“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” ~ Arthur C. Clarke
Now that SyFy’s 3-part miniseries based on the iconic book Childhood’s End has concluded, here are some thoughts (spoilers ahead):
As I wrote a couple days ago, my biggest fear was that the network was going to screw it up. They did not. Being one of my favorite disturbing sci-fi books, the last thing I wanted to see was a big-budget raping of the original material.
What we did see these past three nights was a thoughtful updating and augmentation of the original source material. My only quibble with the changes SyFy introduced was that the original timeline was so radically reduced, but I understand why it was done. In the book, an entire generation passed before the Overlords revealed their physical form to humanity; not a mere ten years as in the adaptation.
And for good reason:
While even a generation’s time would not completely erase the emotional baggage associated with the Overlord’s appearance, I feel a mere ten years would provide no psychological buffer whatsoever.
The fact that the Overlords’ “demonic” appearance conjures such primal fear raises the question as to what traumatic encounter the Overlords had with Humanity in the distant past to prompt such a reaction. But as it was explained, the fear experienced by Humans was not due to a racial memory, but a racial premonition of their role in humanity’s metamorphosis.
(I also had envisioned the Overlords’ ships more in the style of what was presented in the “V” miniseries, but that’s a very minor point.)
While a myriad of small details were changed from the original story (such as the hotel suite where Stormgren—who was actually the head of the United Nations in the book, and not a mere “blue collar emmisary” in the miniseries—finds himself during his initial encounters with Karellen), SyFy still did an excellent job of bringing Clarke’s book to life, retaining the overall plot and all the major themes. Even when new facets were added to the story to make it more timely, they were integrated seamlessly and logically. So good was the storytelling that I actually had to go back and read the novel again to see what had been changed (apart from what I had remembered) and discovered I actually liked what SyFy had done in many cases.
The only other thing I have to add to this is that based on what’s happening in our world today, IMHO the Overlords cannot arrive soon enough and will close this with some gratuitous Mike Vogel as Ricky Stormgren for your viewing pleasure, because why the hell not?