'Caprica' Debuts

The following is a review of movie pilot of the Sci Fi series "Caprica," the prequel to "Battlestar Galactica." The movie hits the DVD shelves and the internet today. Below is a review, which doesn't contain spoilers for "Caprica," but does include details from the final season of "BSG," so if you haven't seen that yet, skip to the end.




When "BSG" creators Ron Moore and David Eick were on a conference call a few months ago, Moore described his time on "Star Trek: Deep Space 9" as creating a series that was set in the "Trek" universe, but unique in its own right. Moore (and I, BTW) felt "DS9" was the best of all Trek spinoffs because it was a vastly different format to all of the other Trek series, but still had familiar elements to it.

Moore has successfully resurrected that feeling with "Caprica." While the viewer is aware that he or she is watching a series set in that "BSG" universe (in this case, 58 years before the "BSG" pilot), that viewer realizes about 10 seconds in that this is something completely different at the same time.

To put it another way: As I was watching certain elements in "Caprica," I felt those scenes were reminiscent of everything from "The Godfather" to "Iron Man."

"Caprica" is a world very much like ours might be 10 years from now. As Moore and Eick showed the pattern of human advancement repeating the same cycle over and over again in the finale of "BSG," they do so again. And like "BSG," "Caprica" provides unique insight into the problems we face today -- the internet, terrorist extremism, religious fundamentalism, bio-ethics.

A few days after the "BSG" finale aired, I read an article about research at Georgia Tech which is looking to develop a robotic soldier for the battlefield to replace human soldiers. Reading that and remembering the final images of robots in the final scene of "BSG" made for a rather eerie feeling, and Moore has perfectly captured that vibe in "Caprica" once more.

To wit, teenagers create avatars to go into cyberspace, looking for sex, music, shooting games, etc. The only difference from our world? The tech of 2009 Earth hasn't quite caught up to what is available on "Caprica," but it's only a matter of time.

The series opens with a terrorist attack (eerily filmed to resemble certain 9/11 street level footage) that claims the lives of the daughters of Daniel Greystone (Eric Stoltz), a Bill Gates like billionaire and genius, and Joseph Adams (Esai Morales), an immigrant attorney with apparent mob connections. (Adams isn't a misprint, by the way; why Adams becomes Adama is an important moment in the episode).

As they deal with the tragedy, Daniel learns his daughter Zoe (Alessandra Toreson) wasn't just into cyber games; she had created a near-perfect avatar herself. Daniel realizes that this has certain ramifications, not only to the robot soldiers his company is struggling to protect, but to his own family.

Joseph, meanwhile, is struggling to raise his 11-year-old son Willie as they struggle to assimilate themselves to the wealthier, whitebread Caprica after Joseph emigrated from his poorer planet of Tauron. Joseph would like to sever the ties from the old country, but finds himself tethered to his distant extended family who run the mob.

Meanwhile, things are afoot at the parochial school Zoe attended. The sister in charge (the always-terrific Polly Walker of "Rome") may teach the standard teachings of polytheism, but there is more to her than meets the eye.

So, how does "Caprica" stack up to "BSG?" Quite favorably, I'd say. The question "BSG" raised at the end of God's identity was in the back of my mind while watching, but will it be answered in this series? Also, we know from "BSG" that one of the skinjob Cylons was called Daniel. Is it a coincidence that Graystone is also Daniel, and that he is trying to create Cylons?

"Caprica" is less action-oriented but perhaps more cerebral than its predecessor (not a knock on either series). "Caprica" delves into the metaphysical right away, something "BSG" did on a more tangental basis throughout the series.

My only knock on "Caprica" is that we have to wait until 2010 to see how it unfolds.

Finally, one final note to parents: "Caprica" is unrated, but definitely contains a few scenes that parents may not want their kids to see, so take that into consideration if you have kids under 16 who want to watch. When the pilot does get shown on Sci Fi, some of the scenes on the DVD version will definitely be cut out for broadcast (also more incentive to buy a version now).

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: I re-watched tonight's episode of "Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p.m.) and even seeing it a second time, there's one scene that's so funny that I almost laughed myself to unconsciousness, as did my parents, who watched it with me. "Rescue Me" is most definitely back to its status as one of TV's best shows.

As for the networks, it's like the programmers went bonkers. Everything seems to be on at different times and nights, and most of it is reruns.

CBS, for example, is running two reruns of Monday night sitcoms at 8 p.m. and pushing a rerun of "NCIS" to 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, ABC has already pulled "Cupid" for a new episode of "The Unusuals" at 10 p.m., after new episodes of "According To Jim" and "Dancing With The Stars."

NBC has a new "Biggest Loser" from 8-10 p.m. while Fox has new installments of "American Idol" at 8 p.m. and "Fringe" at 9 p.m.

CW is all-new with "Reaper" and "90210."