Caprica Review: “Pilot”

Making a satisfying prequel is tricky business, filled both with obvious pitfalls and phantom menaces, and mass-media SF has failed at this enterprise more than it has succeeded. Battlestar Galactica frequently turned potential disasters into triumphs. How does its prequel fare?

Title: Pilot

Cast and Crew

Written by Ronald D. Moore and Remi Aubuchon

Directed by Jeffrey Reiner

Eric Stoltz as Daniel Graystone
Esai Morales as Joseph Adama
Allesandra Torresani as Zoe Graystone
Magda Apanowicz as Lacy Rand
Paula Malcomson as Amanda Graystone
Hiro Kanagawa as Cyrus Xander
Genevieve Buechner as Tamara Adams
Sasha Roiz as Sam Adama
Avan Jogia as Ben Stark
Sina Najafi as Bill Adama
Polly Walker as Sister Clarice Willow
William B. Davis as Minister Chambers
Jorge Montesi as The Guatrau

Additional cast and crew information may be found here.

Premise

Fifty-eight years before the Fall in Battlestar Galactica, the events that will lead to the creation of the Cylons unfold. They begin, of course, with rebellious teens in a virtual nightclub.

High Point

Making a satisfying prequel is tricky business, filled both with obvious pitfalls and phantom menaces, and mass-media SF has failed at this enterprise more than it has succeeded. Caprica does what Galactica did so well, so often: it blends intrinsically interesting drama with social commentary, creating an intelligent and watchable show. That it leads to another series and a foreordained conclusion, thus far, presents no problems for viewers. Yet, for those of us who have seen the future, the origins of the Cylon religious position, for example, make perfect and chilling sense. The episode integrates the Adama family into this aspect of the saga in a manner that does not seem overly forced or artificial. Along the way we learn a few things about Colonial racism—though the obvious connections between Mediterranean and Tauron cultures may raise a few eyebrows.

Low Points

The more I think about the finale to Galactica, the less sense it makes. To a significant degree, the continual tampering with history by an actual God, made clear in the final episode, seriously undercuts everything we saw before and everything we’re seeing here in Caprica. What we see in this episode are clearly human concepts in realistic conflict, not the tinkering and puppet-stringing of some deus extremely fond of machinations.

I have a few more things to say under “The Scores” about Zoe’s prodigious genius and the episode’s potential plot holes.

At least a certain character doesn’t say “Noooooooo!!!!” in the episode’s final scene.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6. We’re revisiting territory covered by a lot of SF (and elsewhere), though the episode takes its own approach to the material. Any series that borrows intelligently from Frankenstein and The Godfather can’t be all bad.

Effects: 5/6. A number of strong effects transform Vancouver into a world that is not quite ours. The proto-Cylon effects look at times like outtakes from Caprica: The Videogame.

Story: 4/6 The story begins slowly though with obvious high-interest shots, but it shows terrific promise. Zoe’s prodigious abilities strike me as very far-fetched (shades of Dr. Zee!) but, otherwise, the origins of the Cylons seem plausible, in context, marked with genuine tragedy.

Some questions linger: I know Ben is a young terrorist, but terrorists usually destroy targets with some symbolic value, at least, or to create terror in someone/something they consider oppressive. What, exactly, was his attack supposed to accomplish, even from a terrorist’s point-of-view?

When she packed for Gemmon, why didn’t Zoe take her creation with her?

Acting: 6/6. As with its parent show, Caprica brings strong acting to television SF.

Emotional Response: 5/6.

Production: 6/6.

Overall: 5/6. It doesn’t soar with Galactica‘s best, but it exceeds that show’s worst moments.

In total, the Pilot of Caprica receives 34/42

13 replies on “Caprica Review: “Pilot””

  1. MrWin2kMan says:

    I believe the motivation behind the young terrorists action will be developed over the next few episodes…
    As far as Zoe not taking her creation with her, why wouldn’t Gemenon have the capability to allow her to use it there already?

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      It’s always difficult to comment on a work-in-progress, because the mysteries may be cleared up later. However, I felt that way about the mysteries in Galactica, and I’d have to say the final seasons let me down quite a bit.

      I still think Zoe would have at least taken her computer-no-corner-paper-thingy with her, to minimize the chance anyone would get access to her creation.

  2. Tekzel says:

    I enjoyed this pilot when I watched it (a while back, I Netflixed it). I am hopeful for the series, but I hope they think a little longer term this time around and don’t paint themselves into any corners.

    I also literally LOLed at the allusion to Star Wars in the high point.

