I’ll be honest with you, dear reader, my interest in Dark Crystal show was near zero on its release. Just didn’t strike me as that great of a premise and my general fear of the uncanny valley kept me from pursuing it. If not for my friends drawing me in there’s no way I would’ve made it past the first half of the first episode. I’m so glad I persevered because this show, aside from being well written, full of memorable characters and genuinely moving, if a little dark, has phenomenal world building.
Having started a podcast about worldbuilding Seth and I are now viewing the content we consume a little differently and Dark Crystal has been a fine example of this evolution in my thinking. I was once of the mind set that unexplained (or perhaps unexplainable) worlds were innately poor quality. The result of lazy writing or a lack of front loaded investment, at best mismanagement and at worst kind of an insult to the audience. This view had been refined through years of debating how many decks the USS Voyager had (13, right?) or why Anakin, and not Luke, is the chosen one in the prophecy. Debating these topics with my friends and trying to shoehorn in explanations for apparent plot holes or world inconsistencies had me laser focused on searching for errors. This is culturally prevalent among those who most love sci fi and fantasy. This is an unfortunate trend, I fear, and might lead us to ignore otherwise incredible fictional worlds.
Now, to be sure, there are plenty of examples of lazily constructed worlds to harp on and tearing them up is cathartic from time to time. I’d just advocate a little caution and an embrace of the mythic or mystical in the worlds in which our stories are based. Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, the newly released show from Netflix exemplifies this mystical, childlike quality so well. Consider gobbles, they appear to be based in colonies that are entirely constructed of angry mouths attached to a snakelike body which we can assume has some sort of bottom to it. Horrifying. It’s what they’re supposed to do and they do it so well. If you walk into gobbles your death is assured. Unless you’re SkekMal, the Hunter. He’s tough and it suited the pitch black narrative to have him fight his way free from it like Fett from the Sarlacc. What does this do for us? Makes us despair, makes a minor character’s sacrifice meaningless, makes us realize that SkekMal is a big old nasty guy. Mission accomplished. Do we need to know more about Gobbles? I sure would like to but it’s not needed for the story. Are Gobbles super impractical? Absolutely, the concept is silly, what kind of ecosystem supports that?! I doubt even the character designers, concept artists or producers could tell us and that’s fine. Knowing more about them might ruin the mystery, and if too much of the mystery is understood we are robbed of wonder. I don’t want to be robbed of wonder and that’s a part of what makes this show great.
Stay tuned for more writing from the WorldCraft Club as we explore worldbuilding and the crafting of fictional settings to inspire your creativity.
We’re happy to host guest blogs on here whenever we can, it gives James a break and let’s other people contribute their ideas. Let us know if you have a worldbuilding concept or strategy to get off your chest, we’d love to hear it.