“How do you like your Golden Age?”
The trailer Syfy released last month at Comic-Con for its upcoming adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End (1953) ends with that ominous-sounding question. Posed by the enigmatic, unseen alien Karellen, who calls himself Earth’s “Supervisor,” the query raises a possibility that haunts many works of science fiction: the possibility that “perfect worlds” often turn out to be anything but.
In the Syfy miniseries, as in Clarke’s novel, the extraterrestrial “Overlords” promise humanity a new world with “peace, health, security for everyone”–“a world without fear.” As Christians, we trust God will, in God’s own good time, bring about that kind of world: “a new heaven and a new earth” where “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more,” where the gates of the New Jerusalem will forever stand open, and where “there will be no night” (Revelation 21.1, 4, 25).
I expect Childhood’s End the TV show will no more embrace Christianity’s eschatological hope than does Childhood’s End the novel. The trailer makes me think the show will focus a lot on what perceived price the human race must pay to enjoy its “Golden Age.” As cast member Yael Stone told the Comic-Con audience, the show will address “large questions about the way we live”–including, I expect, our society’s ongoing debate about the proper ratio between security and freedom. (And it looks as though Colm “Chief O’Brien” Meaney will be part of that debate onscreen–outstanding!) If the production stays faithful to Clarke’s text (and scribe Matthew Graham says it does), no divinity will play any role in humanity’s fate. In fact, as readers of the book know, Karellan’s physical form makes him look very different from traditional images of God!
But, like so much of Clarke’s work, Childhood’s End remains “religious” in that it concerns itself with our yearning for transcendence. Like the psalm-singer, it surveys the heavens, moon, and stars and asks (albeit not of the Creator), “What are human beings?” (see Psalm 8). It doesn’t arrive at Christian answers, but no less a Christian than C.S. Lewis praised Clarke, after having read the novel, for being “a modern author who understands that there may be things that have a higher claim than the survival or happiness of humanity.” In a letter to Joy Davidman, Lewis called Childhood’s End “a self-riching work, harmony piling up on harmony, grandeur on grandeur, pity on pity”–as well as “AN ABSOLUTE CORKER”! (Thanks to blogger Jacob Schriftman for presenting the letter on his blog.)
The “Golden Age” Childhood’s End will show us won’t be the Reign of God–but this trailer has me interested in tuning in all the same.
Will you be watching Childhood’s End?