Battlestar Galactica & Caprica Reviews

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Caprica - Season 1 - Episode 01

Caprica - 1x01 - Pilot, Part 1 - Originally Aired: 2009-4-21

My Rating - 7

Fan Rating Average - 3.85

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Synopsis
58 years before the fall of Caprica at the hands of the Cylons, Joseph Adama and Daniel Graystone form an unlikely friendship in the wake of tragedy when both of their daughters are killed in a terrorist explosion. The investigation into the bombing implicates Zoe, Daniel's daughter, as possibly being one of the terrorists.

Meanwhile, Zoe's friend Lacy mourns in her own way by trying to figure out why she created a virtual copy of herself in their secret underground "V club." But just as she begins her investigation, she is discovered and confronted by Daniel, who is astonished at the existence of Zoe's virtual copy and demands an explanation from Lacy. [DVD]

Problems
- In BSG: Hero, William Adama's mother's name is stated to be Evelyn but in this series it has been retconned to Shannon.

Factoids
- The Caprica series takes place 58 years before the BSG miniseries.
- One of the colonies, possibly either Tauron or Gemenon is very, very close to Caprica. So close that it can be seen from Caprica's surface in great detail.
- William Adama is 11 years old during this time period, placing him at the age of 69 at the beginning of BSG and 29 at the end of the first Cylon war.
- Joseph Adama is an atheist.
- A deleted scene establishes that Clarice grew up in a slum on Sagittaron.

Remarkable Scenes
- The opening scene. Nudity, violence, sex, and drugs galore.
- Zoe: "Go frak yourself, Caston."
- Zoe's argument with her parents.
- Zoe talking with her virtual copy.
- The bombing. "The one true god shall drive out the many!"
- Joseph and Daniel meeting on the street, comparing losses.
- Lacy meeting with Zoe's virtual copy.
- Daniel stumbling upon Lacy, startling her, and scaring her off.
- The lackluster performance of Daniel's prototype Cylon.
- Daniel hacking into the V club and seeing Zoe's copy.
- Agent Duram confronting Amanda about Zoe's suspected involvement in the bombing.
- Lacy visiting the Graystones' house again and Daniel confronting her about the Zoe copy.

My Review
The Caprica pilot is successful in seamlessly depicting a serene, innocent, elegant world, complacent in its own success, comfortable with its many luxuries, and utterly oblivious to the horrors they will soon unleash upon themselves.

The producers were true to their words when they said they would deliver a very different show from Battlestar Galactica. The gritty, dark drama and fast paced action is replaced by a show which more closely resembles HBO's historical drama "Rome" but in a science fiction setting than what one would expect from most science fiction series. Quite appropriately, the pilot even features Polly Walker, the actress who played Atia of the Julii on Rome. (Caesar's niece and Augustus' mother.) In this series she plays Sister Clarice Willow.

To be clear, when I compare any story favorably to HBO's Rome, I'm paying the story a high compliment. I can only hope that Caprica becomes as deep, and layered, and nuanced as Rome was, which delivered exceptional acting performances that were more exciting than the legion battles. For Caprica to be a success without much action, it will have to be similarly focused on painting a rich, textured picture of dramatic political intrigue with an arsenal of innuendo and subtlety.

What we get with part one of the Caprica pilot is somewhat more shallow and rough than Rome, but the raw materials for a great story all seem to be there, right down to a delicious parallel to ancient Rome's issues with the emergence of monotheism. The significance of the emergence of monotheism in a society dominated by polytheism was something not touched on in much depth on BSG, so it will be fun to explore it here.

A particular highlight of Caprica is how naturally integrated into their society their significantly advanced technology is. Everything from the Graystones' butler robot ("Serge") to the tennis court sensors to the touchscreen computer paper, complete with the flexibility to be crumpled up and flattened out again is as delightful to watch as it is fascinating to conceptualize.

To top it all off, Bear McCreary returns to us to compose a beautiful score for the pilot fraught with anticipatory mystery, sadness, and innocence. It conjures up images of a frightened child sitting in the dark, waiting for something scary to strike. This aesthetic persists throughout the pilot (except in the unfortunately jarring V Club scenes) as if this sense of anticipation will never end until the war with the Cylons begins. It's as if the music personifies Caprican society to be the frightened child and their impending war with the Cylons as the horrible terror lurking just around the corner. The narrative waits in cautious, seemingly endless anticipation of this inevitable, tragic end to the story we all know is coming.

Despite these lovely touches, the pilot is not without its flaws. Aside from trivial things such as the V Club scenes being a bit much or the directing's curious tendency to repeatedly compositionally place highly blurred objects in the foreground to obscure the characters' faces, the two most significant issues with the first half of the pilot are its general slow pacing and a significant degree of murkiness with regards to Zoe's motives.

Frankly, Zoe steals the show, but we know far too little about what drives her. She had plans to change the twelve colonies with the virtual AI copy of herself and with monotheism, but nobody seems to know what those plans were. She seems to have an anti technology streak in her; she referred to her father's scientific career as filthy, but she also seems to be an incredibly talented computer programmer. Finally, the narrative offers absolutely no explanation for why she finds monotheism so compelling in the first place besides some fairly cookie cutter rhetoric. Is she just a rebellious teenager, or is there something deeper at work?

The Caprica pilot is a two hour (two episode) pilot. My review continues in the next episode.

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