Frank Herbert's Children of Dune is a Sci-Fi Channel three-part mini-series originally aired in 2003. Frank Herbert's Children of Dune is the sequel to the 2000 miniseries Frank Herbert's Dune. While the 2000 miniseries adapted the novel of the same name, Children of Dune adapts both the second book in the series, Dune Messiah, and the third book and namesake, Children of Dune. The first part covers the former and the second and third parts cover the latter (Dune Messiah is a relatively short book).
Part one takes place with Paul now secured on this throne, after a 12 year long jihad by the Fremen has brought the entire galaxy to heel, killing billions. Secretly a conspiracy is formed against the Emperor consisting of Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam of the Bene Gesserit; Irulan, Paul's wife, Bene Gesserit, and daughter of the deposed Emperor Shaddam IV; The Spacing Guild Ambassador Edric, a Guild Steersman and the Tleilaxu Face Dancer Scytale. The Spacing Guild introduces the ghola of Atreides Swordmaster Duncan Idaho, who has been secretly programmed by the Tleilaxu. Irulan, on instructions from Mohiam, introduces contraceptives into Chani's diet to stop her from conceiving an heir for Paul, a role she feels belongs to her as his wife. This causes Chani to pursue a ritual Fremen high spice diet to help her fertility. Paul is blinded by the explosion of an atomic Stoneburner, but is able to see via his oracular vision. Chani is pregnant but the trap continues to close on Paul. Because of the difficult pregnancy, Chani dies in childbirth, triggering the Duncan Idaho ghola's programming to kill Paul, but Paul overcomes him with the help of the recently born Leto II, who is pre-born due to the high spice diet. Paul can no longer see, so per Fremen tradition, he walks off into the desert.
Parts two and three Time Skip to when Paul's twins are teenagers. Paul's sister Alia rules as Regent, but she is becoming ever more paranoid and her high spice intake is making her prone to possession by her ancestral memories. The Lady Jessica comes back to Arrakis as an agent of the Bene Gesserit to assess the condition of both Alia and the twins, all three of whom are pre-born and therefore more prone to possession. The Corrinos are planning a plot to assassinate the twins using trained tigers. As Alia descends into madness, Leto uses the Corrino threat to fake his own death in order to follow what he sees as the Golden Path. He falls into the hands of rogue Fremen from Jacarutu who wanted him to go mad like his aunt Alia by feeding him saturated spice. Gurney Halleck, acting on Jessica's behalf, goes looking for clues about Jacurutu via his smuggler contacts from the days when Arrakis was under Harkonnen control. Jessica in the meantime has escaped to Selusa Secundas after Alia tries to have her killed, and is training the Corrino heir Farad'n who will be wed to Ghanima. Leto, having survived the spice trial, merges with the sand trout to become a demigod-like being, augmenting his speed and strength. He returns to take his rightful throne from the now fully possessed (by the Baron Harkonnen no less) Alia and leads humanity down the Golden Path.
Children of Dune contains examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: Rather than attempt to directly translate the convoluted and sometimes contradictory plots of the two novels, the miniseries instead cherry-picks basic elements of the story and pulls them together in a way that takes the viewer from the same beginning to basically the same endpoint, with much more focus on character, action, and tension than the often-meandering source material.
- Leto II's Faking the Dead gambit, in particular, stands out: in the novel, the twins hatch the plot together. Ghanima knows all the details but is then brainwashed with a secret ancient technique from the Other Memory in order to forget her involvement so that her loss at her brother's apparent death will be genuine, and then has a code trigger implanted to reverse this effect later. All of this is sidestepped in the miniseries very simply: he just fakes his own death, and his sister's loss is genuine. The emotional stakes are made more real, and almost fifty pages are excised without the viewer even noticing anything is missing.
- Age Lift: Leto II and Ghanima are in their late teens in the miniseries, nearly a decade older than their book counterparts. Wensicia and Irulan's ages are more or less swapped thanks to the casting of Susan Sarandon.
- BrotherSister Incest/Twincest: There are strong incestuous overtones between Leto II and his sister Ghanima; they are aware of this and deliberately seek to avoid it. Partially this is due to the fact that both of them received ancestral memories in the womb, including their parents' memories.
- There's some Incest Yay between Paul and Alia too, notably in the training scene.
- Character Tics: Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in the Dune miniseries had a distinctive habit of rubbing his right temple when he was frustrated. Later on, Paul Atreides does this himself, demonstrating the family connection between the two. In Children of Dune, we see Alia performing the same gesture when she hears the Baron's voice in her head.
- Compelling Voice: As with its predecessor, the Voice is clearly heard as the Voice of the Legion. However, the trope is played with in this story because it's mostly used to no effect, such as when Leto II and the Lady Jessica are conversing. Since they are both adept in its use and in diffusing it, it's more of a test in that context.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Korba is executed by being placed in a deathstill, a sarcophagus-like device that the Fremen use for extracting water from dead bodies.
