Dark Crystal, Fraggle Rock – Beginnings – S01E01, Inside the Labyrinth, Labyrinth
The Dark Crystal is a 1982 American–British fantasy adventure film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz and stars the voices of Stephen Garlick, Lisa Maxwell, Billie Whitelaw, and Percy Edwards. The plot revolves around Jen, an elf-like ‘Gelfling’ on a quest to restore balance to his alien world by returning a lost shard to a powerful but broken gem. Although marketed as a family film, it was notably darker than the creators’ previous material. The animatronics used in the film were considered groundbreaking. The primary concept artist was the fantasy illustrator Brian Froud, famous for his distinctive fairy and dwarf designs. Froud also collaborated with Henson and Oz for their next project, the 1986 film Labyrinth, which was notably more light-hearted than The Dark Crystal.
The Dark Crystal was produced by Gary Kurtz, while the screenplay was written by David Odell, who had previously worked with Henson as a staff writer on The Muppet Show. The film’s score was composed by Trevor Jones. The film was produced by ITC Entertainment, the British production company responsible for producing The Muppet Show. The film earned mixed to positive reviews from multiple critics, particularly commenting on its special effects.
A thousand years ago on the planet Thra, a magical crystal cracked, and two new races appeared: the malevolent Skeksis, who use the power of the “Dark Crystal” to continually replenish themselves, and kind wizards called Mystics.
Jen, an elf-like Gelfling taken in by the Mystics after his clan was killed, is told by his Mystic master that he must heal the Crystal, a shard of which is held by the astronomer, Aughra. If he fails to do so before the planet’s three suns align, then the Skeksis will rule forever. The Skeksis’ emperor and Jen’s master die simultaneously. A duel ensues between the Skeksis Chamberlain and General, both of whom desire the throne. The General wins, taking power and exiling the Chamberlain. Learning of Jen’s existence, the Skeksis send large crab-like creatures called Garthim to track him.
Jen reaches Aughra and is taken to her home, which contains an enormous orrery she uses to predict the motions of the heavens. She has a box full of shards, from which Jen selects the correct one by playing music on his flute to cause it to resonate. Aughra tells Jen of the upcoming Great Conjunction, the alignment of the three suns, but he learns little of its connection to the shard. Suddenly the Garthim appear and destroy Aughra’s home taking her prisoner as Jen flees. Hearing the call of the Crystal, the Mystics leave their valley to travel to the Skeksis’ castle. Jen meets Kira, another surviving Gelfling who can communicate with animals, and her pet Fizzgig. They discover that they have a telepathic connection, which Kira calls “dreamfasting,” and share memories of being forced from their homes. They stay for a night with the Podlings, who raised Kira after the death of her parents. The Garthim raid the village, capturing most of the Podlings, but Kira, Jen, and Fizzgig flee when the Chamberlain stops the Garthim from attacking them.
Jen and Kira discover a ruined Gelfling city with ancient writing describing a prophecy: the shard Jen carries must be reinserted into the Dark Crystal to restore its integrity. They are interrupted by the Chamberlain, who claims that the Skeksis want to make peace and wants the Gelflings to return to the castle with him, but they distrust him and refuse. Riding on Landstriders, the Gelflings arrive at the Skeksis’ castle and intercept the Garthim that attacked Kira’s village. While trying to free the captured Podlings, Kira, Jen, and Fizzgig descend to the bottom of the castle’s dry moat and use a lower-level entrance to gain access. They are followed by the Chamberlain, who repeats his peace offer; when the Gelflings turn him down again, he buries Jen in a cave-in and takes Kira to the castle. The General reinstates him to his former position, and the Skeksis’ Scientist tries to drain Kira’s life essence for the General to drink so that he can regain his youth. Aughra, imprisoned in the Scientist’s laboratory, tells Kira to call for help from the animals held captive; they break free in response, releasing Kira and causing the Scientist to fall to his death. His Mystic counterpart simultaneously vanishes.
The three suns begin to align as the two Gelflings reach the Crystal’s chamber and the Skeksis gather for the ritual that will grant them immortality. Jen leaps onto the Crystal, dropping the shard, but Kira throws it back to him before being stabbed to death by the Skeksis’ high priest. Jen inserts the shard into the Crystal, unifying it as the Mystics enter the chamber and the castle’s dark walls crumble away to reveal a structure of bright crystal. As Aughra, Jen and Fizzgig watch, the Mystics and Skeksis merge into tall glowing beings, known as urSkeks. One of them explains that they had mistakenly shattered the Crystal long ago, splitting them into two races, and that Jen’s actions have fulfilled the prophecy, restoring them and Thra. He revives Kira as a sign of gratitude, and the urSkeks give the Crystal to the two Gelflings so they can “make their world in its light.” They depart, leaving the crystal castle standing in a now-rejuvenated land.
