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Caprica: The Adventures of Teen Girl Robot

March 29, 2010

I’m one of those people who watched Battlestar Galactica.  For nearly five years I was one of those who went on endlessly about BSG – and we called it that, Bee Ess Gee – and humanity’s dramatic flight for survival from their relentless Cylon foes.  If I knew you then I would have probably cornered you into a conversation about it at some point: “So, do you watch BSG?” I might have asked you, with a forced casual air not entirely masking a curious and mistrusting eye, as though the question was instead “So, are you coming to the rally later?  The glorious leader is speaking and you’re not a dissident, are you?”  If Lost fans proselytize to swell their numbers it is because their show requires faith.  BSG fans never proselytized, we recruited.  This was cold hard reality, and the Cylons were kicking our asses.  Sir, yes sir.

Ultimately, though, BSG was just a soap opera for uniform fetishists.  As much as the overarching story was a grand one of survival among the stars, we mostly cared about Starbuck and Apollo, Starbuck and Anders, Adama and Roslin, oh no Tigh is drinking again!, who will Tyrol end up with?, who’s a Cylon?  It was strange for me to see creator Ronald D. Moore say about Caprica, BSG’s before-the-fall prequel currently airing on SyFy, that it was consciously less about a war in space to attract more female viewers, as most of the BSG fans I know were women.

So, Caprica.  Like any sequel, especially any sequel so different from its progenitor, it is destined to be scrutinized by fans, and fans are kind of assholes.  I know, I’m one.  When the original pilot was released last summer I didn’t watch it for months, taking the word of my fellow ex-BSG lifestylists that it was “meh,” or generally eye-rolly.  It was only to kill part of a ten hour bus ride to New York City that I finally relented and copied it to my laptop.  I watched cautiously, but I began to get hooked.  Realizing the series had begun showing in January I eagerly downloaded all available episodes and dove in.

It’s hard for me to watch Caprica without Battlestar Galactica sitting on my shoulder and shouting out fangirl squee every time I notice something related to the original show.  As with any prequel (at least any prequel done right – comments comparing Caprica to any of Lucas’ defilement of the Star Wars franchise might get you banned from this site.  We don’t speak of those films here) Caprica excites fans best when it alludes to what is to come, and as what is to come is the end of the effing world, well, that’s pretty exciting.

Through the first nine episodes, here are some of my thoughts:

1. The opening credits are among the most ridiculous I’ve ever seen.  Like the blueprint for an Evanescence video, this feels more like a DVD menu transition animation than proper TV titles.  And why are the Adamas in that ridiculous spooky graveyard?  Everytime I think “The Adama Family,” and if it weren’t for the horrible nu metal theme music that would totally get stuck in my head.

2. I have seen the galaxy, and it looks like the Pacific Northwest (or, rather, British Columbia’s lower mainland).  I lived in Vancouver for a decade, and as such many shows are a little bit about pointing out locations.  Already I’ve been chastised for this along with another ex-Vancouverite by people who’ve never lived there.  Still, I don’t think there’s an alleyway in the downtown east side that hasn’t been on SyFy at some pont.  Oh, and that was UBC!  Look, it’s New Brighton Park! Oh, and that is Commercial Drive…

3. Teen Girl Robot, aka Zoe Graystone.  Zoe gets involved with religious fantatics, is blown up, returns as a computer program, and gets put into the first Cylon body by her dad, Eric Stoltz. The show is ostensibly about her, and how this all must lead to the eventual near-extermination of humanity, but along the way she dates in cyberspace, has body issues (“Do I look like a man in this?” she asks her best friend, pointing at her Cylon form), and her issues with her parents carry on into her regeneration as digital.

A touching moment on Teen Robot Girl
A touching moment with Teen Girl Robot.

4. Eric Stoltz, by the way, is a complete dick – well, his character is, I mean.  Dr. Daniel Graystone is the inventor of the Cylons, a really bad father, and I suppose is becoming the bad guy.  He does however look fantastic in a suit.  Everyone looks great, actually, pre-Cylon Caprica City has a 1940’s aesthetic to it, and who doesn’t look great in a fedora or thin knee-length skirts?

5. Willy Adama is the one clear character link to BSG so far.  It’s Baby Commander Adama!  His character hasn’t been at all pivotal, and mostly he’s been a ragamuffin, hang out with his openly-gay mobster uncle Sal.  Adama’s dad Joe is a central character, but he’s been spending a lot of time playing videogames that look like Sin City lately.

6. Hey, it’s us!  A significant subplot to Caprica is intolerance among the colonies.  The poly/monotheistic schism of BSG has its roots here.  Caprica itself is shown as dominantly white, and the Greystones are at the pinnacle of that power structure, while the Adamas are Tauron immigrants and discriminated against.  So far I feel all that’s been done with that subtext is to acknowledge it, and as this is a mainstream production I’m not expecting much nuance there (I would, however, be interested in reading analysis of race and ethnicity in the show).  Handled in a more leading way is the acceptance of diverse sexualities: Sal is openly gay with a partner onscreen, and other characters are involved in openly polyamorous relationships.  In Caprican culture these things don’t seem to matter.

