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'Caprica's Premiere: The Verdict

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'Caprica's Premiere: The Verdict
Finally arriving on our screens, Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica prequel kicks off with an intriguing double episode that whets the appetite for the rest of the series. More similar in visual texture to Mad Men than its parent series, Caprica successfully merges the soapy elements of two big families (the Graystones and the Adamas) with a sci-fi plot that contains some fine moments of body horror and ethical musing about technological progress.

With echoes of a certain James Cameron movie currently doing the rounds, the plot revolves around Daniel Graystone's attempts to transport a copy of his dead daughter Zoe's consciousness into a new bit of metallic hardware - a prototype Cylon. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't quite go to plan. Crucially, Eric Stoltz's fine performance as Daniel allows us to empathise with his desperation and torment, while recognising that his actions are wrong at the same time. The scenes with fellow grieving parent, lawyer Joseph Adama, neatly help to reinforce the melancholic tone and theme of loss.

Once the initial terrorist attack that kills Zoe is out of the way, the storyline does retreat into hibernation and adopts a pace that's slightly too languid at times. Yet the brooding nature of the narrative satisfyingly brings out a number of fascinating concepts that leads to a disturbing and poignant climax. At the forefront is our horror at witnessing poor Zoe wake up not in her body, but a heavy mass of chrome. The moment of realisation, combined with a phone call to her friend, is truly memorable.

Two standout scenes highlight the show's leaning towards a very raw human drama, and one that's juxtaposed with the surrounding artificial technology. Joseph Adama's encounter with the artificial clone of his butchered daughter is supremely sinister, while Daniel's implanting of Zoe's mind into a gun-toting Cylon is similarly fraught with emotion and a real mindfrack. The way Daniel looks at the Cylon, which responds with a glimpse of recognition for its/her father, is stunning. It's not only reminiscent of Dr Frankenstein unveiling his monster, but also evocative of the love a father has for his daughter.

Like the 1980s sci-fi series Max Headroom, Caprica resonates highly because the technological developments are not far from being fifteen minutes into the future. The virtual reality nightclub scenes featuring the young Capricans may be a bit naff and contrived, but they are the logical extension of the Second Life phenomenon.

Although the drama is less action orientated and visceral than its predecessor, Caprica does contain an eye-catching sequence when one Cylon goes ballistic and shoots eight shades of frack out of anything nearby. On the subject of 'frack', it's great to hear that fine word being kept alive through its substantial use in the dialogue - along with an appearance for the legendary 'so say we all' chant that will cheer up BSG fans.

Based on the merits of its strong opening episode, Caprica looks set to forge its own identity rather than merely imitate the show that spawned it. Above all, it's a rewarding companion piece that thematically follows on from the final scene in Battlestar Galactica when Number Six and Baltar comment upon the rapidly developing artificial intelligence technology in our world. It does make you wonder about the world we live in. We've already had our tamagotchi invasion and survived, but how long until the Cylons appear for real?

> What do you think of the episode? Share your views

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