After finally watching Caprica . . . Meh

In honor of finally posting a new blog long after I should have, I’m blogging about a show I finally watched long after I should have. For my nongeek readers, I’ll explain that Caprica (2009–2010) was the prequel series to the rebooted Battlestar Galactica (2003–2009). I loved much of BSG, particularly since I accepted early on that the finale would not be satisfying. There’s no satisfying way to end BSG, because the premise inherited from the original show in the seventies—that there’s some connection between these far-flung colonies and ancient Earth mythology—is a nonsensical muddle, a hole out of which one cannot climb with dignity or clean pants. The new show put a couple spins on it and tried to move the inverted cups around fast enough that you wouldn’t notice under which one the nonsense was hidden, but in the end it’s still a big cluster of “What the huh?”

Anyway, I didn’t get around to watching the new BSG until years after it was broadcast, so by the time the last DVD had spun down I already knew Caprica had come and gone in a season, so I didn’t rush out to watch it. Over the last couple weeks I finally zipped through all nineteen episodes courtesy of the Netflix. I had avoided almost all details about the show, so I was able to approach with a fairly fresh sense of “What the huh?” If you still haven’t seen it, I warn you I’m going to go full-on spoiler in the following comments, so you may want to avert your eyes. 

The decision to stay on just one or two planets without a bunch of space battles was a good one, but what they then did on those planets left me, for the most part, wondering what they were thinking. The BSG characters were generally well-rounded people with flaws, but most of them were decent people. Caprica, on the other hand, is populated by a lot of unlikable characters with hands dirtied by various moral failings that make for a bleak show. One of the colonies is portrayed as having a mafia-style culture, like that Star Trek episode where someone left a book on Chicago mobs behind and influenced an entire culture to wear cool retro suits and use lots of ammo. In addition to the mobsters, you’ve got monotheist terrorists blowing up trains for reasons. I’m not really sure why. One of them plans to convince the polytheists that there is only one true god by killing people and uploading digital avatars of them into a virtual heaven, because that will prove…uh, well, I’m not really sure how that will prove anything beside the need for lots of memory on their servers.

The show almost has the air of a bad pitch meeting. It’s Sopranos meets the Matrix…plus high school girls who dress in sexy outfits! I suppose they were trying to appeal to a younger demographic, but instead it just makes older viewers feel creepy watching the show. Caprica‘s set about fifty-eight years before BSG, which is apparently before they invented consistent character motivation. Characters lurch from one extreme to the other in ways that are convenient for the plot twists. One of the more consistent characters, the wife of the man who builds the first Cylons, was helped by apparently receiving only one direction: “Let’s do that again, but more brittle!”

The daughter of the man who builds the first Cylons is a terrible teenage brat, but also a computer genius who revolutionizes realistic responses from avatars by essentially amassing data from the cloud (the same as Google’s doing). She’s killed in the terrorist bombing in the first episode while running away for reasons. She lives on in her avatar, who ends up loaded into a Cylon memory chip. They intercut between a hulking Cylon and the young actress in a tight skimpy dress, creating some really awkward moments when her father is staring at the Cylon.

All these plot elements are tangled together but just as the show was gaining some steam in spite of itself, Syfy pulled the plug. I like to think it was because they realized the show was born out of the same drunken meeting as when they decided to change their name to “Syfy.” Now I’m ready to watch Blood & Chrome, the follow-up movie that bridges the gap between Caprica and BSG, set during the First Cylon War. I haven’t paid much attention to reviews yet. How was it?

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