A three-part mini-series based on the science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End tells the story of an alien invasion on modern-day Earth. The aliens present themselves to humans by taking the form of a deceased loved one and calling themselves The Overlords. Karellen (Charles Dance) is the supervisor for Earth and carefully chose Ricky Stormgren (Mike Vogel) as their liaison/prophet on Earth, frequently meeting with Ricky to discuss how to fix all the world’s problems although he never reveals his physical appearance. Over the next few years Karrellen and Ricky bring about world peace, eradicate famine and poverty and discover cures for most known diseases. Oh what a glorious time to be alive! All this loveliness only came at the cost of human creativity, scientific thirst and all concept of religion. Naturally The Overlords pissed certain minorities off, especially those who placed their faith in God (this is an American production so no other religion is mentioned). Another key character is Milo Rodricks (Osy Ikhile), who is confined to a wheelchair when he is introduced to the audience and ends up being shot to death by a drug dealer, but then The Overlords cast their wonderful bright light down on upon him. This heals the damage done by the bullet and sorts out whatever was wrong with his legs. Milo is around eleven at the time and grows up to have relentless curiosity about all things, The Overlords specifically.
The first episode sets up the driving narrative well. The Overlord’s refusal to show themselves to the humans brings about the rise in an extremist faction headed by Wainwright (Colm Meaney) who believe that The Overlords intend to destroy the human race, regardless of all the great things that they have provided for Earth. Despite their nonconformist attitude and efforts, the majority rules. The Overlords are here to help and develop a utopia for all to safely exist in. Some years later Karrellen decides the time is right for mankind to see what he looks like. The humans go crazy for this as they’ve been waiting literally years for this to happen. Massive gathering to witness this historic event, with those who can’t be there are watching on their televisions at home. Bright lights and smoke billowing, akin to an episode of Stars in Their Eyes; “well tonight Matthew, Karrellen is going to be a 15ft Lucifer!”. That’s right; the wonderful mind that brought about this divine paradise is the fucking devil. Or looks like him at the very least. Shit. The. Bed.
There isn’t that much of a backlash at Karrellen’s appearance, which is disappointing as a viewer because that in itself is a solid plot. “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” And here he is! Hoodwinked the world into a false sense of security and now he’s here to piss all over the parade…but not quite. No he just looks like the devil and isn’t actually Beelzebub. And no one really cares. Great. Thanks for that pointless bit of subplot. Well one person cares; Peretta Jones (Yael Stone) has invested all her life in God so she takes a shotgun and blows the fuck out of Karrellen. Again pointless as Ricky uses some alien injection to resurrect him. I think I’m trailing off point…
The story as a whole is decent and a highly interesting concept, however it is poorly executed. Considering each episode has a run time of nearly an hour and a half, there is a hell of a lot crap that isn’t overly necessary. Especially as the character development is fairly non-existent. No one cares if humankind becomes extinct because the characters aren’t all that likeable and the audience doesn’t get enough time or effort to become emotionally invested. Milo gets a girlfriend then leaves her to follow Karrellen to his home planet (it takes 88 years to travel there). Who cares? He didn’t seem that keen anyway. Ricky dies? Not important, as after the first episode he becomes redundant. There’s a girl born called Jessica that has some strange control over other children? Oh well. All the kids float off into the sky not long after she’s introduced anyway. My point is that this could have been a thousand times better if the leading characters had had more opportunity to fashion connection with the audience.
Dir: Nick Hurran
Scr: Matthew Graham
Cast: Mike Vogel, Osy Ikhile, Yael Stone, Daisy Betts, Charles Dance, Julian McMahon, Colm Meaney
Prd: Kevin Blank
Run time: 90 minutes
Childhood’s End is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.