With the curtain having fallen on the four-season strong Battlestar Galactica in March, fans of the Cylon/Human conflict were left with one less show to watch during the week. On top of that, the show went out on such an out-there approach that many fans cried foul (as they had been from its inception, so how serious can you take them, really?), while others lauded as a brilliant move for the show to take, if only because it wasn’t one that was really seen to even be a possibility. Now, however, fans can stop debating the logic of it and instead invest themselves in a Battlestar prequel named Caprica, which starts out as a direct-to-video release that will air on Sci-Fi (or SyFy, whatever you want to call it) in 2010.
Set 50 years before Battlestar Galactica, Caprica follows two rival families and their patriarchs – Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) and Joseph Adama (Esai Morales) – as they compete and thrive in the vibrant world of the 12 Colonies, a society recognizably close to our own. Enmeshed in the burgeoning technology of artificial intelligence and robotics that will eventually lead to the creation of the Cylons, the two houses go toe-to-toe blending action with corporate conspiracy and sexual politics.
I had gotten into Battlestar Galactica so late into the series that by the time I was actually ready to watch an episode as it aired on TV, it was the series finale. Kind of a kick to the stomach, eh? Invest months into watching the series on DVD and then once you finally catch up to everyone else, the whole thing comes to a close. Needless to say that while I binged on the show for four seasons, the idea of watching a whole other show dealing with Cylons didn’t seem appealing to me, but being the mild BSG fan that I am (I never really got hardcore into the show, but “frak” has worked its way into my vocabulary), I knew I had to give it a shot.
And I have to say, while having seen all of BSG and where it ultimately ended up will definitely help one appreciate Caprica, the show really is a whole other beast unto itself. Whereas BSG was primitive in nature at times and almost archaic in its technology, what we see in Caprica is astonishing at times. Sure, the Cylon’s are retro as all get out, but the other technology such as holo-visors that transport you to another world or computers the size of a piece of paper…it’s just an amazing little slice of futuristic technology that wows you more than anything. On top of that the whole world of Caprica is so much cleaner and sleeker than even the glimpses we got of it from BSG, so immediately from the start the series are visually different when put up side by side.
Of course that’s not the only thing that’s different. The whole message of the show isn’t even survival like BSG, but more about progression in technology. While we ultimately know where those Cylon’s end up, the gradual introduction of them and witnessing the first one “roll off” the line was kind of interesting. Although I have to say, unless you know the full history of BSG, then there’s really nothing all that interesting going on in Caprica. Sure, there’s some gratuitous nudity (bare breasts in my Sci-Fi show!? Egad!) but there isn’t much to grip you about this story other than the knowledge of where it eventually ends up. Not to say it won’t keep people interested, mind you, as I was quite enjoying the ride as it went along, but it’s almost like reading a books ending pages and then going back to read the beginning. Knowing where these breakthroughs in technology eventually take us does little to quell the idea that you know where this story is ultimately headed.
Having said all of that, I’m sure there are some interesting things that newcomers may get wrapped up in, but whatever those may be will be severely limited. It’s hard to even pick out defining moments from the mini-series/pilot/whatever you want to call it, as there is really nothing much to get truly invested in. Some preliminary looks at Cylons, some insight into the young girl who helped spark their creation and…really, that’s all that I got out of this pilot. Not that it’s a bad thing; it is just the jumping point, but unless you were interested in “seeing where it all began,” then I doubt very much anyone not previously into BSG will be too excited. But for the BSG fan? Yeah, there’s some cool stuff here.
I want to say more positive things about Caprica, but really all I can say is that I enjoyed it. It was a cool look into the past and really it felt and looked way different from BSG did, which may be a defining characteristic down the line. Aside from the Cylons, there isn’t much to bridge the two worlds together yet, which is really quite interesting and rather jarring. How the actual Galactica ship looked so ancient in terms of technology (and even the later Battlestar class ships) and how advanced Caprica is…it’s just almost unbelievable that these two even came from the same time period (hell, the Cylon ships from BSG didn’t even look this good). But, again—part of the journey into the world of Caprica I suppose.
Overall Caprica will definitely intrigue fans, but outside of that group I can’t say it’ll interest anyone. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this to someone who didn’t watch BSG previously, which may be the pilot’s biggest downfall—it ultimately rings a bit hollow without prior knowledge of the goings on of the BSG universe. Plus, with no familiar faces to grapple to at first, there’s nothing to really even make existing fans feel completely welcome. Also may want to keep the young ones away from this one due to the nudity—rather surprising, as there’s no mention of such things on the packaging. Highly Recommended for fans, however, as even with its short comings it’ll no doubt fill the void left by the discovery of Earth.
Universal Studios has packaged Caprica in colors fitting of its new visual style: stark, white, and shiny. The DVD comes with a slipcover mimicking art below it, although there’s no embossing or foil reflective fun going on. Inside is an advertisement for Sci-Fi shows and disc art is a very transparent shot of Caprica as seen in the opening of every BSG episode. Menus are motionless and easy to navigate, while video and audio is what you’d expect from a modern show. There is some ugly looking video in the nightclub sequences as the red lightning can sometimes get pixilated on the edges, but other than that it’s a decent video transfer, with a solid audio mix that never quite branches out into the surrounds (except for the Cylon test towards the end), mainly because this pilot is about 80% drama and 20% action (if that).
Extras are pretty light and are all presented in 4×3 widescreen. First up is a selection of Deleted Scenes (7:09), followed by Video Blogs (13:08) that act as our “making-of” and finally a Feature Commentary with director Jeffrey Reiner and Executive Producer/Writer Ronald D. Moore and Executive Producer David Eick, which really quite honestly makes up for any real lack of behind-the-scenes look into how this came about. It’s a solid track, with plenty of cool insight, which is required since we probably won’t hear much about Caprica for another year or two.
There’s also a Ghost Hunters Episode (43:46) included for some reason…kind of an odd addition, but Universal does that occasionally with their releases (I’ll never understand 30 Rock being on that one American Pie DTV release…).
Overall a solid release and one Recommended for fans.
Caprica arrives on DVD on April 21st. For more information on Caprica, check out DiscoverCaprica.com.