Without streaming services like Netflix, would anyone else have even take a chance on a Dark Crystal TV show? A 3D-animated version, maybe, but puppetry is a hard sell. I’ll admit, there were times when the limitations of the puppets were… problematic. Every fight or battle was somewhat anticlimactic, because there’s only so much you can do smashing puppets together. The Skeksis, for instance, are supposed to be intimidating monsters that all other creatures cower before, but their gangly arms and bulky bodies suggest otherwise. You kinda have to envision that everything in this world is “puppety” by nature and Gelflings are as weak as their literal rubber skin lets on.
I say this, though, as someone who really admires and appreciates puppetry and grew up on so many Jim Henson staples. When the characters aren’t fighting, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the visuals and world building. The practical effects and animatronics are top-notch and add some much-needed realness to the fantasy and mythos that computer graphics probably couldn’t have achieved. I know, I know, you can’t make a fantasy world anymore without some computer graphics, and The Dark Crystal isn’t immune. But those moments of modern special effects do more to highlight just how grounded and tangible the puppets feel in comparison.
With all that said, is the story even any good? Truth be told, I haven’t seen the original Dark Crystal movie since I was a kid and don’t remember it that fondly. This being a prequel, though, you don’t have to be a long-time fan to know what’s going on. If anything, movie foreknowledge is a disservice. The world in the Dark Crystal movie is grim. The entire time I was watching the new TV show, I kept thinking, “How can they pull off a happy ending?” The events in Season 1 are interesting and get you really caring about many characters big and small, but I’m worried another season or two will have to undo it all to fit into the larger puzzle.