Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” is considered in literary circles to be one of the author’s best books. Despite being published more than 60 years ago, the novel’s first journey to the screen occurs with a new three-night adaptation by Syfy Channel.
Even director Stanley Kubrick couldn’t make a film adaptation happen years ago, despite working with Clarke on the big-screen version of the author’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
In this first adaptation of Clarke’s classic novel, the production follows the bloodless takeover of Earth by the alien Overlords. They usher in a golden age of peace, health and security for all humanity. There are questions about why the Overlords insist on hiding their appearance and what they ultimately want. While much of the world enjoys its newfound utopia, some suspect there will be a price to pay.
Executive producer Michael De Luca felt the pressure of adapting such a popular book.
“As fans of the book, as people who love the book ourselves, we felt a responsibility to do it justice. We talked about feeling a pressure to do it the right way and honor it, but mostly we came from a place of really loving it and wanting to please ourselves. But we thought that in pleasing ourselves, we’d please the fans because we were fans,” De Luca says.
Fellow executive producer Matthew Graham stressed that being respectful does not mean being hamstrung by fear. To him, adapting Clarke’s work was no different than trying to mount a film production of a William Shakespeare play or Charles Dickens novel.
It will never change as a book. It’s a great book. No matter what we do, it will always be that book.
Co-executive producer Matthew Graham
“You can’t let that stymie you because you have to move this thing from one medium. It will never change as a book. It’s a great book. No matter what we do, it will always be that book. Once you sort of rid yourself of that fear, then when you have to move it because of the nature of the form, just go with it,” Graham says. “It helped enormously to have a cast like this who have also sort of embraced that and very much made it their own. It’s very important to do that.”
One of the most critical challenges of adapting the book was creating the look of the Overlords. Because of the enormous popularity of the book, many already have read a description of the visitors, including the central figure of Karellen.
Graham assures fans of the book that the mini-series version mirrors Clarke’s writing.
“He has not been taken figuratively, metaphorically in any way. It would be crazy to deviate from what Arthur C. Clarke had envisioned. Actually, having seen Karellen on screen a lot in the last few months, it’s lost none of its iconic power as an image,” Graham says.
Casting the right actor to play the character was the challenge. British actor Charles Dance was finally selected to play Karellen. Graham says the role needed someone who felt like a global voice, a strong intergalactic leader, a philosopher and a teacher, who was also a friend.
British actor Charles Dance was finally selected to play Karellen, a role that needed someone who felt like a global voice, a strong intergalactic leader, a philosopher and a teacher, who was also a friend.
The rest of the cast includes Mike Vogel, Daisy Betts, Julian McMahon, Osy Ikhile and Colm Meany.
Vogel feels like he has a handle on playing blue-collar characters. He fills an everyman role on “Under the Dome,” and Vogel takes on a similar role in “Childhood’s End.”
His role is an example of the slight changes made from the book as it took a little rewriting of Clarke’s original story for Vogel to have the chance to play the “End” role.
“If you’ve read the book, Ricky Stormgren’s actually, I believe, like a 60-year-old head of the U.N. Having a guy who is a farmer from Missouri, he’s almost a Moses character where he very reluctantly is rejecting this idea,” Vogel says. “He all of a sudden finds himself pushed to the forefront.
“I think that that makes him certainly in the current climate of political distrust of a lot of leaders and everything else, having a guy who is not necessarily head of the U.N., but who is one of us, who is all of us, to carry that message. I think that is more relatable to an audience and to the people in our story.”
- 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14; Tuesday, Dec. 15; and Wednesday, Dec. 16, Syfy