Caprica

Season 1 Episode 1

Pilot

3
Aired Friday 10:00 PM Jan 22, 2010 on Syfy
SUBMIT REVIEW

Episode Fan Reviews (16)

8.8
out of 10
Average
474 votes
  • An interesting opening, if a slight re-writing of history

    8.0
    Caprica is going to have to tread a careful path if it is to be truly considered a "prequel" to the events of Moore/Eick's BSG, rather than simply being a story told in the same universe, using many of the same hooks. So much has been established in the former show, that while Caprica needs a certain latitude to be able to stray into new arcs of "history", it nevertheless needs to hold true to the tenets established in BSG if it is to remain true to the ideal of a prequel.

    By-and-large, the pilot succeeds in this. Yes, there are a few potential cracks in continuity - notably around the origins of monotheism - but these aside, the story works, and works well. Set 58 years before the events of the mini series, Caprica presents a view of the Twelve Colonies that is alluded to, and occasionally glimpsed, in BSG. The colonies are far from unified; society is clearly split along the lines of the "haves" and the "have nots" (with a hint that this divide might be due to religion as well as a matter of place of birth). Caprica itself clearly leads the "haves" while Tauron is very definitely among the "have nots" - possibly alongside Sagittaron, although its importance as a agricultural centre suggests it may be resented by worlds such as Caprica simply because they _rely_ on its produce; something this is against a clever ramping of racial / planetary tensions alluded to in BSG.

    Where the other colonies sit, is hard to judge, although it appears that Gemenon may be a seat of potential radicalism as much as religious fundamentalism. I won't dwell on the storyline too much - it is covered only too well in other reviews and in the summaries that appear in these pages. Suffice it to say, the pilot does a truly excellent job in establishing the major players in the show, and also establishing the initial story arcs: loss, grief, alligience, love, hope, religious morality, mistrust, and espionage. These are certainly rich grounds in which to sow any number of intersecting story arcs, and it is easy to understand why Moore himself has referred to Caprica as the first true "space soap opera", likening it to Dallas of the 1980s.

    Eric Stoltz, always a welcome sight on-screen, fleshes out Daniel Greystone, the flawed genious, absolutely perfectly. In reading some of the background notes to the series, I have to admit that I was concerned that Greystone could run the risk of being a re-tread of Gaius Baltar (albeit it one with the facade of family life and love) - but this is far from the case. Greystone's character may be flwed, but his failings are empathic: no parent should ever outlive their offspring, and the depth of his grief is something that is tangible, that reaches into us and allows us to identify more closely with him. At the same time, we are gently made aware of the hubris that boils beneath the surface and which may well be pivotal to the coming tragedies of civil strife and the inevitable first Cylon War. Esai Morales brings a similar depth to the character of Joseph Adama, and makes him instantly identifiable as a flawed hero character - his flaw in this case being the fact that he is embroiled in organised crime while have a conscience. His ties seem to be a matter of birth, given the Ha'la'tha - the syndicate in which his is embroiled - appears to have its roots on Tauron, his home planet. It is in Adama that the writers need to exercise the most care; while he was never present in BSG, his backstory was somewhat established - and the certainly seem to have thought this through very well. In BSG, we learn that Joseph Adama is a lawyer who spent a lot of time "letting murderers go free" ("The Son Also Rises"). At the time, this could easily have been taken, along with other hints given by William Adama himself, to mean Joseph was some kind of Public Defender. Now, in Caprica, this is very cleverly translated to the fact that Joseph is as much a mob "fixer" as he is a lawyer, and much of his "letting murderers go free" involved bribes to judges and court officials as it did to his prowess as lawyer. We also discover that he is also the "acceptable" face of the mob: delivering threats and warnings to those the Ha'la'tha regard as potential enemies. The rest of the pilot largely works well: we discover that Greystone's work on developing a cybernetic fighting machine, while stalled, may be biased towards providing Caprica with a new form of soldier more than it is about providing "the colonies" with the same resource: his contract is with the CAPRICAN Ministry of Defence. Whether this will lead to a linking of inter-colony strife with the wider first Cylon War remains to be seen, but it certainly establishes an intresting possible avenue of story telling, should the series develop in that direction. For me, the only jarring element in the pilot was the inclusion of montheism and the idea of the Soldiers of The One (STO). That the belief in the "one true God" originated among the colonials doesn't sit right. In fact it jars alarmingly with what was established in BSG, and as such, comes across as a pure contrivance to explain the Cylon's eventual obssession with their "one true God."

