Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance may be a fantasy show about a magic crystal that controls the fate of a planet, but it’s also surprisingly pertinent about the threat of climate change. Turns out that’s totally on purpose.
The series, a prequel to the 1982 Jim Henson film The Dark Crystal, centres around a race called the Gelfling who are trying to protect their home of Thra from the evil Skeksis, who are stealing power from Thra’s crystal to keep themselves young.
This comes at a great cost. A mysterious blight called The Darkening is spreading throughout Thra because of the Skesis’ actions, but they continue to act as though the problem doesn’t even exist.
It isn’t hard to see the similarities between The Darkening and climate change: A growing environmental threat caused by people throws the world out of balance.
On Earth, those in power choose to deny climate change happening so they don’t have to change their behaviour, even as the climate crisis worsens. In The Dark Crystal’s case, the Skeksis are the ones doing the same. For a while, the Gelfling choose to believe the Skeksis’ lies, because it’s easier than confronting the dark truth, until it’s too big a problem to ignore.
A lot of that is thanks to a few courageous heroes, who risk isolation and ostracising to spread the truth about the threat. For example, there’s Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel), a young Gelfling who undergoes a risky journey from her homeland to bring attention to The Darkening, and makes a personal sacrifice to mitigate the problem best she can.
All of this may sound sort of like how 16-year-old Greta Thunberg sailed carbon-free from England to New York to bring awareness to climate change activism, a risky but luckily successful venture.
“Look, you don’t write a Skeksis saying, ‘there is no Darkening’ and not see a parallel to the world we live in,” co-executive producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach said in an interview with us.
Grillo-Marxuach told us the show chose to draw parallels between Thra’s planetary issues and ours not just because climate change is one of the key issues of our time, but also because it honours Jim Henson’s legacy. Conservation was an important part of his work, from Fraggle Rock to the original The Dark Crystal.
For example, there’s a 1986 episode of Sesame Street where Kermit sings “On My Pond”, an environmental ode to his beautiful home that he sings while a picnicking family is throwing rubbish into it. The family ultimately learns the error of their ways and clean up the mess.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance may be perfect nostalgia... because it never acts nostalgic. It’s a gripping fantasy that expands Jim Henson’s iconic world, challenging viewers of all ages with complex themes, horrifying imagery, and an environmental message we may need now more than ever. Also, it’s a technological masterpiece.Read more
Here’s what Grillo-Marxuach had to say (emphasis added):
Look, you don’t write a Skeksis saying, “there is no Darkening” and not see a parallel to the world we live in, where you’ve got a huge amount of powerful people saying “there’s no such thing as climate change” because it affects their business interests. I mean, we live in this world. And I think that if Jim Henson didn’t live in this world, he certainly would not have built in those ecological parallels into his work, and it’s something that you see showing up in a lot of his work.
So yes, of course it’s meant to reflect our world. We want The Dark Crystal to be archetypal, and to be something that is for everyone, and something that almost represents its own timelessness because it’s so alien. But it’s being written by human beings who live in the 21st century and face some of these perils. And we would be remiss if we didn’t use this wonderful allegorical construct to put forth the idea that perhaps you should be more aware and less denying of some of the things that are going on in our own world.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is currently available on Netflix.