Ron Moore’s Caprica still needs to find itself

WE’RE three episodes in to Caprica in the UK, Ron Moore‘s Battlestar Galactica prequel, and so far I have to say I still don’t know what to make of it.

It tells of life on Caprica 50 or so years before the events of BSG, looking at the creation of the Cylons as well as examining ideas of identity, religion vs technology, monotheism vs polytheism, and hot teenagers having lesbian drug sex in cool looking virtual nightclubs.

This is done in a Thirtysomething style, with lots of meaningful silences and longing looks off camera in a world where despite having robots and faster than light drives, everyone still dresses like it’s 1950s America.

The show’s creator Ron Moore says this is because he wants to replicate the feeling of possibility from that era, of wonder at where technology may take society, with everything overshadowed by our knowledge of the dark future ahead.

That’s as maybe, but in reality it means lots of boring scenes of men in hats talking to each other without any of the cool sci-fi space stuff.

And while that talking is generally well written, it lacks focus and seems to be determined to take the flawed characterisation of BSG to a whole new level.

Everyone is dark in Caprica, it’s just a matter of what degree – be it Adama‘s father (the commander is 10 in this) Joseph – who compromises himself over a desire to see his dead daughter again – or the computer whiz Daniel Graystone who will step over anyone in his quest to make the first Cylon and win a big military contract for his company. He also lives in a cool lakeside home, and we all know what happened to the last scientist in BSG world who did that.

Ideas and plot strands come and go at lightning speed too. How’s this for just one of the show’s themes? A virtual avatar of his daughter, who was a member of an underground religious organisation but died in a bombing caused by her religious fundamentalist boyfriend, is secretly downloaded inside the frame on one of the cylons by Graystone to try and bring her back, but it seems to fail and he thinks all data is lost. However she really survived and is now figuring out what to do next, trapped in a metal body.

Keeping up with me? Don’t worry, my head is spinning too.

Moore has said he approached Caprica in a different way to BSG, more like a soap opera, to allow for more people to find a way in and watch the show without relying of sci-fi geeks like me.

It seems that he and fellow show creator Remi Aubuchon have fallen into the trap that Torchwood did at first of just throwing ideas out to see what sticks.

That means there are some very effective moments – like when Adama’s daughter’s terrified avatar says she can’t feel her heartbeat.

But it leads to other ideas being rushed. For instance Adama’s gangster uncle mentions he is gay as an aside, while a polygamous family with several husbands and wives is given similar brief treatment. Both of these are worth more screen time and exploration.

It just feels a bit muddled, and left me confused over what was happening and who was supposed to be doing what. That may settle down given time, it may even be the point, and I have sky-plussed it to find out.

However it had better not take too long as ratings in America are falling fast and it would be a shame if an attempt to broaden the audience instead encouraged people to turn off prematurely.

A promising start then, albeit one that means Caprica must straighten itself out before too long.

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