I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Today, it’s the Skeksis’ moment of triumph, 1:05:53-1:07:54 on the Blu-ray.
We begin in a hallway in the castle, where two of the Skeksis are walking along. Joining them in mid-conversation, one says, “I like those grey ones that go mushy when you put them on your fork.” Whatever those “ones” are is left up to the viewers’ imaginations. Which two Skeksis are these? The short, fat one is the Gourmand, as we established during the dinner scene, and I think the other one is the Ornamentalist, but it’s hard to tell. He has those weird red hands like the Scientist, and that big curved tuft of hair like the Ritual-Master, but doesn’t have either of their voices. The original screenplay calls this character “the Designer,” which is not one of the named Skeksis in the canon. That’s close enough to “Ornamentalist,” though, that I think we can call this one as the Ornamentalist. (Remember, playing the which-Skeksis-is-which game can drive you crazy.)
They round a corner and find the Chamberlain, with his back to them. In the background, we can see more natural-looking tunnels, buttressed with wooden supports. From this, we can surmise that spot is where the underground labyrinth joins the main part of the castle. The Gourmand says, “Chamberlain! Get out! Get out!” The Chamberlain turns around, revealing Kira still in his clutches. The other two Skeksis freak the hell out, screaming “Gelfing! Gelfling!”
Thanks to a quick edit, the pair runs right into the throne room, still screaming, “Gelfling!” This could mean that the throne room is right around the corner from where they were, but I like the idea of them running through the whole castle in a panic before getting here. The setup of the throne room is interesting in this scene. The General is sitting on the throne as the new emperor, while the Ritual-Master is standing next to him inside this little alcove built onto the throne itself. This shows the Ritual-Master’s place as right hand man. The throne looks completely different from the one in the Legends of the Dark Crystal manga, which has me thinking that the manga’s throne room must be a different room in a different part of the castle. (The manga also has a bookshelf in its throne room, the only time books are seen in the canon.)
The Ornamentalist hollers “Help!” a bunch of times, which are not included in the Blu-ray’s subtitles. The Gourmand again does the gag in which a Skeksis refers to a Gelfling as “ugly.” The Chamberlain enters with Kira, who’s still struggling to get away from him. Most (all?) of the other Skeksis are in the room, and a Garthim stands motionless off to one side. “Royal sire,” the Chamberlain says, “I bring you Gelfling.” The General does a great double-take in response to this. I don’t know if it’s intentional or just the camera angle, but he looks cross-eyed in his reaction.
The Chamberlain makes his big speech, addressing not just the general, but the whole room. “I! I have done this! I have caught her! I bring you the Gelfling!” He puts the emphasis on “I” the whole time, squawking it bird-like. The Chamberlain adds, “I was wounded. I suffered horrible, searing pain.” This must be referring to Jen stabbing him with the shard. The canon has fleeting mentions of the Chamberlain’s way with words and his skills at flattery, and both the movie and the manga have shown him to have some limited mesmering ability, and we can see all that on display here. This is his big moment, and he wants everyone to know it.
The Skeksis’ Scroll-Keeper, the one who wears several rows of glasses at once, leans in close for a good look at Kira. “A live Gelfling,” he says, reaching out to touch Kira’s cheek with his finger. Interesting that he doesn’t seem as afraid of her as the other Skeksis. We know very little about the Scroll-Keeper. The canon says that he’s the smallest and “finest-featured” among the Skeksis, and that he often rewrote the Skeksis’ historical texts, changing the facts so history is written in his favor. Do we conclude that he studies Kira so closely because he’s planning to record this historic event as well?
The Ritual-Master is all business, saying, “Kill her! We are sworn to kill all Gelflings!” The Chamberlain draws Kira back, and insists, “No! She’s mine!” This seems odd for him to say, since he’s brought her there to give to them. I suppose it’s because he knows she’s his “bargaining chip,” and he’s still bargaining. The Scientist is now on the other side of the general, saying, “But, sire, you could drink her essence.” The Ritual-Master reminds everyone of the prophecy and continues to argue that Kira should be killed. The Scientist and the Ritual-Master are kind of like the angel and devil on the General’s shoulders in this scene. The General does his best King Solomon and says, “First we take her essence, then kill.”
The other Skeksis seem happy about this, crying “Drain her! Drain her!” If only the emperor gets to drink essence, then what are the rest of them so excited about? Is there some unseen benefit for all of them when the emperor drinks essence, or are they just that bloodthirsty? The scientist steps forward, takes Kira, and leads her away. The Chamberlain lets her go this time, perhaps because this was part of this plan all along? The next line of dialogue would seem to confirm that. The General says, “As for the whimpering Chamberlain, return his robes to him.” I love that he adds “whimpering” in there, a little insult just to remind the Chamberlain that he’s still boss. The Chamberlain bows, and does his famous whimper once more.
So this is the Chamberlain’s big moment of triumph, his returning from his journey and reclaiming what he had lost. This effectively ends the Chamberlain’s story. I suppose it’s good in that there’s a resolution here, but it’s not as good in that from this point forward, the Skeksis no longer have individual personalities. Throughout the rest of the film, the Skeksis act as a singular group, with everything they do, they do as one. This will streamline that plot as we head to the finale, simplifying matters so it’s Gelflings versus Skeksis at the end, but I can’t help but wonder how much richer of a film this could have been had the rivalry between the Chamberlain and the General tied into the finale.
Next: Down in the pit.
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