Fraggle Rock (also known as Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock or Fraggle Rock with Jim Henson’s Muppets) is a British/American/Canadian children’s live action puppet television series about interconnected societies of Muppet creatures, created by Jim Henson.
Henson described the Fraggle Rock series as “a high-energy, raucous musical romp. It’s a lot of silliness. It’s wonderful.” The program proved accessible to audiences of all ages, and used the fantasy creatures as an allegory to deal with serious issues such as prejudice, spirituality, personal identity, the environment, and social conflict.
There are four main intelligent anthropomorphic species in the Fraggle Rock environment: Fraggles, Doozers, Gorgs and Silly Creatures. The Fraggles and Doozers live in a system of natural caves called Fraggle Rock that are filled with all manner of creatures and features, and which connect to at least two different areas (the land of the Gorgs and the land of the “silly creatures”, or humans). One of the main themes of the series is that, although the three species depend on the other for their survival, they usually fail to communicate due to vast differences in their biology and culture. The series mainly follows the adventures of five Fraggles with five personalities: pragmatic Gobo, idealistic Mokey, impetuous Red, indecisive Wembley and pessimistic Boober. Some of the character’s names a film industry in-jokes. For example, Uncle Travelling Matt is a reference to the travelling matte technique used with blue screen to give the impression a character is somewhere they’re not; Gobo is named after a shaped metal grill placed over a theatre light to produce interesting shadows (window shapes, leaves etc) and Red is a reference to a redhead, another name for an 800w film light.
Fraggles are small anthropomorphic creatures, typically 18 inches (46 cm) tall, that come in a variety of colors and have fur tuft tipped tails. Fraggles live a generally carefree life, spending most of their time (they have a thirty-minute work week) playing, exploring, and generally enjoying themselves. They live on mainly radishes and Doozer sticks, made of ground-up radishes and the material with which the Doozers build their constructions. The Fraggles seek wisdom from Marjory, the Trash Heap, who is located in a corner of the Gorg’s garden. Marjory the Trash Heap is a large, matronly, sentient compost heap. According to her rat-like companions Philo and Gunge, the Trash Heap “knows all and sees all.”
Within Fraggle Rock lives a second species of small humanoid creatures, the pudgy, green, ant-like Doozers. Standing about 4 inches (10 cm) tall (“knee-high to a Fraggle”). Doozers are in a sense anti-Fraggles; their lives are dedicated to work and industry. Doozers spend much of their time busily constructing all manner of scaffolding throughout Fraggle Rock, using miniature construction equipment and wearing hardhats and work boots. To ensure they always have a steady stream of work, Doozers build their constructions out of an edible candy-like substance (manufactured from radishes) which is greatly enjoyed by Fraggles. This is essentially the only interaction between Doozers and Fraggles; Doozers spend most of their time building, and Fraggles spend much of their time eating tasty Doozer buildings. This pleases the Doozers, because not only is their work being enjoyed by someone, but if the Fraggles stop eating them, the Doozers will eventually run out of building space. Creativity is one of the few traits Fraggles and Doozers have in common.
Outside another exit from Fraggle Rock live a small family of Gorgs, fat furry humanoids standing about 180 inches (460 cm). The husband and wife of the family, Pa and Ma, consider themselves the King and Queen of the Universe, with their son Junior Gorg as its prince and heir-apparent, but to all appearances they are simple farmers with a rustic house and garden patch. In “The Gorg Who Would be King”, Pa says he has ruled for 742 years.
Fraggles are considered pests by the Gorgs, as they often steal radishes from the garden. The Fraggles don’t consider it stealing. The Gorgs use the radishes to make anti-vanishing cream, without which they disappear headfirst.
The Silly Creatures of Outer Space
In the North American, Spanish, French and German versions of Fraggle Rock, the connection between Fraggle Rock and Outer Space is a small hole in the wall of the workshop of an eccentric inventor named Doc and his (Muppet) dog Sprocket. In the British version the situation is much the same, except that the hole leads into the living quarters of a lighthouse where the keeper (“The Captain”) lives with his dog (also called Sprocket).
