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?