With Battlestar Galactica coming to a close in Hitchhiker style, Sci Fi (or is it SyFy) were quick to notice the vacuum in the fans’ lives, one that they have decided to temporarily fill with the pilot for the upcoming Caprica series, a prequel with events leading up to the destruction of the Colonies.. After a few years in development hell, Ronald D. Moore and company give us a finished product that is just as impressive as the prototype Cylon created by Daniel Graystone, the brilliant scientist who gets involved in a bromance gone bad with Joseph Adams, a Mafia-connected defense attorney. Of course, there’s more to Caprica than that, as it is a tale of the dangers of the unwise uses of technology and religious extremism, issues that resonate with us today.
In contrast to Battlestar Galactica, Caprica’s pilot is land-based, mostly taking place on Caprica City, capital of the planet Caprica. This is a world peaceful and prosperous 50 odd years before the Fall, and the technology’s much more advanced than what was seen aboard any ship on BSG. Virtual reality online sites, sophisticated touchscreen computers, computer sheets, and domestic robots are some of the devices seen so far. Corded telephones are nowhere in sight as everyone uses mobile phones and some even use Bluetooth-like headsets. Even in peacetime, the military industrial complex is constantly building, which brings us to the most frightening aspect of the story – the invention of the Cylon.
What makes the Cylon creation arc successful is the emotions surrounding it. Daniel Graystone is drawn to resurrecting his daughter from the digital information she compiled about herself. Zoe has already created a sentient online avatar before she died, but Daniel seeks to use the means he has before him – data storage, stolen technology, and a prototype robotic soldier he created to secure a defense contract – to make her alive again. In his grief, he becomes fast friends with the classically handsome Joseph Adams, whom he has steal a crucial component to make his robot fully functional. As Adams is horrified with Graystone’s attempt to resurrect his daughter, also killed in the same accident that claimed Zoe’s life, the fallout between the two men should help fuel the drama in the series.
It’s not enough to have the genius scientist (a stock character which Moore is well familiar with from his Star Trek days) or a goody goody lawyer. There’s a lot of complexity to Graystone as he alternates between his grief and opportunism. Regarding Adams, he’s a Tauron Immigrant who has attempted to assimilate into Caprica with a white collar profession and by changing his name from Adama to Adams. However, he is closely tied to the Tauron mob, known as the Halatha. He’s retained by them to give them some legitimacy, but also to do their legal dirty work. Even without any tell-tale tattoos, Adams doesn’t escape Caprican bigotry towards Taurons.
BSG was largely a show with adult characters, though it had it fair share of children. Caprica gives some equal time to its teenage characters – Zoe and her friends, Tamara Adams, and a William Adams (later Adama) who is entering adolescence. Zoe and her friends are portrayed with intelligence without sacrificing the intensity, idealism, and rebellion many teenagers have. Add religion to the mix, and Ben takes Zoe along on trip that would claim the lives of a small number of people in the name of God, including them.
BSG introduced monotheism first through the Cylons and later through Baltar’s cult. In the time of Caprica, monotheism is illegal and considered dangerous by the polytheistic society of Caprica and some of the other Colonies. Here, the seeds of a Cylon God is sown, even though Ellen Tigh claims the Final Five programmed worship of a Loving God in the Eight after the Cylon War. Now the mystery is how did the monotheists ever come to embrace Baltar as their half-baked Messiah?
Caprica is definitely a competently put together production, better than most of the shows and original movies that Sci Fi (or SyFy) Channel puts out. Esai Morales embodies Joseph Adama and conveys his emotional intensity, especially in those very quiet ways. However, he doesn’t have the same charisma as Edward James Olmos, who set the bar very high as William Adama. I didn’t initially expect much from Eric Stoltz, but he did surpise me with a character who was sympathetic, but showed that deceit was also in the Caprican DNA. There is definitely a strong sense of place, as the technology and even the city give us a sense of the Caprica before the fall. Given that the series is set to air next year, hopefully Caprica will grow into a great series. BSG left it with some pretty big shoes to fill.