Children of Dune miniseries from 2003

“The Fremen were supreme in that quality the ancients called “spannungsbogen”–which is the self-imposed delay between desire for a thing and the act of reaching out to grasp that thing.”
– from “The Wisdom of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan

After the success of the miniseries Frank Herbert’s Dune director John Harrison next adapted the two sequel novels: Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. The cast and format remained the same where possible, but the increase in budget was reflected in better visuals. In addition the wardrobe was more subdued and gone are the silly hats and hairstyles. The miniseries spans three parts each just under 90 minutes in length. As with the 2000 miniseries these are faithful adaptations of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, only deviating or the purpose of clarity.

Dune Messiah

The three part miniseries start off with Dune Messiah – which forms the first part. It is based on the eponymous novel first published in 1969.vDune Messiah can be a confusing book to read and understand. It is the shortest of the Dune novels – at just 256 pages. It was originally published as a serial in Galaxy magazine. In the novel, as well as in the series, Paul is actively undermining his own legacy. He has been emperor for 12 years, but despite his power he cannot do anything about the Jihad that has been unleashed on the Known Universe. 61 billion people have died at the hands of his Fremen warriors and the multitude of religious zealots that joined them.

The troubled Paul has foreseen the death of his concubine Chani during childbirth. His prescience thoughts have become an impossible burden. He does not want to be the father figure of humanity. The thousands of years of solitude that will require subjecting humanity to an enforced period of tranquility repulses him. His enemies: the Tleilaxu, the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Build sense this weakness and actively plot against Paul.

The broad strokes between the novel and the series adaptation are the same. The conspiracy against Paul follows roughly the same pattern and the characters perform the same actions. Yet I think the series is easier to understand. Dune Messiah is a very densely written story – perhaps due to its serialized format. Every page is filled with subtleties. Character actions and thoughts need to be read carefully to be understood. Reading through Dune Messiah the first time allowed me to understand the general aspects of the story, but I felt irritation at the apparent contradictions of Paul’s desire to undo his own reign. I had a hard time not viewing Paul as the hero of the story. After consulting an online resource it became apparent I missed the deeper themes author Frank Herbert intended. A second readthrough made me see the contradictions were instead consequences of the original Dune novel.

With the adaptation of Dune Messiah as one episode lasting just under 90 minutes the story has been distilled to make it easier to understand. If you are a novice to the novels you will find this miniseries a great help. Viewers will also notice that some of the actors from the Dune miniseries return in different roles. Actor Karel Dobry plays Liet-Kynes in the first series and now the Fremen fanatic turned traitor Korba in this miniseries. The song at the end of the first part is called Inama Nushif and is song by Azam Ali. The lyrics were adapted by composer Brian Tyler from the Dune Encyclopedia.

Children of Dune

In the sequel Children of Dune it is Paul’s twins who take on the mantle. His son Leto II in particular is up to the challenge of guiding humanity down its Golden Path – something the enemies of the Atreides actively try to prevent