Childhoods End is a staple within the science fiction world. It has influenced much of the science fiction we see today from Knowing to V. Before I get into a review of this miniseries I must give the caveat to readers that I had not read the book prior to seeing the miniseries. I fell like I missed out on something that made so many other films make more sense after watching this. I also understand that Syfy took some liberties with the book as you often see with TV or film adaptions. So expect this to be only from the point of view of the miniseries and not as a book reader.
Syfy has a history with miniseries and for the most part that history is very good. From Taken to Tin Man, Syfy has produced some brilliant miniseries projects over the years and Childhood’s End is another one that they had to be careful with. This is the first time the book has been translated on screen. Previous attempts were stopped due to the high budgets that were expected with a film adaptation.
Syfy split the series into 3 parts covering the same three distinct time periods within the novel: The Overlords, The Golden Age and The Last Generation (though Syfy gave them slightly different names). Part one covers the initial arrival and reveal of the overlords and their true form. The idea that the arrival of an alien species would result in near instant world peace is far fetched to say the least. And perhaps Arthur C. Clarke had some inkling of what our world would look like over 50 years later, but that first part resonated with our current era quite a bit and that made Syfy’s timing all the more convenient.
The ending hit the series home in respect to what Clarke was going for with the series. That emptiness and sorrow felt when humanity realized it could do nothing to prevent their complete destruction in such a short time frame. And while in some way it might have been a comfort that the children would survive, the parents simply couldn’t fathom their lives without their children.
The most interesting thing missing that was in the book, was when Milo said at the end how had humanity already feared the Overlords appearance? What interaction in the past did humanity have that would result in their relation of demonic beings to the Overlords. Karellen’s response was it was not a past encounter but a premonition of the Overlords role in humanities transformation and destruction echoing back in time.
Like it or hate it, this mini-series goes into the win column for Syfy overall. Their best casting pick was by far Karellen, played by Charles Dance. Game Of Thrones fans just wanted to hate him from the start due to his character in that series but right before the end feel sorry for him and the role Karellen plays in each planets destruction.
We give Childhoods End a solid 4/5. It wasn’t perfect in its timing trying to compress some larger story arcs into its short 3 episode setup resulted in a few areas of rushed story. V for example spawned 5 1 hour mini-series episodes plus a single season TV series which rounded out the entire story. Childhoods End would have worked out better as a 8-10 episode, 1 hour per episode, series that could have better explored some of the side stories it introduced but didn’t expand on.
If you have read the book, we would love your comments below to tell us what you liked or disliked with Syfy’s adaptation of the novel.
Recap – Childhoods End
Syfy manages to tease us through the first 2 hours about what the Overlords look like while keeping a sense of false security hidden just under the surface as humanity drank the kool-aid of technological advances and longer healthier lives. As expected there is always a few people who question just what the intention of these Overlords is and factions begin to form who simply don’t want what the Overlords are offering.
During the Golden Age, the creep factor hits a high note as the children start to change and act strangely. It seems that nobody else but a select few around them seem to notice the changes and reality begins to set in as the Overlords tell humanity that they are preparing the way for their successors. Meantime a single scientist with a never end thrust for answers is the only person who truly goes to extreme lengths to question the overlords intentions and dig into what is happening with the children.
Parts of the ‘Golden Age’ episode and the final “Last Generation” episode are slow and drag on a bit. There are parts of the book that are compressed (according to fans of the book) that result in some clunky transitions but overall the movement into the final episode is eery and depressing as it ends. As humanity finally learns that their children are the last generation of humanity and that they will be taken away leaving the adults to live out the remainder of the lives alone is frightening. New Athens ends up blowing itself up. Millions of parents around the world just give up after their children are taken. Rodricks snuck on to the alien ship headed to Karellen’s home planet with a shipment of animals and was able to learn about their species and exactly what their plans were for earth.
The ‘overmind’ showed Karellen and his people the way of aiding other planets into enlightenment, evolving their people to join the Overmind; A vast cosmic intelligence, born of amalgamated ancient civilizations, and freed from the limitations of material existence. Karellen’s kind is at an evolutionary dead end and cannot join the Overmind, though it is never explained as to why. They serve the Overmind as a bridge between other races who will eventually join with the Overmind.
Heading back to earth Rodricks realizes he is the last of humanity. Over 80 years have passed since he left and nobody he remembered was left. Only the children in their new form were isolated slowly changing the planet. The Overlords offered to take him with and remain with them to study other races as they continue their mission in aiding the Overmind but Milo couldn’t bring himself to remain the only human left in the universe. So he decided he would aid the Overlords by remaining on earth during its destruction and report back what he saw. Something the Overlords found very valuable as they continue their efforts to find a way to join the Overmind.