The first episodic length segment of Caprica, and once again it is going to come as a disappointment to some quarters of BSG fans. And to be fair, things are a bit bumpy.
The production style for Caprica is very different to that of BSG. We get no cinema veritae shoots; no docu-realism. Things are shot pretty much like any "routine" show - perhaps the backlighting and sky are a little brighter, harsher than, say, CSI or NCIS location shots - but this is more to enhance the feeling of being on another world than it is to do with over-exposure or anything. And yet....one cannot help feel that the producers are trying a little too hard to make it clear that while Caprica is part of the BSG universe, it is not BSG. The opening recap is suggestive of this. For those used to the slick, paced, capped recaps of Battlestar Galactica are doubtless going to be surprised by Caprica's more leaden approach. To be fair, part of the problem is that there is not too much story at this point to recap on. Bomb, death, family, robot, avatar, guilt. Done. But to me, this isn't the problem. Watching the recap, I felt like I was slipping back to the 1980s and the glory days of big-country soaps, runway-length shoulder pads and overdone makeup. OK, so Ron Moore has said he want Caprica to be as much "Dallas" as anything else....but do we have to get this pushed so prominently in our faces. Nor, when we eventually get to them, do the opening titles help us feel more at ease. MacCreary, who did a marvellous job with the pilot, gives us a heavy, downtrodden, nigh-on depressing opening theme that is coupled with what amount to cut-and-paste opening images that simply do not inspire. Period. Which is a shame - because lay these irritants aside, and Caprica has a lot going for it. The acting throughout is excellent. Morales, Schultz and Malcomson deliver empathic, earthy, and believable portrayals of individuals struggling to come to terms with grief, trying to hold together what fragile remnants of the families they have left, and of coming to the realisation - like so many parents of teenage children - that they have grown so far apart from their offspirng so quickly, they really have no understanding of who their children actually are. Malcomson in particular brings a needed depth to Amanda Greystone (nice Trek reference there, Ron et al, by the way). In the pilot, she was kept more to the background in order for the show to devote the necessary time to establishing Daniel and Joseph. Now, in Rebirth, she comes to the fore, and Malcomson embodies her with pathos, confusion, fear, grief, loss, and curiosity so magnetically, that her focal role is beautifully drawn. Again, while the "Rebirth" of the title may appear to relate to Zoe's "rebith" as the unique U87 Cylon prototype - it is also a reference to her rebirth in Amanda's mind as her lost daughter - someone she lost contact with somewhere around puberty, and who became - and died - a stranger, and can now only be remembered as such: a stranger, someone with political and religious beliefs her mother cannot fathom, which apparently drove her to be a part of a terrorist act.
Zoe's rebirth is also more subtle than "human mind in cyborg body". In Zoe/U87, we see the the foundations of the Cylon belief in the One True God. Yes, it tends to tip what has gone before somewhat out of kilter, but again, Alessandra Toressani brings a vulnerable charm to the role take makes it believable. Beyond this, we have a further clever riff on the monotheistic similarities between the OTG religion of the Cylons and Christianity: Zoe now represents a Trinity. One might say, God the Daughter, God the Avatar and God the Machine. Ir will be interesting to see if, and how, this might be played out over time, given it has now been alluded to. Beyond these two central themes, we start to see inside the lives of other characters - notably Sam Adama and young William. With the latter, it is interesting to see how the sense of loyalty, devotion to duty of the older William "Husker" Adama may well have - irnonically - been born not so much from noble ideals, but from the codes of the Ha'la'tha as interpreted for him by his uncle Sam. Similarly, Sam himself starts to demonstrate he is more than a hoodlum. He has a male lover; he is well versed in books as well as street savvy. He reads and understand people at an intuitive level. In short, he is atypical of "traditional" hoods, and thus looks set to do far more than simply provide the hook from Joseph to the Ha'la'tha. Elsewhere, we get to see more of Lacy and of Sister Clarice - and in this we have another slight mistake in the episode: while Lacey does serve a purpose in helpless us identify with Zoe, Clarice's inclusion in the story at this point simply dilutes the plot. the scenes at her house are heavy-handed at best; the knowing looks between her and her young husband, the manipulation of Lacy...all of it jarred. Yes, we know Clarice is not what she seems; we understand that she may be a force for good - or something more nefarious; all this was made perfectly obvious in the pilot segments...all the blunt inferences here simply aren't needed. We really don't need bludgeoning at this point.
Leaving the cast aside, there is one other character we get to see a little more of in this episode: Caprica itself. And like the people we are following, it seems made up of contradictions. It is both ultra-modern when compared to technology today, and also lagging some 40 years behind what we see around us. It is a world established on principles that appear very close to those that founded the United States, yet is is also somewhat dictatorial in its outlook, with politics that suggest democracy is a convenience, rather than a valid means of government by the people, for the people. In short, Rebirth presents us with a world that, while familiar to us from BSG, is also very different, with many facets and many opportunities to bring new and unexpected avenues of growth to the story, equal to any presented by the principal players themselves.
Slower and more deliberately paced than BSG it may well be, but there can be no denying Caprica has the potential to deliver some compelling drama. All the writers need to do is ensure they also pace themselves accordingly.