Gobo must go out into Doc’s workshop to retrieve the postcards from his uncle Matt from the wastebasket where Doc throws them, assuming they are misdelivered. Traveling Matt (a pun on travelling matte, the technique used in his segments) is exploring the wider world, observing humans and reporting humorously false conclusions about their everyday behaviour.
Sprocket often sees and chases Gobo, but can’t convince Doc anything lives beyond the wall. Sprocket and Doc have many similar miscommunications throughout the series, given the language barrier, but overall, they understand each other quite well.
In the final episode, Gobo tells Doc that Fraggles refer to humans as “silly creatures”, and apologizes. Doc smiles and tells him that he thinks that it’s a very good name for humans.
Inside the Labyrinth
Jiri Barta: Labyrinth of Darkness
Labyrinth is a 1986 British-American adventure musical fantasy film directed by Jim Henson, executive-produced by George Lucas, and based upon conceptual designs by Brian Froud. The film revolves around 15-year-old Sarah’s (Jennifer Connelly) quest to reach the center of an enormous otherworldly maze to rescue her infant brother Toby, who Sarah wished away to Jareth, the Goblin King (David Bowie). With the exception of Connelly and Bowie, most of the film’s significant characters are played by puppets produced by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
Fifteen-year-old Sarah Williams rehearses a play in the park with her dog Merlin but becomes distracted by a line she is unable to remember while being watched by a barn owl. Realizing she is late to babysit her baby brother Toby, she rushes home and is confronted by her stepmother Irene before she and her father Robert leave for dinner. Sarah has many toys that she has grown out of and realizes that Toby is in possession of her treasured teddy bear Lancelot. Frustrated by this and his constant crying, Sarah rashly wishes Toby be taken away by the Goblin King Jareth, a character in the play she is rehearsing. She is shocked when Toby disappears and the Goblin King confronts her then transports her to his kingdom. He refuses to return the baby, but gives Sarah thirteen hours to solve his Labyrinth and find him before Toby is turned into a goblin forever. Sarah meets a dwarfish man named Hoggle, who aids her in entering the Labyrinth. She has trouble finding turns and corners but then meets a talking worm who inadvertently sends her in the wrong direction.
Sarah ends up in an oubliette where she reunites with Hoggle. After they confront Jareth and escape one of his traps, the two encounter a large beast named Ludo. Hoggle cowardly flees while Sarah befriends Ludo. After another riddle, she loses him in a forest. Hoggle encounters Jareth, who gives him a peach and instructs him to give it to Sarah, calling his loyalty into question as he was supposed to lead her out of the maze. Sarah is assaulted by a group of creatures called Firies with detachable body parts who try to remove her head, but Hoggle comes to her aid. She kisses him, and Jareth magically sends them to the swamp of the Bog of Eternal Stench as punishment, where they reunite with Ludo. Sarah, Hoggle, and Ludo meet a guard of the bridge out of the swamp named Sir Didymus, an anthropomorphic Fox Terrier and his Old English Sheepdog steed named Ambrosius. After Ludo howls and summons a trail of rocks to save Sarah from falling into the bog, Didymus joins the group (Her three new friends are just like some of the toys in her room). After the group gets hungry, Hoggle gives Sarah the peach and runs away as she falls into a trance and begins to lose her memories. She has a dream where Jareth comes to her at a masquerade ball, proclaiming his love for her, but she begins to remember and escapes, falling into a junkyard. After an old Junk Lady fails to brainwash her and her memory is jogged, she is rescued by Ludo and Didymus, and they are right outside Goblin City near Jareth’s castle. They are confronted by the gate guard, but Hoggle bravely comes to their rescue. Despite his feeling unworthy of forgiveness for his betrayal, Sarah and the others welcome him back, and they enter the city together.
Jareth is alerted to their presence and sends his goblin army to stop them, but Ludo howls and summons a mountain of rocks to chase the guards away, and they enter the castle. Sarah insists she must face Jareth alone and promises to call the others if needed. In a room modeled after an Escher staircase, she confronts Jareth while trying to retrieve Toby. She recites the lines from her play, that have told her adventure to that point, but still cannot remember the last line. As Jareth begs her to obey him and he will love her, she remembers the line, “You have no power over me!” Defeated at the last second, Jareth returns Sarah and Toby home safely and turns into a barn owl, flying away.
