The Dark Crystal (or Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal) is a fantasy media franchise that started with the eponymous 1982 film made using puppets, which was the brainchild of puppeteer Jim Henson with designs created by Brian Froud. While it did modestly at the box office, the film grew a steady cult following. Several comic books, artbooks, companion books and novels were published since, and Netflix and Henson's Creature Shop eventually produced a live action prequel series using puppetry techniques in the spirit of the original film, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, released in 2019.
The franchise concerns the fantasy world of Thra, the elf-like people called Gelflings who inhabit it, and the changes and conflicts brought about to it by a powerful magical crystal and alien species gravitating around said crystal, the Skeksis and the urRu (or Mystics).
The franchise includes:
- The Dark Crystal (1982), film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz
- The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019), series directed by Louis Leterrier
- The Dark Crystal (1982-1983) by Marvel Comics
- Archaia Entertainment:
- The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths (2012-2015)
- The Power of the Dark Crystal (2017-2018)
- The Dark Crystal Tales (2017)
- Beneath The Dark Crystal (2018)
- The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019-) by Boom! Studios
- The Dark Crystal (first published in 1982), novelization of the film by Anthony Charles Hockley Smith
- The Tale of the Dark Crystal (1982), An illustrated children's storybook version written by Donna Bass and illustrated by Bruce McNally.
- The World of the Dark Crystal (first published in 1982), companion book by J. J. Llewellyn and Brian Froud
- The Dark Crystal Author Quest (2014) - A collection of five stories from the competition to find a new author for prequel fiction.
- Joseph M. Lee novels:
- Shadows of the Dark Crystal (2016)
- Song of the Dark Crystal (2017)
- Tides of the Dark Crystal (2018)
- Flames of the Dark Crystal (2019)
- The Dark Crystal: A Discovery Adventure (2018)
- The Dark Crystal (2019) - Little Golden Books adaptation
- Aughra's Wisdom of Thra (2019)
- Songs of the Seven Gelfling Clans (2020)
- The Dark Crystal Bestiary (2020)
- Legends of the Dark Crystal by Tokyopop:
- Legends of the Dark Crystal: The Garthim Wars (2007)
- Legends of the Dark Crystal: Trial by Fire (2010)
- The Dark Crystal Card Game (1982) by Milton Bradley
- The Dark Crystal Game (1982) by Milton Bradley
- Archaia announced plans for a RPG using rules based on Burning Wheel at the August 2011 Gen Con gaming convention, intending to publish it later the following year but nothing has be heard of it since.
- The Dark Crystal: Board Game (2018) by River Horse
- The Dark Crystal: Adventure Game by River Horse was announced in early 2021, set for release later this year.
- The Dark Crystal (1983, Apple II, Atari 8-bit) by Sierra
- Gelfling Adventure (1984) - An alternate version of the game for younger players
- The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics (2020, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS) by BonusXP and En Masse Entertainment
- In the "Return of the Skeksis" episode of Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge, teams of the competing creature designers were challenged to build a Skeksis that has been banished to different parts of Thra and has been called back to the Skeksis Castle.
- A Dark Crystal ballet was announced for the Royal Opera House 2021-2022 season.
Tropes present across the franchise:
- Absent Aliens: Inverted; the franchise features sapient races from two separate planets, but humans and Earth are never seen or mentioned even once.
- Alien Sky: Thra has three suns: The Greater Sun, the Rose Sun, and the Dying Sun (whether or not the third sun is actually nearing the end of its life or is just so named for being the smallest and dimmest is never elaborated on). Eclipses between the suns are called Conjunctions; an eclipse between any two suns is a "Lesser Conjunction," whereas an eclipse between all three, which only happens every 1000 local years, is called a Great Conjunction.
- Depending on the Writer: The Netflix series depicts Thra as having three moons as well, but the original expanded universe states Thra as having only a single moon that's too dark in the sky to see during the day.
- Artistic License Space: It's very difficult for a planet to find a stable orbit around a trinary star system. Even so, if we accept the premise, poor Thra would be roasted by the combined luminosity and proximity of the three Suns, and life would not be able to survive.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: To varying degrees. The Gelflings, Podlings, Gruenaks, and urSkeks are all roughly around rubber forehead territory. Aughra seems like a particularly wizened and stocky take on Human Alien at first, but then she too slides towards rubber forehead once you notice things like her horns or (what passes for her) pinkies. The Skeksis combine Intelligent Gerbil with Mix-and-Match Critters, having traits of both reptiles and birds, but with a dash of Starfish Aliens thrown in, the Netflix series revealing that they produce three streams of urine (and thankfully clarifying nothing beyond that). The Arathim are straight Insectoid Aliens. The urRu are smack-dab in between Humanoid Alien and Starfish Aliens. Thra's various non-sapient fauna, however, are rarely more human-like than full-blown Starfish Aliens.
- Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: Female Gelflings have fairy wings, but males don't for some reason. This isn't as bizarre as it sounds, however, as there are some real life insects (such as the fig wasp) where only the females have wings. Although that's usually because the male either isn't as important to the species' propagation as the female (as in the case of fig wasps, where the male never even sees the light of day outside the fig they grew up in), or the male gets something else to compensate, such as a stinger.
- In episode nine of age of resistance, where skekmal is falsely thought to die, skektek performs an autopsy, and we learn that skeksis have an organ located in the lower torso called the "humus" (pronounced HYOO-mis), whose function is not revealed.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp":
- Years are called "trine" in this setting. While it makes sense (alien world and all, so different language) and fits the general aesthetic, it does raise the question of why the medium is translating every spoken word into [your language] except this one.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The late Jim Henson's name has been added to the posters and covers of the franchise's installments since the mid-2010s.
- Muppets: The 1982 film and Age of Resistance were almost entirely made using animatronic puppets and have no human character whatsoever. The franchise is the brainchild of the man behind the Trope Maker and Trope Namer, after all.
- No Biochemical Barriers: Despite being extraterrestrials (extrathraials?), the urSkeks, urRu, and Skeksis never show any difficulty with things like breathing Thra's air or digesting its food.
- Planetary Romance: Has some elements of this genre.
- Power Crystal: The eponymous Dark Crystal itself, the "beating heart" of Thra. The urSkeks' homeworld is stated to have one as well.
- Wizards from Outer Space: It takes place on an alien planet whose lifeforms have varying degrees of Bizarre Alien Biology, with many of the more important characters coming from yet another planet, but there are also supernatural elements such as power crystals, Geometric Magic, evil sorcery, Magitek Attack Drones, a Mother-Naturey Genius Loci, a variation on Soul Eating, etc.