Birth of the Twelve Colonies

Posted: 29th March 2010 by Get No Happy in Reviews
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Having finally gotten around to watching Caprica, the prequel to Battlestar Galactica written by Ronald D. Moore, and by gotten round I mean “watch all of it in a 9 hour binge”, I have to say I was fairly impressed with what I saw.

Firstly it is visually stunning. I’m not sure how one would refer to the aesthetic (‘Noir-punk’ is the closest I’m come) but the combination of modern near-future technology with 40s/50s style is impressive, and a massive departure from the grim and dark world of Galactica. It’s just so damn pretty. There’s a wonderful mix of environments from the clean Lab of Dr Grayson to the ‘Little Touron/Italy’ district of the Adamas (more on them later) and finally the fantasy lands of the V- World.

Also, as one would expect given the shows pedigree, the acting and characterization is equally excellent. This is no mean feat given how many primary and secondary characters there are, yet they all feel suitably nuanced and well rounded. Well, bar one. Given one of the better characters is a giant robot, this is quite an achievement. The dialogue is snappy and appropriate (i.e. no Lucas-esque nonsensical lines) and flows well from one scene to the next.

Again, given the themes of Galactica it is no surprised to find Caprica dripping with philosophical and religious subtext (or indeed overt message). Interestingly we see the other side much more. In Galactica, the one Cylon God was taken to as a radical solution to their plight, we see the rejection of the false and corrupt Gods of Kobol and the arcane rituals and myths surrounding them. Here it is the opposite, in fact we see a) Monotheism was not a new idea to the colonies and b) why many saw the idea of a single deity horrendous “You think it’s harmless to believe in a single all powerful individual who arbitrarily decides what is right and wrong, who is always correct and must be unconditionally followed?”. Like many other examples, the nods and winks to the existing universe on this theme are expertly handled.

Finally, the over-arching plot concerning the genesis of the Cylons is certainly interesting and I look forward to seeing what part the Graystone’s plays in what they eventually become (in fact this is something hinted at in Battlestar, apparently the Cylons “already had a concept of a monotheistic God”), as well as how badly the Colonies will eventually treat their new sentient robot slaves prior to the uprising. Equally interesting is the depiction of Caprica as a hedonistic, decadent society riddled with ethnic rivalries; this certainly colours the brief sketch of Colonial life Galactica provided. I’m really looking forward to the further development of Colonial history, politics and culture.

Basically, the show has me gripped after 9 episodes and I want more

Now, it’s not perfect. There are a few things wrong with it
She’s the one bad character, not morally just as an invention. Currently at least, she appears to have attended the Kim Bower school of peril survival; i.e. stumbling in and out of important events and generally getting in everyone’s way. This would work if Lacy was the avatar of the audience, the everyman in an unlikely situation, our ‘guide’ in the fiction… But she’s not, she’s just another character. More importantly her motivation and character traits do not illicit enough sympathy for me to ever root for her survival.

The Adamas, or “It’s a small universe”
Hearing the Joseph character say “It’s not Adams, it’s Adama” sent a shiver down my spine. I’ve seem too many “Terry Siskos” or “Sally Picards” pop up in stories set a few years before the birth of their illustrious name-sakes (never mind The Star Wars prequels) not to have that reaction: There is a disturbing trend for writers of large canvass Sci-fi to ensure one or two familes were involved in everything. Now, I’ll let Ron off this one as long as Will Adama (Caprica age 11) doesn’t get really involved; I will have issue should the kid-that-would-be-Admiral turn out to be instrumental in the creation of the Cylons.

Equally, I really hope we don’t hear or see any Baltars, Roslins or Thraces romping around the place as the series progresses.

The V- World
OK, New Cap City is fantastic, as is the V- Club (The club equivalent of a union between Skins and a Daily Mail reading parent; all sex, drugs and ritual sacrifice) but even now I feel as if it’s getting a little over used. The last time the action went into this fantasy world I was Bored by it. I worry that, as awesome as it is, it could become the equivalent of Family Guy’s manatee jokes; cutaways put in simply to change tack, more for the “wow” factor that any real narrative importance. Again, this is just a fear (as I say the current locations and their use are ace) but there is a risk this will go too far.

But despite these few points I was very impressed by the series. I did fear some sort of committee manufactured chimera created to feed off Galacticas critical acclaim, and thankfully my fears were allayed within the first hour or so of the series. It’s a very good creation it it’s own right and I hope the slowly falling ratings won’t see it go the way of Firefly. By the end of episode 9 I was thoroughly gripped; it’s just a shame there won’t be another episode screened until this Autumn.