Caprica Episode 1-1 Premiere Review

Following Ronald Moore’s relatively big success with Battlestar Galactica‘s re-imagining on the Sci-Fi Network, the newly rebranded SyFy Network gave him the greenlight to create a prequel. As for myself, I’ve expressed love for BSG many times and, as Moore’s the guy who wrote the best series finale of all time, I’ll obviously give the new show a look. According the opening scene, Caprica is set “58 Years Before The Fall”. If I have my timeline correct, that places it 18 years before the First Cylon War and, as mentioned, 58 years before the events of the previous series. That’s really all I know since I don’t really watch SyFy (even, sadly, for ECW) so I haven’t seen previews. From what I understand, the show prequels the Cylon war — where the Cylons came from, where the skinjobs came from, and, apparently, where Bill Adama came from.

As an aside, this is the first thing I’ve watched on my spankin’ new HDTV and full surround set-up. Glorious. Thanks, Panasonic!

The Good

  • The pilot makes the series look as though it’s covering a lot of the same ground just covered on Dollhouse. Zoe (Alessandra Torresani) figures out a way to download herself on to their version of the Internet. She hides her avatar at the V-Club, a teenager-filled sex club where teens can live out every experience possible and one new girl who’s constantly there will make no difference. Zoe also codes in a locked room only accessible by her, her copy, and her two friends where the avatar can hide out. It’s not really clear how the V-Club is governed. Her father, Dr. Graystone (Eric Stoltz), says it was hacked together by kids. Whether that’s legal or not, I have no idea. The V-Club Avatar contains all her knowledge: “the human brain holds about 100 terabytes of data. It’s almost nothing.” It is, in essence, her identical digital copy. Following the real-world Zoe’s death, the digital copy gives her “father” a speech about how the human brain — and this may sound familiar — is just a database full of information. But when that’s coupled with all the information stored about a person throughout the world (which, in Moore’s way, leads to a 60-second recitation of a creepy laundry list of how much personal information about us is stored elsewhere and available to the world — shopping habits, clothes purchases, medical records, food habits, police records, surveillance footage, etc) an exact copy of someone, who thinks they ARE someone, could be created.
  • Even with Zoe’s effective speech, her father takes the next obvious step of downloading it in to a cybernetic body. According to him, the human brain is just “storage and access. Zoe already figured out how to copy the storage.” Dr. Graystone is the creator of the Holoband; BSG’s version of the Holodeck. It’s the even better version of the Holodeck as the user can realistically experience anything without leaving his couch. While he’s describing his resurrection plan to Joseph Adama (Esai Morales, Bill Adama’s father) he says that if a person looks like who they’re supposed to be and thinks they’re who they’re supposed to be, who exactly are we to tell them they’re not who they’re supposed to be? In the marketing of the Holobands, they say “if there doesn’t look to be a difference, then it’s a difference that doesn’t matter, so there is no difference.” Later, in his philosophical debate with Adama, who believes this is unnatural in wrong, Graystone says: “You mean only the gods have power over life and death. I reject that notion.” And, really, that’s everything that’s going on here. The gods (or circumstance) took his daughter away and he’s going to bring her back. Is it unnatural to use technology to create a carbon copy that thinks, looks, and acts like a loved one? Add another chapter to the Star Trek: The Next Generation debate of whether or not Data constitutes life and robot rights.

The Bad

  • I think my biggest issue with the series in general is that we 1) know how Battlestar ended and 2) know which religious group is right. We know Dr. Graystone is going to be successful in creating Cylons and we already, after the pilot, know why they’re going to end up programmed with the belief in the one true God. I’m already not really sure what’s left to cover in the series. Thus the problem with prequels.
  • Extended from that: we already know the monotheistic terrorists are correct in the BSG universe as evidenced by Balthar and Six walking around Times Square at the end of the series. So, who are the bad guys? The Disciples Of The One really ARE following the right path… and that path leads to blowing up a train full of innocent people? Who are leading to society’s downfall because they’re using the Holobands for a technologically advanced form of masturbation and video games? I found this confusing.
  • So, let me get this straight — Joe Adama delivers a threatening message to the Caprican Minister Of Defense in the morning. And that night his brother breaks in to the Minister’s house and kills him with daggers. And that’s just it? No questioning of Adama? I’m supposed to believe that the Minister of Defense, who made passing reference to Joe Adama that he knew what kind of slimy operators the Taurons run, either did not take any steps to defend himself or Sam Adama is SO good at what he does he broke in to the “Secretary Of Defense”‘s house and killed him undetected by anyone? I had a bit of trouble with belief suspension there. I understand the Taurons are supposed to be the Twelve Colonies’ version of mobsters but really?

The Rest

I get what Moore is trying to communicate in the world created by the Holoband. He has respect enough for his audience to not employ the Sledgehammer of Plot ™. He does state the obvious. The obvious line from Dr. Graystone: “those were for adults.” And the obvious response from his daughter’s program: “you people can justify it however you want. You can’t see the world is falling down around you because you’re too busy and too arrogant.” I even get the V-Club’s ties to the the whole “anything goes” aspect to the fall of Rome and, yes, the path we are on in the United States. Adults created the Holoband, the porn companies made it profitable, kids cracked it for their own use, and it’s leading to the corruption of youth. Sound like any (or every) other entertainment medium?

But still, I understand why Dr. Graystone created the Holoband world… and I even understand why he is using what his daughter did to try and re-create her. What I don’t understand is why Zoe decided to create a copy of herself within the confines of the Internet to grow and learn and be unaffected by the murder of people and why, exactly, if her boyfriend was in on this plan why he end her work. She was clearly more important to their movement then the guy who recruited her (her boyfriend, who eventually led her to the Soldiers Of The One) and it made no sense that he would put her on the train and kill her. I understand the writers needed her dead for plot reasons but it felt wrong to me somehow. I don’t know if they’ll ever revisit this or if it’s just loosely-written on-ramp to the real plot: her father creating Cylons with her brain somewhere in the matrix of their stolen technology.

Definitely good enough to replace my Dollhouse recording on Friday nights. I expect a few angry comparisons from Whedon fans about liberal lifting on concepts but, ultimately, Moore made the better move by sticking with SyFy. Dollhouse should have been a CW show from its inception. It would still be on if that was the case.