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Caprica: It’s a frakin’ ‘Battlestar Galactica’ spin-off!

July 4, 2009

Caprica_daughter-thumbI finally got around to watching the two hour pilot to the Battlestar Galactica spin-off, entitled Caprica.  SciFi/ SyFy did not air the pilot, but instead it was released on dvd.  Look forward to the actual series sometime in 2010–I will report once I find out further details.  Here’s a link to the official site if you haven’t heard anything about the project yet. For the rest of you, read on for a spoilery recap/ review:

In the commentary for the pilot, Ron Moore and David Eick claim that Caprica is a “lighter” show than BSG, and more of a “family drama.” Well, it starts off with a dysfunctional family, featuring a rebellious teenager. Typical family drama. The show then transitions to a suicide train bombing that tears apart our two main families, and then continues to portray the darkness and insanity of grief, mixed with the creation of the proto-cylons destined to destroy humanity. So yeah, I guess that’s a “light” family drama … if you balance it against the black hole of tragedy that was Battlestar Galactica. Ah, relativity. The show begins “58 years before the fall,” that is 58 years before the genocide of the BSG miniseries. Yay, this show explains how we get there. Boo, there is no Starbuck, and no one even remotely as awesome as her. I can’t say that I really like any of the characters yet, but hopefully that will change. So far, my favorite character is Atia. Sorry, that’s not her character’s actual name–she’s Sister Clarice, played by the glorious Polly Walker, who portrayed Octavian’s horrible mother in Rome (think of a classier & British version of Julie Cooper). Sister Clarice is sort of a villain, but in an awesome and creepy way. Rather than give a run-down of all the characters at this point, however, I will move into the recap, and explain the key players as I move along.

The episode begins at a rave. It’s a crazy paart-ay. Teenagers are doing all sorts of naughty things. Turns out that it’s not actually happening in the real world, but rather these kids are using the latest technology, holo-bands (that’s how I’m going to spell it, but so not sure), to live out their secret fantasies without consequences.  Sort of like the Dollhouse!  But without the whole slavery aspect. There are three teenagers who are the main characters here. One is a brunette named Zoe, her blondish best-friend Lacey, and Zoe’s boyfriend Ben. They disapprove of their class-mates’ antics. As the episode goes on, we see that they are involved in some sort of crazy monotheistic cult, represented by the infinity symbol, and run by fanatics. (Sidenote: Unfortunately Ronald D. Moore decided to prove these crazy fanatics RIGHT with his insane religious BSG series finale. Ugh.) Anyways, Zoe has made an avatar of herself that is a perfect copy. I will call her Cylon Zoe, although technically she’s not a cylon. The cylons are ultimately her fault though, so whatever.

Back in reality Zoe proves to be a petulant teenager, who treats her mom terribly. To be fair, however, the mom (Amanda Graystone) does not seem like quite a prize either. The dad, Daniel Graystone, is played by Meredith’s very special serial killer from that two-part Grey’s Anatomy episode (Eric Stoltz). I already have the creeps from him, and nothing in this episode serves to reverse that. I’m not sure if we as an audience are supposed to sympathize with him, but I do not. Too bad I was ruined by seeing him so creepy previously. Anyways, the very blond pale mom and red-head dad could not possibly have produced this black-haired and olive-skinned daughter (the actress is named Alessandra Torresani), but maybe they can make designer babies on Caprica (or she’s adopted). Anyways, there’s some unpleasantness between the mom and daughter. They live in Baltar’s house, by the way … or at least one that looks very similar.  I kept hoping that Six would show up, but sadly she did not.

Zoe heads off to school, the Athena Academy, which looks like the private school in Cruel Intentions. Zoe and company talk about how science is “dirty” and how there is one true god. The all chime, “So say we all.” Hmm, I don’t think Adama would approve of his saying being used like this. The kids leave school early to go to the train station. They are planning to run away to Geminon– the Geminese don’t mind religious fanatics, as we know from BSG.

