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Series / Childhood's End

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Childhood's End is a three-episode series on Syfy and based on the novel of the same name by Arthur C. Clarke, originally published in 1953 and based off of a 1950 short story of his. The plot concerns the Alien Invasion of an alien race called the Overlords. After stopping war and establishing a world government, they start to maintain peace on Earth, but refuse to show any images of themselves. Humanity enters a golden age, but at the cost of their culture.

It originally aired over three nights, December 14-16, 2015 at two hours per episode.

For tropes from the book, click here.

Tropes in this series:

  • Adaptational Comic Relief: The Overlord Milo meets has a bit more of a lighthearted personality and an odd speech pattern than Karellen, adding some light fun to a serious ending.
  • Adaptation Distillation: In the book...
    • Instead of the bullet wound Milo is inflicted with being transferred over to the shooternote , the book has a bullfight take place despite the overlords having expressly forbidden cruelty to animals. When the bullfighter stabs the bull at the end of the match, every spectator in the stadium and watching on TV feels the bull's pain.
    • Rickynote  talks to a friend about the glass that Karellen hides behind and with some speculation they build a flashlight-like device that should allow Ricky to see through the glass. Ricky attempts this, but Karellen is one step ahead of him and manages to slip out - all Ricky sees is the hoofed foot still in the room as Karellen is stepping out and he hears Karellen laughing at Ricky's attempt to see him. This is in the series, but is merely Ricky taking a picture up against the glass.
    • Milo ("Jan" in the book) gets a full tour of the Overlord's museums and specimens when he arrives at their planet.
    • The ascended children are in the millions, and by the time they're ready to join the Overmind, Rodrick comments they now resemble fleshy, distorted beings, no longer recognizable as human. In the series, the children are only in the thousands, and appear no different than they did over a millenia ago when they first manifested their powers.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The characters love lives are unimportant to the book if even brought up in the first place. Here they are given a large amount of weight.
  • Adaptational Name Change/Race Lift: The half-Scottish/half-African Jan Rodericks from the novel became the African-American Milo Rodericks.
  • Adaptational Timespan Change: The Overlords reveal themselves to mankind after fifty years in the novel. This is to give the older humans like Ricky a chance to die off so the Overlords reveal themselves to humans already accustomed to having Overlords. In the series, though, 15 years allows the main cast to remain through the entire series.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Played with. The Overlords arrive at Ricky's house, pull the door off its hinges, open the trap door to the basement and proceed to disassemble his house. It turns out that Ricky had already been informed that the Overlords wanted to speak to him personally, and this wasn't done out of malice but because of his Refusal of the Call. They're polite enough to reassemble it on request.
  • Apocalypse How: Class X: The ascended children of humanity consume Earth, making the planet implode, as they join the Overmind 85 years after the Overlords announced their true purpose.
  • Apocalypse Maiden: Jennifer, who draws all the children of the world to her in a rapture-esque sequence. It takes over eighty years for them to fully end the world, however.
  • Appropriated Appelation: The Overlords are named as such by the press. They just go with it, although Karellen considers it a little too bombastic.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The children born in the utopia created by the Overlords develop psychic abilities and eventually ascend their physical forms to join the cosmic Overmind, leaving their parents behind.
  • Artistic License – Space:
    • The glyphs the Overlords use to communicate amongst themselves are in the shapes of constellations as seen from Earth's sky. If this system of writing had really been invented by the Overlords, they would most likely have used the shapes of constellations from their own homeworld's sky. Constellations are imaginary patterns and only exist from a certain point of reference; people standing in another part of the universe would see different shapes even if some of them contained the same stars. And naturally, their own sun wouldn't be visible among their constellations.
    • Where the scientist first talks about the "Carina system," there seems to be a great deal of confusion in the script between star systems and constellations. Carina is a constellation; any star system would be named after one of the stars in the constellation of Carina, e.g. Eta Carinae, not the constellation as a whole.
  • Artistic License – Geography: As the Overlords arrive, it's daytime in Missouri and in Mumbai - at least one should be in darkness or twilight. Even the news broadcasts show no locations with darkness.
