You go girl.....Caprika!

Caprica, Ronald D. Moore and David Eick's followup to their wildly successful Battlestar Galactica series is a tough nut to crack. The story is set a generation earlier, around the time the first Cylon prototypes were being created, and revolves around two families tied together by a shared tragedy. A deadly terrorist attack on a commuter train launches the interconnected stories, told from the viewpoints of two families: the Adamas and the Graystones. The Adamas are first generation immigrants using an adopted name (Adams) to fit in, but they remain connected to their ethnic community. The Graystones are a wealthy Caprican family, the father an entrepreneur billionaire running a robotics/computer firm, the mom a doctor and their daughter a 15-year-old prep-school student. The act of terrorism instantly rips the characters from their worlds and Caprica quickly morphs into a story about virtual reality, artificial intelligence research, religion, racism and raising the dead.

The science fiction elements of Caprica are pushed well into the background, revealed in scenes of virtual reality and robotics rather than spaceships and spooled-up FTL drives. It introduces a society of the near-future that is mostly compatible with our own. The writers do a good job maintaining dramatic tension by parceling out information to the viewer as the characters themselves learn it. The overall plot is fairly straightforward (although and, truth be told, a little predictable at times), but it also asks deeper questions of character, ethics and motivations, something that doesn't happen all that often in television. At its core, Caprica is an variation on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein with a little Issac Asimov I, Robot thrown in for good measure.

What Moore and Eick have produced here is an extraordinary piece of science fiction, different in almost every way from BSG, but still striking the central points of good science fiction writing. Its role is to create metaphors for us to view as mirrors to our own world. Concepts that are invisible to us within our own society are stark and obvious when seen in an alien context. The creators of Caprica were obviously going for something quite different than they did in Battlestar. Opposites play out consistently on screen – Caprica is a world at its peak, its people intoxicated by success and oblivious to what lay ahead (Good Morning America!). BSG on the other hand, took place in a dark, often-hopeless world, populated by broken people, loss and the struggle to survive (Good Night Detroit!).

something's wrong here.....
 But the biggest problem with a series like Caprica is its limited marketability. Moore and Eick have created a highly-intelligent series that relies on ideas and dialogue, but its science fiction pedigree will likely starve it of the audience they seem to be after.... Girls! The problem with aiming the series at chicks is twofold – first, they don't watch science fiction and second, they don't watch science fiction. It simply doesn't matter that the story can be watched without any prior BSG knowledge. Geek television is meant to be watched by boys and Caprica, even with its fine writing and excellent acting, has just too many... well...., “girly” moments. Everybody knows that girls don't show up at Star Trek conventions dressed as their favourite character... Kadas and Jules do. If Caprica was about sexy teenaged-vampires - well maybe, but it's not, it's about robots.... bad robots, and that's definitely guy territory.

It almost seems too late to retool the show at this point so I'm guessing Season 2 might be the last we'll see of Caprica and that's a damn shame. I hope I'm wrong because there's a nut at the centre of Caprica that's really interesting, but then again this comes from a network who thought changing their name from “SciFi” to “SyFy” was a cracking-good idea, so I doubt it.

With apologies to Kendall, one of the biggest BSG fans out there...... and a yucky girl to boot.
Sporgey out.

1 comment:

Chandles said...

To start, let me just point out that girls do watch Sci-fi. Perhaps they do not make up as large a portion of the viewership, but they are certainly there, and you can certainly see them dressed up as Deeana, Lt. Yar or Uhura, as well as non-Star Trek characters at conventions.

However, I agree with you that Caprica seems to have too many "girly-moments". The problem with this is not that girls do not watch sci-fi, but that the girls who do watch sci-fi are just as enthused by it containing "girly" elements as you are. I certainly didn't watch BSG for the romantic or tear-jerking moments and I too find it difficult to get past this in Caprica.

Still going to finish the season and I hope that they recognize the likelihood of it not lasting and give us a satisfying tie-in with its mother-show.