Review: Caprica pilot
by Ken Arneson
I’m knocked down today with the H1N1 or the R2D2 or the Educated L337 or some such malady, so I took advantage of the couch time to watch the Caprica pilot, which is now available for viewing on Hulu. Quick spoiler-free first impression: I will definitely be watching this series.
More, with spoilers: I’ve been hungering for a sci-fi series to follow since Battlestar Galactica ended. I tried FlashForward and V, but I think the relentless realism of BSG’s take on human behavior ruined those newer shows for me—the characters’ behavior in those shows just seemed false, and often ridiculous. In Caprica, under Ron Moore’s guidance, we can be confident human behavior will ring more true. Like Darth Vader, Zoe Graystone may be “more machine now than” girl, but we can also be sure she won’t be spewing any corny love poems to Natalie Portman. The force in Ron Moore’s fantasy isn’t a simple two-sided object.
Sure, I had some complaints. The Graystones had no clue that their daughter was basically the greatest computer genius of all time? Zoe’s two-line text message to her mom took more than three seconds to transmit, but her entire emotional experience of those three seconds got successfully transmitted to her avatar in real time? Okaaaay.
On a wider scale, the tone seemed a bit subdued. Unlike BSG, there isn’t a single goal that everyone is working toward. There isn’t a Starbuck-like character to root for and give the show a positive, kick-ass vibe. Knowing how badly this is all going to turn out in the end, it makes you wonder if anything truly redemptive will come from out of Caprica. Goodness knows BSG just kept getting darker and darker and darker. Do I really want to be led down such a destructive path, by a cast of characters who all, except for maybe young William Adama, are motivated by questionable ethics?
But perhaps that’s the point of this exercise. The best fiction puts a mirror to us and helps us understand ourselves. Our goals are multiple, not simplistic. Our characters are layered, not cardboard cutouts. Our ethics are questionable, not boilerplate.
The show even contemplates that last paragraph, questioning simplicity vs. complexity. The monotheistic faction in the show insists that there is a right and a wrong, as opposed the more relativistic philosophy of the polytheists. Joseph Adama was clearly conflicted about his own relativism, in which he functioned as an enabler to organized crime. The pilot hints that he will be taking a more moralistic stand in the future. But stark moralism has its potential evils, as well. It can turn their proponents into terrorists, for one thing.
Which philosophy is better? How do you define humanity? Where do we draw the line between ourselves and our technology? What’s the right thing to do? Those are questions worth exploring. Whether Caprica can succeed in addressing these issues we face in our real lives while also connecting us emotionally to an entertaining drama remains to be seen, but it’s worth the attempt.
Exploring these questions is what inspired me to start blogging again. I have some things to say on these issues that I don’t think are being said by others, so I feel compelled to get them down. It will be good to follow a show that can trigger new trains of thought, new things to write about. Hopefully, my efforts too will be worth the attempt.