'Caprica' - the Television Series

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Caprica (2009, 2010-11) was a short-lived prequel series to the 21st Century remake of Battlestar Galactica (2003, 2004-9). Though Battlestar Galactica had proved to be extremely popular for channel Syfy1, Caprica failed to find an audience and was cancelled after only one series.

Plot

Set 58 years before Battlestar Galactica on the planet Caprica, a debauched world resembling 1950s America, Caprica told the intertwining story of three families, the Adama, Graystone and to a lesser extent the Willow families.

Caprica is a decadent planet beginning to disintegrate. The police are corrupt at the highest levels, drug-use is legal and criminal gangs quite literally get away with murder. The world's youth spend their time in virtual worlds called V Clubs where they indulge their tastes for pornography and violence. Caprica is perhaps the wealthiest of the twelve planets inhabited by humans, and interplanetary travel is commonplace.

Caprica's lethargy is challenged following a terrorist attack on a train by a group of religious fanatics called the Soldiers of The One or STO for short, who unlike the rest of society believe in the existence of one all-powerful god rather than multiple gods. This attack kills Zoe, Daniel and Amanda Graystone's daughter, as well as the wife and daughter of Joseph Adama, sparking off a series of events which leads to the creation of a race of artificially intelligent robots called Cylons, who will rebel against their creators and all-but destroy the human race2.

Characters


CharacterActor
Daniel GraystoneEric Stoltz
Amanda GraystonePaula Malcomson
Zoe GraystoneAlessandra Torresani
Joseph AdamaEsai Morales
Lacy RandMagda Apanowicz
Sam AdamaSasha Roiz
Clarice WillowPolly Walker
Jordan DurhamBrian Markinson
William AdamaSina Najafi
Tamara AdamaGenevieve Buechner
RuthKaren Elizabeth Austin
EvelynTeryl Rothery
Cyrus XanderHiro Kanagawa
The GuatrauJorge Montesi
SergeJim Thomson (voice)
Tomas VergisJohn Pyper-Ferguson
Gara SinghPeter Wingfield
PhilomonAlex Arsenault
Olaf WillowPanou
Nestor WillowScott Porter
Mar-Beth WillowAnita Torrance
Barnabas GreeleyJames Marsters

The Adama Family

Yosef 'Joseph' Adama, also known as Joseph Adams (Esai Morales) is a crime syndicate's hard-working lawyer on the planet Caprica. Though originally he and his younger brother Sam grew up an orphan from the poor, rural world of Tauron until forced to flee during the Civil War there, Adama at first attempts to integrate into Caprican society by calling himself Joseph Adams. He loses his wife Shannon and daughter Tamara (Genevieve Buechner) in the terrorist attack initiated by the Soldiers of the One. This makes him re-evaluate his life, and he resumes his original surname. When mourning the loss of his daughter, he allows Daniel Graystone to create an exact computer copy of her inside the virtual reality world, only to lose her and become obsessed with finding her.

Sam Adama (Sasha Roiz) is Joseph's brother and works as muscle for the Ha'la'tha crime syndicate led by a crimelord known as the Guatrau. He has a husband called Larry.

Joseph lives with his son, William (Sina Najafi) and his mother-in-law Ruth (Karen Elizabeth Austin), a retired assassin. Joseph later begins a relationship with Evelyn (Teryl Rothery), his law partner and a close friend. Joseph Adama is the father of Battlestar Galactica's William Adama.

The Graystone Family

Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) is an inventor, entrepreneur and businessman who invented the Holoband virtual reality headset and is trying to develop an intelligent military robot called a Cylon. He has been happily married to Amanda Graystone (Paula Malcomson) for over 20 years. Their daughter Zoe Graystone (Alessandra Torresani) is a computer genius who discovered a way to re-create a flawless, digital copy of a person, creating a Virtual Reality copy of herself.

Zoe is killed by her STO suicide-bomber boyfriend when they travel on a maglev train, leading her mother to believe that Zoe was the terrorist. Daniel Graystone discovers Zoe's programme to make digital copies of people, testing it to make a copy of Tamara Adama, finds Zoe's virtual avatar and downloads this Zoe into the prototype Cylon robot. Zoe is still able to access the virtual world where she encounters the virtual Tamara.

Sister Willow and the STO

Clarice Willow (Polly Walker) appears to be a high priestess of Athena and the headmistress of the Athena Academy, the school attended by Zoe Graystone, but in reality is a member of the STO. Having recruited members of her school to her cause, a leadership challenge results in the explosion of the maglev train which she did not authorise.

Sister Willow is in a group marriage, having a number of both husbands and wives. Messianic, she is obsessed with her own importance and believes that as she has been specially chosen by god, anything she decides to do is god's will. She had hoped to use Zoe's computer programme as a tool to virtually resurrect those who follow her view of religion, only to be frustrated when Zoe is killed by an attack encouraged by Barnabus, who leads a rival STO cell. She strikes up a close friendship with Amanda Graystone to gain access to it and also recruits Zoe's best friend, Lacy Rand (Magda Apanowicz). Lacy is sent to Gemenon, the headquarters of the STO and the headquarters of the leader of the monotheistic church, led by a holy figure known as the Mother.

Caprica and Battlestar Galactica

Caprica was a prequel series to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (2003, 2004-9) that erupted onto screens with a bang following an explosive pilot mini-series in 2003. The very first episode, '33', won the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Despite this strong start, the series ended in 2009 not with a bang but a long, drawn-out fizzling whimper that angered many fans, with it quickly being voted as having the worst ending in science-fiction television history3.

