DVD Review: Caprica

If Battlestar Galactica asked the question "How would humanity survive a holocaust led by our most advanced technology?", Caprica asks "At what point does our need for progress supplant our humanity?" Even though it's set a mere 58 years before the events of the Galactica series, Caprica has a startlingly different tone. It makes sense, I suppose, since there are no Cylons hunting humans down to extinction (yet). Instead, Caprica gives us a look at a society on the brink of civilization-changing technological discoveries—with all of the hubris that follows unchecked progress.

For those confused by the release of Caprica, the DVD and digital download being released today is actually an uncut version of the 90-minute pilot. The series proper won't start airing until early 2010, at which point we'll also see a more tame version of the pilot aired as well. I'm not sure about the logic in waiting so long to premiere the series—Sci-Fi is aching for new content and BSG is the closest thing they've had to a hit in some time. It would make more sense to try and get this on the air by Fall 2009. Then again, this is the same network that spread the release of the fourth Galactica across 2008 and 2009 for no good reason.

Caprica focuses on the early scientific breakthroughs that spawned the events of Battlestar Galactica, and specifically the involvement of two families, the Adamas and the Graystones. Joseph Adama (Esai Morales), patriarch of the Adama clan from BSG, is a hard-working immigrant lawyer who has a loving family, except for the strained relationship with his son William. We can definitely see the root of all father issues in Adama men from this character.

Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) is a computer genius who is busy working on robotic soldiers for a military contract. His daughter Zoe (Allessandra Toreson) is a computer prodigy in her own regard, but both he and his wife are too consumed with their own lives to notice her talent. A major event ties the two families together, which is also the catalyst for pretty much everything that leads up to the Cylons destroying the twelve colonies in Battlestar Galactica.

Those looking for large action set pieces will be disappointed, but Caprica succeeds at giving us BSG's trademark realistic drama juxtaposed with sci-fi. In many ways, it's perhaps even more relevant since the society we see in Caprica is not much more advanced beyond ours. While interplanetary travel is referred to in the pilot, all of the drama is decidedly planetside, and I don't suspect that this series will ever have much to do when it comes to space adventures. Instead we see a society that's beginning to fracture with monotheists rallying against polytheistic norms, teenagers using virtual night clubs for unfettered hedonism, and the discovery of artificial intelligence that effectively makes Gods of its creators.

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The series asks some deep questions about the morality of creating artificial life, and coupled with the heavy focus on networked virtual worlds, it ends up feeling something like a live-action cross between the anime series Serial Experiments Lain and Ghost in the Shell. It's rare for a sci-fi show to attempt drama with very little action, but it manages stay compelling without much reliance on 'splosions. I just hope Caprica can attract the ratings it needs to survive. In addition to BSG fans, Caprica also has the potential to appeal to viewers not familiar with the franchise, and also lovers of good drama as well.

I honestly wasn't expecting much from Caprica. All of the early information we've seen basically made it out to be a sci-fi-ish Dallas. And while that definition isn't technically inaccurate, it's also incredibly unfair. What's most surprising about Caprica is how Ronald D. Moore, along with co-creator Remi Aubuchon, crafted a world that's similar enough to BSG to appease fans, but is also something remarkably different. It gives me hope that any future projects in the BSG-verse could be similarly unique, and hopefully will help the franchise steer clear of any Star Trek-esque pitfalls.

After viewing this pilot I can't say that I'm in love with Caprica yet, but I am extremely interested to see where this story goes. And perhaps if this DVD and download release does well enough, Sci-Fi could be convinced to start airing the series before 2010.

Discuss: What did you think of Caprica? Is it a worthy entry in the BSG universe? Are there any other types of shows you'd like to see made in the BSG verse?