When Ronald D. Moore and David Eick announced plans to re-make the sci-fi classic series Battlestar Galactica in 2004 they were met with scepticism and even outrage from the Battlestar faithful. I was sceptical myself – they turned Starbuck (originally Dirk Benedict, The A-Team) into a woman for frak’s sake!
Ultimately the nay-sayers were proved wrong as the series was massively successful and the rebellious, and conflicted, Starbuck was portrayed wonderfully by relatively unknown Katee Sackhoff. Moore and Eick, this time in conjunction with screenwriter Remi Aubuchon, have turned their attention to the Battlestar universe once more, venturing into the murky world of the sci-fi prequel.
Caprica is set 58 years prior to the start of Battlestar Galactica and charts the events leading to the creation of the mechanical Cylon race.
Daniel Greystone (Eric Stolz, Pulp Fiction) and Joseph Adama (Esai Morales, NYPD Blue) find themselves bonding over their grief at the loss of their daughters in a suicide bomb attack. Greystone, a prolific and brilliant scientist, discovers a copy of his daughter Zoe’s consciousness stored in an online avatar. Inspired by his discovery he blindly rationalizes the moral objections posed by Adama and, through an act of industrial espionage, accelerates his company’s cybernetics projects in an effort to resurrect the girls into robotic bodies.
The Adama/Greystone dynamic is interesting and tense from the outset. Adama is a lawyer from the ghetto-world of Tauron with reluctant links to a violent and powerful crime syndicate. He does not believe in the Lords of Kobol (the BSG universe’s gods) nor does he believe that the old-fashioned traditions of his homeworld have a place in his new home, the planet Caprica.
For the ever rational Greystone, science is his religion and when he discovers a way to bring the girls back from the dead the two men, initially united in grief, become conflicted over how far Greystone is willing to go to see his daughter again.
The Battlestar Galactica re-imagining was both criticised and lauded for plot elements which appeared to be parallels or commentary on the real-world middle-eastern crisis of the time. One particularly controversial scene dealt in vivid detail with the recruitment of a suicide bomber and his attack on a passing-out ceremony for new police recruits whom insurgents had deemed Cylon collaborators.
Not to be outdone by its predecessor, Caprica quickly establishes the existence of monotheistic underground religious movement. In an early scene reminiscent of the 7/7 London bombings, one cult member blows up a train with explosives strapped to his chest and a zealous cry of “The one true God will sweep away the many!”
This damning allusion to Christianity as a militant jihadist movement won’t sit well with some viewers, but politically correct pandering was not part of the formula behind BSG’s success.
Crucially, Caprica does not require the viewer to have a love of science fiction to be enjoyed. Nor does it require detailed knowledge of the Battlestar canon. Whilst there are many references for the BSG fan to pick up on and extrapolate as sci-fi fans are wont to do, those who are put off the by the thought of spaceships and aliens, but are happy to watch Fringe, Lost and True Blood could easily add Caprica to their viewing routine.
An excellent beginning to a promising series that deserves to do well.