, and is constantly fearing a challenge to his authority. SkekUng would represent Wrath.

The Gourmand skekAyuk
The Skeksis Skeksi15

The court gourmet expert, skekAyuk creates a different menu for each feast. His personal favorites are hot spices, sweet liqueurs, and rich cream sauces. Yet in spite of all this, the Skeksis' spiritual disjointment makes them leave each banquet still raging with hunger. notes say he looks like 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, tudbits for him to nibble...Body bulges, tummy pops buttons, slits gape, pink extrudes.

The Slave Master skekNa
The Skeksis Skeksi16

The supervisor and disciplinarian of the pod slaves, he is described in The World of the Dark Crystal as "purely and openly evil from the beginning" and in The Dark Crystal novelization as having "no imagination and no nobility at all". He has an eyepatch and a hook for one hand. He dubiously claims to have an ear for music, and takes it upon himself to select specific slaves for skekTek to experiment upon. Along with skekTek, he is a strong supporter of skekUng, and at one point was considered for promotion to the rank of patriarch for his loyalty. Pre-production notes for the Slave-Master/Executioner call for a character that "remains evilly silent most of the time, except for occasional sneers and hisses. His action is dominated by kicking, whipping, and herding little Pod slaves

The Treasurer skekShod
The Skeksis Skeksi17

Administratively skekSil's subordinate, skekShod is incapable of acknowledging anyone's presence unless offered some gift. Due to his limited vocabulary and excessive material desires, bribery is the only way he knows to gain what he wants. He frequently bribes the other skeksis into temporarily loaning him their personal possessions. Along with skekOk, he is a supporter of skekZok. 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.

The Scroll Keeper skekOk
The Skeksis Skeksi19

The Scroll Keeper not only is the finest featured and smallest of the Skeksis, but also the most dishonest as he constantly rewrites the Skeksis' history to suit his allegiances and propaganda needs. His loyalty is to skekZok. 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. 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."

The Ornamentalist skekEkt
The Skeksis Skeksi20

Despite possessing a genuine gift as a designer, skekEkt is nonetheless described in The World of the Dark Crystal as an extremely vain and callous character who would gladly cause the death of countless animals for the sake of fabricating one cloak. According to skekSil's thoughts in The Dark Crystal novelization, skekEkt's uncharismatic depravity was considered excessive, even by the standards of the skeksis, to the point where it would never command their obedience. He has the responsibility of giving the final say in the selection of experimental Pod slaves modified by skekTek for ritual choruses. The most feminine of the Skeksis by far, he is frequently seen to be screaming dramatically and being very flamboyant, easily mistaken for female. Along with skekAyuk, he is a supporter of skekSil. 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.


SkekSo expires in his deathbed at the beginning of the movie, leaving something he was in the middle of saying unsaid for lack of breath. He then progressively implodes piece by piece, starting with his beak, and crumbles into dust.
As Kira cries out some kind of magical command to the creatures in the lab that evidently has the effect of invigorating and enraging them, they topple skekTek into the fiery pit beneath the Dark Crystal, where he is instantly incinerated.

Pre production notes on the skeksis

General Notes

Special voices/sounds for each

Garthim Master: spurs sound

Artist-Designer: swish, rustle of silks

Historian: shushes, hums

Symbols - see Ritual Master notes

Power struggles. Two sitting on the bed/throne, perching forward.

Mystic-Skeksis corollaries: Slave master - missing hand and eye - same on one mystic. Scientist - artificial leg and bionic/mechanized arm. Same on a mystic.

All Skeksis have hump cowl configurations, which are combination of organic and mechanical elements.


Miss Haversham in the woods. King Lear. Looks like a chair, upholstered and stuffed, with hard carved animal parts like Lion's foot legs and Griffin arms. Collar like a headboard. When stripped we see the inside of the back contrast to outside. Also we see mechanical bits worked by his spines and vestigial hands, chair insides - springs, sawdust, horsehair, money, webbing, sacking, underfelt. Work in a coat of arms somehow.

Runs castle. Wheedling, obsequious, golem type.
Secretarial, administrative, carries rolls of scrolls, second to the dying one. Envy. Suspicious, eyes moving a great deal. Smiling. Creates dissension.


Stern, massive, strong, sneers, is angry. No subtlety, mostly movements of power . . . brute strength, when speaking he never goes quieter than a deep resonant bellow. But, if this is the Alpha of the character, should we also see the Omega - what are his unguarded or weakened characteristics?