    I say this because religious belief systems are increadibly tenacious. Once established, they are very hard to eradicate (even now, despite the Christian church's best efforts - up to and including the "hijacking" of their religious dates and festivals - paganism is alive and kicking, for example). From the pilot, it would appear that the monotheistic cult is VERY well established: it has at least one radicalised arm in STO, and it is sufficiently active to have infiltrated many avenues of life - including educational estalishments - and is sufficiently rooted to worry to the state security services. Given all this, it is hard to accept - even allowing for civil strife, the forthcoming Cylon War, etc. - that the belief in a single God could be so utterly and completely eradicated that - just 58 years later - it is a concept utterly alien to the survivors of the Fall, and comes across as a wholly new, fresh message of redemption to Baltar's followers. Another minor upset in this regard is the idea that the monotheists are based on Gemenon - where Zoe and Ben were headed when he blew up the maglev train. In BSG Gemenon is estalished as a centre of religious fundamentalism within the colonies - and as such, a place where monotheists would likely be the most persecuted. Thus, being a desired haven in which to express monotheistic beliefs seems somewhat at odds with the established BSG backstory. But maybe the writers have other ideas here - such as Gemenon being more radical than we've been lead to believe.

    What is far cleverer in the religious context is the subtle differences shown between those who believe in a planoply of gods. Capricans (and by extension the other better-off colonies?) clearly believe in the Gods of Greek mythology - Apollo, Athena, Ares, et al. However, as indicated in one of the conversations between Joseph and Sam Adama, the Taurons believe in the Roman system of Gods - thus, are we seeing a subtle indication of religious divides fuelling the tensions between the twelve colonies?

    Again, this idea tends to sit at odds with the idea that the founders of the 12, those who came from Kobol, "dwelt with the Gods" and could be taken as a re-writing of established facts. However, I'd suggest otherwise: the religious scrolls that refer to the relationships between the people and their Gods back on Kobol are the scrolls of the _dominant_ religion of the twelve worlds - and thus are bound to portray their followers as being more "approved" of by their gods. They certainly don't preclude the idea that other belief systems were common among the original settlers of the colonies - nor do they disallow alternative belief systems to take root once the twelve colonies were established. As I said above, belief systems are remarkably tenacious, and very hard to eradicate once established. Thus, the Tauron system - and the fact it may fuel the ethnic dislike of Taurons demonstrated by other colonials - is totally understandable and acceptable. It's just a little odd there were no hints of these divides in BSG - which in may ways would have added a lot of strength to some of the weaker elements of civil unrest subplots that cropped up in that series. Away from this, there are other aspects to the pilot that bode well for the series. For one thing, Bear McCreary is retained to provide the music for the show, and this is a very wise move. McCreary has a singular talent to write compelling TV series music and use leitmotifs to establish both viewer familiarity with characters, arcs and events and to lay down aural cues that help direct the viewer's realisation of things on a more subtle level than through the use of character exposition. While the music evidenced in the pilot is - with perhaps one notable exception - vastly different to that written for BSG, it is nevertheless equally evocative and stirs a rich wellspring of identification within the viewer. Gone are the brusque martial tones of BSG - excepting, of course the all too familiar drumbeats that accompany our encounters with the prototype Cylon as it undergoes evaluation. Instead, we have a richer, more orchestral use of music, one that adds a certain depth to both Caprica - the vibrant city - and the people who inhabit it. Yet, within the overall musical arc, there are subtle motifs and gentle uses of specific elements of the orchestra, that immediately resonate with the viewer, and serve subconsciously to remind us that this world and these people, as different as they are from those we came to know in BSG, are very much part and parcel of the same universe. Caprica clearly has a long way to go, but it is off to a strong, and highly intriguing start. If there is any disappointment to be had at all, I suspect that it will be among those who prized BSG for its sweeping space battles, its dog-eat-dog story arcs and its artificially-created conflicts (such as the black market arc) rather than for its more subtle and thought-provoking elements.

    For those willing to stay the course, or who were drawn to the more subtle statements BSG strove to make, and the broader arcs it encompassed (at least in the early seasons), Caprica look set to provide an intelligent and intellectual feast of storytelling. I only hope that that creators have a genuinely clearer idea of where they want the story to go, because it has to be said the one weakness that became painfully apparent within BSG - particularly in seasons 3 and 4 - is that while the start and end of the story were known, little thought had been given as to precisely how the story could be maintained and driven forward over a 4-season arc.
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