In “Childhood’s End,” a three-part, six-hour adaptation of the Arthur C. Clarke classic airing through Wednesday, aliens arrive on Earth, promising to make everything better.
The story has been tweaked, as all novels must be when turned into television, and it’s been brought into the present (Clarke’s jumping-off point was the Cold War space race), but the depth and ambition are still there.
Earth that, sometime around the turn of the 21st century, has been suddenly and nonviolently occupied by extraterrestrials known simply as the Overlords.
In an event that’s become a predictable alien invasion story in the half century since the novel’s publication, massive spaceships suddenly appear directly above Earth’s major cities; they arrive just as humankind has executed its first successful mission to Mars, instantly souring man’s greatest achievement to date into a pathetic demonstration of power. Much of what happens after the Overlords’ arrival, however, slowly undermines the more menacing connotations of its premise.