Realizing how important Toby is to her, she gives him Lancelot and returns to her room. After she hears her father and stepmother come in, she sees her friends in the mirror and realizes even though she is growing up, she still needs them in her life every now and again. In an instant, all of the major characters from the Labyrinth appear in her room for a raucous celebration, and she reunites with Hoggle, Ludo, Didymus, and Ambrosius. As they celebrate, Jareth, in his owl form, watches from outside and then flies away into the night.
Alien Planet “Full Documentary”
Alien Planet is a 94-minute docufiction, originally airing on the Discovery Channel, about two internationally built robot probes searching for alien life on the fictional planet Darwin IV. It was based on the book Expedition, by sci-fi/fantasy artist and writer Wayne Douglas Barlowe, who was also executive producer on the special. It premiered on May 14, 2005.
The show uses computer-generated imagery, which is interspersed with interviews from such notables as Stephen Hawking, George Lucas, Michio Kaku and Jack Horner. The show was filmed in Iceland and Mono Lake in California.
Alien Planet starts out with an interstellar spacecraft named Von Braun, leaving Earth’s orbit. Traveling at 20% the speed of light (37,000 miles/s), it reaches Darwin IV in 42 years. Upon reaching orbit, it deploys the Darwin Reconnaissance Orbiter, which looks for potential landing sites for the probes. The first probe, Balboa, explodes along with its lifting body transport during entry, because one of its wings failed to unfold. Two backup probes, Leonardo da Vinci (nicknamed Leo) and Isaac Newton (nicknamed Ike), successfully land on the planet, and learn much about its bizarre indigenous lifeforms, including an apparently sapient species.
The robotic probes sent out to research on Darwin IV are called Horus Probes. Each Horus probe consists of an 8-foot (2.4 m) high, 40-foot (12 m) long inflatable, hydrogen-filled balloon, which is covered with solar receptors, a computer ‘brain’, a ‘head’ covered with sensors, and several smaller robots that can be sent to places too dangerous for the probes themselves. The probes have a limited degree of artificial intelligence, very similar to the ‘processing power’ of a 4-year-old. All the real thinking is done by a supercomputer in the orbiting Von Braun. The probes are programmed with different personalities; Ike is more cautious, while Leo is the risk-taker. The two probes are also equipped with a holographic message that will be projected to any sentient life found on Darwin.
After the two probes inflate their gas-bags, they encounter a voracious Arrowtongue and watch it pursue a Gyrosprinter. Later that night, the twins find the wreckage of Balboa and are ordered to split up, Ike studying the unique plant life and Leo going after big game. Ike’s voyage takes him to one of Darwin IV’s pocket forests, where he encounters a flock of Trunk Suckers and their predator, the Daggerwrist. Before his research is finished, a massive hurricane-like storm hits and Ike must take to the sky, launching weather balloons. Leo goes to the mountain ranges and finds a herd of Unths engaged in rutting-like behavior.
Afterward, Leo finds a pair of Bladderhorns engaging in combat. It tries to communicate with one, but a sonic ping interrupts the conversation and scares off the animal, and he is knocked out by a mysterious creature. Ike ventures to the meadows and gullies of Darwin IV, encountering massive Grovebacks and a herd of Littoralopes. Flying above, dangerous predators: the Skewers.
Leo gets destroyed by a mysterious and evasive creature, and Ike, ordered by the Von Braun to search for Leo’s attacker, hopes to find a new sentient species. Ike’s route takes him across perilous terrain, and across the Amoebic Sea in its quest for Leo. As it embarks on its journey, one of the Grovebacks seen earlier falls victim to a swarm of Beach Quills. Ike then finds a pack of Prongheads hunting a Gyrosprinter, and crosses the Amoebic Sea (which attempted to attack Ike), encountering a herd of giant Sea Striders.
Ike manages to find Leo after a harrowing experience with a Skewer which tries to attack it, but is killed by a spear thrown by the newly discovered floating Eosapien. Shortly afterward, Ike communicates with the Eosapien tribe and discovers that they are truly intelligent. Ike launches a camera disk to record the moment, or perhaps “to assess the threat” due to a third Eosapien appearing; however one of the Eosapiens mistakes it as an attack and destroys the camera disk. Before shutting down, the wrecked camera disk records the Eosapien tribe carrying Ike away.
Commentary from notable people discussing the details behind the fictional world of Darwin IV and the likelihood of extraterrestrial life in general is interspersed throughout the movie.