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Is 'Caprica's Pilot A Galactic Success?

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Is 'Caprica's Pilot A Galactic Success?
Battlestar Galactica fans across the pond can pick up the long-awaited pilot of prequel Caprica. Written by former BSG showrunner Ronald D. Moore, this feature length endeavour does a great job in whetting the appetite ahead of the show's debut season in 2010.

Read on for more details about Caprica and whether it ticks the right boxes...

What Is It About?

Taking place 58 years before the fall of Caprica, the story centres around the fortunes of the Graystone and Adama families. An act of terrorism on board public transport results in disillusioned computer genius teen Zoe Graystone being blasted to smithereens, but her similarly technology-obsessed father Daniel (Eric Stoltz) discovers that she has created a Virtual Reality copy - or 'Avatar' - of herself. Daniel meets a fellow grieving parent, lawyer Joseph Adama (Esai Morales), who has lost his daughter and wife - but not son and future Battlestar Galactica leader William.

Daniel uses Joseph's connections to steal an important piece of technology that allows him to implant his dead daughter's characteristics into the new Cybernetic Lifeform Node that he is helping to build - a.k.a. a Cylon. His early efforts to imprint Zoe's consciousness into the robot, which has been designed as a killing machine, do not go to plan. Neither does Joseph's encounter with a Virtual copy of his deceased daughter, which Daniel has set up. But before long, the Cylon-Zoe is starting to think for herself and makes an important phone call to a shocked friend...

Is It Any Good?

Yes, the pilot certainly promises a great deal for next year's full series. Despite an early explosion caused by a terrorist, the story does adopt an initially languid pace and takes a long while to set the scene and shift into gear. Fortunately, it sets forth a number of fascinating concepts and narrative strands in motion along the way, leading to a stunning and emotional climax that whips up the excitement for future episodes.

In a similar vein to the 1980s sci-fi series Max Headroom, which bore the subtitle 'Fifteen Minutes Into The Future', Caprica resonates very highly because the technological developments that unfold are very plausible. Scarily so. For example, youngsters on the planet can hang out in virtual reality nightclubs featuring 'fight rooms' and 'group sex rooms'. It's the logical extension of the Second Life phenomenon currently consuming our own little planet, alongside echoes of the brilliant movie Strange Days.

Well cast, with both Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales pleasingly understated in their lead roles, the pilot contains two standout scenes that highlight the show's leaning towards emotional, human drama wrapped in futuristic concepts. Firstly, Joseph Adama's encounter with his artificial clone of his butchered daughter is both very moving and sinister.

Secondly, Daniel Graystone's attempt to bring his daughter's consciousness back into the real world via the frame of a gun-toting Cylon is similarly fraught with emotion and a real mind-frack to watch unfold. The way Daniel looks at the Cylon, with the 'Toaster' showing a glimpse of recognition for its/her father, is compelling. In some ways it's reminiscent of Dr Frankenstein unveiling his monster, but in others it simply evokes the love a father has for his precious daughter.

Will it satisfy Battlestar Galactica fans?

Although the drama is less science fiction and action orientated than its predecessor, Caprica should put several smiles on the faces of BSG lovers. Those suffering withdrawal symptoms from certain Caprican vernacular will be pleased by the abundance of 'fracks' and an early inclusion of the legendary 'so say we all' chant. William Adama pops up in a few scenes as a young boy, but he doesn't go by that name because of his turbulent family history.

As for the Cylons, they are seen in prototype form resembling the original series Battlestar models, and there is an eye-catching sequence towards the end when one goes ballistic and shoots eight shades of frack out of anything that moves in its vicinity. But the spiritual aspect behind the Cylon evolution is more dominant than their visceral, fighting qualities. There's also a knowing chuckle to be had when Daniel is told by the various corporation heads that he has done humanity a 'great service' by building the Cylon prototypes. It certainly won't be a view shared a few decades later on the planet!

Caprica also deals with religious and ethical issues that bind it with BSG. The terrorist movement on Caprica, named 'Soldiers Of The One', are fighting for the recognition of a monotheistic outlook against those believing in many gods. Finally, that memorable final scene in Battlestar Galactica, featuring Number Six and Baltar staring at the artificial intelligence robots in department store windows, is firmly built upon through the exploration of technological developments and humanity's obsession with them.

Yet despite the bridges between the two programmes, Caprica importantly stands up in its own right and not as a mere add-on enhancement. Bring on the full series!

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