So, I love the original movie; I loved Jim Henson’s work, maybe Labyrinth more than Dark Crystal but they’re both amazing. The Mystic/Skeksis split, dying races of Gelflings and Podlings, weird monsters, nothing is stationary or normal, Froud’s fairy paintings brought to fuzzy life, it’s all lovely. I’ve read a little of the fanfic/expanded universe stuff but not much.
This story is mediocre prequel fanfic with good production values, but not up to the level of the movie.
In this, there’s only blatantly evil Skeksis rulers, guarded by Gelflings and served by Podlings, both so stupid they don’t see the gloating, scheming, whinging, and stealing of their masters. The Skeksis are as nasty as in the movie, but somehow made a cult where they’re all-powerful, all-giving, but that’s so transparently false it’s just nonsense. This show would’ve made far more sense if they were still the Ur-race at the start, and the events of this, the corruption of the Crystal to drain life, is what makes them split.
The Gelflings are all ruled by queens and princesses, but still seem to put males in charge of everything else. They can use telepathy/”dreamfast” which is mostly shitty CGI blur effects, much like Avatar, except when the plot requires they be too obstinate or stupid to verify facts with each other. Females in this can actually fly; Kira in the movie just glided. There are seven clans, but only 5 are relevant to the plot so far: rich bossy Vapra, swamp rednecks Drenchin, warrior Stonewood, gypsy trader Sifa (very racist Roma caricature), underground Grottan.
The Podlings are either grovelling servants, or really stupid sub-Humans (somewhere between filthy hobbits and how Eastern Europeans are portrayed in fantasy).
A Fizzgig creature is immediately met when the underground heroine reaches ground. It has legs and a weird gaping non-muppety mouth. We see a bunch of these during the series, they’re semi-tamed?
The Spitter is not quite a Garthim. And mostly it’s really shitty CGI.
Aughra knows too much and is too stable to be the weirdo of the movie. She didn’t make her own orrery in this, it’s a “gift” from the Skeksis. And then implausibly she goes for a walk, crosses way too much of the world in an episode, and spends a lot of time doing nothing. The Mystic we finally meet is useless, and does not talk like a Mystic.
The land seen in CGI scenes is very Earth-like, if a bit more spiky mountains. There’s a lot of shitty CGI lens flares, glowy things, and purple crystal screen filters, like the Abrams Trek movie but with more realistic characters than his muppet Kirk.
The puppets look good, but many are emotionally blank most of the time. The females especially can’t flex their faces much at all, so they seem to be dead-eyed staring into the void for long stretches. The walking scenes are very badly done, like everyone from the Muppet Show and Jim Henson are long gone.
The fight scenes with Gelflings look awful because they can’t actually hold blades, and can’t be shown being struck. Even Hup, the stupid Podling wannabe-Paladin with his wooden spoon, is more menacing than the Gelflings.
There’s at least 4 parties and it takes until E04 before any of them meet up, and they immediately split again, slowing the plot down. Rian is a lame protagonist, veering from braggart to coward as the scene demands, never being worth your time. Deet and Hup are pretty good, I like them even if they’re incompetent. The princess is just annoying and gets everything handed to her. The hunter party have no characterization, they’re just felt bodies.
★★★½☆ — And this is being generous. I really want this to be better than it is. It’s very pretty when the lens flares aren’t in the way. But the basic competence isn’t there.