Review: Childhood’s End: The Overlords

Several proposed adaptations of Arthur C. Clarke’s seminal SF novel have gone nowhere; a six-hour television adaptation finally airs this week.

We’re going to review the first part today, and the remainder at the end of the week, where, admittedly, the response may be overwhelmed by the focus on a certain flashier, though less cerebral SF film.

Director: Nick Hurran
Writers: Matthew Graham, from the novel by Arthur C. Clarke

Mike Vogel as Ricky Stormgren
Daisy Betts as Ellie
Lachlan Roland-Kenn as Tom Greggson
Colm Meaney as Wainwright
Charles Dance as Karellen
Jacob Holt as Young Jake
Osy Ikhile as Milo
Shane Leckenby as Clinic
Hayley Magnus as Amy
Julian McMahon as Rupert Boyce
Yael Stone as Peretta
Ashley Zukerman as Jake Greggson
Rebecca Bower as June
Charlotte Nicdao as Rachel Osaka

Full credits available at the imdb.


Aliens arrive on earth and offer to help us, but many people worry about the cost—especially as the Overlords refuse to show themselves.

High Points

The first part does a good job of showing the wide range of responses to the Overlords, and keeping the audience uncertain about whose side we should support.

The Freedom League are fanatics, but they make awesome commercials.

Low Point

The mirror and camera business, which more-or-less comes directly from the novel, still seems a little silly.

Given the number of necessary updates and debatable but inevitable revisions to Clarke’s novel, why did they insist on keeping the faux-generic use of “Man” to reference the human race?

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 Apart from adapting a classic novel, Childhood’s End: The Overlords inevitably resembles the numerous other treatments of this kind of story (Clarke has cast long shadows). Of course, those who have read the novel know that it won’t quite end like any of them.

Many of the modifications to the original text work as reasonable updates, and imbue the adaptation with elements of originality. The changes to Stormgren, however, make him a most conventional sort of American media character.

Finally, is the juxtaposition of “What a Wonderful World” and dark imagery a trope at this point?

Effects: 5/6 The effects were decent, if uneven. I wonder if the depiction of the Overlords is perhaps a bit too literal. Do they have to look exactly like a medieval demon to fit Clarke’s premise? Other artists have kept true to the premise without going quite so over-the-top.
Nevertheless, Karellen makes a great visual for the mind-warping conclusion to Part One.

Acting: 5/6

Emotional Response: 5/6

Story: 4/6 Like its source, The Overlords begins slowly, but concludes with a fascinating pay-off.

Production: 5/6

Overall: 5/6

In total, Childhood’s End: The Overlords receives 31/42

Lingering Questions:

Partial spoilers for a book published more than half a century ago:
The opening hook deliberately misleads. Does it nevertheless reveal too much in the interest of an obvious hook?

Also, refer back to my question under “Effects.”

One reply

  1. Well that sucked. They could have saved me a lot of time had they not flashed back after the scientist opens up the miniseries with his monologue. They should have just kept going and played the last 15 minutes of the show.

    After all, nothing that happened in those intervening few hours mattered for squat anyway. And don’t say its about the story of those people. The whole point of the entire freaking show was that nothing matters and we aren’t allowed to be told why.

    Sorely disappointed in this miniseries.

    I much prefer the star child from 2001 to the children in this.

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