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In television on 04/27/2009 at 10:37 pm

I had so wanted to love Caprica.
I miss my Battlestar Galactica, the space epic that wrapped up in a nifty, cheery street scene a few weeks back. There was a little too much deus ex machina in that series finale for some people’s tastes — the ridiculous shootout on the bridge-cum-opera-house in particular — but I liked it just fine. Everybody, or almost everybody, in their places on the new world, the loop about to repeat itself but with just a lick of hope that this time, THIS TIME it might just…
And then there was the carrot that is Caprica, the promised prequel series set on the planet of the same name “58 years before the fall”.
It tells the story of the cylons, the humanoid robots that will one day rebel against and nearly wipe out their human creators, which is the stuff of Battlestar Galactica. It’s rich ground because as even casual BSG fans know, the fighting robots are just one of the guises of the cylons. Seeing the birth of the fleshly versions and even the flying versions, well that has appeal. Even more intriguing, many of the same people are involved, including writer/producer Ronald D. Moore and exec producer David Eick.
And yet I’ve just watched the pilot, released now on DVD in advance of the series launch in 2010, and I am glad there are many months between now and the next episode, broadcast date not yet specified. It will give me some time to reconsider whether it’s fair to say that the pilot reads like an overwrought episode of the “new” Outer Limits, which is to say, blah.
Esai Morales (NYPD Blue, Jericho) plays lawyer Joseph Adams, flawed but moral father of William Adama who will go on to helm BSG, the ship and the series. Earnest.
Eric Stoltz (The Butterfly Effect) plays Daniel Graystone, brilliant scientist. Stoltz tries to bring a thinking man’s knit brow to the old story of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. Earnest.
Caprica is heavy handed, which I can live with. But it plods, which is a deadly combination. It rights itself in the final scenes with throws to what is to come, which are not expected and nicely twisted.
What is missing is range. It’s all so — have I used this word yet — earnest?
I loved BSG for its big ideas: race and power and gender and democracy and leadership and science were all bent through its lens and it was rare that it felt flat or preachy. It was selfj-righteous (Edward James Olmos’s Adama), it was dispicable (James Callis’s Gaius Baltar), it was furious (Katee Sackhoff’s Starbuck) and lost (Michael Hogan’s Col. Saul Tigh) and sexy (Tricia Helfer’s Number Six). And each of those extremes were couched in humour and as many victories as failures. This was an otherworldly story in another world but the characters were of us.
Caprica had not one moment that pinned any character’s character. It just got them to the start of the game: the creation of a cylon and the parallel subterranean growth of the one-god movement. It moved the game pieces to the right spots. Now let’s hope that when the series is fully unleashed next year, there is some blood in those characters.

Now here are some DVDs that are new on shelves this week.

The Waltons: The Complete Seasons 1-9
X-Men Vol. 1 (Marvel Comic Book Collection)
X-Men Vol. 2 (Marvel Comic Book Collection)
Mission Impossible: Season 6
American Dad! Vol. 4
Spin City: The Complete Second Season
Star Trek: The Original Series: Season 1 Blu-ray
Kavanagh QC: Bearing Witness
Kavanagh QC: Previous Convictions
Stephen King Presents Kingdom Hospital: The Entire Series
Nova: Is There Life on Mars
Nova: The Big Energy Gamble
National Geographic: Ultimate Nature Collection
National Geographic: In the Womb — Identical Twins
Gangland: The Complete Season 3
National Geographic: Earth Report — State of the Planet
Dallas: The Complete Seasons 1-11

— Denise Duguay


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