Childhood’s End Review: “The Deceivers” and “The Children”

The adaptation of Clarke’s classic novel continues with “The Deceivers” and ends with “The Children.”

No, really. The Star Wars review is coming.

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.

Premise:

The Overlords oversee an era of world peace and prosperity, but they’re hiding something, and the secret lies with the next– and last– generation of human beings.

High Point:

They remained true enough to Clarke’s vision, giving us a story in which the glory of human fallibility and the inevitable triumph of the human spirit (as we understand those things) are not the point at all.

Low Point:

When Clarke wrote the novel in the early 1950s, parapsychology was becoming a serious field, with scientists in the United States and USSR, in particular, studying psychic phenomena. As he wrote in later introductions, the promises of the field did not hold up to scrutiny. Likewise, the notion that evolution has a direction has no place in contemporary science. So we’re left with a classic SF novel heavily based on badly dated concepts.

The miniseries replaces some of these concepts with even more intrusive Overlords and Overmind, missing explanations1, and heightened religious/supernatural iconography. The changes don’t entirely serve Clarke’s story, and they make what was ambivalent merely confusing.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 The changes to Clarke’s novel aren’t consistently improvements, but they do make the second and third parts seem more original than the first.

Effects: 5/6 The mini-series features some fascinating images. Only the visuals of the Overlords’ homeworld felt disappointing.

Acting: 5/6 Osy Ikhile does especially well in his last scenes, which could easily have been overwrought.

Production: 5/6 The show managed to create a good deal on a limited budget.

Story: 4/6

Emotional Response: 5/6 We don’t consistently know the characters whose fates are supposed to affect us, and the missing/changed information from the novel blunts the effect the conclusion should have.

The final scenes with the “working class prophet” were well-handled.

Overall: 5/6

In total, Childhood’s End, Parts Two and Three receive 31/42.

Note

1. Incredibly, the explanation for the Overlords’ demonic appearance gets buried and only partially explained.

7 replies on “Childhood’s End Review: “The Deceivers” and “The Children””

  1. J_W_W says:

    You are far too kind. The last episode of this miniseries was garbage. Utter drek. The working class prophet ended up like a used Kleenex tossed aside after the Overlords were done with him. The children became what? They didn’t explian a damn thing. They just disappeared. If they moved to a higher plain of existence then why the hell did they need to destroy (erase in fact) everything?

    There’s nothing left at the end (oh yeah there’s a song, ugh ). This show should have been the last 15 minutes. That’s all that was needed. A six hour miniseries just wasted my time. The concept they wanted to get across “what if nothing matters” is short story material, not epic miniseries stuff.

    Emotional impact: 0/6 or is that -6:6

    I hated this show at least in the end. I had each of the parts recorded and was encouraging my family to watch it, right up to that useless awful hideous ending. I told them the ending was total crap and deleted the whole thing.

  2. J_W_W says:

    The Force Awakens on the other hand was pretty awesome.

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      It sounds like it had a significant emotional impact, even if it wasn’t the one they were going for.

      They stuck pretty close to Clarke’s premise, but explained it poorly. Basically, all sentient beings eventually develop psychic powers and outgrow their bodies. That generation then merges with the Overmind, a process which (I think) requires they drain energy from their world, and so their world gets destroyed. The human race doesn’t so much disappear as it evolves into a higher state, but this is indeed a bittersweet thing from our point of view. The Overlords lack psychic ability, and will never ascend, so the Overmind uses them to safely guide the process, which is inevitable, but can develop complications (not really handled at all in the mini-series). They look like demons because some kind of psychic trauma, a past awareness of their role, has rippled back in time, and we based our concept of demons on the premonition of our own end. It sounds better in the novel, but that summary is close to what occurs, minus the nuance and such, some of which was caught by the mini-series. Also, the reports from the last man (in the novel, at least), also help the Overlords, who lack the ability to truly understand the process they oversee and want to understand it). Close enough, ACC fans?

      • J_W_W says:

        Yeah they totally wiffed if that was what they were trying to explain in the miniseries. I don’t think they explained any of that.

        • JD DeLuzio says:

          Evidently, you chose an inopportune time to go for popcorn.
          As far as the physical appearance of the Overlords goes, you literally could miss the explanation that easily.

          The rest is there… sort of…See “Low Points.”

          • J_W_W says:

            No, I saw the bit I think you are referring to.! That exlplaination was cold and meaningless.

            All in all mankind was moving to a higher plane of existance where individuality seemed to go bye bye and the coalesced energy being just sat around waiting for the next species to absorb. i.e. the overmind isn’t given IMHO more value than humanity.

      • J_W_W says:

        Yeah, I guess there was emotional impact. Pissed off is an emotion. ;-)

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