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Villain Overview

SkekZok the Ritual-Master was thought to hold all control of the life of the court in his own hands. He had the ear of the emperor, whose wishes were absolute; none could hope for success except through SkekZok. The other Skeksis he sought to control through the prophecies he invented, the false apparitions he conjured. Too late he found that the Emperor raised favorites only to enjoy the pleasure of their fall, caring for them not at all; and that the other Skeksis all practiced their own secret divinations, which they trusted above his.
~ The World of the Dark Crystal

SkekZok is the court Ritual Master for the race of Skeksis and the secondary antagonist in the 1982 film The Dark Crystal. His Mystic counterpart is UrZah, the Ritual-Guardian.

In the film, he was portrayed by the late Jim Henson, with the late Jerry Nelson providing his voice. In the 2019 Netflix prequel series, he is performed by Victor Yerrid with Keegan-Michael Key providing his voice, the latter who also plays Pupa from Let's Be Cops, Wolf Alpha from Storks, Kamari from The Lion King, and Gustafson in Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.

Appearance

The Ritual Master is referred to in production notes and the screen credits as the High Priest. He is notably the tallest of the Skeksis, with "a skull-like head and pale blue hypnotic eyes." SkekZok wears an elaborate golden robe with a large collar and a pellegrina cloak; his regalia is all adorned with golden crescent ornaments and a red interior. He is mostly seen donning a large hook-like horn-shaped hat with an ornate base.

Personality

SkekZok has a proud and pompous demeanor, and was the most zealous of the Skeksis, viewing their laws and rules as absolute and immutable. Like SkekOk, he behaved much more diplomatically than other Skeksis like SkekVar or SkekLach when in the presence of Gelfling allies, disapproving of his less cultured comrade's disregard for etiquette. Enamored with pomp and ceremony, he saw any event favorable to the Skeksis as an opportunity to invent a new ritual.

He was equally enthusiastic in dispensing punishments, boasting that he had a knife reserved for the sole purpose of skinning skekTek alive and taunting him when he was subjected to the Peeper beetle. After tasting Gelfling essence, he became much less guarded when a new batch was imminent, uncharacteristically licking his lips in full view of his unsuspecting victims. After the death of SkekSo, SkekZok became less jovial and more single minded in his quest to exterminate the Gelflings, demanding their immediate extermination rather than harvesting them for their essence. He resented being made subordinate to the new emperor SkekUng, and took every opportunity to tacitly question his authority.

Role

SkekZok was the Skeksis High Priest, his status among the Skeksis being gained through lies and invented prophecies. Upon the death of Emperor SkekSo, the Ritual Master finds that the other Skeksis practice their own divinations which they trust above his. It was the High Priest who led the Skeksis in their daily rituals of drawing power from the Dark Crystal, and he also enforced Skeksis law and served as the Emperor's advisor. SkekZok's ritual dagger is what caused the short-lived death of Kira the Gelfling.

Biography

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

When the Dark Crystal failed to emit its rejuvenating energies, SkekZok was the one particularly fearful of this nonperformance, going so far as to say they would all die if nothing was done to fix this. He attended SkekTek's demonstration of the use of Gelfling essence to restore the Skeksis' youth, and is the first to notice Rian, who had witnessed the grim deed.

SkekZok later took the lead of preparing the Scientist's apparent punishment after believing SkekTek to be responsible for letting Rian to escape with the essence vial. Appreciating SkekSil's suggestion of using a Peeper beetle as a castigation, he escorted SkekTek out and, after performing the ritual preceding the punishment itself, assured the Scientist that his pain would last for a brief time.

The Dark Crystal

After witnessing SkekSo dying and having to lead the funeral, SkekZok became the advisor of the Garthim-Master and General SkekUng following the latter's ascension as Emperor when he wins the Trial by Stone. The Ritual Master had SkekSil banished from the Castle of the Crystal due to losing the challenge, and is among the Skeksis who are mortified of Jen's (a surviving Gelfling) presence. SkekZok later send out the Crystal Bats when the Garthim failed to capture the Gelfling.

When Kira was captured by the Chamberlain, the Ritual Master advocated in killing her, as they were sworn to kill all Gelflings on account of the Prophecy. To his consternation, the General-Emperor instead heeded the advice of the Scientist, that they should drain Kira's life essence first. However, he promised him they would kill her after.

Later, during the ceremony of the Great Conjunction, Kira (who had escaped the Scientist) and her fellow Gelfling Jen appeared. When Kira picked up the dropped shard and threw it to Jen, it was the High Priest who stabbed her in the back with a dagger, killing her. Shortly afterward, when the Skeksis and Mystics recombined, the High Priest joined with the Ritual Guardian to form the UrSkek ZokZah.

Quotes

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

SkekVar: The Emperor will skin the Scientist alive if this fails.
SkekZok: I have just the knife for such an occasion.
~ SkekZok to SkekVar.

The Dark Crystal

Now! By the law, he must pay!
~ SkekZok declaring SkekSil's loss from Trial by Stone.
Kill her! We are sworn to kill all Gelfling!
~ SkekZok suggesting to kill Kira the Gelfling.
(SkekTek: But sire, you could drink her essence.) Because of the prophecy, we must kill the Gelfling! (SkekUng: No! First we take her essence, then kill!)
~ SkekZok suggesting his proposition again, only for SkekUng to agree to SkekTek's instead first.

Trivia

  • The novelization of the film by A.C.H. Smith depicts SkekZok as being power hungry and constantly plotting to overthrow SkekUng after the latter became emperor. This is in direct contradiction to the film wherein SkekZok seems uninterested in taking the throne for himself, and allies himself with SkekUng early (despite SkekUng's refusal to heed his advice).
  • According to pre-production notes from the film, the Ritual Master was influenced by Rasputin, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Bishop Sheen and Eric von Stroheim, and of having robes and relics evocative of those seen in the 1944 Soviet film Ivan the Terrible and the 19th century Russian opera Boris Godunov.
  • In the Marvel Comics adaptation, SkekZok's hat is incorrectly drawn as being part of his head.

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