Tallest. Skull-like head. Throbbing temples. Deep-set eyes. Rasputin type with white eyes showing. Hypnotic - like Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Bishop Sheen, Eric Von Stroheim. Witchdoctor scepter. Ring hand to be kissed, has hidden menace - stylized, ritualistic type movement, like Tai Chi, but perhaps clumsy for all his smooth, gliding movements. Conjuring tricks - throwing powders into flames to punctuate his speech. Self-aggrandizement: conjures up false spirits. Carries (palms) a deck of tarot cards. Skeksis symbols - perversion of Urskeks symbols. Floor and wall markings. 21 spaces in floor, 21 original Urskeks masters, split into 21 Skeksis and 21 Mystics, 21 black magic symbols. Triangles, threes. 9 power centers. Double Helix, double spiral. Transcendent power - two snakes intertwined. These same symbols different styles appear in the crystal room/council chamber, floor patterns, mystic back piece, ritual master costume, and Aughra's costume. Masonic imagery - lower piece - Masonic apron. Symbol of the crystal - neckpiece, crescent with spike. Over apron or waistcoat - pockets for fobs, chains, pieces to put on - added ecclesiastical bits, dingle-dangles, badges of office plus straps, holders for stomach. Bogus religious stuff - obvious switch on staff to turn on light - like gaudy religious grotto. Reliquary boxes with glass fronts set into costume, going down the ribbon bands over robe. Like in the Russian film IVAN THE TERRIBLE, or as in BORIS GODUNOV, Russian orthodox Icons-encrusted.

High Priest. Controlled, precise, formal, straight backed, carrying ceremonial ornaments, a snob. Tarot readings, astrology-horoscope, myth making. Shaman, false magician. Connection with the other world solely for their own mafarious ends. False augurs.


We see him kicking, whipping slaves. Evilly silent. Hisses. Sneers. Metallic hook, sheathed. Pulls off sheath, revealing hook, herds slaves around. Directs their movements. Sees that dead slaves are carried away, or that machinery rolls over the dead ones, like in pyramid building. Surcoat - leather, hooks, metal clasps, chains, manacles. More chains, padlocks. Hook seen grabbing peasant hands, neck, head. Hook seen pinning notes between peasants to floor. Back prong on costume opens and closes like scissors. Shiny fabric on gown like snakeskin, colors/tones like slaves. Head attached to collar with chains. Scars. Moist, wet snakeskin texture, like layers of crocodile skins, surround head-neck area, yet remain flexible like gearshift box surround. Like mock turtle plastic wrinkled pieces in Alice in Wonderland. Slave control tools, Garthim like claws. Hard plates, chain mail, armor. Hanging sleeves with detailed hard and soft bits. Back plate - black shiny, patent leather, put together and stitched like a glove. Slavemaster keeps slaves from playing. Tally sticks of dead slaves. Scalps?

Slave master: in charge of the eye blanking, getting rid of slaves, rules the abattoirs (in terms of slaughtering the food sources). Has eye patch.


Sitting on a stool, knees up, peering over tomes. Tail wrapped around stool, flicks tail. Blotter pad. Expandable reading glass prop. (Like Kermit on the stool - Skeksis as actual hand puppet). Historian has characteristics of the idiot. Looks like a book. Pleated fabric like pages. Bookmarks in the pleating. Surcoat like a green-tooled leather book cover. Marbled inside book flyleaves. (Lining of surcoat, lining of collar? To better identify heads). Live bookworms, pressed flowers, writing like print on fabric to look like pages. Head - long snout gets caught in the books. 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. Has a group of peasants doing illuminations. Add a court photographer. Historian shushes, hums.

Smallest. Lopsided face, constantly looking confused. Goes where angels fear to tread. Does everything out in the open . . . completely opposite of the others . . . maybe the General/Garthim master is his idol. Idiot gets hit and laughed at a lot. He limps. I think this is a valuable character. Possible use for a plot change. Perhaps this is another race? Problem of breaking up the hierarchy.
Smallest. Historian, always carrying scrolls, writing notes when Skeksis meet. This job could be the Chamberlain's. Professor, librarian, historian, solicitor. Propaganda making, rewriting history, has the power of the written word - but as a solicitor who uses words for their power only, not for truth. Argues any side of the case that's useful at the moment. Actively corrupt.


