Childhood’s End

SF elements: aliens, overmind, spooky children

2015 / TV

3 × 90 min episodes


Alien Overlords arrive at Earth, and impose an era peace and prosperity. But at what cost? Why do they stay hidden? And why does everyone start wearing blue pastel clothing?

This three part Syfy mini-series is based on Arthur C. Clarke’s 1954 novel of the same name. I ranked the book 1 (unmissable) and this as 4 (mind candy). Why the difference?

Pacing. I could have re-read the book in less time than it took for this glacial production. Yes despite the slow pace, there was much left unexplained: why was drippy Ricky chosen as the spokesperson (there was some attempt to show him being good at this kind of thing, but it failed to be in the least bit convincing, either before and after the alien arrival); what was Wainwright up to other than blustering; why did everyone stop their conflicts (except when they didn’t for the plot; okay, we know that violence backfires, but not all conflicts are violent); why did all the scientists bar one just give up; and more.


Age. I read the book several decades ago, and its concepts were new, mind-blowing, scary, and exciting. I probably wouldn’t have the same reaction to it now, having read a lot more SF in the interim. I might even find it clichéd, and ravaged by the Suck Fairy. Watching the TV series with all that intervening SFnal background, I found it stodgy, unconvincing, and full of plot holes. (So, these all-powerful aliens can make something to cure Ricky, having recklessly made him sick in the first place, but have only one dose of it, despite having cured everyone else on Earth.) And Charles Dance’s Karellen make-up seems to be channelling Tim Curry’s Lord of Darkness in Legend (with somewhat smaller horns) more than being truly scarily demonic. Maybe an eight-foot tall, bright red, horned, bat-winged alien would have terrified people in 1954, but by now we’ve seen much much worse.

Events from the book were updated for the TV series: global warming, oil crises, and more. But maybe the central premise just couldn’t be updated? Today we would be much more sceptical of mysterious concealed “saviours from space”.

Rating: 4
[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 17 September 2016