  • Batman Gambit: In order to neutralize the Freedom League, Karellen allows Ricky to be captured by them while covertly recording him, knowing they'll expose their true intentions and kill any support they might have. It goes off without a hitch.
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: The Overlords stop all wars, switch humanity over to clean energy sources, cure all disease, extend lifespans, and so forth. It's even lampshaded as being an "awfully considerate" invasion. At the end of it, all humanity is rendered sterile and their children are stolen, but the overlords nevertheless left them with a paradise to live out their remaining days. The series generally tries to keep it a mystery whether the Overlords are actually trying to help or whether they have darker motives, with the trailer for the finale playing up the latter possibility, before it finally turns out that they were helping all along.
  • Black Dude Dies First: An interesting aversion - the main black character is the last living human by the time he dies.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: And will disassemble your house to make its point.
  • Cessation of Existence: Milo is concerned about whether or not if there's an afterlife for humans (and other non-evolved beings in the universe) to go to after they die. Nothing is said about it either way.
    • Karellen implies to Milo that the dead live on only in the memories of the living.
  • Creepy Child: The masses of children speaking and acting in unison.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Peretta says her mother was a devout Christian, but killed herself after the Overlords came (presumably as they provided the things which religion failed to). Wainwright is also found hanged in his office, apparently a suicide, when his Freedom League collapses.
    • Peretta also kills herself at the end of Part II, after failing to kill Karellan and being told by him that "not all religions can be right", which causes her to lose what last grip she had on her faith and life completely.
    • The audience is faked out with Tommy, who flings himself off a building but stops a few feet short of the ground.
    • The leader of New Athens kills both himself and the entire city after hearing Karellen's final broadcast, similar to the book.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Milo's final fate. Though Karellen is watching and listening to comfort him.
  • Forced Perspective: Karellen is big, and Charles Dance is not as big. Hence this is used in some shots like when Ricky is talking to Karellen in the barn. When Karellen is in a scene rarely do you see him interacting with the people around him.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: For their first communication, the Overlords use projections of dead loved ones to explain their intentions.
  • Free-Range Children: Even with the children being the next step of human evolution with their own powers, the fact that so many children can be filling Jennifer's neighborhood without any adults wondering why all these kids are all over the lawn and the street and none of their parents has followed them there is pretty weird.
  • Goal-Oriented Evolution: The entire purpose of the Overlords is to shepherd species that are on the brink of taking the final step to join the Overmind, by making the final generation of children both physically and mentally well as possible through decades of their influence. Karellen mentions to Milo that they've done it many times over the past hundred thousand years, and will continue to do so after Earth.
  • Godwin's Law: One of the Freedom League adverts compares the Overlords to Hitler, in that their seeming benevolence will give way to something evil.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Milo's mother. Though the series just barely shies away from saying it outright, it's fairly obvious.
  • How We Got Here: The series begins with an older Milo Rodricks, the last living human on Earth, speaking with an Overlord probe just before he's about to die. The next six hours are a flashback to what led to the extinction of humanity.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Discussed. It's a concern that people will react badly if the aliens turn out to look like humans, but Karellen insists that they don't.
  • I Will Wait for You: Rachel to Milo, just before he stows away on an Overlord ship. Unfortunately she dies long before he comes back, and if the state of her frozen corpse is anything to go by, she dies relatively young.
  • La Résistance: The Freedom League style themselves as this against the Overlords, distrusting their plans, but prove themselves quite ruthless and are discredited after being recorded trying to kill Ricky. Shortly after the movement collapses.
  • Magic Antidote: Karellen gives one to Ricky to cure the debilitating illness that will eventually kill him. Ricky ends up using it not on himself, but to save Karellen's life after Peretta shoots him with a shotgun.
