Syfy is gearing up to produce Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction classic Childhood’s End.
According to Deadline, Syfy’s ordering Childhood’s End to production as a six hour miniseries. Producing the project are Michael De Luca (The Social Network) and Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind). Writing the script is Matthew Graham (Life on Mars and Doctor Who) and just hired to direct is Nick Hurran (Doctor Who and Sherlock‘s “His Last Vow”). If nothing else, this line-up certainly suggests that Syfy is serious about doing this and doing it right.
Although Syfy gets a lot of grief over its lightweight sci-fi content and complete fantasy content (like wrestling), the network, owned by NBC Universal, is fully capable of producing serious and quality science fiction. It’s demonstrated this best with the rebooted Battlestar Galactica series, but it has also produced some quality miniseries, including two based on the first two Dune novels, and some retellings of classic stories based around L. Frank Baum’s OZ books and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In short, if Syfy decides they want to do this right, there’s no reason to expect that they cannot do it.
Childhood’s End, a favorite novel of mine since I first read it as a boy, is the story of an alien race that arrives on Earth and takes on the job of protecting us from ourselves, long enough for humans to reach a major event in our evolutionary development. Though Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey often gets lauded for its advanced thinking regarding aliens, in many ways it can’t hold a candle to the concepts presented in Childhood’s End.
Childhood’s End has been considered for movie and TV treatments before, dating at least all the way back to the 1970s, when Universal began development of a production. It turned out Universal was not ready for such heady material, and over the years, the production was highly altered into a simplified action series. The final result was the original series V, the program about benevolent aliens in massive ships who turn out to be malevolent lizards come to eat us, and a rebel underground that fights them. The massive ships (which have, since Childhood’s End, become iconic of the superior aliens’ arrival) are literally all that survived from the original novel.
Similarly, audiences were treated to the same arrival of massive alien ships in Independence Day; but again, that was the only element taken from Childhood’s End, the rest being a battle for Earth as the first ships immediately attack major cities. It’s a shame that such a wonderful opening moment has been forever marred by its treatment by scare-monger film-making for the lowest common denominator.
Of course, there’s much more to the novel than that iconic opening, including: The conversion of Earth into a utopia for all; the efforts of some distrusting humans to expose the aliens as frauds; the truth behind the aliens themselves; and the fate of humanity that the aliens have been sent to shepherd through. Added to that is the story of a man who stows away aboard an alien ship, in order to see what’s out there, and getting much more than he bargained for. All in all, it’s an incredible story, credited by many as a novel that helped change science fiction forever, and worthy of serious treatment.
So I’m going to cross my fingers and hold out hope that Syfy does this marvelous novel justice. Nothing would please me more than to see them impress us all with another miniseries jewel that I can add to my collection.