tek's rating: ½

Caprica, on Syfy
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Caution: spoilers!

This series is a prequel to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (BSG). The pilot premiered on DVD shortly after that series ended its run in Spring of 2009, but I wasn't really interested in checking it out, at the time. I wasn't really a huge fan of BSG, and I was glad it was finally over. I mean, it was okay, but... eh. Whatever. So I was kind of dreading getting into a new series set in that particular fictional universe, though the previews looked pretty cool. Anyway, "Caprica" actually premiered on Syfy in January of 2010, though the pilot had been available for viewing on Syfy.com for some time. So I finally got around to watching it online, like a couple weeks before the premiere on television. And I gotta say, based on the pilot, I got the impression that I would like this series a lot more than I did BSG. And I wasn't wrong.

The series is set 58 years before the Fall (that is, when the 12 Colonies of Man were destroyed by the Cylons in a surprise attack, at the start of "Battlestar Galactica"). So... if you've watched that show, there's probably a lot you'll already know about this one. Sort of. There's still a lot of history that never became completely clear to me, in the course of watching that show, and a lot that was just never really explained at all, I suppose. Still, you should be familiar with the basic concepts that humanity existed on 12 planets (the names of which recall signs of the Zodiac), though the human race had originated on a single, now-mythical planet, Kobol. It was an essentially polytheistic society, worshipping a pantheon of gods and goddesses whose names come from ancient Greek mythology (sort of). Honestly, I don't want to spoil anything about the other series, in case you choose to watch this one first, seeing as this is set first chronologically. In any event, at some point, people had created these sort of cybernetic machines known as Cylons, which at some point rebelled against their creators, and then left Colonial space, not to be seen again until the Fall (which I think was like 40 years later). I should also mention, and this is too integral to the story to worry about spoiling, Cylons had apparently developed their own monotheistic religion, worshipping "the one true God."

Anyway, that's most of the important stuff we knew based on BSG. But at the start of "Caprica," we see the very first Cylon being developed. So of course we know... that's not going to end well. But all the problems between man and machine are years off, so we needn't worry about that just yet. The show is actually much more down to Earth, figuratively speaking, than BSG ever was. Of course, it's set on Caprica (hence the title), which was one of the 12 Colonies. Like, the most prosperous and powerful of them. It does need to be mentioned that each of the Colonies has its own racial/cultural heritage, and this series will present a fair amount of racism, particularly against people from Tauron. Religious conflict also plays an important part, as it seems the Cylons weren't the first to come up with the idea of monotheism....

But I'm getting ahead of myself. It all starts with a trio of teenagers, who are visiting a virtual reality club simply called "V-Club." This is an underground thing, which you might call an open secret (though not everyone necessarily knows about it). It's made possible by a device called the holoband, which had been invented by Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz), the rich head of his own technology firm. He doesn't seem to know much of anything about V-Club, and is shocked by what he eventually finds there (but again I'm getting ahead of myself). Lots of teenagers go to V-Club, using virtual avatars of themselves, and can engage in any kind of wanton activities they feel like, including sex, drugs, murder, human sacrifice, whatever. Of course, none of it is real... but that doesn't stop these three teenagers from being upset that people actually like this kind of thing (even though two of them used to participate in it, themselves). The leader of this group seems to be Ben Stark, who is monotheistic, and had gotten his friends, Zoe Graystone (Alessandra Torresani) and Lacy Rand (Magda Apanowicz), into the whole "one true God" thing, as well. So now, the three of them want to put an end to it all. And Zoe (the daughter of Daniel Graystone) has a plan, which involves them all going to another Colony, Gemenon. It also involves an avatar she had created of herself... I should say a second avatar, not the one she actually uses when she's logged into V-Club. This other avatar had all of Zoe's memories, so she thinks and feels like Zoe, which is in itself a revolutionary breakthrough in artificial intelligence....

Speaking of which, Daniel's company has been working on developing a prototype Cylon for the Caprican government, but there's a key piece of technology they haven't been able to create yet, and they learn that a rival company, run by a Tauron man named Tomas Vergis, has developed it. So they're worried that their contract could be taken away. And that will end up tying in not only to Zoe's breakthrough, but also various political things going on, which... well, it's complicated, and I can't say I followed every nuance....

But once again, I get ahead of myself. It's really hard to explain this in a linear fashion. Um... but I think it's time for a major spoiler, so you may want to stop reading now, if you haven't seen the pilot yet. On the other hand, it's only the pilot, after all, so what happens next is integral to setting up the rest of the series. So I'm afraid I can't avoid mentioning it. First of all, the three teens, as I mentioned earlier, were planning to head to Gemenon. But Lacy backed out at the last minute, so only Zoe and Ben got on the maglev monorail (which I suppose was heading to a spaceport). Much to Zoe's surprise, it turns out that Ben had other plans: he had strapped himself with a bomb, and blew up the lev, killing himself, and Zoe, and all the other passengers.