Head - Robert Morley. Jowly, bushy eyebrows, sweaty, burping. Stuffs food into cheeks. Lifts head to swallow, like a pelican. See food traveling down. Cheek bulges mechanized. Wine stains. Bits of encrusted food. Slaves always carrying trays of food for him - silver goblets, small sugar things, tidbits for him to nibble. When he talks he sprays food and saliva. Has a serviette of handkerchief tucked into sleeve. Surcoat dark glaze - crème brulee! Inside collar - skirts, pantaloons, like Roast Pork of Leg of Lamb. Back costume piece like a Lobster of Crayfish presented on a tray. Feelers reach over back of Skeksis and move. Pastry on shoulder rolls. Scored Pork with cloves and cherries, with apricot glaze. Sausage skirt. Body bulges, tummy pops buttons, slits gape, pink extrudes. Ham pale pink, edges of white fat. Has beautiful crystal goblet with murky wine. Has soup that eats him - clams in soup. Hands - long fingernail to pick teeth. Little finger to cock, lifting teacups.

Gourmet cook, sensual, glutinous, lustful, sloth. Slob, food encrusted, slovenly, fat.


Designs fabric, jewelry, furnishings. Decadent, perverted sexually, sensual hedonistic, vain, theatrical. Highly emotional, shining. I believe his main function would be to dress and bejewel himself (and other Skeksis?) Heavily made up with jewels and equipment of mascara. Artist's power play might be to create a strange new jewel, then bribe the Ritual Master to falsely augur this jewel - i.e. everyone must have one, and must go to the artist to get it.

Has slaves, peasants with makeup pots, powder puffs. Giggles. Slimmer belly than design? Swishes, rustle of silks.


Pale. Yoke-like neck brace or brace with metal bits. White or pink, hinged chrome-plated sections. Plastic and chrome tubes. Latex sheeting thing for under or over sleeves. Leg appliance - exaggerated. Very finely mechanized. Gears, levers, machine parts. Gleaming metals, glass. Limps with cane. Special sound of artificial leg. Constantly fingering his instruments. Bionic type arm. External structure on outside of atrophied arm, to help it move - pneumatic devices - hisses, pins into bones of arm. Structure starts at cowl, leads off from it down his arm - view from side of body like a nautilus machine, or wheelchair, or locomotive wheels. Loci description. Italian futurist sculpture, movement machine, other side of body normal. Wound on sleeve, suture pins. Transparent tubes - liquids, fluids. Materials like clear cast resins and polypropylenes. Cowl like iron lung - a medical support system for him. It hisses. Electrodes to head from cowl with tubes and liquids. Pacemaker, colostomy bag. Tube with liquids going into face - one color going in, another color leading out, or different color threads pulled through bubbling liquids like Christmas tree candles. Epileptic, petit mals, Oxygen tents, waste bags, liquid receivers. Back of train gauze, with bloodstains on hem. Polythene worked in somehow. Thick bandages on surcoat - cotton wool with frayed gauze over. Back spine - metallic blades. Leeches, bloodletting. Hanging sleeve piece with pockets for surgical instruments. Keith Moon pervert - flasher with raincoat. Little beady eyes, mad. I don't think he's mad. He's always studying, observing, thinking. Maybe he constantly has scientific tools about him, (equivalent of stethoscope, speculum, etc.) He's the intellectual. Experimenting with reproduction. Has telescopic eyepiece, possibly with light source, for peering intently.


Thinnest, counting - abacus collar. Tiny brass scale on hook. Weights, measures, coins, purses. Suggestions of chains and padlocks, fastening devices, keys. Combination lock with dials. Pocket calculator. Gold mesh bags and misers purses. Sagging and bulging pockets, pocket in vest. Silas Marner type. Pound signs on pupils. Biting a coin to test for gold. Touch stone to test gold, sound of cash register or reacts to sound of coin. Codpiece purse - two coins and a fountain, or miser's bag. Details - wax edgings - seals Hieroglyphics, for quantities of wealth. Milling. Embossing - shallow relief. Spines open out to the sides. Jeweler's loop to look at mint marks - decorative notches on staff like tally sticks. Casket or chest under his arm, which he strokes. Spines - weighing scale-like shape. Weights and chains. Weights with holes in it stacked on a rod. Avarice, handles jewels and money. ADVICE: give him jewels and money


Dark-faced, crumbling, dark head on the pale pillows. Mystic goes pale when he dies, Skeksis goes dark. Dark - going off like a piece of bad fruit. Or white faced in death, wheezing, excretion from eyes, nose, mouth. Deterioration of Skeksis: build up layers of wax with high melting points. Hard bits fall off separately, soft bits slough away at different rates.

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