Film synopsis from the Henson International Television (HIT!) Sales Kit marketing the first television airings of The Dark Crystal, late 1980s:
The land of The Dark Crystal is beautiful and mysterious. Sometimes frightening, but always magical, it is a world where no human walks. Nature has its own intelligence and the kingdom of plant and animal no boundary. In this world trees walk, mountains move and rock, water, and plants converse in a myriad of unknown ways.
Over all rises the Castle of the Dark Crystal, home of the Skeksis, the masters of all evil. Inherited from a legendary group of wise beings who vanished mysteriously years ago, the Castle is evidence of the Skeksis’ decadent corruption. The grandeur of the past is dimmed by the filth of years of greed and decay.
The Castle is guarded by the Garthim, a band of fierce warriors encased in shell-like armour, who enforce the Skeksis’ rule. Deep in the heart of the Castle lies the Dark Crystal. This glowing stone is the key to the Skeksis’ power and focal point of their rituals.
The Skeksis fear one thing, an ancient prophecy that the Gelfling, a race of elf-like creatures, will somehow destroy their power. To save their corrupt dynasty these cruel rulers have tried over many years to eliminate the Gelfling race. Unknown to the Skeksis, one Gelfling, Jen, was saved, plucked from death, and raised by the urRu, a group of hermit-like mystics.
Jen grows up certain he is the last of his race and his life is shattered when his Master dies. With his dying breath the urRu sets Jen a task. He shows him the image of a crystal shard and tells Jen this must be found and returned to its rightful place before the coming of the Great Conjunction when three suns make one, or, all things whole and good will be destroyed.
Wrenched from the tranquility of the Mystic Valley, Jen is thrust into the danger and excitement of a quest upon which depends the future of his entire world. As he travels through the wilderness, an alien landscape alive with strange, chattering creatures, a bat bird with a seeing-crystal betrays his existence. Fearful that the prophecy will be fulfilled, the Skeksis send the Garthim warriors to track down Jen.
Amid the clutter of the observatory of Aughra the astronomer, Jen finds the crystal shard and learns something of his destiny. The Garthim attack and to escape Jen plunges into the swamp. Lost, and frightened by creatures of bizarre appearance, Jen’s fear turns into astonishment when he meets Kira, a Gelfling girl, and realizes that another of his race is alive.
Kira has been sheltered by the Pod People; simple peasants who live hidden in the depths of the forest. She guides Jen to her village and during a happy, roistering feast Jen decided to abandon his quest, as he wants to stay with Kira and the Pod People.
This moment of happiness is destroyed when the Garthim attack. Some of the Pod People are captured and transported to the Castle where they will be made slaves to the Skeksis. Fleeing into the forest Jen and Kira stumble into the ruins of an old Gelfling village. Frescoes tell of happier times. Gazing at the paintings they discover the importance of the crystal shard and the urgency of Jen’s task. The Skeksis’ Chamberlain finds them there, and offers his hand in friendship and peace in place of fear and killing. Kira is quick to mistrust. She urges Jen to heed his Master’s dying words and reject the Chamberlain’s offer.
The confrontation hardens Jen’s resolve and he is determined to return the shard to the Dark Crystal. Jen and Kira are carried at great speed to the Castle by Landstriders, the natural enemies of the Skeksis. In a vicious fight with the Garthim warriors guarding the entrance, Jen and Kira are forced over the cliff and fall to the base of the Castle where, dragging themselves over the mountain of rubbish, they find the Castle entrance.
Climbing up through the sewers they again come face to face with the disgraced Chamberlain. Once more he tries to make peace and again he is rejected. He grabs Kira and drags her to the Council Chamber. The Garthim Master orders Kira to be taken to the Chamber of Life where she is imprisoned with all the creatures of the forests and fields. Calling on all her power, Kira cries out to the creatures and incited them to break out of their cages to freedom.
With time running out, Jen fights his way to the Crystal Chamber. The Dark Crystal floats in shining purple and the great dome is open to the sky where the three suns are poised to form the Great Conjunction. The Skeksis gather for their power rejuvenation, and Jen, in one final desperate attempt lunges forward to try and complete his quest and fulfill the ancient prophecy.
The Music of The Dark Crystal
The musical score of The Dark Crystal played a critical role in the film. Read more on the making of the music.
The novelization of The Dark Crystal was adapted by A.C.H. Smith and personally overseen by Jim Henson. Back in print and for the first time in hardcover, the book now features unpublished illustrations by legendary illustrator Brian Froud and the production design team at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop™ as well as Jim’s never-before-seen notes on an early draft of the adaptation detailing his vision for the fantastical world of Thra.