There is absolutely nothing in this world that does not bend to my will.skekSo
SkekSo was the first and penultimate Skeksis Emperor, and counterpart to urSu the Master. Ruling the Skeksis Empire for over a thousand trine, he was the principal architect of the Alliance of the Crystal, the formal segregation of the Gelfling Clans and their ultimate destruction during the Garthim War.
Rise to power
Nothing is easier to manipulate than a cornered animal. Offer them the hand of friendship and they will do anything I say to save themselves.skekSo
Shortly after the Great Division, the Makraks emerged from their devastated underground home and began raiding Podling and Gelfling villages. SkekSo, hoping to win the loyalty of the panicked Gelflings, sent his ambassador, skekVar, to offer his protection. During the discussions, skekSo proclaimed himself Emperor and savagely beat skekShod for openly ridiculing him in court. After the Gelfling elder, Carn, arrived at the castle to swear fealty to the Skeksis, skekSo proclaimed the formation of the Alliance of the Crystal, reassuring his followers in private that his ultimate intentions were to enslave the races of Thra through offering them security. When the Makrak crisis was inadvertently resolved peacefully by the urRu, skekSo did not see the event as a failure, as the Gelfling had already provided the Skeksis with plentiful weapons and allowed them a seat on their council.
SkekSo's reign was initially a benevolent one, inviting Gelflings into the Castle of the Crystal to serve as his Castle Guard, and holding tournaments, which he invariably won. His character eventually changed as he became increasingly conscious of his own mortality and proceeded to secretly learn to harness the Darkening for his own use, causing his body to age faster than those of the other Skeksis.
A thousand years into his rule, skekTek the Scientist discovered a method of using the Dark Crystal to extract the essence from Gelflings, using it on Mira as he and his court partook in her essence to rejuvenate themselves. While skekSil assured him that the Gelflings would remain in ignorance despite Rian witnessing Mira's death, skekSo replaced him with skekVar as his counsel while deciding to label Rian a diseased fugitive who must not be dreamfasted with.
However, when skekVar murdered All-Maudra Mayrin when she learned the truth, skekSo saw it as justification to cease relations with the Gelfling, attempting to enter into an alliance with the Arathim. When that failed, skekSo commissioned skekTek to create the Garthim when they were greatly outnumbered by the united Gelfling Clans, beginning the Garthim War after the ruinous Second Battle of Stone-in-the-Wood. When skekSo learned of the prophecy that foretold that a Gelfling would end the Skeksis' rule, he ordered their complete extermination.
In the aftermath of the Garthim War, having decreed Gelfling essence reserved for himself, skekSo's health nonetheless began to rapidly deteriorate with no more Gelfling left. In desperation, he sought to prolong his life with elixirs and enchantments, but to no avail. His fate was sealed when, in his weakened state, he failed to attend a Ceremony of the Sun which would have given him enough power to live up to the Great Conjunction, which in-turn, would have granted him a further nine hundred and ninety-nine and one trine of life. He died surrounded by his followers, all keeping respectful silence and kneeling for the last time before their emperor, clinging tightly to his scepter.
His remains were gathered by skekOk the Scroll-Keeper then wound into cerements and placed into a black casket. The three highest-ranking Skeksis, skekSil, skekZok and skekUng, carried the casket to the mausoleum, with the other Skeksis following in single file. The three had previously argued over who should take the foremost corner of the casket, and managed to come to a compromise which all knew would not outlast the funeral. The casket was placed onto a catafalque, and its contents were cremated.
Force cannot always gain what you want. There are times when stealth and skill triumph!
During the Garthim War depicted in Legends of the Dark Crystal, skekSo elevated skekLach the Collector to the position of court favourite, in light of his successful Gelfling acquisition strategies, not knowing that the Collector intended to eventually depose him. SkekLach began to secretly withhold the Emperor's Gelfling essence, and blamed the shortage on his rival, skekVar the General, whom skekSo ordered to cooperate with the Collector completely. SkekSo's favouritism of skekLach caused skekSil the Chamberlain, a former court favourite, to plot against skekLach. The Chamberlain discovered skekLach's secret, and openly accused him in front of the Emperor during the Battle of Bah-Lem Valley, and challenged the Collector to Trial by Fire. SkekSo presided over the Trial, which the Collector won. Despite skekSil's protests, skekSo refused to listen to his accusations, and ordered him to keep quiet or face the consequences.
Personality and traits
In his youth, skekSo was a masterful schemer and opportunist who preferred to charm the Gelfling into submitting to him rather than crush them militarily. He was also skilled at averting any threats to his rule by promoting his rivals, only to withdraw his favor just to enjoy the sight of their fall. He applied these divisive tactics also on his Gelfling subjects, setting the clans against each other in order to prevent them from uniting and imperiling his rule. Nevertheless, when questioned openly, he was capable of displaying enough physical brutality to intimidate even the bravest challenger.
As he aged, his jovial nature gave way to paranoia over his own comrades, whom he knew would have betrayed him given the opportunity. He became conscious of his own mortality and began to tire of elaborate schemes in favor of direct action. SkekSo recalled his life as SoSu with dread, and feared that the afterlife would be equally tormentful. He thus became obsessed with clinging onto life to the very end, to the point of experimenting on the Darkening, despite knowing it corroded his body and health. When pushed to extreme anger, he would go into paroxysms of rage which caused him to audibly wheeze and hyperventilate. Following such outbursts, he would be visibly exhausted and melancholy, making him especially vulnerable to the suggestions of self-serving subordinates like skekSil.
He was, however, still able to coordinate the other Skeksis into a somewhat stable community by keeping them busy in their respective roles. He ruled through fear by both verbally and physically abusing the Skeksis that displeased him, though he would at times give rallying speeches reminding his comrades of their superiority in order to motivate them further into doing his bidding.
