Mini-Series Review: CHILDHOOD’S END

by T. Mack

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I gave this show three nights and six hours. At the end, I had some serious feels over what I’d just sat through. It’s my great desire to share those feelings with you, but it’s hard to do so without giving away some possible spoils. So, here’s what I’m going to do. This review will be in two parts. The first part will be completely spoiler-free. The second will be less so. I promise not to tell you the ending outright, but there’s a (very) good chance you’ll have it figured out by the time I’ve finished my rant.


WELCOME TO THE SPOILER-FREE PORTION OF OUR PROGRAM:


 

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This week, Syfy network aired their three-night, six-hour mini-series event, Childhood’s End. The show is based on the classic 1953 science-fiction book of the same name by Arthur C. Clarke. Both the book and television show tell the story of a peaceful alien invasion. The aliens show up, park themselves in the sky, and announce that they are there to usher in the golden age of man. Though it will be years before they show themselves, in the meantime, they eradicate war, famine, and disease through indirect supervision over the planet. The story unfolds in three parts, with the first pulling you in and the other two keeping you sufficiently hooked until the end.

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The acting in the series was good. While most of the cast are not well-known household names, they all did an excellent job. Even the child actors in the series were convincing… and convincingly creepy at times. The series had good production value and relied little on special effects. I appreciated that, because the fact is that no special effects is much preferable to bad special effects.

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I have not read Clarke’s book. Before last week, I’d not even heard of it. So the story that unfolded was new to me, mysterious and intriguing. It captured my attention and imagination, but also brought up questions of what defines utopia and the cost that is worth paying for it. It was interesting to see how the lives of the central characters are all affected differently by the same events and eventually connect, even if only in the way that all human life is affected by what happens to our planet.

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I’d recommend this mini-series for fans of classic science-fiction stories. If you dig on H.G. Wells (The Time Machine, War of the Worlds), George  Orwell (1984), or Orson Scott Card (The Ender’s Game series), you will likely enjoy this show. If you’re more into the humorous, lighthearted and fun science-fiction of Douglas Adams (The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Terry Pratchet (The Discworld Series), and anything Doctor Who, this six-hour investment may not be for you.

Rating: 3 SHIELDS

3 SG Shields

To avoid spoilers, skip past the next section to check out the trailer for this series.


NOW FOR MORE DETAILS ON MY FEELS & POSSIBLE SPOILERS:


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Do you remember the first time you watched American Beauty? The first thing that happens is that Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) tells us he’s dead. And yet, when his death later takes place, we find ourselves shocked and a bit disappointed. We can’t even understand why. He told us he was dead. We knew he was going to die. And yet, we still catch all the feels when it happens.

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Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham in ‘American Beauty’

Now take that feeling, multiply it by 1,000 and add a bit of rage. That’s how I felt after sitting through Childhood’s End for six hours. And just like in the case of Amercian Beauty, I can’t blame the show. The name of it is Childhood’s End! The opening scene is a guy telling me his current circumstance, which basically tells me the circumstance of every other human being and the world as a whole. And yet, for the next 50 hours real time and six hours viewing time, I kept alive a nugget of hope deep in my belly that the end might be something different than what he told me it was in the first scene of the series. So when the end came, my hope died and was replaced by anger. I was then faced with the dilemma of deciding at whom I was actually mad.

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Not at Clarke, the book’s author, because his story is a very good one. Not at Syfy, the network who produced the show, because it is a well-made series of good quality that, as far as I know, stays relatively true to the original story. So who does that leave? I guess just myself. I knew at the beginning of the six-hour saga how it would end. They told me. And yet I sat all the way through it hoping for something different. That’s my bad.

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Understand, I didn’t dislike this series. It was really well-made and incredibly compelling. But at the end, I felt a myriad of negative feelings, including overwhelmed, disappointed, angry and sad. I ranted for 20 minutes to my husband after reaching the end of the series. He asked a simple question and I had to face the simple answer.

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“In the end,” he asked, “was it worth sitting through six hours?”

I had to honestly reply, “If I’d known how it would all unfold, I wouldn’t have sat through all those hours. So, the answer is no.”

And for me, that’s basically the bottom line.

 


If you’re like me and you’re a fan of both classic sci-fi and the more lighthearted fare, go ahead and give the series a try. It could go either way. To help you decide if it might be for you, check out the trailer right here:

 

What are your sci-fi preferences? Are you a traditionalist or do you like things that are a bit more wacky? What’s your favorite sci-fi book, movie or television show? Take to the comments and let me know.

Are you familiar with Arthur C. Clarke’s classic sci-fi book? Did you check out the mini-series on Syfy this week? If you answered yes to either, please give me your thoughts on either the book or the show or both. I’d love to hear from you.

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