Written by Remi Aubuchon and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Jeffrey Reiner
After his daughter Zoe is killed in a terrorist bombing by a rogue monotheistic group, Daniel Greystone discovers a virtual club in the holoband with a hidden, self-aware copy of Zoe.
“You can’t download a personality. There’s no way to translate the data. But the information being held in our heads is available in other databases. People leave more than footprints as they travel through life.”
Okay, how do I review a pilot as dense as this. I had difficulty coming up with the synopsis at the start of this blog. There is an incredible amount of world and character building and to pay any sort of justice to it I may have to go on for pages and pages. But don’t worry, I won’t. I’m not patient enough.
Caprica is just the kick in the pants that American sci-fi television needed. It was intellectual. It had compelling characters, amazing world-building, and was extremely high-concept. In typical fashion, it was cancelled mid-season. This is not a show with space battles. It is not a show with military action. Instead, it focuses on human drama and philosophical questions. It seeks to analyze religious tension in an otherwise secular society. The pilot begins the exploration of the relationship between technology and identity. One of the concepts that comes out quite strongly in the pilot is that of identity and life. If a purely digital creation has the memories and personality of a living person, is this creation alive? It is more than an avatar for it is not a mere representation. This digital person can think, can speak, she is totally self-aware. All she lacks is a physical body. And the bigger question . . . does it even matter if she is alive? Wouldn’t our reactions to her make her as good as alive?
At it’s core, Caprica is a prequel series. It takes place prior to the events of the Battlestar Galactica reboot that I absolutely loved. Caprica expounds more upon the society that gave rise to the Cylons. It hints at the religious nature of the conflicts and the introduction of a monotheistic cult to a fiercely polythiestic society. This is one aspect of BSG that I have enjoyed: the exploration of religion. It seems that much modern televised science fiction either treats religion as superstition, aliens manipulating humanity, or as outright ridiculous. It seems that on television, science fiction rarely approaches religion objectively. And for a genre that seems to skew somewhat athiest, I totally understand. But I enjoy when a show deals with religion honestly. Babylon 5 did. Russell T. Davies did in small ways on occasion with Doctor Who. And Battlestar Galactica ticked off a lot of fans by having the religious elements play heavily into the ending of the show. This element is repeated in Caprica as we find events being manipulated by either an unknown force or group.
The world-building in Caprica is wonderful. We are able to finally see the society that was destroyed in the Battlestar Galactica miniseries. It is more technologically advanced than our world, but it is still recognizable. The pilot begins to show the shaky relationships between the twelve colonies (planets) and how the twelve groups see one another. There are prejudices, idealism, and ethnicity. As I mentioned before, this isn’t a show that deals with battles and action, it deals with relationship. It explores a society.
The two main characters are Daniel Greystone and Joseph Adama. Both men lose family members in a terrorist bombing. Adama faces a life where he must raise his son alone. Greystone, inventor of the holoband (think virtual reality internet, a tactile Second Life) and scientist involved in developing robotic soldiers for the Caprican government, loses his daughter. But he later discovers that his daughter had a copy on a virtual club. This copy was being groomed for a great destiny, one that would lead the decadent Caprican society to follow the one true god. Greystone’s daughter died before this plan could be imparted to anyone. In this virtual copy of his daughter, Daniel sees the possibility of resurrection. And ominous hijinks ensue.
As mentioned before, the show was cancelled. I plan to watch the remaining episodes, but I am a bit nervous. Was it cancelled because quality declined? Does it remain compelling and thought-provoking, but then just stops with no closure? I guess I’ll find out. Regardless, I think the pilot is amazing and if you were a fan of the more high-concept episodes of BSG, then I think you will find much to like here.