'Childhood's End' Book Vs. TV Show: How Syfy Brings Arthur C. Clarke's Story Into The 21st Century
Even for those who aren't usually fans of sci-fi, Monday night's premiere of Childhood's End on Syfy looks like must-see television. Modern entertainment seems to have been proliferated by vampires, zombies, and Kardashians recently, so I am more than thrilled for a harkening back to the good ol' alien invasion trope. Based on the 1953 book by Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End offers a fascinating look at an alien invasion in which the other life-forms didn't come to Earth for malicious reasons at all, but supposedly to turn our world into a Utopia.
This three-part miniseries, beginning Monday at 8 p.m., will follow the events that unfold after the aliens, called the "Overlords," make contact with Earth. Though Clarke's novel is a science-fiction classic, this is the first time that it has been successfully adapted for the screen. As with any transition from book to screen, the show's creators — director Nick Hurran and screenwriter Matthew Graham — have taken a few liberties to keep modern TV audiences intrigued. The general premise of Childhood's End itself seems to be untouched, but here are the biggest ways that the Syfy version will differ from the original source material.
Clarke’s novel was published in 1953, but Syfy's version takes place in modern day, which will undoubtedly cause some more details to change. For example, in the beginning of the novel, the Americans and Soviet Union are planning on launching their respective spaceships into orbit when they are thwarted by the appearance of large alien craft above every major city in the world. Judging by the trailer, the TV series will instead indicate that every man-made aircraft is suddenly grounded, yet without any damage to human life. “Like feathers,” planes are brought to the ground, providing us with an eerie shot of a large airplane teetering on a ledge amongst office buildings. It's a similar way of discovering alien activity, but updated for the modern era.
Thematically, however, the story will remain the same. Do we want to be under surveillance in order to be safe, or would we rather lead private lives under constant fear? These are questions posed in both versions of Childhood's End, and screenwriter Matthew Graham told Deadline that, though the novel and the series take place 60 years apart, the "stakes we seem to live under seem almost indistinguishable."
According to iO9, Milo Rodricks (Osy Ikhile) is certainly based on Jan Rodricks from the book, but he is introduced with a wildly different backstory. What Milo does share with Jan, however, is the commitment to discovering more about the aliens and their seemingly benign intentions to make the world a Utopia. The website also explains that SyFy's adaptation incorporates the stories of more characters that were not present in the book, or else played a smaller role.
Rikki Vs. Ricky
In the book, Karellen, the omniscient, disembodied voice that is the vessel of communication between the Overlords and the humans, chooses to disseminate his message through a UN official named Rikki Stormgren. In the televised version, the aliens select a man named Ricky Stormgren, a Missouri-based farmer. The screenwriter, Matthew Graham, explained this decision in an interview with Tech Times, stating that he believes our views of political institutions such as the UN have devolved into "frustrations and compromises." He thought that as a farmer, Ricky would offer a "more credible 21st century worldview."
It seems that every change made to Childhood's End has a purpose, so I'm looking forward to seeing how else Syfy modernized Clarke's story when it premieres on Monday night.
Images: Ben King (2), Narelle Portanier/Syfy