I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started to watch Syfy’s miniseries Children’s End. In fact I made it a point to go in completely blind and open minded. I was in the mood for more science fiction after watching the first four episodes of The Expanse and Syfy was heavily promoting it, so why not? It helped that it is based on Arthur C. Clarke’s novel of the same name. While I haven’t read any of his works, I am a fan of Kubrick’s adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
I will do my best not to spoil anything for those who are unfamiliar with the novel or the miniseries. The general premise begins with what appears to be an alien invasion. Imposing spaceships appear out of nowhere with a mysterious leader promising peace. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. I couldn’t help but think this was some sort of reboot of the show V. Thankfully, that is the only similarity between the two. Childhood’s End shoots into a completely different direction than just about any other alien invasion story. It has a much larger narrative than those stories and while some parts might come across as corny or trite, I found the overall story to be quite enjoyable.
Much like The Expanse, you can tell Syfy put a lot of effort into Childhood’s End’s production values. The entrance of “The Overlords” spaceships are impressive, especially for a made for TV miniseries. The little alien pods that fly around are convincing and a particular scene towards the end of the third part made me think I was watching something out of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Save for a couple dips here and there the special effects were top motch.
While we do get good special effects, we do not get a lot of action. Those who are expecting Independence Day will sorely be disappointed. This miniseries is primarily focused on a particular premise and it’s characters within that premise. Thankfully the acting of those characters is generally good. Mike Vogel plays the midwestern farmer(yay, Missouri!) Ricky Stormgren. Ricky plays a major role in communicating between the overlords and everyone on earth. Vogel does a commendable job. While I wouldn’t go throwing Golden Globes at him, his acting is even and doesn’t distract from the story. The same can be said of most other cast. I am a fan of Colm Meaney and thought he did a good job playing Wainright. I also thought the two actors that played Milo did a great job, particularly young Milo.
The first part of the miniseries spends a lot of time exploring how humans perceive their alien visitors. It develops several characters that play a bigger role in the rest of the story. It also has a very interesting ending. I suspect a good amount of people will not like it’s ending but I found it thought provoking. It also made me realize that a lot of what I was expecting this story to be about was not accurate. I will refrain from giving too much away or coloring anyone’s view of the subsequent episodes but as I continued to watch I was constantly surprised at the direction of the miniseries.
I commend Syfy for putting this much effort into a story that will not be for everyone. Those who have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey will understand that sometimes you may have to accept that abstract concepts are sometimes difficult to communicate via film. As I progressed through Childhood’s End, I wondered what it was trying to convey. It is slowly paced, has a lot of different characters and spans over 20 years. Given all that, I was a little surprised how much I liked it. It was thought provoking and left me contemplating its meaning and purpose. Good job Syfy.