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“All of this has happened before…” Josh Reviews Caprica!

It is 58 years “before the fall.”  Life on the twelve colonies is peaceful and prosperous — especially on Caprica.  And yet, amongst the elite of society, there is decadence and decay.  The new direct-to-DVD movie Caprica focuses on the patriarchs of two families.  Daniel Greystone (Eric Stoltz) is a wealthy inventor — part Bill Gates, part Steve Jobs — who seems to have everything he wants in life.  But his artificial intelligence project is at a stand-still, and he’s in danger of losing his military contract to a rival company.  Joseph Adama (Esai Morales) is a lawyer, struggling to balance his desire to find his own way in life with his obligations to the crime family that helped pay for his education.  A terrible tragedy that involves both Daniel and Joseph’s daughters brings the two of them together and sets in motion events that will eventually lead to the creation of the Cylons… and 58 years later, the near-annihilation of the human race.

This Caprica direct-to-DVD project is something of a weird entity.  As the pilot for a TV show that we won’t get to see until 2010, Caprica isn’t a complete movie in and of itself — it’s more of a tease for what we’ll eventually get to see next year.

Despite whatever complaints I have with Battlestar Galactica‘s final run of episodes (and you can read my thoughts in more detail here), there certainly was a tremendous high of excitement and anticipation just a few months ago as the final hours of BSG were broadcast.  I wonder if Ron Moore and the makers of Caprica wouldn’t have been wiser to hold off on showing their pilot until next year, to let the memory of BSG fade and to build more anticipation for new stories within that universe.  As it is, it’s very difficult not to compare Caprica to that intense final run of episodes of BSG, and I think Caprica pales in comparison.

For better or for worse, Caprica is an entirely different type of show than BSG.  Whereas Galactica was intense and action-packed, Caprica is much colder, much more leisurely paced.  There’s one explosion (and it’s a doozy — one of the most dramatic moments of the pilot), but other than that Caprica‘s focus is not on action-adventure but on drama.  Now, that’s not a bad thing, necessarily.  You can have very compelling television without space-ship battles… and if Caprica had set out to be just like BSG, it would probably would have wound up being derivative and lame.

I remember when Star Trek: The Next Generation launched back in 1987.  In its first few seasons, the writers (for the most part) bent over backwards to avoid bringing back characters or storylines from the original Star Trek, their thought being that they wanted the new show to stand on its own.  While Caprica‘s title and setting casts it as a prequel to BSG, it seems as if Caprica‘s writers and producers have decided to follow that Next Gen path.  Other than the names of some of the characters and locations, a few mentions of a secret belief in “the One True God” (a blasphemous idea in Caprica’s polytheistic society), and of course the very familiar-looking design of Greystone’s creation, there is very little to connect Caprica to BSG.  (So don’t go looking to an answer to the question of the mysterious Cylon # 7 named Daniel — at least not here in the pilot!)  Ultimately, this might turn out to be the right move, as it was with Next Gen.  But based on the pilot alone, I think I’d be more supportive of the decision by the makers of Caprica to go their own way if I thought more highly of what they that produced here.

Because, as I watched the pilot, there really wasn’t any moment when I truly felt myself hooked into the goings-on I was watching.  The acting was fine, the script was good, the visuals were lovely — but I just wasn’t all that excited by any of it.  Now, I don’t want to be too negative.  The show is remarkably well put together.  But forget for a moment any comparisons with BSG‘s final episodes.  Let’s think back to that original BSG mini-series.  I remember how blown away I was the first time I saw it.  I went in with incredibly low expectations (I don’t even recall what on earth compelled me to watch it).  But, like so many other viewers, I found myself immediately gripped by the dark, exciting story and the amazingly charismatic group of actors.  I think about that mini-series, and I think about Caprica, and there’s just no comparison.  While I enjoyed all the actors in Caprica, I didn’t find any of them to be as compelling as any one member of BSG‘s huge cast of characters — all of whom I found to be amazing and engaging right from BSG’s original miniseries.  I did enjoy Eric Stoltz’s performance in Caprica quite a bit, and there were some fine actors in other major roles (Alessandra Torseon as Daniel Greystone’s brilliant-but-up-to-something daughter Zoe, Magda Apanowicz and Avan Jogia as Zoe’s friends Lacy and Ben, and Paula Malcolmson as Amanda Greystone, to name just a few).  But not a one of them equals Bill Adama, Colonel Tigh, Kara Thrace, Lee Adama, Laura Roslin, Baltar, Tyrol, Dee, Gaeta, Helo, Boomer, or any of the other phenomenal characters introduced in those opening hours of BSG.

I am encouraged that Ron Moore and so many of the writers and other behind-the scenes talents from Battlestar Galactica are involved with this prequel spin-off, and rest assured I will be tuning in when the series finally launches next year.  But I do hope they take things up a few notches when Caprica season one begins.  I would like to see the culture of the twelve colonies explored in much more detail (this was something really only hinted at in BSG).  What is life like on the OTHER eleven planets?  How are their people different from Capricans?  (The pilot hinted at some racial issues between Capricans and Taurons… and in BSG we saw some of that in Baltar’s desire to repress his roots and assimilate into Caprican society, but I’d love to see more.)  I’d like to learn more about the sub-culture of belief in the One True God (an intriguing story-line that was so important to BSG and that was teasingly hinted at in Caprica‘s pilot).  Where did this belief originate, and what is the ultimate goal of the One True God’s hidden followers?  I could go on.  There’s a real wealth of stories that can be explored in this universe.

Make it so!

Um, I mean, so say we all!

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