Tonight kicked off the three-part reimagining of the 1953 classic by Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End. The series, long thought to be impossible to reimagine for television, will be airing over three consecurive nights this week, starting with the first part, The Overlords. Initially, I was planning to review the series as a whole, but after watching the first episode of this mini-series it was clear that in a way, each part will stand on its own.
The first installment kicks off right as Earth is experiencing an extremely peaceful invasion. Anything in the air is gently lowered down before Earth’s new supervisor, alien Karellen, introduces himself individually to the residents of Earth using the faces of their dead loved ones. Creepy, yes, but not particularily threatening. Besides the whole alien invasion thing. From there, some of the world’s most intense conflicts end abruptly, though we don’t get to see much of the how. Instead, we’re introduced to Ricky Stormgren (Mike Vogel) who is selected to act as the spoksperson for the Overlords, and is sent to meet with Karellen in order to relay messages.
And over the span of months, or maybe years, things on Earth do start to get better. More conflicts end, solutions are reached to help with hunger in Africa, air quality improves. All good things, and yet there is always resistence. Many people would rather live free on a damaged world than lose the right to govern themselves, and make their wishes clear. But once again, the Overlords have a plan and allow their spokesperson to be kidnapped in order to expose those who oppose them as brutal and unyielding.
The episode ends fifteen years after the initial invasion, when Karellen, who has long protected the mystery of what he (and likely all of the Overlords) look like. In a worldwide event, he steps out of his ship and into view of Earth’s population, looking very much like an image of Satan, and even though the world’s religions have been on the decline for some time, people are still shocked. The big question ending the episode is what the world’s response will be. Personally, I would think that since the majority of the world’s population now isn’t Christian, and in this supposed future even less people are, it wouldn’t actually be a game changer. But I suspect it will be more of a plot point than that. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait long to find out.
Overall, I genuinely enjoyed “The Overlords” and am beyond curious to see where this story goes next. I never read the novel this series is based on, so am more than willing to enjoy the television version as is without comparing it to where it came from. Visually, the first episode was very well done, conveying the sense of awe that came along with the introduction of an alien race, as well as some of what they were capable of. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of the global scale of their impact, but if it’s not directly related to the story, I can’t really complain that the show didn’t go there.
Likely in an attempt to adapt a book that span decades, some of the characters and plots never managed to quite feel connected by the end of the first episode, more like they are instead snippets of life with the Overlords, rather than pieces to a larger puzzle. Hopefully those pieces will come together in the later two episodes, but for now it was an easy miss-step to forgive as there was already quite a bit crammed into the two hours dedicated to showing the initial arrival of the Overlords and Karellen.