Friday, October 8, 2010

Caprica - the reimagined version

First of all, I'm very uncomfortable watching these SyFy shows on any other day but Sci-Friday. But whatever NBCU wants to do with scheduling and ad sales, they do. Which, of course, leads to the fact that I was also uncomfortable with them running half a season of this show, leaving us with what for all intents and purposes was an action-filled cliff-hanger episode.

So you can imagine my surprise when what was supposed to be a second half of a season looked more like an all new season or all new show introducing new concepts and story arcs, and returning to the really, really slow pace of the first few episodes that put off so many scifi fans.

"Battlestar Galactica" had two incarnations, the original in the late 1970's and the one of the late 2000's termed the "reimagined series." Tuesday's "Caprica" episode felt like a "reimagined" series.

Writing credit for this episode is given to Ryan Mottesheard exclusively and I have no idea what that means as he was script coordinator on "Battlestar Galactica" having a writing credit for one episode which was shared with show creators Moore and Glen Larson.

We have to recognize that from the beginning Moore warned everyone that the show would not be BSG. In 2006(!) Moore said:
It's a very different show; it's not action – adventure and it's not even in space. It takes place on the Planet Caprica and it’s more of a family drama, with political and corporate intrigue.

We also have to recognize that it is a prequel to BSG, except we have to be aware of the "Galactica" explanation that "all of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again" but events are not exactly replicated each time. This "Caprica" period is one of those repeats or the original. We don't know and it doesn't matter. Earth was discovered 150,000 years before now in the "Galactica" finale. Simply, Caprica is a tale of ancient history rather than future history, ancient history that has a civilization that appears somewhat like ours.

I'm beginning to think the "Caprica" creators Remi Aubuchon and Ron Moore have fallen in love with the idea that an audience is out there to be had by careful and slow structuring, offering much detail, with rarely anything that looks like scifi action.

Well, yeah, AMC does have an audience for "Mad Men" and "Rubicon" made up of people like me who love complex stories with complex characters. But whether they'll come over to SyFy on Tuesday in prime time for what is as much a fantasy drama as a scifi drama remains to be seen.

On the other hand, Moore and company are doing what they are doing very well.

In this episode we learn more about the "one true god" religious organization on Gemenon, with its Vatican equivalent surrounded by the invading hoards. But guess what, the Pope equivalent is a woman called "Mother" played by Meg Tilly, an actor who can subtly express with her face and does so in this episode.

It is clear that the parallel here is not necessarily modern Christianity or Islam both of which are more decentralized and fragmented. And yet there are enough historical parallels in both faiths that we must recognize as well as some details that are obviously not a coincidence. For instance, the monotheist terrorist group Soldiers of The One or STO uses the infinity symbol. Of course we can't help but see the potential comparison:
In this episode we also learn more about the Ha'la'tha crime syndicate from Tauron and its leader the Guatrau. Is this a parallel of the Sicilian Mafia? Of course.

Now comes the new parallel story arcs:
  • Billionaire entrepreneur Daniel Graystone has lost his Graystone Corporation to his arch rival Tomas Vergis in the development of the robots we know as the Cylons ("toaster" get's introduced in this episode); he has even lost control of the now nearly demolished one that contained his daughter Zoe's avatar 'mind"; and Vergis also even took away his beloved sports team the Buccaneers; so through Joseph Adama he approaches the Guatrau to pitch the idea that if they can just get rid of Vergis, they could be in a hugely profitable partnership marketing as a cure for grief a computer system that can resurrect dead people as virtual avatars in a holoworld, something that has already happened with Zoe Graystone and Adama's daughter Tamara Adama.
  • "Sister" Clarice Willow, in an effort to wrest full control over the STO movement away from her arch rival Barnabas Greeley, travels to Gemenon and approaches "Mother" for permission to market the aforementioned computer system to resurrect dead people as virtual avatars in a holoheaven, the demonstrable immortality that the religion promises; as a marketing tool, it has the advantage of people being able to see the dead believers in heaven.
All of this involves intrigue and some violence.

Perhaps you're wondering about the last episode of the first half of the season.

Well, the fatally damaged cylon body that Zoe's avatar occupied is boxed up. And we learn that Zoe escaped back to the holoworld by watching her prove her strength as a magical warrior princess "killing" some street punks who call her a "deadwalker", of which we know two exist - her and Tamara.

Further, we learn that Amanda Graystone, who we thought we last saw step off the edge of a bridge an kill herself while Sister Clarice's car was being blown up nearby, actually is now staying in some cabin with Sister Clarice.

So much for the action-packed last episode. Now back to our regularly schedule long dramatic march.

I like this show. At least I like the potential revealed in this episode. I want to know just how the holoworld concept ultimately leads to the Cylons starting a war with the Twelve Colonies several decades from the "now" of these episodes. I like the characters being developed and I like the actors. I like a show that, if it is not going to have a current-day or historical foundation, offers a philosophical underpinning for its broader conflict story arc.

But if the unfolding process of this show is attractive to me and only 27 other people, and that's something I am concerned might happen, NBCU won't keep funding its share.

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