Tagged: Caprica

Emily S. Whitten: Caprica: Before the Fall

it-has-the-word-avatar-in-it-lets-throw-it-some-of-that-money-guysCaprica, the 2010 prequel show to the 2003 reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, has been on my Netflix watch list for some time; but I blame Mindy Newell’s recent column for bumping it up to the top and getting me to actually start watching (I’m about five episodes in now). I love the modern Battlestar Galactica series, and thus would naturally have a desire to watch anything related to it; but BSG was such an entity unto itself that I was a little afraid of re-visiting it in this prequel format for fear it wouldn’t measure up. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to. It’s a different kind of show, and self-contained enough while still referencing BSG to be enjoyably tied to BSG without having to match it measure-for-measure.

For those who aren’t familiar with the prequel series, Caprica takes place “58 years before the Fall” of the Colonies that kicks off BSG, and focuses heavily on two families, the Greystones and the Adamas (yes, those Adamas) It’s the story of how the first AI robots, i.e. the Cylons, were created; and it’s a much richer story than I would have imagined, stemming from love and loss and grief, and the inability to let go coupled with society’s reckless and headlong quest towards building increasingly advanced technology. Injecting humanity into the robots’ point of view is what the creators of BSG and Caprica do so well; and Caprica‘s story starts with a human girl and computer genius, Zoe Greystone, being killed in a bombing after downloading her personality into a virtual world avatar formed of all documented computer data about her life. This avatar eventually ends up installed in what becomes the first Cylon.

Zoe is a compelling character, played arrestingly by Alessandra Torresani, who does a great job of switching between her roles as human Zoe, avatar Zoe, and eventually, Cylon Zoe (I love the shooting method which shows Cylon Zoe in action as the robot, and then switches perspectives to show her as the girl in the same scene, i.e. how the personality inside the robot would see herself). It’s interesting to think that while in BSG, at least at first, the Cylons were completely unsympathetic characters, in Caprica, thus far a Cylon is the character I’m most invested in. So far, Torresani as Zoe really holds the show together, although the acting overall is excellent. The pacing does feel a bit slow; but then, this show was not intended to be like BSG in action and pace.

It’s hard to watch Caprica without comparing it to BSG, despite it being a show that can stand on its own. But looking at the two together, Caprica tackles the big issues faced in BSG (the use of technology, the varying religious beliefs, etc.) from a different angle, and shows how a change in perspective can influence viewer feelings on the issues. It’s also interesting to observe that as seen in Caprica, life on the colonies wasn’t nearly the peaches and cream existence that BSG Colonial refugees might have nostalgically been longing to return to.

It’s also fun to see Intriguing little bits and pieces of information about the future characters of BSG. In particular, seeing the Adama family fifty-eight years in the past gives me a whole new perspective on Bill Adama in BSG, and makes me wonder how much little Bill Adama knew about his dad’s crime connections and his contribution to creating the Cylons. (Maybe I’ll find out?) And seeing the purposeful echo of Little Italy and mafioso culture in Little Tauron and Adama’s brother Sam’s life is an interesting approach to turning specific Earth culture traits into those distinguishing the Twelve Colonies.

While BSG is a show where humanity has been forced by circumstance to a militaristic culture and general simplicity, Caprica is rich with the diverse culture and prosperity that leads to much of the conflict sewn into the plot of BSG, as people try to hold onto their roots or what they think they are entitled to based on the old world. The setting is completely different; it’s rooted in scenes that feel technologically advanced but culturally familiar, as opposed to the epic space battles and antiseptic feel of BSG. BSG is rooted in a fear of technology; whereas Caprica is about the driving desire to create and improve on it. And while Caprica so far paints the monotheists of the plot’s religious conflict as terrorists, in BSG the “messengers” espousing the monotheistic religion are often portrayed as actually having some sort of divine or at least unique understanding of events that may happen (although even that is ambiguous, which is par for the course with BSG). 

