Childhood's End

Author: Arthur C. Clarke
Starring: Steven Pacey, Peter Jeffrey, Philip Voss and Bernard Lloyd
BBC Audio
RRP: 12.99
ISBN: 978 1 4056 7786 8
Available 06 August 2007

As mankind began to take its first faltering steps into the vast darkness of space, huge ships appear over every city on Earth. They bring the Overlords, seemingly benign but vastly superior in technology and intelligence. So begins their rule of our planet, bringing peace, prosperity, and a new world hope. But when mankind begins to question the purpose of the Overlords, it seems that they themselves may be in thrall to an even greater power...

The radio play of Childhood's End is based on the Arthur C Clarke's novel of the same name. First published in 1953, this tale of the evolution and eventual end of humanity has come to be seen as one of the great SF works.

Alone many miles above the Earth, Jan Rodricks, the last surviving human, is witnessing the end of the world. As he watches, he records for the benefit of history how mankind was doomed.

The massive spaceships appeared over every city on Earth, bringing the Overlords, a seemingly benign race vastly superior in technology and intelligence. Led by the enigmatic Karellen, they promised a new age of peace and prosperity, and with the help of UN Secretary General Stormgren, they eradicated poverty, disease and war.

But contentment has its price. As the years pass, culture, science and religion start to die, and there are those who question the road down which the Overlords are leading them. For it seems the apparently benevolent and omnipotent masters of the Earth are themselves only servants of a greater power: a power they have no choice but to obey...

This play was originally broadcast on BBC's Radio 4 in 1997. Although I have to admit I thought it sounded much older than that. It's probably because the narrator seems a bit doddery and quite a few of the bit part actors deliver their lines unconvincingly - nowhere is this more obvious than the newscasters.

But, if you can ignore these slight distractions, Childhood's End is an entertaining adaptation of one of Arthur C Clarke's better stories.

Nick Smithson

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