Childhood's End Miniseries Tackles the Science vs Religion Debate, Changes Protagonist from the Novel

Monday, 20 July 2015 - 4:50PM
Childhood's End
Monday, 20 July 2015 - 4:50PM
Childhood's End Miniseries Tackles the Science vs Religion Debate, Changes Protagonist from the Novel
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The Syfy adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel, Childhood's End, is coming later this year, and fans of the novel will notice a few controversial changes, as well as a few controversies that come straight from the book. Screenwriter Matthew Graham, director Nick Hurran, and star Julian McMahon sat down with io9 at San Diego Comic Con to discuss the themes of the show, changes in the adaptation, and the most controversial episode of the miniseries:



Opening quote
"It's a book of ideas, and it's not hide-bound by events. Global events, political events. And the ideas are timeless: mortality, morality, destiny, responsibilty for our happiness ... someone could make it again in another 60 years, and it would be just as reflective of that time."
Closing quote


Childhood's End, a novel written by 2001: A Space Odyssey's Arthur C. Clarke, is considered to be a classic of sci-fi literature. It details a peaceful invasion by an alien species called the Overlords who eliminate war, institute a benevolent tyranny, and turn Earth into an apparent utopia. But when their presence begins to give human children telekinetic powers, the consequences threaten the entire human race.

According to Graham, the adaptation is fairly faithful, and tries to stay true to "the Arthur of it all." "I felt confident that I could look the fans of the book in the eye [at Comic Con], so I hope that's a good sign!"

But that being said, there are several changes in the script, chief among them that the human protagonist, Ricky (Rikki in the novel), who is chosen as the liaison between the Overlords and the humans, is no longer a politician, but a farmer. 

Opening quote
"The book was written at a time when we just assumed politicians were the best of us, and I don't think we feel like that anymore," Graham said. "Making Ricky the head of the United Nations, it's almost not realistic or credible ... I think it's better that [Karellen] picks a farm boy to be his emissary, rather than picking the person you would automatically assume it to be. It just felt very natural, and even Ricky doesn't know why he's picked. It's almost unknowable, the reasons why he's chosen.
Closing quote


The assertion that we no longer trust politicians the way we once did is completely fair, but as long as you're updating the narrative to modern times, why make him a farmer? A farmer hardly represents the modern-day everyman; there are hardly any farmers left. Plus, it's just a cliche to choose farming as the pure-hearted, "salt of the Earth" occupation.

Graham also warned viewers that the second episode would likely be the most controversial, as it deals with the book's exploration of religious belief:

Opening quote
After world peace comes changing the way we think, not putting our faith in things that we can't see and have no proof for. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm not anti-religious faith, but I'm interested in the idea of powerful beings ... allowing us to work it out for ourselves. We don't need to put our faith an afterlife, we can try and create a heaven on Earth while we live there. And how that makes people of faith feel.
Closing quote


This sounds fairly true to the plot of the book, so this episode won't be controversial to Arthur C. Clarke fans necessarily. It may, however, be controversial to highly religious viewers, as it could be interpreted as a suggestion that world peace and organized religion are inherently incompatible. 

Childhood's End will air on Syfy in December.
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Childhood's End