Yet another geek blog

23 April 2009

Caprica Review

Cylon

What do you do with a show that everybody likes but nobody watches?

The HBO series The Wire, is now famous as a gritty and shockingly realistic study is the drugs war in the United States. But when it launched, it was described as a 'cop show'. The writer, David Simon, says that this was a necessary Trojan Horse. The new series Caprica is billed as a 'family drama' a necessary Trojan Horse for science fiction. Why is this Necessary? Because 'genre' programs still find it almost impossible to break out into the mainstream.

Battlestar Galactica

In 2004 the pilot for the new Battlestar Galactica emerged in a blaze of glory. It was a little ponderous and it seemed to have more characters than it knew what to do with but it was full of drama and left you wanting more. As a pilot should. But, as the series progressed, it became obvious that it was something special. Nothing stood still and nothing could be taken for granted. The characters were deepened and dissected and forced into situations that destroyed the audiences preconceptions about 'goodies' and 'baddies'. Some of the characters grow and change, some are damaged, and some destroyed. Rewatching the pilot today, it is striking that none of the people are really who we believed them to be.

The fans loved it. Critics loved it. The viewing public watched American Idol and the studio began to get very upset. There were two problems that just would not go away:

  • The name of the show is Battlestar Galactica and memories of that old 1970's show just will not die.
  • There are space ships in it.

The quality of the show simply could not translate into viewing figures because these two issues prevented people from watching it in the first place. Hence Caprica, the trojan horse.

Is it a good Trojan Horse?

Indeed it is. The colony of Caprica is the state of California. It never looks like California, but it always feels like it.

It the pilot, as much of the plot as possible is focused on the characters from the two families that will be the backbone of the series. (A tried and tested soap formulae). For example, although the families are from different planets (Caprica and Tauron), this fact is only used to give their characters an ethnicity. Capricans tell us that Taurons have a distinctive smell because they eat dirt and father has to explain to his son (who was born on Caprica) why his family changed their Tauron name. So, we never see Tauron and the information we are given about it tells us more about Capricans.

This promises to be a show that people can tune into and not even notice that they are watching science fiction.

But will it give me my Battlestar Galactica fix?

Only time will tell, but indications look good.

The family dynasty structure is well suited to long story arcs with lots of twists. From the start, expectations are ambushed and nothing is as simple as it seems. Rich teenagers from the a posh school are fodder for a terrorist recruiting cell. The scientist grieving the death of his daughter has a day job designing intelligent weapons.

The pilot is also happy to deal head on with the fact that the 'baddies' believe in God while the 'goodies' do not. (The first series of Battlestar Galactica was so squeamish about this that it cut it out.)

The fact that it is a prequel does not rob it of any tension. It is set 50 years before the parent show and all we really know is that there will be a war in 10 years. In fact, it will be interesting to see how this war is dealt with. It is difficult to believe that they a so optimistic as to think that they will reach it a rate of one serial per story year. Will it be a grand finale? Or will they put off doing it at all until ratings flag?

I want more.

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posted by Yet Another Geek @ Thursday, April 23, 2009

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