Right off the bat, Syfy’s new series Caprica is not Battlestar Galactica. First, the network is promoting the series as its own entity, no reference to its source material. Second, creators Ron Moore and David Eick say it is its own entity, with basically “easter eggs” for BSG fans.
It turns out, this is a very good thing for Caprica. While comparisons are unavoidable, Caprica holds up better when judged on its own merits and forgetting, for at least an hour each week, that it is not part of the Battlestar Galactica world and franchise.
And of course, you don’t need to have seen a single minute of Battlestar Galactica to be able to jump right into Caprica.
The two-hour pilot, released uncut on DVD last year as a special preview (the broadcast version is much tamer), begins with the audience being plopped right in the middle of some strange rave/sex/S&M/orgy club. Jarring visuals for anyone. But the scene puts us right in the middle of the story. It gets us going right from the start.
At its most basic premise, Caprica is the story of how and why the Cylon technology was created. Don’t know what a Cylon is? Doesn’t matter. This newly discovered technology is introduced as such, our protagonists learning about it just as we are.
Deeper, Caprica is a family drama. The story of two families, connected by one tragedy. The Graystones are a wealthy family on the planet colony of Caprica. Daniel Graystone is a computer engineer working on a new weapon for the colony’s defense department. His daughter, Zoe, turns out to be a computer genius who ultimately and unknowingly discovers the key to the destiny-altering technology.
On the other end is the Adams Family. Adams being a Capricanized version of their real family name Adama, as the family is originally from Tauron, a colony that appears to be the subject of anti racial and ethnic sentiments.
The Graystones and Adamas both lose people in the tragedy and Daniel bonds with Adama patriarch Joseph, a civil liberties lawyer.
It wasn’t until towards the end of the pilot did I really feel anything for the characters. First, a wonderful scene with Joseph telling his son, Willie, their real family name and his true heritage. Then, a very stirring final scene, that does its job… gets you wanting more.
This series, like Battlestar Galactica did so well, touches on politics, religion, and race/ethnicity. Caprica‘s setting on solid ground allows for more potential to explore these themes. There is an expansion of the possibility of monotheism. The existence of the 12 colonies allows a deeper look into race and ethnicity. And the political aspect is the jumping off point for the creation of Cylons.
For Battlestar Galactica fans, this serves as a good prequel. Definitely something to fill the void of the 12 colonies. For new viewers looking for a good new show, Caprica works well as a family drama in the midst of political and ethnic clashes all with plenty of sci-fi for those looking for it.
For me, while Caprica may not have been what I expected, it showed a potential to be a very intriguing drama. I found myself nodding my head for most of the pilot, satisfied with what I was seeing, but it wasn’t until the last couple of minutes that I was really hooked. The cast is more than capable and it will definitely be interesting to see how the series develops.