From Battlestar Galactica to Caprica
(Warning - possible spoilers.)
You cannot play God then wash your hands of the things that you've created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can't hide from the things that you've done anymore.
When Admiral William Adama spoke those words in the beginning of the Battlestar Galactica revamp, they had an almost eerie prescience. In its exploration of various themes - from explorations of spirituality to the nature of humanity, the revamped Galactica was willing - and able - to explore deeper issues around whether humanity deserved to survive. In five seasons (two of which were, admittedly, relatively short), the series explored how humanity - and its cybernetic children, the Cylons - were more similar than different. Even though the series' end has happened relatively recently, it feels as if the show has been gone for awhile...so much that Caprica, the prequel, might be seen as rushed.
In all honesty, I'm not a big fan of prequels, since they tend to follow a relative 'straight line' to the series, with often awkward foreshadowing and some slight hints of continuity porn. (Never mind the fact that, in many ways, we may already know the outcome). For example, we all knew the back story of Darth Vader, and while I enjoyed Revenge of the Sith, I doubt we needed to see The Phantom Menace and its explanation of galactic economic troubles. By the time Star Trek: Enterprise got its footing, it was canceled, and season four seemed to begin to fulfill the promise of the series. Even Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom felt as if things headed backwards rather than forwards...but keeping an open mind, I began watching Caprica, expecting to be an OK - though not classic - pilot.
Although somewhat slow and bumpy, I don't think Caprica will be as much of a must-watch as BSG had been, but there's enough promise - and a significantly different tone from its parent - that makes it well worth checking out. If anything, take away the BSG references, and it becomes an almost completely different series, strongly grounded in science fiction but enough of a human element to warrant further watching. It does what a good pilot should do - sets up the situation and encourages you to want to watch more.
Taking place almost 60 years before the events of BSG, Caprica focuses on two families - the Graystones and the Adamses - united by a common tragedy. However, this tragedy has...deeper repercussions. If you were expecting a retread of the themes from BSG, you would be sadly mistaken. Luckily, in the pilot there are plenty of nods towards the parent series (gee, what does that virtual club remind you of?), but not enough to make it blatantly obvious. There's a willingness to stoke out fresh territory - to try to tell a different kind of story - than its parent. If you're worried about continuity, there's really nothing within the pilot that jars with what has happened on BSG. If anything, the pilot shows us a world not too dissimilar from our own - albeit with paper computers and servile robots. It seems worlds apart from the inside of an old battleship....but more direct and familiar to us living in the here-and-now.
To be succinct, Caprica has a much more metaphysical tone to it - unlike Galactica, which dealt with a lot more immediate ethical and spiritual issues, Caprica works around themes about the true "nature" of humanity. While its parent series focuses on how similar the Cylons and humans were, Caprica begins to explore what makes us human, and what the boundaries are between humanity and mechanics. Throughout the pilot there is some highly literate, sparkling writing - one of the characters is described as using "a search engine as a way to cheat death." Daniel Graystone (as played by Eric Stoltz) describes the human brain as "a database and a way to access it." Much of Caprica - possibly setting the way for future storylines - sets up that humanity may be nothing more than a very complicated machine...and although we know the eventual outcome, there is something to the idea of turning human beings into megabytes and mechanics. It sets up a situation that, even despite knowing the outcome, has especially strong resonance in our tech-heavy world.
On the other hand, much of Caprica is focused on identity and purpose. We're seeing a society just before it's fall, and one character declares that "The children of Caprica are lost." (There are some hints at the more spiritual/religious conflicts of future BSG, but to say more would be to take away from the enjoyment). But it's the focus on the other major family - the Adamses - that really strikes at the heart of the theme of identity. Joseph Adams (played by Esai Morales) is a hard-working lawyer who loses his wife - and daughter - in the same traumatic event that affects the Graystones. Even more so, he begins struggling to raise his son, William (who - and it won't be spoiling, given the amount of coverage - plays a major role in BSG mythology) to have pride in his identity. It's difficult, given that Joseph is a Tauron - a man from a harsh planet that contains the Twelve Colonies' equivalent of the Mafia, and whose residents have the reputation of "deceit is in their DNA"
But what makes the series really stand out...is that, unlike Galactica, there are very few spaceship battles. In fact, it is (ironically) much more down-to-earth in tone. There are one or two moments of sly humor (such as the Cigarette-Smoking Man being cast as a defense minister), and there's a much more grounded sense of exploration than the original BSG. Even though it's a prequel, Caprica does not play the hey-look-foreshadowing game that several other prequels might have - it creates a world that literally stands on its own two feet.
And now, a challenge, mostly for myself - hopefully, by this point next year, the series will have come (and gone) on the Sci-Fi Network (soon to be Sy Fy). I will attempt to watch, and after it is completed, write a TV Party column about it. I predict that it may not be the must-watch that BSG was....I will be strongly encouraging everyone to watch it.
Thanks, and keep watching!
Read More! For more of Gordon's writings, insights, and
general information, please visit his blog at blogthispal.blogspot.com.
blog comments powered by Disqus