Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales, Paula Malcomson, Alessandra Torresani, Magda Apanowicz, Polly Walker
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All photos © Syfy
Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
t’s been a while since a sci-fi series left me with as bad a taste in my mouth as “Caprica” has, so much so that I became pretty juvenile just a few episodes in and started referring to it as “Crapica.” This shockingly inept prequel to “Battlestar Galactica” is firing on so few cylinders it’s difficult to even know where to begin discussing it. Well, for starters, it’s worth mentioning that the 90-minute pilot, which is included here in both its rated and unrated forms, is a fairly competent and clever kick-start that promises greatness around the corner. Unfortunately, any sense the concept possessed is thrown out the window almost as soon as the series proper begins.
The place is, of course, the planet Caprica, 58 years before the events seen at the start of “Galactica.” Caprica is supposedly in a state of moral decay, akin to Rome before its fall. We know this because many of the adult characters smoke cigarettes(!) while the teenagers engage in sex-fueled and violence-driven virtual reality games. This is in and of itself problematic, because the world seen within the video games would be cause for alarm, but the outside real world of Caprica itself isn’t all that different from our world today, except everybody dresses like they’re from the 50s; everybody, that is, save for the Graystones, a rich family of scientists who seem to be a few steps ahead of the rest of the planet. Patriarch Daniel (Eric Stoltz) is a hotshot designer who’s in the process of making the first Cylon when his daughter Zoe (Alessandra Torresani) gets involved with a group of religious whackjobs dedicated to the one true God. Zoe and her boyfriend go on a suicide mission to blow up a commuter train and succeed. Following Zoe’s death, Daniel discovers a Zoe avatar his daughter created which he uploads into the Cylon machine, although I’m still not sure why.
A big problem with this show is the question “Why?” and I continually found myself asking it as I trudged through the eight episodes that follow the pilot. Why is there such a disconnect between those who follow the Gods vs. the One True God? (This made sense in “Galactica” as it mostly amounted to Cylon vs. Human; not so here.) Why is Joseph Adama (Esai Morales) so obsessed with finding the avatar of his dead daughter to the exclusion of all reason? Why create a virtual reality video game (“New Cap City”) that once you’re killed in it you can never play again? Why make one of the central characters a thug who’s also gay and married to man if you aren’t going to do anything with it? Why do these people have paper that functions like a computer? Seriously – there’s a technology on this planet that allows for people to whip out pieces of paper that work exactly like computers! Now anyone who reads my writings here at Bullz-Eye will know that I’m a “Doctor Who” freak, and that series features psychic paper, which isn’t a computer, but it’s just as magical regardless. The difference is that it’s treated like the gag it is on “Who,” while on “Caprica” this sort of thing is presented with utter seriousness.
“Caprica” actually has all the hallmarks of a fine satire, but it plays the material too straight to ever be labeled satirical, and that’s a shame, because if this material were approached differently it could be a success. With “Galactica,” we rooted for the characters because they were fighting for survival. With “Caprica,” there is nobody to root for, mostly because the characters are nearly impossible to care about and their struggles are negligible. It was probably too soon to mount another lengthy chapter in the “Galactica” concept. I don’t think creators Ronald D. Moore and David Eick had enough distance from the original series to be able to see this one clearly. It was also too soon for viewers, who weren’t clamoring for this new story, having been exhausted by the ride that was “Galactica.” The series feels as though it was put together solely to capitalize on a brand name, and not because there was actually a compelling story to tell.
Special Features: As with the “Galactica” sets, this thing is crammed with extras, including podcasts and/or commentaries for every episode, 48 deleted scenes, 13 video blogs, 3 behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a sneak peek at the second half of Season One, which doesn’t look promising at all.