This weekend, Frank Oz and Jim Henson’s 1982 cult film The Dark Crystal finally gets a follow-up. The new prequel series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is true to Henson’s original vision. Directed by Louis Leterrier, the new series populates the fantasy world of Thra with animatronic puppets to represent the good-natured Gelflings, the evil scheming Skeksis, the adorable Podlings, and more. But just as impressive as the puppeteering (which Leterrier confesses involved “fighting against common sense and practicality”) is the voice-acting. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance boasts a top-notch voice cast, some of whom are longtime fans of the original movie; Taron Egerton, who stars as the rebellious Gelfling Rian, told EW he said yes to the project before even reading the scripts. Others, like Mark Hamill, are voiceover veterans putting their skills to a new test.
The show is filled with magic, and the seamless combination of puppeteering and voice-acting creates some really memorable performances. Here are five of our favorites.
Spoiler warning: Mild spoilers for the early episodes of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance are discussed below.
Eddie Izzard as Cadia
Though the Gelflings are mostly wiped out by the time of the original The Dark Crystal movie, Age of Resistance takes place many years before when the small elves were still a thriving civilization composed of seven different clans. Eddie Izzard‘s character hails from the Sifa Clan, a seafaring people who deal in tricks and secrets. When he first shows up he’s referred to as “Elder Cadia,” to signify his senior leadership role in the clan, and he’s a silver-tongued trickster who holds grudges and lies between his teeth. But he makes a mistake when he tries to drug Princess Brea of the Vapra Clan (Anya Taylor-Joy) to make her forget a mysterious symbol she saw. Brea switches cups, and Cadia drinks the forgetful potion instead. As a result, Izzard’s performance is split into two modes: First, he’s the all-knowing godfather, and then he’s a starry-eyed simpleton who can barely remember his own name. He’s equally entertaining each time.
Simon Pegg as The Chamberlain
There are so many Game of Thrones actors in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance voice cast that it almost feels like a miniature reunion. But the character who most resembles a Westerosi power-player isn’t portrayed by any of them! Instead, it’s the scheming Skesis who is next in line for the Emperor’s throne. In true Littlefinger style, the Chamberlain is constantly playing different Skeksis against each other, and manipulating Gelflings for his own ends, and holding important information close to his chest until it can be deployed against an enemy. He is voiced, incredibly, by Simon Pegg.
Most viewers probably know Pegg best from his “Cornetto Trilogy” of movies with Edgar Wright and Nick Frost, or perhaps from his role as Scotty on the 21st-century Star Trek blockbusters. This is a different vibe. In fact, unlike many of the other actors on the show, you may not even realize it’s Pegg at first. He’s modified his voice to sound like a sniveling ladder-climber, and the vocal affectations do come off the way one imagines an evil bird-person might talk. Like the best Game of Thrones schemers, the Chamberlain starts off as a villain you love to hate, until he eventually becomes one of your outright favorite characters.
Nathalie Emmanuel as Deet
Nathalie Emmanuel‘s Game of Thrones character had one of the most ignoble exits of the final season, but Deet is a far cry from Missandei. Emmanuel voices easily the most exciting of the three lead Gelfling characters. While Rian and Brea have both grown up in places of power, Deet hails from the Grottan Clan, which dwells underground. Only when she is alerted to the Darkening that is killing Thra does she embark on a journey above ground so that she can help save the world. Her eyes are large and expressive, accustomed as they are to dark spaces. They make a great fit for her exuberance at everything she encounters. While many Gelfling are consumed with petty squabbles and inter-clan feuds, Deet is overjoyed at every new plant and person she meets. Which, in turn, makes her even more determined to save it all from the Skeksis.
Deet also gets bonus coolness points because, like all female Gelflings, she can fly with little fairy wings.
Mark Hamill as The Scientist
Each of the bird-like Skeksis has an individual name, but they’re all so similar (each starts with the prefix “skek-“) that it’s easier to refer to them by their titles. Hamill plays The Scientist, the most technologically skilled of the Skeksis cabal that rule over Thra and a character originally voiced by Steve Whitmire in the film. It is he who comes up with the villains’ evil breakthrough early in the series. Like the villains of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, the Skeksis crave immortality, and are willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to get it. They were entrusted with the Crystal of Truth, the physical embodiment of the life force that sustains Thra, but have instead been using the Crystal’s power to prolong their own lives. By the beginning of the show, that power is starting to wane; they’ve stolen too much of it. The Scientist tries to push the Crystal farther, but finds his life force getting sucked out by the glowing purple gem. From there, he innovates a truly malicious solution: Use the Crystal’s power to drain the life essence of innocent Gelflings. The Skeksis can then consume that essence to gain longer life for themselves.
It is a revolting crime that sets many of the series’ events into motion, and the evil is really brought to life by Hamill’s maniacal cackling. But as anyone who loved Hamill’s version of the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series knows, the actor can shift between different moods with remarkable power. The Scientist isn’t always laughing like a madman; he also grovels before the Skeksis Emperor (Jason Isaacs), and feuds pettily with other Skeksis lords, and ends one early episode by screaming in pain. That wide emotional spectrum results in one of the show’s most fun villains. So it makes sense that Hamill also stole the show at San Diego Comic Con’s The Dark Crystal panel this year.
Awkwafina as The Collector
Fresh off her serious turn in The Farewell, Awkwafina is back to comedic antics as one of the silliest Skeksis. When she first pulls into the Gelfling capital alongside the Scroll-Keeper (Neil Sterenberg), the Collector is sick with whatever the Skeksis version of the common cold is. She’s constantly hacking and coughing and sneezing up globs of who-knows-what, which is Princess Brea’s first indication that maybe the Skeksis aren’t as regal and divine as she’s been raised to believe. Awkwafina’s wheezing adds a pretty funny flavor to every subsequent sinister Skeksis gathering.