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The future begins now: first Caprica reviews

capricaAlthough I’m still waiting for my copy to arrive, the first reviews of the DVD-release version of the Battlestar Galactica spin-off/prequel, Caprica, have begun to pop up around the traps.

Created by Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, the driving forces behind the revisioned Battlestar Galactica, Caprica looks like being a very different creature from its parent, even as it explores similar – and similarly troubling – territory. Set 60 years before the events of Battlestar Galactica, and starring the man with the charisma bypass, Eric Stoltz and Polly Walker, who lit up the screen as Rome’s scheming Atia, it focuses on the creation of the first Cylons (or the first non-Final Five, Earth that wasn’t Earth Cylons, but we won’t go there) and the lives of two families, the Greystones and the Adamas. Like the troubled Ian McShane vehicle, Kings (which has already been shifted to Saturday nights in the US, usually the prelude to a show being taken round the back and put out of its misery) it depicts a science fictional version of contemporary America, a place of almost unbridled wealth and decadence riven by religious extremism and the perils of technology. These are of course questions explored with great power and suggestiveness in Battlestar Galactica, but as the trailer below suggests, Caprica has ambitions to be more than a simple companion piece to its parent series, even as it draws on its aesthetic and mythology.

I’m sure more reviews will appear in coming days, but thus far the word is broadly positive, if not actually ecstatic. Wired’s Underwire gives it a 8 out of 10, suggesting it’s a little on the slow side but praising its intelligence and preparedness to tackle difficult issues. Wired‘s Geekdad is similarly positive, saying that while “it’s not the kind of action-packed, thrilling, anyone-really-could-die-at-any-moment kind of show Battlestar Galactica fans have been, well, fanatic about these past four seasons,” it is “a very good drama, with good science fiction thrown in”. Slashfilm goes further, saying it asks “some deep questions about the morality of creating artificial life,” adding that while “[i]t’s rare for a sci-fi show to attempt drama with very little action . . . it manages stay compelling without much reliance on ’splosions”. And io9’s resident smart cookie, Annalee Newitz, thinks it “works incredibly well, despite a few hiccups, helped along by some brilliant worldbuilding and terrific acting from stars Esai Morales and Eric Stoltz”.

Perhaps almost as interesting as the release itself is its nature. The version just released is not a pilot, but a special DVD-only movie release, complete with R-rating. And while the series itself is already in production, and is currently scheduled to screen in 2010, the version available now will not be seen on television. Instead the producers will reshape the television pilot (and presumably the series) on the basis of responses to the DVD version. Whether you see its release as a cynical cashing in on the gaping hole left in many fans’ lives by the end of Battlestar Galactica or an interesting use of the different delivery technologies is proably a matter of perspective.

Caprica is available from Amazon.

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. He may have a charisma bypass but Stoltz is a good actor.

    On another BSG point, I just read your piece in Meanjin last night. Excellent job sir!

    AF

    April 22, 2009
  2. I know, it’s a cheap shot, but I took against him years ago. I’m sure there was a reason but I now can’t remember what it was. But I have to admit from what I’ve seen he looks like he’s good in Caprica, so I may have to revise my opinion.
    Have you seen it? What’s it like?
    And thanks for the kind words re the BSG piece.

    April 22, 2009
  3. Melissa #

    I’m excited – and glad to hear it hasn’t been panned. One can’t help but have reasonably high expectations.

    April 22, 2009
  4. I was glad about the same thing. Then I saw this:

    http://www.salon.com/ent/tv/review/2009/04/21/caprica/index.html

    Hmm.

    April 22, 2009
  5. Anomar #

    Well, the Salon review linked above was about as fraked as possible.

    If you want bust it up action, go to slick and fake scifi, if you want to think, tune into Caprica.

    Honestly, the reviewer, Thomas Rogers, seemed morally deficient as the ruling class on Caprica. He was actually salivating for the decadence the opening scenes were critiquing. Neither does he have the least idea what good science fiction is about. He actually writes, “In fact, robot subplot and holographic excursions aside, there really isn’t much that’s science fiction-y about ‘Caprica.'”

    The series obviously means to help us confront the very real questions humanity must as we embark on the path of creation of ‘humanoid’ life.

    This is serious business and it sure ain’t about glorifying gore and perversion. I’m sure open to showing those realities but pining for them.

    Rogers has so long ago gone over to the dark side, he can’t even imagine being asked to think about its implications. He needs a midi-chlorian injection. His review is an EPIC FAIL.

    I found the DVD version of the pilot much better than expected. And the idea of delivering a more adult version via direct DVD sales is just what we have been all waiting for. Kudos all around.

    April 26, 2009
  6. I think you’re making a really interesting point about the confusion of action and quality sci-fi. Lots of the best and most thought-provoking SF movies are the quietest – think of Gattaca for instance. But there’s always that drive towards violence and space battles. One of the really interesting things about BG was the way it dumped all of that for a focus on the political and theological questions, and it was the better for it.
    And you’re also making me even more eager to see it – I’m still waiting for my copy to wing its way across the Pacific (no doubt on a plane seething with swine flu) – but I’m hoping it will be here this week, and I’ll write something more substantial then.

    April 28, 2009
  7. Have you guys seen the second half of season 4 yet? There is a ton of action in BSG. It’s not Star Wars, but they’re really ramping it up as the series comes to an end.

    April 29, 2009
  8. io9 reported today that Caprica started off as a non-BSG project (on the themes you mention) that was, perhaps unfortunately, shoehorned into the BSG franchise. I haven’t seen it yet either, but I suspect it’s probably too late to be its own thing now, no matter how irrelevant the Adamas might be. Still, maybe it’ll pave the way to something else in the non-splosion vein. (Much as I love the whole infernokrusher, one does need a varied diet.) One can hope.

    April 29, 2009

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