- Driven to Madness: Subverted when one of the Cast-out attempts to drive Leto II insane with too much spice consumption. He does have some "episodes"... but then becomes completely immune to the effects of spice and gains some superpowers into the bargain.
- Elite Mooks: Sardaukar elite troopers for the Corrinos and the Fedaykin for the Atreides.
- Face Death with Dignity:
- When Reverend Mother Mohiam predicts her own death and looks up to see Stilgar, sword in hand, she has a minor Oh, Crap! moment before closing her eyes in acceptance.
- Alia's death counts as well. Despite being under the thralls of Baron Harkonnen, she managed to free herself and then commit suicide so her nephew can usher in the Golden Path. They changed it from the Book's death scene for Alia (stabbing herself versus throwing herself out the window), but it works because her final scene with Jessica was so heartbreaking.
- Female Gaze: The Adonis-like (and often shirtless) Leto Atreides II is presented in a very sensual manner by the director in part three. There are lots of close-ups of his Pretty Boy face and certain parts of his body, and the camera sometimes "lingers" on him like a woman's (or a gay man's) eyes would when staring at someone who is extremely attractive.
- Inadequate Inheritor: Farad'n Corrino, grandson of deposed Emperor Shaddam IV's, mother Wensicia is disappointed that he is neither a great fighter nor ruthless, but a shy and bookish scholar. Deconstructed, however, in that Farad'n is actually a reflective character, pointing out that maybe the Corrinos should have been deposed if they got that decadent, and that simply overthrowing the Atreides to put a Corrino back on the throne won't really change the fundamental problems within the Imperium as a whole that got them into this situation in the first place.
- Under Jessica's guidance, Farad'n actually starts coming out of his shell, and comes to see his mother's political machinations as not simply ruthless, but clumsy. He turns on her at the last minute, hands her over to the Atreides, then offers to go through with the political marriage to Ghanima - this time in good faith, to heal the divisions within the Imperium. Even Wensicia is proud of him for this.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Frank Herbert's Children of Dune, in case you forgot who wrote it AND forgot the name of the first miniseries.
- Instant Sedation: When Leto II arrives at Jacurutu, he experiences this after a dart hits him in the neck.
- Mini Series: This adaptation includes both Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.
- Monochromatic Eyes/Technicolor Eyes: A result of high-level Spice addiction, when enough ingestion saturates the bloodstream and stains the eyes. Turned into Glowing Eyes of Doom.
- Mr. Fanservice: Leto II spends a large amount of his screen time in part three looking like a shirtless Adonis.
- Oh, Crap!: Edric as he helplessly sees the Fremen coming with sledgehammers to smash the tank that contains him and the spice vapor keeping him alive.
- Pretty Boy: Leto Atreides II is played by the boyishly beautiful James McAvoy. It symbolizes what a huge personal sacrifice it is for this teenaged and virginal character to give up his own humanity (by transforming into a grotesque Sand Worm) so that he can initiate the Golden Path and save humankind from extinction.
- Proper Lady: Lady Jessica behaves like one even though she's technically not part of the nobility.
- Retraux: This miniseries aims for a different stylistic appearance from its predecessor. There is a noticeable lack of outer space scenes as the action is confined to one planet (the titular Dune). The music score and the Real Is Brown art direction give this series a style very similar to Biblical films from The '60s.
- Rule of Sexy:
- The director goes to ridiculous lengths to remind the audience what a gorgeous youth Leto II is (e.g. numerous close-ups, lots of bare skin, etc.).
- Also, Alia's battle training scene is filmed with maximum grace and sex appeal in mind, even if the camera doesn't actually show her torso when she unnecessarily undresses right afterward.
- Rule of Symbolism: When Leto II finally meets the Preacher in the desert, he literally and deliberately walks in his footsteps to approach him. Part of this might just be Fremen training: they try to walk in each others' footsteps in the sand to hide their numbers.
- Time-Shifted Actor: Alia from Dune to Children of Dune due to the Time Skip, goes from child actress Laura Burton to the very grown-up Daniela Amavia.
- Transformation Discretion Shot: Scytale the Face Dancer is never seen transforming on camera. During his first assassination, the scene cuts away just as he is approaching Lichna; consequently, we don't know that he's pulled a Kill and Replace until a seemingly unharmed Lichna appears before Paul Atreides - who privately recognizes her as a Face Dancer in disguise. When the time finally comes for Scytale to reveal his true form to Paul for the sake of his big We Can Rule Together speech, "Lichna" lowers her head out of shot so that only her veil is in view, then reaches up to remove said veil... and Scytale's face is behind it.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Leto II is always bare-chested after he first awakens from being sedated in Jacurutu.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Gurney Halleck when he finds the supposedly dead Paul while Alia is making ravages out of the newly-minted empire.
- Wolverine Publicity: Leto II is the central focus of two out of three episodes, but he's very small on the poster◊, and you don't even get to see James McAvoy's face. This gets rectified for the North American DVD release◊.
One door has closed — but another has opened. And on the other side... our future.