  • Mood-Swinger: The children act like normal emotional kids, until their powers awaken and immediately knows it's time to go.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: In some shots of Ricky's "Missouri" home there are some odd un-Missouri-like hills in the background.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • In the original short story and novel, Karellen dislikes the idea that human artists are depicting him as a centipede, preferring the equally-baseless theory that he's a robot. In the series, it's the other way around.
    • Milo is in hibernation next to a squid. In the novel, he hides inside a diorama of a whale battling a squid.
  • Ominous Floating Spaceship: Just as the original book. However in the book, before Karellen reveals himself, all the many ships over the other cities vanish, revealing that it was actually only one ship. If this was the case in the series, it is left ambiguous.
  • Our Demons Are Different: An interesting example. The reason mankind "made up" demons looking like they do in mythology is because of a pre-memory of the fact that they will eventually arrive and take the children. This point is brought up in the series when Milo talks to Rachel, but blink and you'll miss it.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: It's made clear that with the coming of the Overlords, religion has faded away for most people, as all the things religions once sought to provide now have been (aside from immortality). Karellen doesn't actually demean it, saying Peretta's faith is "beautiful, like poetry", though telling her that not every religion can be right. The idea that it's wrong is too much for her, though, so like her mother she kills herself. Prior to this, we had seen her church already only drew a dozen or so people to mass on Sunday.
  • Practical Effects: Because the look of the Overlords was a closely kept secret to add oomph to The Reveal, viewers were surprised to see that Karellen was Charles Dance in costume, and not a voiced CGI character as they expected.
  • Refusal of the Call: Evidently Ricky was informed that Karellen wanted to speak to him personally when his dead wife appeared to him. When the Overlords show up, Ricky hides.
  • Removed from the Picture: When the Overlords use Milo's grandfather, he disappears from the photograph.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Milo's mother mentions the Aliens from Signs.
    • When the Overlords arrive ready to completely dismantle Ricky's house to encourage him to come out, it's very similar to when the Aliens arrive for Barry in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
    • A TV in the background is showing Battlestar Galactica as the Overlord ships first appear. Specifically, it's the fall of the twelve colonies.
    • When asked what to name the aliens, the first suggestion is the Visitors.
    • Tom Greggson mentions, in addition to the hellish landscape he sees in a vision, to also seeing a flaming eye.
    • The Beam that Jennifer creates (along with its apparent counterpart on the Overlords' home-world) to merge with the Overmind brings the Bifrost to mind.
    • Little Richard's version of "Keep A-Knockin'" was used in a similar way in Christine when someone was being denied parlay.
  • Single Tear: Karellen, as he watches Earth being destroyed.
  • Sterility Plague: Once the children are ready to ascend (specifically, Jennifer), unevolved humans are no longer able to bear more, which leads to the end of humanity.
  • To Serve Man: One of the Freedom League's ads raises this thought, depicting pigs being cared for before being led to slaughter and turned into sausages. Not the actual motivation of the Overlords, however.
  • Ultimate Life Form: The Overmind, a Hive Mind made up of countless evolved children of many species.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The mass of children surrounding Jennifer's house has not lead local homeowners to call the police or ask for them to get off their lawns or resulted in frantic parents following their children there. See Free-Range Children, above.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: While it is understandable the Overlords don't want to come right out and say "We're here to direct your children to the next level of evolution. You can't come with them and your world will be destroyed", they still are more vague about their purposes than they need to be. Heck, the Overmind is capable of discussing this matter with Milo, why can't they explain it?
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: One of the gifts given by the Overlords is essentially perfect health. People can still die, but disease is a thing of the past.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • As Ricky has phone trouble, a crop duster behind him slows and is lightly placed in the cornfield. We never see if the pilot (who was obviously dusting crops for Ricky) came over to Ricky or Ricky went over to him, or indeed what, exactly, any of the airborne people experienced.
    • Milo's mother disappears after Part I. She's shown only in a photograph, which might imply that she's dead, but it's never said for certain either way.
  • The World Is Not Ready: The Overlords refuse to show themselves because they think humanity won't understand. Considering Karellen's the spitting image of Satan, this is entirely justified.