Sunday, 26 February 2012
Anyone who knows me knows my love for Ronald D. Moore's reimagined Battlestar Galactica. I've yet to see a finer series. Nothing else has managed to capture the modern mentality towards differences in society whilst providing an illuminating allegory to the War on Terror. Then there's the last season, which, despite its bleak tone, carries a message of hope for humanity. And all of this without mentioning the core narrative of man on the run from a superior enemy that has forced the human race from its home after an attempted genocide on a massive scale.
The Cylons were an intriguing set of characters. They were human, but with a different psychology coming from their robotic roots and some unusual religious beliefs. They didn't believe in the polytheistic religion of the Twelve Colonies; instead, their beliefs lay in the worship of one true God.
Caprica tells of a time before the First Cylon War, when Cylons were invented. This is before even the initial 'they rebelled' bit of the opening titles of Galactica, when the Twelve Colonies weren't one supernation, but were fractured states. Daniel Graystone, computer genius and CEO of Graystone Industries, has a contract to fulfil, providing mechanised soldiers for a Caprican defence programme. His daughter is caught up in a terror attack (one she's linked to, in a way), and ends up dead. She's also a computer genius, and has secretly synthesised true artificial intelligence - or, as Cylons would probably have it, a soul in something artificial - which takes her form in a virtual world. We meet Joseph Adama, father of Admiral William Adama, who is a mob lawyer in Caprica City, and have a major side-plot involving gangsters and family homour in the vein of plenty of mob films.
The most intriguing character is Clarice Willow - played by Polly Walker, Atia of the Julii in Rome - who is Caprica's closest equivalent to Gaius Baltar. She's the leader of a cell of monotheistic terrorists - the Soldiers of the One - who provide the series with an interesting focal point. Working out their intentions is difficult, to a point. Are they evil or misguided in their pursuit of Apotheosis, or resurrection? What is obvious is that they're utterly ruthless. In a series of few action sequences, where the drama is largely personal, they give us a few moments of very strong violence. Seeing failed Soldiers of the One candidates lined up and shot is one of the series' most shocking moments.
Caprica has a major problem: it can't quite decide what it is. Too many episodes feel like they're a mismatch of ideas. At times the series seems to decide what path it will follow, and as a result there is an excellent episode or two. But these moments are few and far between. Part 1 has perhaps two episodes from nine which could be described as very good; part two has a similar ratio of very good episodes to those produced, one of which is the final episode. In between times, there are moments of excellence, but rarely more than one or two an episode.
That Caprica is a Battlestar Galactica prequel and is made by the same people is apparent throughout with things like camera angles, dropped hints of the future and references to Galactica ('The shape of things to come' from the final moments is one of the most obvious references, but there are plenty of others). Production values are high, and the acting standard is also good. There are also actors and actresses popping up in new roles, such as Luciana Carro (Kat, Starbuck's constant irritant, in Galactica), and Christian Tessier (Duck, another pilot).
But it serves as a constant reminder to what Caprica doesn't achieve. Battlestar Galactica is one of the essential TV shows to watch of this century, and one of the greatest of all time. Caprica is merely decent, convoluted in places, with some excellent moments.
To a Galactica fan, it will be essential viewing. It answers questions about the inception of the Cylons and their religious beliefs - and at times does it well - as well as providing an insight into the origins of everyone's favourite Admiral. The series finale will catch the eye for others, being what the series should have been throughout rather than for 41 minutes. But if you're not a Galactica fan the series may leave you feeling alienated with its glacial pace and convoluted storytelling.