January 26, 2010

TV: Caprica (Syfy, Fri 9)

The prequel to Battlestar Galactica finally arrives. Based on the 2-hour pilot, I think the show will be accessible to those who didn't watch Galactica, though there are certainly details that will be of greater significance to those who did.

The setting is Caprica City, the capital city of the planet Caprica, about 60 years before Galactica begins. Zoe Greystone (Alessandra Torresani) is 16, and is planning to run away to Gemenon; she seems to have plans that go deeper than those of the usual runaway, but before we can find up what those plans are, one of her traveling companions unexpectedly turns suicide bomber, blowing up the train on which they are traveling.

Her father, Daniel (Eric Stoltz), who is sort of the Bill Gates of Caprica, is devastated by her death. Work isn't going well, either; he's way behind schedule and over budget on a government contract to develop robot soldiers. But when he discovers that Zoe may have been an even more gifted computer programmer/scientist than he is, and that she'd manage to create a virtual duplicate of herself that exists in the holoworld where all the kids hang out, he begins plotting to load her computer self into one of his robots in order to bring Zoe back to "life."

Also killed in the explosion were the wife and daughter of lawyer Joseph Adama (Esai Morales), who meets Daniel at the funeral for their families, and is torn over the possibility of using Daniel's technology to revive his own family. (Joseph's 11-year-old son, Will, will grow up to be Admiral William Adama on Galactica.)

The show crams a lot of plotlines, characters, and social background into its pilot; it is, as Galactica was, very dense storytelling. There's a mysterious schoolteacher (Polly Walker) who is clearly hiding lots of interesting secrets; a religious conflict between the dominant polytheism and the small radical sect of monotheists; questions of assimilation and discrimination, embodied in Adama, who is from the backwater world Tauron, and does all he can to downplay his ancestry.

The pilot seems to be less dark and brooding than Galactica was, and the producers have said that they think of it as an SF version of Dallas. Galactica fans certainly don't need my recommendation to at least give the show an initial look, but I think even non-Galactica folks might enjoy it.

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