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