Caprica: Doom, Despair, and Robots

I was thinking I'd rather be used as a living incubator for a human-Cylon hybrid than watch last Friday's premiere of Caprica—the prequel of sorts to Battlestar Galactica. After the exhausting rollercoaster of Battlestar, which swooped from the heartbreak of the pilot movie to the sheer crappiness of mid-Season 2 to the brilliant-yet-frustrating finale, I just wasn’t sure I could go there again—especially knowing that no matter what happens in Caprica, it’s going to result in the near-destruction of the human race that begins Battlestar Galactica. Talk about a spoiler alert.

But like being caught in the tractor beam of a Cylon Tartarus Class Destroyer, there I was, pulled along for another love-hate ride. My reward? The pilot was complex, involving, and exciting. If you're thinking about jumping on board, here's what you're in for...

Frankenstein and Family
Instead of another BSG-style “Exodus” in space, Caprica is a planet-bound Frankenstein tale. Caprica’s herr doctor is Daniel Graystone, played by the sympathetic, yet chilly, Eric Stoltz. Its monster is the re-creation of Graystone’s 16-year-old daughter, Zoe, killed in a terrorist attack. Conveniently, Zoe had already built her own digital twin before she died. Graystone’s goal: To transplant the digital Zoe from her shadowy virtual world into a Cylon (Cybernetic Life Form Nodes) body.

Like Mary Shelley’s original Dr. Frankenstein, Graystone is clearly setting himself up for destruction through his own arrogance. Told that it’s wrong for humans to appropriate the power of life and death from the gods, Graystone replied, “I don’t accept that.” Generations of TV and movie history promise us that no good will come of that attitude—although it sure can make for good TV.

The Big Questions
Like BSG, Caprica is all about good and evil, and how to know the difference. On planet Caprica, the monotheistic underground is challenging the polytheistic majority with a disturbing new claim on a single truth. An anti-terrorist agent critiqued monotheism as an ”absolutist view of the universe” in which right and wrong are “determined solely by a single, all-knowing, all-powerful being whose judgment cannot be questioned, and in whose name the most horrendous of acts can be sanctioned without appeal.” This is not Real Housewives, kids.

Racism is another major moral issue on Caprica the planet. Interestingly, skin color seemed irrelevant to the Caprican racists—it was all about planet of origin, like when a high-ranking Caprican called the Taurans “frakking dirt eaters.” Sort of a Malibu vs. the Valley mindset.

People Who Need... Cylons?
Daniel Graystone’s counterpart, Joseph Adama (the very talented and handsome Esai Morales), is a Tauran immigrant who changed his name to the more Caprican-sounding Adams. He’s a mob-connected lawyer whose wife and daughter were killed in the same attack that took Zoe Graystone. He’s also the father of young Willie, who will grow up to be Captain Bill Adama of the Galactica. Adama’s finest moment came when he rejected Graystone’s offer to recreate his daughter in Cylon form and instead promised his son that the two of them would rebuild their lives and honor their Tauran roots. The continuing tension between Adama and Graystone could be tasty.

As Adama’s doomed daughter Tamara, Genevieve Buechner shone in just a few scenes. Even better were Alessandra Torresani as Zoe (both the live and digital versions) and Magda Apanowicz as Zoe’s best friend Lacy, conveying the excitement and idealism of young people discovering a new way to look at the world. It’s easy, and chilling, to imagine their youthful commitment to monotheism being transformed into the Cylons’ genocidal fanaticism a generation later.

Mysteries of the Cylons You can’t talk about Caprica without talking about the robots. At the beginning of the pilot, Graystone couldn’t even make his Cylons beat smaller, cuter robots in a paintball fight. Toward the end, he watched in grim satisfaction as they blasted the cute blue mini-Daleks into itty bitty pieces. So the pilot’s final scene—in which a huge silver Cylon got up from a table in Graystone’s lab and phoned Lacy in Zoe’s voice—was thoroughly scary. What on Caprica is Cylon Zoe going to do with that single, glowing red eye?

Like all good pilot episodes, Caprica's asked as many questions as it answered. We learned in the final episodes of BSG that the “skin jobs”— Cylons that looked like humans—came from our Earth. But how did they meet the Caprican Cylons? Why did they all convert to monotheism? And who started the first Cylon rebellion?

Damn it, I'm in.

What did you think of the premiere?

Comments (13)
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I'll watch it, I thought it led in well to the "only one god" concept by the skin jobs at the end of BSG. I hope the show will be allowed to get its legs under it and start to expand on some of its mini plots.
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I watched it, despite not liking BSG or its concept. (Too claustrophobic, unlike Caprica which seems to be more open) And I really liked it, I might actually watch season 1 of BSG in hope of getting past my problems with it.
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I'm a BSG fan, but this was (sorry!) boring
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Here are the reasons nysayers give:

1. Not BSG.

2. God and morality FROM BSG.

3. We know how it's going to end. Come on. We know how EVERYTHING is going to end. And usually that's better than clinging to storylines that never seem to end - and they should.

Does ANY of that have anything to do with the quality of the show? Of course not. It's a kick-ass triller standing on its own, period.
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I'm a huge BSG fan ..... but I'm not into this show "Caprica" .. hate the premise ..

p.s ... will wait & see what following it has before i take a peek
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Here's why I can't get into Caprica: At the end of Galactica, it is openly stated as canon that God exists and he is one single entity who has a vested interest in the future of the human race and an external morality system to which we must conform if we expect to survive. That was a bit too ideological for my taste, and it kind of threw all the complexity of the series off. With that locked in place as the culmination of the whole thing, I just can't gather any enthusiasm for a prequel.
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This intrigued me far more than I expected. The only problem I had with this was the same I had with the second Star Wars Trilogy that was made: We know how it is going to end. I think I will enjoy this even more than BSG.
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Technoaracy vs thiesm. a lot of history inside of 58 years before the terminal Battlestar - 4.5. Will Adamas's life and his friendships and connections growing up should make the plot insightful. I hope the techno side will be as rich in insight.
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Or, the skin jobs were created towards the end of the first cylon wars and the cylons made the agreement to end the war and go and live on their own planet so they could secretly develop the skin jobs for a new attack...humans not knowing there was skin jobs was a major reason the cylons were successful, if not the number one reason their invasion was a success.
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actually, the cylons in BSG came from their home planet (unknown, but not Earth) which was a planet the original cylons went to after the first cylon wars, because they wanted a home all for themselves, and before the "skin jobs" became known...the shows not clear on when exactly the "skin jobs" were made or by who though it was probably by cylons who took prisoners with them when the war ended. So cylons did not meet up with other cylons in the way the article states...don't forget Anach wikipedia is written by users and is not always completely correct.
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Loved it - I am actually using it as part of a discussion of what it means to be human in a psych class very thought provoking
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Anachronism2023, you're right, of course! Thanks for the clarification.
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minor correction, the cylon skin jobs came from *another* planet also called earth. "our" earth was the world settled by the remnants of the fleet at the end of the final episode. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Battlestar_Galactica_%28reimagining%29_locations#E
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