My opinion of the best science fiction TV miniseries is 2003’s ‘Children of Dune.’ It was produced by the Sci Fi Channel before it became the Syfy Channel. It’s a shame that Syfy cannot produce miniseries of this quality today. The series is based on the last two books of Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ trilogy, ‘Dune Messiah’ and ‘Children of Dune.’ It is a sequel to the 2000 miniseries ‘Frank Herbert’s Dune.’ The first miniseries was good, and an improvement on the 1984 ‘Dune‘ film, but the sequel has a higher level of drama and intensity.
Part one of the miniseries is based on Herbert’s ‘Dune Messiah’ short novel. The empire of Paul Atreides has become bloated and arrogant, and many forces plot to diminish its power or overthrow the empire, including the Spacing Gild, Bene Gesserit, Tleilaxu and rebel Fremen who want to see Dune returned to the old ways before Paul Atreides was crowned as emperor. Paul’s twin children are born in this episode.
In part two, Alia begins to be influenced too greatly by her ancestral memories, and ingests such large quantities of spice that the memory of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen possesses her and changes her behavior. The twins — Leto II and Ghanima — are developing into young adults that become targets of assassination. Paul Atreides is now a blind preacher that speaks out against the empire now headed by his sister Alia.
For part three, Stilgar takes over leadership of the rebel Fremen forces. Alia’s madness is now so pronounced that her former allies betray her. Leto returns from his trip to the desert, where he was forced to flee. Leto starts to transform into a new type of life form after contact with sandworms, and adds new desert-derived powers to his formidable mental and physical training.
One thing that makes ‘Children of Dune’ so good is the acting. Alec Newman does an incredible job as Paul Atreides, and shows his versatility by his superb portrayal once he is blinded and becomes a homeless preacher. Daniela Amavia does a great job as Alia Atreides, and her portrayal of Alia’s descent into madness is chilling and even somewhat seductive. Other standout performances are by Susan Surandon as Princess Wensicia Corrino, Julie Cox as Irulan, Steven Berkoff as Stilgar and James McAvoy as Leto Atreides II.
While only having an estimated production budget of $20 million, ‘Children of Dune’ does a surprisingly good job with set design, costumes and CGI. The imperial palace on Dune is appropriately lavish, the Fremen communities realistic as possible and the desert scenes are evocative. The CGI portrayal of a Spacing Guild member encased in an atmosphere bubble is impressive.
‘Children of Dune’ is available for purchase as a two-disc DVD package.