  3. joe__gee says:

    I’ve now watched the pilot several times, with several different people. I find it has enough of familiar concepts to satisfy my BSG fix, and it seems to have a strong enough concept that it may very well maintain a decent season. It interests me more than the pilot of the latest Stargate spinoff.

    I agree with JD’s observations about acting and emotional impact. I find it ironic that humanity is destroyed fifty plus years later due to a machine-magnified fit of teen angst. Parents: pay attention. Your disaffected childrens’ programs may grow up to kill 57 billion people. :)

    Hey jww, you paying attention? What did you think?

    -Joe

    • J_W_W says:

      I haven’t watched it yet. I’ve really become pretty cold to prequels for many reasons.

      But the general positive response to Caprica may make me have to go out and find the episode somewhere and watch it…..

      • joe__gee says:

        Caprica to me doesn’t feel so much like a prequel as just a view of Colonial life. My greatest fear is that the show will cross from dramatic edginess into soap opera territory.

        What I noticed about the pilot is that it feels complete, and is sustained entirely by its own elements. One character we run into later is there, but he’s not Anakin Skywalker, at least not yet. Now if they have little Willie turn into an electronics genius by the end of the season, I’ll have a problem, but so far he’s just a kid who’s been through a rough time.

        There ya go:

        Willie: “This is my Cylon, I built her from spare parts.”

        Kara’s teen-age mother: ” She’s amazing. What do you call her?”

        Willie: “I call her Six, because Six is my favorite number.”

        Kara’s teen-age mother, looking at the nude, statuesque Tricia Helfer: “She’s not finished yet.”

        Willie: “Oh that’s OK. One of these days I’ll have grandma sew her a red dress. Dad seems to like her this way.”

        And in later episodes it is revealed that Willie develops a crush on Kara’s mom, and in an as-of-yet unaired BSG movie, it is revealed in an emotional scene on Ragnar Anchorage that Admiral Adama is … Wait for it … DUH DUH DUH … Kara’s father.

        Kara shrugs, and replies “I fraking knew it all the time.”

        -Joe

        • J_W_W says:

          Yikes, I really hope that NEVER happens. Scary dialogue there.

          Well, I watched the episode an I am pretty impressed. I really hope they play up the Frankenstinian elements of the show for both the Dad and the daughter.

          I love how the elements for the Cylons alternate reality world is in there and the devotion the one God is also in there. They’re doing a great job stitching together the cylon’s mythos from this one event.

          However, yet again, Galactica’s final five don’t fit what they’re building. It appears from this that they don’t play into the development of the cylons, and I can’t see a way from how this episode went that they will be any possible way to work the five into the cylon mythos. Once again the final five are revealed as the poor plot twist in Galactica that they always were. They don’t help the story at all.

          But like I said, they aren’t referenced in Caprica and what I’ve seen so far I liked…

  4. Vulch says:

    Hmmm, terrorist blows up a tube train and you’re wondering what the symbolic value is and what it’s supposed to accomplish? The lads who did exactly the same thing in London back in July 2005 seemed to have a fairly clear idea of the disruption it would cause.

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      Yes– disruption which might be perceived as useful to terrorists opposing Britain’s involvement in a war. I don’t see how it parallels the fictional situation in Caprica, where the terrorist is trying to spread the word of a religion (again– not the assumed aim of the British terrorists, though they also had religious motivations– “religious” as defined by fanatic zealots). The Caprican government clearly disproves of monotheists, but there’s no war on. I suppose it could be a gesture to disrupt a society perceived as generally persecuting monotheists, or something, but it still seems a stretch.

      Then again, in all fairness, so do a lot of terrorist actions.

      And we don’t know everything about the situation in Caprica.

      • joe__gee says:

        I’d say from the racist comments coming from some of the higher-up officials we meet that there are pretty strong tensions in the Colonies above and beyond the tensions of the radical monotheists. “You can’t trust a Tauron. It’s in their DNA.”

        I wonder why no one in the V-club noticed the strange infinity symbol on the door handle of the private room and reported it?

        -Joe

  5. joe__gee says:

    Picking the tiniest nit:

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around “Cybernetic Lifeform Node”. Yup, those CYLNO’s are a dangerous lot. It doesn’t just roll off the tongue, does it? Cybernetic Lifeform Node? :/

    -Joe

  6. TwistyHat says:

    Acting: 2/6
    Emotional Response: 0/6
    Production: 2/6
    Overall: 1/6

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      Emotional Response, I get, is subjective, and the show’s not for everyone, clearly, but you’re the first person I’ve met who has Simon Cowelled on the acting and production. Can you be more specific?

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