'Caprica' on DVD: Does the pilot fill the 'Battlestar' void?

Hey, boys and girls! Still fiending for that Battlestar Galactica fix almost a full month after the series finale? Well, then, today’s your lucky day, as the two-hour pilot for the prequel series Caprica is on DVD as of…now! What’s that? You wanna know how it is? I’m glad you asked…a psuedo-spoilery review, after the (FTL) jump.

If I were a television viewer coming to Caprica, the two-hour pilot for the TV show that’ll start up in January, with no knowledge of Battlestar Galactica lore — that humanity created artificial intelligence, in the form of the Cylons, and those Cylons eventually rose up to all but exterminate the human race — I’m not sure what I’d make of it. It’s a family drama about two patriarchs — Joseph Adama (Esai Morales) and Daniel Greystone (Eric Stoltz) — dealing with the devastating fallout of a death in the family, and how they choose to move on. Greystone, a leading technologist and defense contractor, refuses to let his daughter Zoe fade into memory and uses his considerable knowledge — and aided by Zoe’s own nascent genius — to create an artificial simulacrum of Zoe. Adama, on the other hand, retrenches into what’s left of his family — his young son, William — and the lower-caste culture he tried to leave behind in his attempt to integrate into Caprican society as a lawyer. I think if I were a newbie, I’d be at best, a little lost and, at worst, kinda bored. There aren’t any spaceships, or dogfights, or hot robot sex — though there is some virtual naughtiness (this DVD is a decidedly not-for-broadcast affair) — and only one explosion.

But if you’re a BSG devotee, the whole enterprise has the pull of destiny. You know what eventually happens, so the joy is in watching the pieces slot together; in watching Greystone and Adama wrestle with the ethical and moral ramifications of creating virtual golems of their deceased loved ones, in watching that red Cylon eye scan back and forth for the first time.

For me, the best part was getting the backstory on the Adama family, and their Tauron heritage. Here, the Tauron people are presented as a mixture between Arab Muslims (with their devotion to religion that can, occasionally, tend towards extremism), Russians (with their closed immigrant society that also boasts a heavily tattooed organized crime element), and migrant Mexicans (who are seen by the metropolitan Capricans as untrustworthy commoners fit for little more than day labor).

I love how that creates a foundation for Admiral William Adama. How it amplifies him as a military man, given that, in our world, the armed forces have long been something of a social equalizer. Men were integrated on the battlefield long before they were in society — when you’re in uniform, you are what you can do. For a young man growing up Tauron on Caprica, that must’ve been a very attractive proposition. It also underscores that moment in the BSG finale when he barges out of that lie-detector job interview (about a minute in):

His inquisitor didn’t just simply distrust him as a run-of-the-mill job applicant…he distrusted him as a Tauron. And that’s what Bill Adama couldn’t stomach.

At the end of the day, Caprica works, but not entirely on its own terms. It succeeds inasmuch as it enriches the larger Battlestar story. You know what? That’s fine with me. Who else is on board?

Comments (13 total) Add your comment
  • YoursTruly

    I chose to hold off on watching BSG until it ended and was on DVD, knowing that I’d love it, but wanting to be able to watch it without interruption. As I’m just now nearing the end of season 3 (Maelstrom last night – yikes), I’m definitely on board for Caprica. Bill Adama is the character I’m most invested in (well, and Roslin), so I’m very interested in seeing how he came to be the man he became.
    Plus, the creation of the Cylons? Brilliant. Who knew they were created out of grief?

  • crispy

    Battlestar is dead to me.

  • Eric

    I wonder, and I’m not being facetious here, if while watching this series we will be or should be aware that God is controlling everybody’s every move.

  • Ellen

    I agree that the racial connotations of Joseph Adama’s place in society was the most interesting facet of the story – and I was disappointed that they focussed so much on the AI aspect – something which I think was explored sufficiently in BSG and, besides, is not as much of an interesting ethical dilemma as Ronald D Moore seems to think it is. The whole problem with him finishing BSG as a foreshadowing of our present-day fascination with robotics is that BSG isn’t actually REAL. There’s no reason to suspect that robots will ever try and kill us and so the portent was a bit silly when the rest of the show had tried to ask questions about vert immediate real-world issues. I’d much rather they used the twelve colonies to explore political allegories and social problems rather than hammering away at this dull dull computer science stuff – although I did like the idea of the underground teen cyber clubs.

  • Ellen

    Also, did anyone else think it was a bit messily edited in terms of the time frame? It was never clear how long each gap between scenes was supposed to represent. It would have been nice if there had been the odd ‘2 months later’ or ‘1 week later’ to make it a bit clearer.

  • Julie

    I loved it. LOVED it. I’m sort of familiar with Battlestar, but not a big geek about it, but this was much more up my alley. LOVE Eric Stolz, Esai Morales, and the wife from Deadwood. Loved them. Looking forward to seeing more of this, bummed it won’t be till next year.

  • Alex

    It was better then I thought, I love it! can’t wait for the series…

  • Leoben

    I bought the dvd, but have not yet watched it. Knowing the premise as I do(and every BSG devotee does), I am surprised that I have note heard any criticism of the plot as a retread of the DeNiro cloning thriller GODSEND (a couple lose their young son, and are convinced by a eugenicist to “clone” their son with – of course – disastrous consequences). BSG has a history of building expectations with their promos of upcoming episodes, only to subvert them with something even more interesting once you tune in. Perhaps this is one of those examples. However, the premise of replacing a lost loved one with a “proxy” (“golem” was an excellent choice of words in the above article) predates GODSEND and is hardly a unique or unexplored concept.

  • TimeLost

    It was crap. Pure and simple soap. Junk. Wasted time. Without reason for existence.
    Other than that, it sucked.

  • Dude

    Eric and Crispy:
    So don’t watch.

  • Shea

    The first 10 minutes I was like “What is this? This isn’t Battlestar Galatica and it doesn’t make sense”. But as soon as they really introduced the zoe character, it became amazing. I loved it and is definitly worthy of BSG

  • Abid

    I thought the bit where Adama is undergoing a lie detector test was a bit crap. Basically, asking if he was a cylon, at that time period, is a ridiculous question, as they only found out that cylons looked like humans, in Season 1. As far as they were concerned, Cyclons were toasters. Correct me, if I am wrong.

  • Dave

    When taking a lie detector test you sometimes start off with obvious questions to test the accuracy of the lie detector. Questions like is your name… Or do you live …. On bsg those questions might have been are you a cylon?

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