There's an agent of the Global Defense Department (GDD), Jordan Duram, who investigates the terrorist bombing, learning that it was carried out by a member of a group called the Soldiers of the One (STO). I don't think Zoe or Lacy had any idea Ben was a member of that group, though (and Lacy will be surprised when she eventually learns he was responsible for the bombing). Duram's investigation leads him to talk to various people, including Zoe's mother, a surgeon named Amanda Graystone. He'll also talk to Sister Clarice Willow (Polly Walker), headmistress of Athena Academy, where the three teens had gone to school. (By the end of the pilot, Lacy learns that Sister Clarice is secretly a monotheist, herself.)

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer named Joseph Adams, who had immigrated to Caprica from Tauron when he and his brother, Sam, were orphaned during a Civil War on that colony. (It's another slight spoiler to say he had changed his name from Adama when he moved to Caprica; his 11-year-old son William will, presumably, grow up to be Commander Bill Adama, on BSG.) Joseph's wife Shannon and daughter Tamara were killed in the lev bombing. After what appears to be a random meeting on the street one day, this shared loss leads to bonding between Joseph and Daniel.

There is another complication involving Sam Adama, who is an enforcer for the Tauron criminal organization H'la'tha. The H'la'tha had paid for Joseph's education, but he had no interest in getting enmeshed in the organization, himself... well, I guess he had done in the past, but believed that part of his life to be over. However, he couldn't really get out that easily. Sam's boss (the Guatrau) wanted Joseph to deliver a message to Caprica's minister of defense, which was actually more of a threat. Joseph didn't go along with this at first, but eventually he chose to, in exchange for a favor....

See, Daniel wanted to obtain the technology Vergis had developed, and got Joseph to get the H'la'tha's help in stealing it (in spite of their having ties to Vergis). In exchange, he did a job for the organization. Now, the way Daniel convinced Joseph to help him was by showing him something... which he himself had just learned about after Zoe's death. That is, first of all, the whole V-Club thing, and more importantly, the existence of the avatar she had created, who was now, essentially, Zoe herself. A copy, yes, but the only real difference was that she only existed in virtual reality (albeit with a few gaps in her memory). Daniel was amazed to learn of the strides his daughter had made in artificial intelligence, which could help him perfect his own Cylon prototype, but also, he hoped he'd be able to bring Zoe back to life, by downloading the avatar into a robotic body. (Of course, in BSG, we know there are Cylons who look just like humans, but at this point, the prototype looks entirely like a machine.) So, he brings Joseph to V-Club, introduces him to Zoe's avatar, and appeals to him with the promise of restoring his own wife and daughter. Joseph thinks this is wrong, but is too tempted not to give it a chance at first. However, he will eventually have a falling out with Daniel. Meanwhile, there's plenty of other stuff going on. By the end of the pilot, Zoe is inside the Cylon prototype. And Lacy is receiving comfort from Sister Clarice (who seems like she might be somewhat sinister). And Joseph wants to get closer to William, with whom he has a strained relationship. And the relationship between Daniel and Amanda can use some strengthening, perhaps, as they try to get past the loss of their daughter (though she knows nothing of Zoe's avatar or what Daniel was trying to do with it).

And... I'm probably forgetting lots, but I feel like I've already written an awful lot about a single episode. I thought I'd try to reduce this when I'd seen more of the series, but now that I'm editing this after the series finale, I don't feel like I can really stand to remove any of that, though I'm not sure how much more I need to say. The series lasted a single season, though it feels like more than that, since it was first broken up into two parts (1.0 and 1.5), and when they were a ways into the second half of the season, it was cancelled, and the final five episodes didn't air til later (all on one night). Anyway, I'll say a bit more about the series after this paragraph, but at the moment I wanted to say again that I really did like this show a lot more than BSG. I think the blend of all the tech aspects of the story, the politics, the family stuff, the racial stuff, and all the character interrelations, and so forth, all worked together to make a very interesting story. But aside from the cool story, another big draw was just getting to see what life was like on Caprica before the Fall. Even the tech that isn't cutting edge seems pretty cool, more advanced than anything we have today; though in a lot of ways (particularly the fashion), it looks more like the 1950s or 60s, in Earth terms. Oh, and I also wanted to say that the series has what is probably one of my favorite opening credit sequences ever. The music's nice, but the visuals are just amazing, in terms of symbolizing all that the show is about, as well as just looking wicked cool, in a stylized way.

