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Villain Overview
The only mercy I have left to offer is death.
~ SkekTek to captured Gelfling soldiers moments before draining them, including Tolyn.
SkekTek kept some real power of thought, but in truth he had become only a juggler of ideas, of memories from his previous life. Then he had studied the light of the Crystal and used it for the division; now he studied the wounded Crystal, and by that light he saw his ways to acts of darkness. Two great evils were charged against him. First, that he learned the art to make beams of light from the Dark Crystal, which he burned into Pod People's eyes to make them living ghosts, his perfect slaves. After the light had struck them no light lived in their eyes, but they obeyed; that was all.
~ The World of the Dark Crystal

SkekTek is the Skeksi Scientist and one of the primary antagonists in the 1982 fantasy film The Dark Crystal and the 2019 Netflix prequel series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. He plays an important part in the story, since it is his job to drain captured Podlings and Gelflings of their life essence. This process turns the victims into slaves which perform the work at the Skeksis castle. His counterpart amongst the good hearted UrRu is UrTih the Alchemist.

Before the UrSkeks split, it was the Scientist who gave Aughra the most help in building her observatory. SkekTek later met his death when the animals in his laboratory retaliated with the help of Kira, pushing him into the shaft of the Dark Crystal, where he fell to his death. Sadly, this death also killed his UrRu counterpart as well.

In the film, he was performed and voiced by Steve Whitmire. In the 2019 Netflix prequel series, he is performed by Olly Taylor with Mark Hamill providing his voice, the latter who also played various versions of the Joker and Ozai from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Appearance

In pre-production notes for the film, SkekTek is "identified by his self-mutilated body, especially an artificial leg and bionic arm". His pale dark blue skin is held in place by a brace with metal bits, and his body is fed through chrome and plastic tubes. SkekTek's right eye is fitted with a telescopic eyepiece, as his true eye is revealed to have been gouged out by the Peeper Beetle.

Personality

He was partially feared by the other Skeksis, as they understood nothing of his barbaric work. SkekZok the Ritual Master even considered SkekTek to be a self-mutilating crank due to his fascination with anatomy, already have gone far to amputate one of his own arms and legs, replacing them with mechanized constructs, and also replacing his jugular vein with a transparent tube in order to monitor and study his own circulation. Despite this, he is also very pragmatic and self-contained, rarely allowing his emotional desires and impulses to cloud his better judgement. His emotional maturity gives him an edge over other Skeksis. However, he is physically the weakest of the Skeksis, causing him to bore the brunt of the others' frustration and suffering the largest amount of harassment and ridicule from his own kind.

Unable to fight back, he attempts to climb their hierarchy through scientific breakthroughs, though his productivity and usefulness usually grants him short-lived validity. He largely remains the group's punching bag and this frustration motivates him to take our his anger on the various animals and weaker sapient beings, which he uses as slaves and guinea pigs. Unlike standard vivisectors and animal researchers, he doesn't simply harm animals in the name of science but truly relishes the pain of his victims and enjoys the power he holds over weaker creatures. This suggests he is insecure and feels inadequate.

Role

SkekTek was one of the cruelest of the SkekSès. He had amputated his own right arm and right leg and replaced them with mechanical ones (however his original right hand was reattached to his metal arm). His missing right eye was replaced with a glowing bionic one.

It was his job to extract life essence from captured Gelflings, and later Podlings in his laboratory, the Chamber of Life.

Biography

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Following the failure of the Dark Crystal giving energy to the Skeksis, the Emperor SkekSo tasked SkekTek to immediately find a solution for the sudden predicament. However, the Scientist nearly died when he accidentally polarized it into extracting his essence, saved by SkekSil the Chamberlain's intervention. The Chamberlain then convinced SkekTek to re-purpose his assumed failure into a means for the Skeksis to nourish themselves on extracted life energy, simply by using the closest creature to Thra: the Gelfling. Taking on this advice, the Scientist found Mira, a Gelfling and member of the Castle Guard, in the forbidden catacombs and decided to use her as a test subject on his experiment. It eventually succeeded in draining Mira’s essence at the cost of her life; the other Skeksis who witnessed this soon gathered to consume the essence before SkekTek bottled the rest of it.

After being ordered to repair the machine when it overloaded from killing Mira, SkekTek locked her remaining essence in a cabinet with a locksnake before leaving temporarily, only to return and find SkekSil skulking within his lab. He questioned the latter's presence before the two of them smelled Rian and Gurjin (who are planning to steal the vial) hiding. The Scientist noticed the cabinet opened without the locksnake and interrogated the Chamberlain again, this time about the essence vial, to which SkekSil denies. Eventually eyeing the vial in SkekSil's hands, SkekTek gets into a violent confrontation with him; this gives Rian an advantage to steal it and escape. Both the Chamberlain and the Scientist chase after Rian and Gurjin, failing to capture the former but managing to catch the latter as Gurjin is later imprisoned in SkekTek's lab.