The complexity and imperfections of the characters are akin to those in BSG, but in Caprica, it seems more like they are searching for meaning in the world they inhabit than for a way to build a system that best serves their needs. And in contrast with BSG, wherein both Commander Adama and President Roslin provide a theme of hope against all odds despite the monumental loss that begins the show and the desperate struggle that defines it, Caprica carries a sense of foreboding with it, subtly woven into the fabric of the show – although the feeling might also stem in part from my foreknowledge of the BSG storyline, or the general sense of wrongness felt when faced with the idea of humanity extending a life indefinitely by turning a machine into a “human.” And yet despite all contrasts, Caprica shares with BSG an intriguing moral complexity, and an epic feeling that makes even the opening credits give me a little chill, albeit a different, weirdly sadder chill than that I associate with the opening of Battlestar Galactica. So far, I find it worthy of continued watching, and of further thought.

That’s it from me, so until next time, Servo Lectio!

Mindy Newell: Chariots Of The Gods

“Space travelers in the gray mists of time? An inadmissible question to academic scientists. Anyone who asks questions like that ought to see a psychiatrist.” • Erich von Danniken

“It’s just one more thing to remember to charge throughout our busy days.” • Joseph Volpe of Engadget.com critiquing the Apple Watch

Well, I finished rewatching Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica.

The most popular question (dissatisfaction?) I remember floating around the message boards connected with the finale of BSG was: “What, or who, was the returned-from-the-dead Kara Thrace, a.k.a. Starbuck?” And I also remember that there was a lot of frustration and unhappy people who were really angry with Mr. Moore for not giving a black-and-white answer. I suppose these dissatisfied viewers wanted to see an extension of Kara’s final scene with Lee Adama in which, in their imagination, she would say – sort of a SPOILER AHEAD! –

“When my Viper crashed on Earth, there was a light, and as I walked towards it I saw my mother and my father and Kat and they told me that I wasn’t done yet, that I had to go back and complete my destiny. But my body was burned up so God created an avatar for my spirit, my soul, to inhabit so that my journey could be completed. Now I have. I have led you to Earth and humanity has its fresh start, but it’s time for me to leave for good, Lee. The lease on this body is up and I have to return it. Besides, Sam is waiting for me on the other side. So goodbye.”

Those of you who are BSG fans know that is not what Kara said to Lee – not in any overt way. But still, if you were paying attention, that is what she said, that is what happened to Kara Thrace. Im-not-so-ho, of course.

The other question that floated around the message boards, and one with which I agreed, was: Would the survivors of the twelve colonies really give up all their technology in their quest to start anew? I mean, not even a radio? That seemed a little “out there” to me. Wouldn’t it be important to stay in contact with the other colonists as they made “homesteads” around the globe? I mean, these were people who complained about the accommodations aboard the various ships on the fleet – were they really going to go without bathrooms?

Besides, if we are all descendents of the Cylon/Homo sapien hybrid named Hera, then an inherent need for technology is wired into our DNA – after all, anyone who is everyone is talking about that “godsdamned” Apple Watch and how they can’t wait to get it – oh, and by the way, Mike, you didn’t mention in your column that there is going to be an “upscale” model (read: diamonds and gold and sterling silver) costing around $17,000 or so, for those gazillionaires who want to play Dick Tracy.

Still, I loved the idea that the people of the colonies were the “gods” aboard the chariots of Erich von Danniken and the *ahem* Ancient Aliens of the History Channel. And it left me wanting more, more, more

So I watched The Plan and Razor and then put the sequel/prequel, Caprica, on my Amazon “watch list.” I watched the pilot episode Saturday.

Caprica did not feature huge space battles and interstellar travel so it never had the fan base of BSG; most of the audience did not have the patience for the acorn to take root and grow into a mighty oak tree, patience being a virtue that was apparently swallowed up into a black hole at the beginning of the 21st century, and thus it was prematurely cancelled by the Sci-Fi network.

(This, I think, was the beginning of the end of the Sci-Fi Channel, which once upon a time featured shows like Stargate Sg-1 and Farscape and BSG, and then changed its name to SyFy and now airs movies about mutant sharks caught in tornados and WWE exhibitions. Well, some of those wrestlers could be classified as aliens.)

It was an example of a – dare I use the phrase – thinking man’s exploration of science and God and the intersection between both. Yes, so was BSG, but Mr. Moore sneakily slipped that in between the (admittedly terrific) special effects of nukes exploding and Cylon raiders.

Mr. Moore said that Caprica is “about a society that’s running out of control with a wild-eyed glint in its eye… meant to explore ethical implications of advances in artificial intelligence and robotics.”

Too bad Mr. Moore never got a chance to complete the series.

I could have viewed it on my Apple Watch.