You know, there are pretty much two occasions where I actually really hate living in Europe – that is for one my obsession with the Cirque du Soleil and the lack of opportunity to actually see their shows in these parts, and two, the eternal delays that plague DVD releases of certain US series and movies. One such case is the late Caprica series, prequel to one of my favorite sci-fi series, Battlestar Galactica. Now I have written in the past that I’m with the people who really wish BSG could have lasted for 2 or 3 more seasons, as there was still so much not fleshed out and lots of stories to explore, but as so often happens with these expensive to produce series, it fell victim to a few bad things and was cut short. Luckily at the time of it’s premature ending there was a glimpse of hope already on the horizon with Caprica, and now after more than a year later, I finally had the chance to at least watch the pilot episode. The series tries to tell the back story that led up to the Cylon wars and all the mayhem that. It does so by taking us back to the era of Joseph Adama, the family grandfather who was a lawyer and is also mentioned quite a bit in Galactica in those son vs. dad conversations. It also adheres to the correct age relations established already, featuring the later admiral William (Bill) Adama as a 11 year old boy. Other than that, it’s pretty much a completely different series and you should keep that in mind when you watch it. I certainly tried, but it seems I haven’t quite managed and was mostly put off by the result.
First, there’s simply less effects and elaborate sets. No doubt BSG was quite heavy on that and it may have been one of the contributing cost factors why it got chopped. Caprica is shot much more conventionally using existing locations that were redressed. Of course this makes sense for something that is meant to explore the day to day lives of people like you and me. Still, there is bits and pieces of some CGI here and there, though several of them nowhere near look as finessed. The Holoband degradation effect downright looks like some cheapo 90’s wireframe render effect. Similarly, many of the computer screens look rather crude as does some of the signage visible everywhere. That’s a major step backward from what we already have seen in BSG. On the other hand, any robots (including the first ever to be built Cylon) look as perfectly chrome-toaster-ish as always.
The story is quite daft, to say the least. Of course any pilot struggles with the problem of establishing a new series’ characters, but I feel for Caprica it’s all a bit too much. The whole thing cracks under so much being crammed into 90 minutes which leads to some quite over the top cheesy acting and some equally disturbing ethnical stereotypes, like the Taurons sounding and behaving like a closed Jewish community. The most severe flaw that drags the story into the ridiculous, however, is some 16 year old girl uncovering the secret to true artificial intelligence, something, which her father (a computer genius himself) couldn’t do it in his lifetime. C’mon, that’s not credible on any level and least of all when being explained with some sudden turn to religious motives as the movie does. The motive of an independent existence in a virtual world has its value, but not when it’s played out like this. Then I’d rather have another Tron.
So what remains? For me as a fan of Battlestar Galactica, this was a huge disappointment. It was never really interesting and most of the time I found myself thinking "WTF?" and "Why don’t you shoot yourself, bitch?". Those teenage girls were just so annoying and dumb… I’m willing to still give this a chance as of course the first season is already running, but I’m more hoping for seeing later seasons where the real war unfolds and all this teenage drama is done away with. Maybe once it truly connects with Galactica some things will make sense, but I seriously hope they can come up with better stories until that or they will be gone even sooner than the great original.