Thoughts on Caprica

And now back to the more standard blogging…

Finally finished our backlog of Caprica on the DVR this weekend; the show ended its current run on ‘SyFy’ back in March.  It kept us engaged and interested, though it’s not on the same level as Battlestar Galactica. Developed by Ronald Moore and David Eick, the creative team behind BSG, and set about 50 years before the BSG series, Caprica shares many of the same traits as its predecessor.  A very strong cast, featuring Esai Morales as Joseph Adama (father of Admiral Bill Adama), Eric Stoltz as billionaire tech developer Daniel Graystone, Paula Malcomson as Dr. Amanda Graystone (Daniel’s wife), and Alessandra Torresani as Zoe Graystone (Daniel and Amanda’s sort-of dead daughter), distinct visual style and set production, good musical score, and lots of contemporary allegory on themes such as religion, terrorism, materialism, and technology.

The pilot sets up the main plotlines with monotheist terrorists (you may remember that in the BSG world, most of the people are polytheists, while the Cylons believed in the one true god) blowing up a commuter train with the help of some disillusioned wealthy kids.  Among their cell is Zoe Graystone, who is a technical whiz and the daughter of Daniel, one of Caprica’s most powerful industrialists.  Also on the train – Joseph Adama’s wife and teen-aged daughter, Tamara.  Joesph and Daniel strike up an acquaintance and commiserate.  But it turns out, their daughters aren’t really dead.  How’s that?  On Caprica, one of the main forms of entertainment is virtual reality (complete with VR goggle-type headware), and Zoe has figured out how to upload her memories and traits to the grid.  It’s the old Ghost in the Machine trick, straight out of Neuromancer. Somehow, Zoe gets this done and pulls along Tamara Adama in the process, right before the train blows up.

Soon, Daniel and Joseph figure this out.  They want to spend time with their daughters, but of course they’re not  sure what it all means.  Are these simulacrums, ghosts, abominations?  Zoe wants out of the VR world, and her father goes all Frankenstein with a plan.  He’s also trying to secure a big defense contract for ‘Cybernetic Soldiers’ and gets the idea of uploading Zoe into one of his prototypes – you guessed it, an early Cylon.  The process works – sort of – but Daniel instead becomes convinced that he actually erased Zoe by accident.  But after a few days we see that Zoe was, in fact, uploaded to the Cylon.  For reasons of her own, she decides not to reveal herself.

Over the ensuing episodes, we learn more about the Adamas as Joseph continues to try to reconcile himself with the loss of his wife and trying to find his daughter in the VR world.  The Adamas are Tauron, from one of the less wealthy planets in the twelve colonies, and seem like an ethnic cross of Sicilians and Russians.  Joesph’s brother Sam is a mob enforcer, and young William Adama starts to become isolated from his father and drawn into the underworld.  Meanwhile, the Graystones have to deal with the fact that their daughter was part of a terrorist cell and that they’d become so self-absorbed they didn’t even suspect it.  There’s also the public fall-out from this revelation and how it affects Daniel’s company, as well as his quest to build the Cylons.

Plenty going on from a narrative standpoint.  Lots of interesting commentary.  But what makes the show stand out, much like its predecessor, is the strong characters.  Caprica is first and foremost a smart and effective drama.  The sci-fi elements, while interesting and at points provoking, are not the central driving force.  It’s those familiar themes:  love, loss, redemption.  When set against the backdrop of some of current societal questions regarding religion and technology, it makes for interesting viewing.

Do we have complaints?  Of course.  Zoe’s single-mindedness and selfishness got a little old.  I didn’t really like the whole ‘having visions’ aspect of BSG, and when Amanda Graystone starts having them here, I just rolled my eyes.  Sometimes central characters like Daniel and Joseph, who are otherwise very smart and perceptive, make very stupid mistakes or judgments that seem out of character albeit necessary to advance the plot.  Still, we enjoyed the first season and look forward to the next.  A decent endorsement since we don’t watch much television drama these days.

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