SkekSo was also one of, if not the most cruel and sadistic of the Skeksis, laughing when Mira was drained of her essence while his comrades were either shocked, awed or horrified by it and cruelly taunting Seladon while she was pleading for the lives of Gelfling prisoners before leading the charge against her. He also had no issue breaking his promise to Aughra of freeing the captive Gelfling in exchange for her essence to revive SkekMal, while hypocritically being furious at her when her essence did not emerge immediately. His obsession with gaining immortality also prevented him from heeding skekTek's warning that depending on the Gelfling for essence was unsustainable and would have ultimately resulted in the destruction of Thra.
You are doomed. You and all your kind. Parasites, thieves. In the end you are nothing but dust!Aughra
SkekSo was contemptuous of Aughra, believing she had done nothing for Thra, and that it was her absence which allowed him to bring order and innovation to the world. Aughra herself viewed skekSo as an ignorant "parasite" who knew nothing of the Crystal's true nature, and relished provoking him by reminding him of his inevitable death. She did, however, acknowledge that he had once been a benevolent ruler, and respected him for the courage he displayed in his final moments.
SkekSil claimed to live solely to serve skekSo when, in truth, his servility was purely selfish, as he admitted to craving power, and would later mockingly smile at the Emperor on his deathbed. He was alone among the Skeksis in being able to calm the Emperor during his exhausting outbursts, offering comfort or suggesting amusements to distract him. However, after Rian's escape, skekSo grew tired of skekSil's scheming and demoted him in favor of the more direct skekVar. SkekSo then took every opportunity he could to humiliate his former adviser, childishly mocking him for his body odor and withholding his essence ration, only to reinstate him after the Chamberlain proposed the creation of the Garthim.
Although skekSo was confident in skekTek's abilities to solve the Skeksis' problems, and was deeply respected by the Scientist, he still held little regard for him, mocking him for his loneliness, physical weakness and odd speech patterns. SkekTek was, nevertheless, one of the few Skeksis bold enough to reveal uncomfortable truths to the Emperor, such as the limitations of essence's life-giving properties and the catastrophic consequences overconsumption of essence would have on Thra. SkekSo, however, rarely listened to skekTek's advice, and would callously exploit him for his expertise, even forcing him to comply with his wishes by strangling his pet Sidetic and striking him when skekTek theorized that Gelfling essence may not be strong enough to save a mortally wounded Skeksis.
SkekSo had always trusted skekVar, even going against skekZok's advice and entrusting him to forge the Alliance of the Crystal, despite the General's craving for war against the Gelfling. By the late Age of Division, skekSo was still dismissive of skekVar's warmongering, but came to appreciate this trait when skekSil failed to capture the fugitive Rian. SkekSo subsequently promoted skekVar to act as his new counsel, and approved of all his actions, considering his unauthorized murder of All-Maudra Mayrin to be a liberation from the "burden" of the Alliance they had created a thousand trine earlier. The General's steadfast loyalty was such that skekSo grew to trust him enough to reveal his deepest fears and admit to lying to the other Skeksis about the existence of the Darkening. Nevertheless, skekSo ultimately viewed skekVar as a mere minion rather than a friend and when skekVar lost the duel against Rian, skekSo callously dismissed the General and shamed him for loosing, thus encouraging the other Skeksis to hurl insults at skekVar. However after their defeat at Stone-In-The-Wood skekSo still asked skekSil about skekVar's whereabouts, and said that everything was truly lost after the Chamberlain told him that skekVar was dead, showing that despite his defeat skekSo still saw value in the General.
Behind the scenes
David Petersen, who illustrated the alternate covers for Beneath the Dark Crystal, was assigned to design a fully robed skekSo for the comic's tenth issue. Because the Jim Henson Company only provided photos of the original skekSo puppet and its bedchambers as references, Petersen sought to design the Emperor's robes from scratch:
For the Emperor, I tried to use some of his blankets, wall hangings, and tasseled chords to drape him in. I also noticed in the run of drawing these covers that skeksis tend to have some carapace from some beast on Thra as part of their adornment––so I gave him a Crystal Bat collar with the crystal eye acting like an all-seeing 3rd eye for the ruler of those wretched cruel creatures. On his back I attempted to draw something resembling a Landstrider skull, but I'm not sure if I really did that so well.David Petersen
For skekSo's reintroduction in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, the writers wanted a character who was "so ravenous for power they would compromise everything, including their own physical integrity". Performer Dave Chapman sought to differentiate the Emperor from the other Skeksis through his posture, giving him a more upright rather than hunched stance.
Jason Isaacs, who voiced skekSo, described his introduction and approach to the character in the following terms:
I looked at the creature, at his kind of amazing, long, alligator snout and the fact that he doesn’t have a real nose, and he’s got teeth that need some very advanced orthodontistry, and I thought, “What kind of sound would come out from that? I [don’t] want to copy the voices from the original”. [...] I just came up with something that I thought might come out of that body, and that’s what we went with. He’s often very angry and loud, and you’re right, they’re a big crowd with lots of shouting, and I don’t think there was a single day of recording where I didn’t lose my voice by the end.Jason Isaacs
When asked by Collider how the character views himself, Isaacs responded:
Is a lion eating a wildebeest at a watering hole villainous? These creatures are surviving and dominating, and they want to continue to dominate and survive. [...] The Emperor has only known dominance. He’s only known control, and what it’s like to rule. The Skeksis have ruled forever. That is the order of things, on this planet. He’s not going to be the one with his hand on the wheel, when the bus goes off the cliff.Jason Isaacs
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