After repeated attempts at making the Arthur C Clarke novel "Childhood's End" into a live-action movie, it is finally premiering as a TV show on Syfy. Three episodes of the show will be aired on back-to-back days starting with Monday, 14 December, and will be treated as a mini-series.
"Childhood's End" will feature Mike Vogel as Ricky Stromgren, Julian McMahon as Dr. Rupert Boyce, Charles Dance as Karellen and Yael Stone as Peretta Jones, and the plot is spread across the solar system. It speaks of an extra-terrestrial utopian society that promises our world that it will end inequality, injustice and war.
Here is a review round-up for the mini-series, which features three episodes titled "Night One: The Overlords", "Night Two: The Deceivers" and "Night Three: The Children" respectively.
The story has been tweaked, as all novels must be when turned into television, and it's been brought into the present (Clarke's jumping-off point was the Cold War space race), but the depth and ambition are still there. As it opens, Earth is visited by an armada from space, with the aliens parking giant ships over the planet's capital cities. But this is no hostile invasion, at least from appearances: The visitors get humanity's attention by doing things like gently lowering airplanes from the sky and sending trusted deceased loved ones to explain to the living what's going on.
At times the production can seem underbudgeted, the direction overwrought. Here and there, the dialogue sounds as if it had been written by an alien who picked up English from broadcasts of B-pictures. ("This is not about us; this is about the whole damn world." "You're my whole damn world." Or: "I don't know about you, Paul, but these guys don't give the warm fuzzies.") As the series' resident alien, Charles Dance — both as a disembodied and later an elaborately embodied, commanding voice — gets the best of this business.
Childhood's End is worth watching, and it's easy to get drawn in as its mysteries unfold. Certain revelations are even gasp-worthy. Others less so. But while the series' premise is positively dripping with ill portend, it ultimately fails at creating the right atmosphere to properly pace those obvious tensions. The Overlords appear to have found the right way to placate humanity for their own goals, but Arthur C. Clarke's material hasn't quite found its right home on screen yet. Still, to paraphrase a plea from Ikhile's Milo that starts the series: just because it has flaws doesn't mean it should be ignored.
I look at the shows from earlier this year as Syfy saying, "give us another look." Now with Childhood's End, their other debuts, and the second seasons of those series, Syfy is showing a confidence we haven't seen since the Battlestar Galactica days. There's a new strut in their step, and it's displayed through hard science fiction. It's told in silence. It's a journey for fans to take with characters, instead of to simply observe. It's brilliant, and I can't wait for more.
Watch "Childhood's End" premiere live at 8.00 pm(EST) on Monday, 14 December or you can live stream "Night One: The Overlords" via Syfy Live.