Posted on: January 2nd, 2010 TV Preview: Countdown to Caprica
The first thing I must admit about Caprica, the Battlestar Galactica prequel, is that I did not want to watch it at all. A large part of me feels that we just need to let Battlestar Galactica sleep for another 30 years, and then revisit it with fresh eyes. Even worse, Caprica had been described as a teen-centric soap opera involving none of the original characters. However, I soon found out that James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Torchwood) was slated to guest star in at least three episodes, so I had to watch the pilot to be ready for the awesome.
My second confession is that I loved the pilot so much that I now have a Caprica dance that I perform around my house when I get excited for its January premiere. My third confession is that I cannot write about the pilot without using spoilers, so read with caution.
Caprica is a television series set 58 years before the main Battlestar Galactica time line. Creators released a movie length pilot in April 2009, which is set on the planet of Caprica and chronicles the adventures of robot scientist Daniel Graystone and lawyer Joseph ‘Adams’ Adama, and their families.
We are first introduced to Zoe, the teen daughter of Daniel Graystone. She has managed to create a state of the art copy of herself in a virtual reality world accessible by ‘holoband’. The holoband technology had been created by her father for the purposes of entertainment, but had, of course, been co-opted by teenagers for the purpose of orgies and ritual sacrifice. Zoe and her friends eventually grow tired of the sex and violence of their underworld, and the boredom of their real world, and are drawn into the beginnings of a rebellious monotheistic counter culture.
In the latter years of Battlestar, I found the most interesting plot-lines surrounded the questioning of the common state-endorsed polytheistic religion. Battlestar characters worship the historical Greek pantheon; Athena, Jupiter and the like. Gaius Baltar eventually became the head of a mini-cult espousing the belief in ‘one true God’ in a delicious, if not derisive, ode to Christianity’s origins. In Caprica, we see that this cult actually dates back more than a half century before the Cylon wars.
In order to better follow their ‘one true God’, Zoe and her friends plan to run away to Gemenon. On the way Zoe’s boyfriend goes militant and blows up the train they are traveling on, killing himself, Zoe, and hundreds of others.
Graystone, in his grief, soon discovers that Zoe’s duplicate still lives on in the holoworld, and tries to figure out a way to bring her into the physical reality. Joseph Adama’s wife and child were also on the train, and Adama and Graystone eventually form this awkward bro-mance in order to cope with their losses. Graystone takes Adama and his young son William (future Admiral Adama) to a pyramid game, eventually inviting them to his house to show off his technological toys.
Graystone convinces Adama to use his family connections to the tattoo-faced Tauraun mafia to steal the chip he needs to meld Zoe’s cyber-personality to the physical robot he’s created in his lab. His experiment does not succeed in bringing Zoe back, but it is the final step necessary to creating a combat ready ‘cybernetic life-form node’ aka Cylon (yeah, I don’t know either).
My thoughts? I think Caprica will give us some room to discuss issues that were neglected in the main Battlestar storyline. The first and foremost would be the creation of the ‘one true God’ counterculture. Second, would be the difficult race relations between the 12 Colonies, which we sort of see in the main series due to clashes between the conservative Gemenons and the Caprican-based political authority. In Caprica, it becomes even more evident as Adama is a Tauron and anti-Tauron racism is alive and well.
Loglines for the show also seem to indicate that Adama is going to turn on Graystone, and create an ethics debate on the issue of AI and the creation of the Cylons. Will there be political backlash about creating a full toaster army? When will we see the first skinjobs (Cylons who appear human)? When does a robot get rights? When do the 12 Colonies piss off the Cylons so much that they resort to rebellion and eventual genocide?
Caprica is young and fresh and unapologetically not a space war series. I am sure that Battlestar purists will find it difficult to watch. However, it will be a think piece on ethics, politics, religion, and ethnicity which could easily survive as stand-alone science fiction if given the opportunity.
I will be doing my Caprica dance until January 22nd, its Syfy premiere. If you want to watch the pilot, it is available to stream on http://www.syfy.com/caprica. Caprica will also be picked up by the Space Channel in Canada, and Sky1 in the UK.