In launching the Battlestar Galactica prequel series Caprica, creators Remi Aubuchon, Ronald D. Moore and David Eick clearly are trading space opera for soap opera. SyFys new seris shows no sign so far of replicating Galacticas interstellar military action, so its easier to figure out what Caprica wont be than what it will be.
The first hour-length episode Rebirth suggests that Aubuchon et al have been watching quite a bit of HBO, with subplots that evoke the pay cables most esteemed shows. For instance, Joseph Adamas devil-may-care, hat-wearing brother Sam (Sasha Roiz, pictured, right), as a Ha'la'tha gangster, would fit right in on The Sopranos. On Capricas first hour-long episode, future-admiral William Adama plays hooky with Uncle Sam, and learns a couple of the rules of mobstering, like, You run away, youre guilty of two things: the thing, and the running away from the thing.
Meanwhile, high schooler Lacy Rand (Magda Apanowicz) best friend of Zoe, attends a lunch at the home of Sister Clarice (Polly Walker, who played the rapacious schemer Atia on HBOs Rome). Sister Clarice shares a group marriage with multiple husbands and wives, sort of like Big Love, only with more dudes. Sister Clarice also appears to be some kind of recovering drug abuser, and she sneaks off to a dope venue that looks less like one of the The Wires crack houses than a Fu Manchu-era opium den.
The subplots of crime and alternative religious lifestyles fit uneasily on Rebirth, which trails out so many narrative strands, the whole show could become an inextricable snarl. A CGI-dominated scene at the Pyramid stadium established the Graystones wealth (again) without really advancing the plot much. One gets a feeling that the Sopranos/Big Love-type stories will goose Caprica with crime and kinks until the sci-fi concepts involving thinking robots and virtual avatars dominate the program.
Certainly Zoes predicament commands a queasy fascination. As a sentient program created by the original, deceased Zoe Graystone, the teenage girl finds herself in the hulking, Cyclopean body of a Cylon prototype. Caprica alternates between shots of Zoe in her party dress and the ungainly robot, between how Zoe feels and what other people see. Daniel Graystones creepy tech support flunkies, seeing only the Cylon exterior, treat her like an unthinking object, implying (perhaps unfairly) some reflexive male sexism. Nevertheless, theres an amusing touch when the Cylon Zoe sits on a bed at home, which promptly collapses underneath her.
Lacys remark that Zoes combination of soul, program software and Cylon hardware makes up a Trinity speaks to the uncomfortable treatment of monotheism on both Galactica and Caprica. When Zoes mother Amanda watches a press conference about the Soldiers of the One terrorist cult, the investigator says They worship an all-knowing, all-powerful god. It sounds so weird when they put it that way. Since we know the Cylons worship this same god 58 years in the future, its clear that the now-resurrected Zoe and the STO will eventually find common cause.
Apart from a testy exchange about Josephs avatar daughter, Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) and Adama (Esai Morales, pictured, left) remain on the sidelines this week. Paula Malcolmson stands out in a deeply-felt turn as Zoes grieving mother Amanda, increasingly upset by revelations that her teenage daughter had a boyfriend and ties to terrorism. Rebirth shifts uncomfortably between Amandas internalized suffering and the more superficial plot points, so one hopes that the show will find its balance as it goes along.
Where Galactica began with a Cylon attack on the human colonies, Caprica uses the initial train-bombing as its metaphor for 9/11. Amandas breakdown while addressing the memorial service expressed not just grief but guilt, as she voiced fears that Zoe was one of the terrorists. For Caprica, perhaps better real-world metaphors would be the Oklahoma City Bombing or the Columbine shootings, which involved domestic terrorism. Caprica seems less focused on alien invaders than the enemies within.
Favorite line: I wont make another Tauran meal again, Joseph Adamas mother declares in that long-suffering, dont-mind-me-Ill-just-sit-here-in-the-dark tone of voice.
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WHAT ABOUT LUCY