Feb 10, 2011

[TV] Caprica: Season 1

Caprica: Season 1The 2003 "reimagining" of the campy 80's science fiction TV series Battlestar Galactica was definitely a high point in the post Star Trek era. With Enterprise failing to complete a "full" seven season run, it was quite the surprise to see that BSG (as it's more commonly known) managed to pick up the space opera torch.

At the end of show's 4-season run, the science fiction fan world (along with SyFy) was left wondering what would happen next. Four years seemed pretty short for a show for most fans (including me!), but what can we do right? The writers did make sure to wrap up the story well enough and it didn't feel too dragged out either. But for a show as lucrative as BSG, there had to be more. If anything, I'm sure the executives over at SyFy knew that the industry would think them stupid had they not made some sort of an attempt to capitalize on the fan base.

The first venture was the oddly-crafted, The Plan, which I felt was a horrible, confused mess. It was like a really long and nearly pointless DVD extra that a lot of us wish had been never made. In fact, it portrayed that the Cylons didn't actually have a plan that was worth talking about, depending on how you look at it.

So given that experience, I have to admit I was a bit nervous about this spin-off venture set as a prequel to the reimagined series. But then like most other fans, I took the plunge in the hopes of learning more about the "history" of BSG and perhaps the story of how the Cylons and their seemingly eternal conflict began.

Caprica is the 2010 science fiction drama spin-off of Battlestar Galactica. It takes place 58 years prior to the events in BSG.

The series starts with a terrorist attack attributed to the monotheistic group know as the Soldiers of the One. The bombing affects the Twelve Colonies at different levels and we experience the ripples from many different perspectives. First there is Joseph Adama (Esai Morales), who is the father of BSG's Bill Adama, who loses his wife and his daughter in the attack. There's Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz), a wealthy technologist whose daughter, Zoe (Alessandra Torresani) also died in the attack. And there's Lacy Rand (Magda Apanowicz), Zoe's best friend who knows a bit more about her life in recent years and this leaves her searching for more answers from the likes of Sister Clarice Willow (Polly Walker), the Headmistress at the Athena Academy.

Alessandra Torresani in 2009.Image via WikipediaAt the core of the story is Zoe and her experiments with artificial intelligence in the virtual reality environment known as V-world. Prior to her death, she had been working on an avatar of herself that contained almost all of her memories along with her likeness. This program finds its way into Daniel's robot prototype that eventually gets named as a "Cylon" - a cybernetic lifeform node. Lacy knew of this program and sets out to locate it and help the program as best as she can. Zoe's mother, Amanda (Paula), struggles first with her grief then later on with the growing reality that Zoe was somehow associated with the terrorists.

The show had a radically different tone compared to the original BSG, which was part of the goals of the creators. Similar to BSG though, the series tried to explore some pretty big issues including monotheism versus polytheism, the ethnic ties of the individual colonies as demonstrated by the strong Tauron traditions of the Adamas and the definitions of individuality, sentience and the afterlife because of the possibilities presented by V-world and Zoe's creation.

The show was cancelled before it could complete its US run, but thankfully the show was completed in foreign markets such as via Canada's Space channel. I can see why the show suffered from a ratings perspective. It had a somewhat slower pace of telling the story and for the first half of the season it wasn't very clear how it connected to BSG apart from the big robots walking around here and there. The desires to explore new horizons on the part of the producers was successful, but so much so that it felt too different a show. Thus it made it a lot harder for BSG sequel hopefuls to hang on to what was essentially a different show in more than just name. The last-ditch efforts to regain some of that fan base was pretty evident as seen in how the writers made the connections to BSG more and more evident.

I'm not sure if that was necessarily the best thing to do. The show on its own had a pretty strong sense of integrity and I felt they were doing the right thing in sticking to their guns initially. It just didn't work in the end and perhaps marketing it so closely associated with BSG may have done more harm than good, depending on how you look at things. It might have done better as an original concept without all the BSG trappings.

Admittedly, the show was a lot heavier to handle than BSG was. The drama element to things had been elevated to a new level and the show had little action to balance it out, but that's just how it was. Thus Caprica really had a very different experience to offer, one that it should have more clearly marketed to from the very beginning.

By the end of the series, I felt pretty bad that the show wasn't able to develop further. I'm not saying it was landmark or amazing or anything like that. But it did have quite the story to tell - a rather complex one that needed a lot of build-up and develop. It might have been smarter had the writers chosen to start telling the story somewhere further down the season and then go back with flashbacks or something (but not too much at the risk of becoming too LOST-like). Ah well, no sense crying over spilled milk.

And of course we have to give special mention to the character of Sam Adama (Sasha Roiz), Joseph's brother, given his status as a homosexual figure in somewhat mainstream entertainment. Go Sam and Larry!

And lesser points for James Marsters and his weird portrayal of Barnabas!

Caprica was a show with a vision of its own and a pretty ambitious end goal that was sadly cut off before it could really start to get there. It gets 3.5 strange V-world manifestations out of a possible 5. You can get copies of the series in two separate DVDs - Season 1.0 and Season 1.5 via Amazon or through your local retailer.

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