Caprica was made only a year after Battlestar Galactica's ending. As many of the original series' fans were still angry about the let down, many of the core Battlestar Galactica audience that Caprica had been expected to retain ignored the new show. Particularly as it seemed to concentrate on elements that they had disliked about the earlier series' ending, especially the lengthy religious debates about the merits of a fictional monotheistic religion contrasted to a fictional polytheistic religion. Similarly, Caprica inexplicably has ghostly characters that only one character can see; Zoe Graystone is visited by a ghostly Zoe Graystone who saved her life as a child, and Amanda Graystone sometimes sees her dead brother. This is left unexplained.

Caprica also appears to contradict some of Battlestar Galactica. One of the first artificial intelligences destined to become a humanoid Cylon is Tamara Adama; at no point in Battlestar Galactica do any Cylons reveal to Commander Adama that he is their long-lost brother. Similarly, the first human to become a Cylon is Zoe Graystone, whereas in Battlestar Galactica the Number One Cylon is played by Dean Stockwell. Of course it is not unusual for science-fiction television series to have errors of continuity, however it is possible that these points would have been explained had the series continued.

Although Caprica is about different characters than Battlestar Galactica, some actors who had played minor roles in the earlier series appear in Caprica.

Review

Although Battlestar Galactica had been one of television's must-watch programmes, Caprica was a series that failed to find an audience and was cancelled before the end of the first series was broadcast. There were a number of reasons for this, although chief among these must be how the show was a spin-off of a programme that had alienated its fanbase, and subsequently failed to attract a new one.

The series adopted a new format for Caprica as the production team felt that the presence of space ships put many people off watching4. Hoping to expand their audience to include those who did not normally watch science-fiction, they asked 'what would happen if we made the programme similar in style to a soap opera?' The answer seemed to be that the traditional science-fiction watching audience, many of whom dislike soap operas, stayed away in droves. Why the producers felt that an audience that dislikes seeing spaceships would watch characters spending time in a virtual reality world full of airships instead is never explained.

The show did not show what it promised. The tagline advertised 'the battle for humanity has a beginning', implying that the show would involve battles. Instead the audience sees the characters sitting still while wearing holobands. Sometimes holobands are put on and as if that wasn't enough action in this rip-roaring rollercoaster of a ride, occasionally the holobands are taken off too5. The audience also sees Daniel Graystone stressing at all hours of the night on many, many, many occasions about whatever the particular episode's focus is on, while Joseph Adama's hobbies include both mourning and moaning, moaning and mourning. There are, of course, many terrorist characters who plot and scheme, however terrorism was still a very controversial topic at the time.

One factor that may have hurt Caprica's viewing figures was that it did not have an original premise but had much in common with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-9). Both were about the creation of a robotic race that gains sentience and fights a war against humanity. Just as Caprica had Zoe, a girl in a robot body, The Sarah Connor Chronicles had Cameron, a robot in a girl's body. The show may well have had greater impact if it had not covered similar ground than a show broadcast a year earlier.

That said, there is a lot in Caprica's favour, especially the look of the show. The design of the Cylon is a pleasing return to the style of the original series, perfectly recapped when the Cylon says By your command in the same tone and voice as the phrase is spoken in the 1970s' series. The holobands also subtly have the same side-to-side Cylon lighting effect, which proves very effective. The overall look of the show is also unique, combining both sleek, sophisticated, futuristic elements with 1950s fashion, architecture and cars certainly is distinctive.

Caprica was a slow burner that was taking time to gather momentum. Many science-fiction programmes take time to find their feet in the first series and then develop into truly excellent television, see both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Babylon 5. The way that Caprica's storyline built in suspense towards the end implied that after the slow and sedate first series, the second series would have been much stronger. The penultimate episode had a twist that really surprises, while the finale was tense and action-packed.

The series ended with a dramatic montage entitled 'The Shape of Things to Come', which packs more excitement into five minutes than the five episodes following the pilot. This showed clips of the second series' storyline; as Cylons fully infiltrate Caprica's society, Sister Willow preaches to them, encouraging rebellion. Both Lacy and Zoe are seen as having exciting destinies too. The last image the series shows are the words, 'Next Season on Caprica'.

Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome (2012)

Despite its lack of success, Caprica is not the last instalment in the Battlestar Galactica universe; a feature-length episode originally broadcast as a ten-part web-based mini-series was made two years later. This was set between Caprica and Battlestar Galactica, showing an incident in the Cylon War. Blood and Chrome was heavily influenced by Caprica. It not only used clips from the original show to show the planet Caprica and Cylons, but one character, Doctor Becca Kelly, stated she had worked at Graystone Industries and a Graystone holoband appears. Some of the cast of Caprica appeared in Blood and Chrome, most notably Brian Markinson who played Jordan Durham in Caprica played Adama's commanding officer, Commander Nash.

1Formerly known as the Sci-Fi Channel.2In the original Battlestar Galactica (1978) the Cylons wiped out the reptilian race that created them, and had subsequently been at war with the humans of the Twelve Colonies for a thousand years.3SPOILER: Many characters discovered they were secretly Bob Dylan fans, mankind is descended from human/Cylon hybrids and god was behind everything that happened from the start.4This does not seem to have affected the Star Wars series too badly.5Sadly none of the show's actors can wear a headband over their eyes as convincingly as LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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