When the news of the essence vial's theft reached the other Skeksis, SkekSo holds court; SkekTek blamed SkekSil for Rian's escape with most agreeing that he ought to be punished. When questioned, the Chamberlain initially agrees that he is to blame and deserving of punishment. However, his story differs from reality: SkekSil claims that, had he arrived sooner, he could have stopped the Gelfling from stealing the vial. Despite the Scientist's protests, SkekSil weaves a tale wherein he tried to protect the vial until SkekTek attacked him and knocked it free of his grasp, providing the Gelfling an opportunity to snatch it and flee. This woven lie of his easily swayed the entire court into seeing the Chamberlain as innocent, and the Emperor decide to punish SkekTek, with SkekSil suggesting the peeper beetle as punishment. The Scientist then gets taken away by the Ritual Master SkekZok, who is conducting the castigation. Later, the punishment commences and SkekTek was brought forth with a semi-sentient cage that he was forced to wear; the other Skeksis chant in unison as the released peeper beetle gouges out his right eye.

Following that, SkekTek continued to work on repairing the machine, now having a mechanical prosthetic eye to replace his real missing one. The Chamberlain soon came in, and accompanying him are two Gruenaks meant to be given to the Scientist as a peace offering, to which SkekTek accepts. During the Skeksis' feast, SkekTek was locked in the Chamber of Life until the machine is completed; SkekSo later arrived to check on progress. Impressed to see the machine fully repaired, the Emperor asks how many Gelfling will be needed in order for the Skeksis to achieve immortality. When the Scientist hesitates, SkekSo threatens to kill his favorite pet Sidetic, convincing SkekTek to hazard a guess of 50 Gelfling each trine. SkekTek would later try to stop the General SkekVar from killing Gurjin by using the machine during an interrogation, blaming him when SkekSo came in for the General.

The Dark Crystal

SkekTek was first seen near the Emperor when the latter is on the verge of death. As SkekSil came near, the Scientist told him that SkekSo's not dead yet. Following SkekSo's death, SkekTek later supported SkekUng the Garthim Master as the new emperor of the Skeksis.

When the Chamberlain captured Kira, the Scientist took her into the Chamber of Life where he prepared to drain her essence - as Gelfling essence was more potent than Podling.

At the urging of Aughra, held captive there, Kira use her ability to communicate with wildlife to summon the help of the hundreds of animals the Scientist kept caged in his lab. Swarmed and attacked by the animals, the Scientist stumbled backwards and fell through the opening in the chamber wall, and down the fiery shaft to his death. His demise resulted in the simultaneous death of his Mystic counterpart, the Alchemist. Had both lived to see the Great Conjunction, they would have combined to create the UrSkek TekTih.

Quotes

The Dark Crystal

This won't hurt. We just want to drain your living essence. Then you can be the same as the other Podlings here: a slave.
~ SkekTek to a captive Podling.
(sees the Podling in a semi-catatonic state) Yes! And now the beam will rid you of your fears, your thoughts. Your vital essence.
~ SkekTek further explaining the Crystal's power to the now drained Podling.
It always worked better when we used Gelflings.
But sire, you could drink her essence.
~ SkekTeh suggesting to SkekUng about draining Kira's essence.
No! No!!
~ SkekTek's last words before his death.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

SkekTek: Chamberlain!
SkekSil: Scientist.
SkekTek: Explain this nefarious intrusion.
SkekSil: I, I came looking for you. Hm.
SkekTek: Is that correct?
SkekSil: Yes! The Emperor sent me to retrieve update on broken machine, yes? More essence yet?
[…]
SkekTek: Will be soon. Very soon.
~ SkekTek and SkekSil when the latter recently trespasses the Scientist's lab.
SkekSil: How is friend SkekTek? Good? Emperor is very displeased that machine is not yet fixed. I urge patience. Explain your loss of eye slows you.
SkekTek: My eye is better than ever! I require no further assistance from you, SkekSil.
SkekSil: But if it wasn't for me, Emperor would have taken more than eye. I want your machine to succeed, SkekTek. I want what is best for all Skeksis. You must see that, yes?
SkekTek: I do not have time for your gormless distractions, you slippery... What are those?
SkekSil: Gruenaks. These are gifts. SkekTek: But I thought we had eradicated them.
SkekSil: These are survivors found by Sifan mariners. They are mechanically minded and surprisingly strong.
SkekTek: You've sewn their mouths shut?
SkekSil: Mmm... Perfect for keeping secrets, yes? So, we are friends? All is forgiven?
SkekTek: It's a start.
~ SkekSil and SkekTek settle their dispute.
What is this? Mutiny! (Gruenak: No. No slave!) How dare you threaten me?! I am SkekTek the Scientist! I am the master of life and death! I am a genius! I am a Lord of the Crystal!! I! AM! SKEKSIS!!! [screams]
~ SkekTek's mental breakdown before he attacks his Gruenak slaves.
My lords, my lords. Hope is not lost. I have a solution to all of our problems. An ingenious combination of Gruenak and Arathim. I call it: Garthim!
~ SkekTek as he informs the other Skeksis of his creation.

Trivia

  • It has been stated that the Scientist altered the slaves' vocal cords to fit them for the castle choir.
  • Because of his and UrTih the Alchemist's simultaneous deaths, they both never made an appearance in the "Power of the Dark Crystal" sequel comics.
  • His death is different in A.C.H. Smith's novelization and the comic book; in the former he falls through the door to the shaft lunging at Aughra in an attempt to kill her, and in the latter he falls into a random, flaming pit instead of the castle shaft.
  • SkekTek's telescopic eyepiece in the 1982 film, behind production, is actually a 1978 die cast Tie Fighter toy from Star Wars.
  • Steve Whitmire later used a voice similar to SkekTek's for Marlon Fraggle.

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