Meanwhile, we meet Joseph Adama–William Adama’s dad!!!  He’s played by Esai Morales, and is dressed like a 50s mobster. He’s a Tauron, and apparently there’s a lot of discrimination against Taurons on Caprica. His daughter, Tamara, looks like a young Sofia Coppola. She’ll die soon … but, alas, not as dramatically as Sofia in Godfather III. Joseph sees his wife and daughter off to the train.

Lacy gets cold feet at the last second, and doesn’t board the train. This proves her to be the smartest character on the show … and she stays that way. Once on the train, Zoe sends her mother a sorry and goodbye note. Then she is horrified to look over and see that her boyfriend has bombs strapped onto him.  He is a crazy religious fundamentalist terrorist.  Zoe and Tamara are blown up, along with the rest of the train.

“Two weeks later”: Graystone and Adama are both in mourning, and meet on the street. “My daughter died on the train.”  “Hey, so did my daughter!”  “I like pyramid”  “I like Pyramid too!”  “Do you want to be friends?”  They bond, and go off for coffee to continue their bonding. This is the beginning of a short and unhealthy friendship.

Lacy puts on the holo-band and reunites with Cylon Zoe. Cylon Zoe felt the real Zoe’s death, and is covered in gross blood. “I’m not a person. I know that. But I feel like one.” Here we go again. Daniel eventually finds out about the holo-band, and meets his daughter’s copy. At first he’s freaked, but then he becomes obsessed with bringing her avatar back to life.

Little Adama!!!! Bill was a little kid once! He’s not taking his mom and sister’s death well, and Joseph is at a loss as to how to deal with it. His confusion is preyed upon by crazy Mr. Graystone who lures him into his insane scheme to recreate their daughters. Daniel ropes Joseph into performing corporate espionage, and there’s a sub-plot involving gangsters that I will skip for now. Daniel succeeds in bringing Joseph’s daughter Tamara back, but the result is truly heartbreaking. She is freaking out because she can’t feel her heart beat, and Joseph realizes that Daniel is out of his frakin’ mind. Finally.

Unfortunately, without Joseph’s voice of sanity around, Daniel puts Zoe’s brain into a proto-Centurion Cylon. Something goes wrong, and Daniel thinks that Zoe is gone. However, the technology that she created, plus the technology he stole (What a winner! How very Baltar-esque!), enables him to create an actual Cylon, name and all (Cybernetic Life-form Node?). It actually says “By your command,” in homage to the original series. He wins a military contract.  Oh, yes.  This will certainly end well.  And by “well,” I mean in the ultimate destruction of the majority of the human race.  But who cares about genocide, because it was “God’s Plan” anyways (O.K., yes, I am still dealing with some repressed anger regarding the BSG series finale).

Meanwhile, Lacey is trying to deal with her friends’ deaths, and goes to Sister Clarice for comfort. Turns out that Sister is actually a closet monotheist, and was encouraging thekids to engage in domestic terrorism. She cryptically tells Lacy, “You have no idea how special Zoe was to us … or is.” This shady statement can be explained by a cut scene which features the Sister meeting up with dead Ben’s avatar!!! The plot thickens. Not sure if it’s cannon though, since it was cut.  There’s also some amazing dialogue about polytheism vs. monotheism.  Unfortunately, I didn’t write it down. Frak.

In the final scene of the episode, the camera pans to a cylon (centurion type) laying on a table. All of a sudden it arises, and calls Lacy. It’s frakin’ Cylon Zoe! Hmmm.

Overall, I enjoyed it, and I’m intrigued by the story.  However, it felt like the writers hadn’t quite figured out the world of Caprica. In the commentary, Ron Moore said that he imagined it as kind of like the 60s, where the new and the old are happening concurrently. Fedoras AND beehives, suits AND bell-bottoms. However, the kids all look like they live in current-day L.A. (they’re way to modern-day trendy); Mr. Graystone looks like a modern-day preppy business-man; and then Adama and the Taurons are in a 40s/ 50s gangster movie. I would have preferred for there to be a more distinctive aesthetic , which could identify it as a show. I think they missed an opportunity to define the show, and this schizophrenic culture also detracts from the believability of the show. Agree/ disagree? What did you think of the show in general? Excited? Disappointed? Comment below.

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