The first nine episode block has finished showing on SyFy in the US, and the first season will pick up again in September.  There are a number of cliffhangers awaiting resolution, as was always the case with BSG (and most soap operas, just saying).  It remains to be seen if Caprica will stick it out for the long haul, fans being the fickle sort we are.  It’s certainly not a show I’m telling people they have to see, not yet anyway, and I really don’t know the appeal for non-Galactica fans.  Still, as a sequel, at least it’s not a reimagining of Galactica 1980.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2010 8:34 am

    So it’s probably better to start watching this first? I am one of those BSG allies – you know someone who shows support, but doesn’t actually do shit – and am totally overwhelmed by all the work I need to do in order to get up to speed. My parents are huge fans and I believe have all the seasons. I’ve been spotty with viewing, though mouthy with my praise and support.

  2. March 29, 2010 8:43 am

    That’s a tough call, because I think part of my amusement with Caprica is for those giddy BSG fan moments, and without that I don’t know if I’d see it as yet another SyFy scifi drama shot in Vancouver.

    Engaging BSG, though, is a daunting task. I’d love if someone made a list of essential episodes, so folks could skip the fluff. One of the effects of my viewing habits shifting to UK/HBO-style shows is that I just don’t have the endurance for a 22-episode North American season anymore.

  3. evmaroon permalink
    March 29, 2010 10:50 am

    First, let me just say in a public forum that I am such a fan of yours. Thanks for this post!
    I was busy, scratching out a science fiction novel about people with stupid powers on the fight against Armageddon and so I purposely skipped BSG and Heroes, even though my friends thought I was nuts. Regarding Heroes, I remain unconcerned. But about BSG, I do feel like I’ve missed out on some amazing wild ride, like forgoing the upside-down, through a lava lake roller coaster and getting on the jaunty tea cup ride instead.
    I appreciate the reminder to go watch BSG, and now, apparently I need to add Caprica to my list! And here I was just trying to keep up on Doctor Who and Torchwood episodes…
    Fantastic post about the fantastic!

  4. March 29, 2010 11:25 am

    Is Torchwood any good? Also, Ev, we should start BSG together!

  5. msjacks permalink
    March 29, 2010 11:40 am

    You know, I was “meh” about watching Caprica because it’s supposedly not as good as BSG and blah blah blah. But when you frame it like this it’s like, how can I not? Besides, I’ve got no place being snobby. I spent 10 years watching Passions, for chrissakes.

  6. March 29, 2010 2:18 pm

    You should really be watching Primeval (aka Hot British People Dinosaur Hunting Squad), too. It is ridiculous, but it has time traveling dinosaurs and hot British people.

  7. March 29, 2010 2:20 pm

    There are shows I find utterly ridiculous, but in allowing them that much they can turn out to be at least moderately entertaining. Caprica is not great TV (which BSG often was), and I don’t expect it to become great TV, but it’ll do for now.

  8. March 29, 2010 2:24 pm

    Torchwood is ultimately very silly, but sometimes silly in the right way. It takes itself very seriously, but it never feels like much time was spent on plot structure. When it falls flat it is kind of painful. Having said that the series ending/hiatusing miniseries Torchwood: Children of Earth was quite good in my opinion.

  9. evmaroon permalink
    March 29, 2010 3:08 pm

    We really should! I’m in if you are. Now I have to see if I can Netflix it!

  10. evmaroon permalink
    March 29, 2010 3:09 pm

    Awesome, I’ll get my hands on it. Is it ridiculous a la Mr. Bean, or more like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?

  11. March 29, 2010 3:19 pm

    Ridiculous in the fact it is a serious drama for the most part. That and the fact the British government’s response to dinosaur attacks is apparently to have a bunch of college profs, ex-members of S-Club 7, and wannabe J. Crew models sort things out.

  12. rozele permalink
    April 8, 2010 12:06 pm

    as an occasional lurker on many blogs, i’m always a bit surprised as what moves me to write a first comment somewhere. thanks for the many interesting and lovely posts that haven’t gotten me typing, in any case…

    so: i’m an incompletely-recruited BSG admirer-from-a-distance, but i have gotten drawn into caprica, which i expect to lead me into the fold eventually. one of the first things i noticed about the show (after its refreshingly hostile take on montheism as such) was its racial/ethnic dynamics.

    so, in hopes of sparking some of that analysis you mentioned (if not here, where?), here’s a few paragraphs i wrote after watching the first two episodes (on an LJ too irregular to bother linking to); a quick take on the racialization of the taurons is the second half of it.

    —–
    watching too much television

    it’s nice to see someone on tv(-on-the-internets) say something sensible about religion. even if he is a more than slightly sketchy FBI agent (or local equivalent).

    It doesn’t concern you… that kind of absolutist view of the universe? Right and wrong determined solely by a single all-knowing, all-powerful being whose judgment cannot be questioned and in whose name the most horrendous acts can be sanctioned without appeal?

    one agent duram, addressing montheism in the pilot of Caprica.

    it remains to be seen how the dominant greco-roman style polytheism comes off. hopefully not much better, and hopefully distinctly different. given the choice between such systems, i tend to prefer the one that offers the larger number of possible sources of authority. more room to maneuver is better, when you’ve got a basic disagreement with the premise that there is or should be an external Authority.

    —-

    later:

    fascinatingly, the show’s designated Others, though allegedly normative polythesists at heart, are not only darker, shorter, body-modified, involved in organized crime, and torn between pride and assimilationism, but when they sit down to a culturally-marked meal, there’s a braided loaf at the center, with dark red wine in somewhat ritual-looking goblets.

    sf crypto-jew much?

    or did i forget to mention that the more trad ones wear black fedoras and have a decided flair for the monochrome semiformalwear? or that their ethnic neighborhood overlaps with chinatown?

    still later:

    and that they’re largely played by latin@s and arabs, judging by the names.

    fascinating.

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