Magazine article Variety

Childhood's End

Magazine article Variety

Childhood's End

Article excerpt

Childhood's End

MINISERIES: Syfy, Mon.-Wed. Dec. 14-16,8 p.m.

WRITER: Matthew Graham

STARRING: Charles Dance, Mike Vogel, Daisy Betts

Published in 1953, Arthur C, Clarke's "Childhood's End" has flummoxed attempts to put the story on screen, doubtless heightening anticipation for this six-hour adaptation that Syfy will air over three successive nights. Yet given the bleakness and cerebral nature of Clarke's book about visiting aliens, human evolution and the price of utopia, the filmmakers have, not surprisingly, rounded several edges and sought to bring more emotion to the characters. However purists receive the changes, the result is a provocative but not fully satisfying science-fiction vision, complicated in part by all the movies the novel influenced that were produced in between.

Stanley Kubrick, notably, was among those who considered taking a whack at Clarke's book, before turning his attention to what became "2001: A Space Odyssey." The themes in both certainly overlap, with alien visitors, known as the Overlords, coming to an Earth riven by war, general unrest and climate change (the story has been brought into contemporary times), offering to spare mankind from those ills.

That news is delivered to understandably skeptical humans by Karellen (Charles Dance, fresh off "Game of Thrones," and a splendid casting choice). Identified as the supervisor for Earth, he explains his mission as follows: "We're not conquerors. We're enablers. We're going to help you change." With apologies to "The Twilight Zone," at least he didn't say, "To serve man."

In one early departure from the book, instead of choosing the secretary general of the United Nations as his conduit, Karellen picks a Missouri farmer (Mike Vogel), presented as a kind of Everyman to help the Overlords demonstrate their benign intentions. While Clarke abandoned characters as the story spanned decades, this TV version tries to remain more cohesive, in part by truncating the timeline, which creates some awkwardness in stringing together those slightly disjointed plots.

Those include, but aren't limited to, a skeptical scientist (Osy Ikhile) eager to study what the Overlords really have in store, even as human curiosity and inquiry begins to fade; and a family whose children begin behaving strangely, drawing inordinate attention from a famous scientist (Julian McMahon) who aims to do Karellen's bidding. …

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