Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Childhood's End 1.1: Familiar Territory

The first of the three-part Childhood's End mini-series began on the SyFy Channel tonight with a statement that Arthur C. Clarke's 1954 novel of that name changed and influenced science fiction for decades.   That's true.   When I read the novel a few years after its publication, it certainly changed my view of science fiction, making it more relevant to human life than even the great works by Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, which I still enjoyed more.  But the quietly breathtaking revelations of Childhood's End and the questions they raised were not to be matched.

The problem, though, as far as tonight's mini-series is concerned, was the pervasiveness of the influence of Childhood's End and its story of an alien visitation on Earth - a pervasiveness in all forms of science fiction, but especially on the television screen.  Damon Knight's "To Serve Man" on The Twilight Zone a few years later, The Invaders with Roy Thinnes the next decade, V at its beginning and best in decades after that, all drew upon the story of Childhood's End in different and memorable ways.   And that, inevitably, makes Childhood's End on television tonight less original, and therefore a little less compelling than it was as a novel in 1954.

Still, it was pretty good.  I knew the truth of what the Overlords looked like, but their unveiling was still a strong moment, and I'd imagine especially so and more so for anyone who hadn't read the novel.   I'm interested enough to see where this goes, and if the mini-series diverges in any way from the novel, whose ending was something that I didn't much like back then.

But it will be tough going.  Unlike The Man in the High Castle, whose daring, stunning alternate history was something we haven't seen at all on any television screen, Childhood's End is too familiar, too reminiscent of too many science fiction motifs, to be great - at least, so far.  And we'll see how the next two days go.

See also Childhood's End 1.2: Losing My Religion and Childhood's End 1.3: Literally


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