Ahem. So anyway, about the stuff that happens beyond the pilot episode.... Hmmm. I really don't want to say too much, but I'm sure there's a great deal that's important, and I'm not sure where to begin or in what order to say anything. At some point, and I don't recall if this happened in the pilot or later, but Joseph Adams reverted to using the name Adama, as well as his proper given name, Yusef, though probably it was just his fellow Taurons who called him that instead of Joseph. Meanwhile, Daniel has trouble trying to duplicate the success of the prototype Cylon, because even with reproductions of the component stolen from Vergis, other Cylons just aren't... working the same. Eventually he'll come to suspect that Zoe's avatar is in the prototype, though she refuses to confirm this suspicion. And both Daniel and Amanda will have to deal with public reaction when in a moment of shock, Amanda reveals her belief that Zoe had been responsible for the maglev bombing. I should also say Daniel and Amanda will have many personal problems, which lead to a separation. She gets closer to Clarice Willow, bonding at first over their shared love of Zoe. But of course, Willow is actually a high-ranking member of the STO, and she has her own agenda, which involves obtaining Zoe's avatar, if she can, so that the technology can be reproduced. We eventually learn that she had a project called "Apotheosis," which is a virtual Heaven for believers to go to when they die, or at least for their sentient avatars to be uploaded to, thus granting a kind of eternal life. Meanwhile, Duram gets Amanda to reluctantly work as a spy within Clarice's polygamous family of monotheists. (Bit of an interesting contrast, polygamy and monotheism.)

Anyway, that's a long enough paragraph. What else? Lacy finds out that Zoe's avatar is in the Cylon, and wants her help in getting to Gemenon, which looks like it could happen halfway through the season... but it doesn't. But there's plenty going on on Caprica, including in V-World (of which V-Club was just a small part). There's a much larger virtual reality game called "New Cap City." And Tamara Adama's avatar becomes an important player; because of the work Daniel had done to try to reproduce Zoe's artificial intelligence using data about Tamara, and also because she's dead in real life, her avatar can't be killed. (Normally in the game, when a player's avatar is killed, they can never return to the game.) And there's a lot I could say about all that, but most of it I'll skip. I'll just say that eventually, Zoe and Tamara meet up, fight, and then become allies known as the "Avenging Angels." And they start to see themselves as gods in V-World, especially Zoe, whose genius as a programmer seems to be exponentially increased, now that she's a program, herself. So they can remodel the world however they like, with just a thought.

Hmmm, yes, I'm definitely getting ahead of myself again. There's just so much going on. At some point, Daniel got further involved with the Ha'la'tha, and Yusef also got more deeply involved with them. But there's also a new rebel uprising on Tauron, and the Guatrau refuses to get involved, in spite of the fact that the Ha'la'tha had originated as a rebel faction on Tauron during the last civil war there. Sam and Yusef were not happy about his apparent lack of concern for this struggle, as well as the fact that now that Daniel was working with them, the Guatrau was selling Cylons (which were now working properly, though I don't recall how exactly that happened) to the STO, and not to the rebels on Tauron. So there will be conflict within the Ha'la'tha itself. Another thing I should have mentioned earlier is what's been going on with Lacy. She got closer to Clarice for a time, though she eventually came to distrust her. I think. It's complicated, but she fell in for a time with a rival STO leader named Barnabas, who wanted to kill Clarice (he fails). Lacy then rejoins Clarice, but gets shipped off to Gemenon for STO training. After arriving, there's an incident where it is discovered that for some reason, the Cylons who have been sold to the terrorists will respond to Lacy's commands (presumably this is because of some residual trace of Zoe's avatar being reproduced, though that's not really explored, and I don't think it would be right to say that any of the Cylons really are Zoe).

Well, there are just so many different things I haven't mentioned, but... everything really starts tying together in the end. Very dramatic and... awesome. Maybe things were a bit more rushed because they had to finish the whole story by the end of the season, and especially the last few minutes of the finale showed us important things that would happen later, letting us know not only what happens with the various important characters of this series, but helping understand how all this led to the eventual war between Cylons and humanity (which as I said, was about 40 years before BSG, so... probably about 18 years after "Caprica"). I felt like it would've been nice for the series to last longer, though I'm not sure how they would have fit all the important events into a whole second season. They probably could have done that, and even gone on longer, but actually I feel like all that needed to be explained was explained, and brilliantly. As sorry as I was for the series to end so soon, I'm content with how it ended. Things make sense.

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