Caprica: It’s one of the biggest science fiction TV letdowns in recent memory. The show was full of promise and one that could shed light on the early days of the Battlestar Galactica (BSG) universe through the story of the Adamas and the Graystones. Alas, the series lacked a number elements that made BSG such a great series: namely pacing. With BSG, the story started from destruction, saved by a lie, and propelled by a kind of mysticism toward its eventual end. Along the way, there were some cool battles, flawed characters, compelling stories, and an overarching arc that was leading toward “something.”
With Caprica, they tried to capture the same sense of urgency with destruction, loss, and the use of technology to bring back loved ones against a backdrop of religious conflict between polytheism and monotheism. The problem wasn’t good acting, it was the lack of interesting characters and the knowledge of the inevitable destruction of the twelve colonies that would occur some 50-something years in the future. There was no real compelling story when you already know the end. Sure, some people like that kind of backstory, but to me it wasn’t enough to sustain a multi year series. And it showed in slow way the story unfolded. The drama was ginned up unnecessarily, the revelations were far too slim, and whatever complexities were introduced it didn’t do much to advance the story. I think the audience felt that as well and the result was dwindling ratings.
Without much fanfare, Syfy cancelled the series after six episodes in the second season (or as they called it, “Season 1.5”). But the makers of Caprica were able to complete the season and Syfy aired the final episodes last night — again, with out much fanfare. I watched the entire thing and found that the story started to pick up steam. Not so much that I could see the series having enough material for another season, but they were able to end it by showing what happened to the characters after a thwarted terrorist plot at a sport arena.
It was interesting that in the five minute montage that closes out the series, the filmmakers could wrap up the story with a sharpness that was lacking earlier. But they had to (or at least had the opportunity to), and even though I could see elements of the ending coming in earlier episodes, it was still compelling to see some of the twists and turns they were able to make in such a short period of time. Some of them were cheap sleight of hand tactics (that would be the early life of Bill Adama — the eventual commander of the Galactica), some of them were pretty obvious (like the way in “Skin jobs”/human-looking Cylons came in to being), and some were semi-interesting (like the way in which the Cylon robots embraced monotheism). But overall, there was a sense of relief that came over me when the eventual ending came — and that’s not a good thing for an audience member.
So, if you’re a BSG fan, should you watch Caprica? Well, since it’s on DVD, it probably won’t be as painful to watch as it was during its network run, so I can only half-heartedly recommend it. The acting was quite good, the production design was slick, but, like I said, the story wasn’t interesting enough to sustain itself. Still, if you’re curious about “Caprica before the fall,” I think you’ll find Caprica a mildly interesting series that doesn’t add a tremendous amount to the BSG mythology.
To watch the final episodes, you can watch it on Syfy’s site.