Like many science fiction fans, I was immediately hooked by the Battlestar Galactica (BSG) reboot in the form of a miniseries back in 2003 and the subsequent launch of the series in 2004. I have been a devoted fan of the series up to and including its recent finale in March 2009. So, when I heard that Ronald D. Moore and David Eick were working on a prequel to BSG, I was intrigued.
On April 21, 2009, Caprica will be released on DVD in an uncut and unrated form. The DVD provides a 93-minute movie as a preview of the series to begin airing in early 2010. And it is stunning. But I don't want to give away too many secrets before fans get their hands on this taste of the new series.
At a high level, Caprica focuses on a society on the verge of a religious war and the moral and ethical crises brought on by technology, and all of this through the eyes of two families, the Adamas and the Graystones. These families are thrown together by tragedy as family members are lost during a terrorist act and the two family patriarchs, Joseph Adama (Esai Morales, Jericho) and Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz, The Butterfly Effect) are forced to pick up the pieces and find ways to move on.
That said, if you're looking for space battles, you won't find any in the movie. Explosions? One big one. Gunfire? Yes, near the end of the picture. So it's not quite the big bang that BSG started with back in 2003. No nuclear weapons were dropped on an unsuspecting world.
What do you get instead? A nuanced, well-written, and tightly wound plot that sets up the series with what I'd describe as Frankenstein meets Pinocchio. An odd combination you say? Yes and no.
Frankenstein deals with the theme of science and technology overstepping the perceived moral and ethical boundaries put in place by our religious upbringing and societal norms. Pinocchio is the story of a man who makes a child out of wood and wishes him to life. Both Frankenstein and Pinocchio were innocent of any wrongdoing on the part of their creators and yet had free will to find their own way through the world. And through free will, they caused harm or hardship to themselves or others.
If you look at the Cylons from the point of view of BSG, Cylons are more Frankenstein than Pinocchio. And in Caprica, it's reversed. I can hardly wait to see where these roads paved with good intentions lead us through the approximately 20 episodes they have planned. We all know eventually they come back to destroy Caprica. But how did things get that out of hand?
Zoe Graystone (Alessandra Toressani) is a troubled teen finding her own way in the world. She's involved with Ben Stark (Avan Jogia) and Lacy Rand (Magda Apanowicz) in a plot to assert their right to choose a monotheistic religion, which is against the norm in a society who for the most part worships a pantheon roughly built upon that of the Greeks. Her father, Daniel, is a computer genius who is attempting to develop battle-ready robots for the government. And Zoe's mother, Amanda (Paula Malcomson), tries in vain to keep some (even if it's illusory) control over her 16-year-old daughter.
On the other side, you have the Adama clan led by Joseph Adama, a corrupt lawyer in the Caprican court system. Joseph has a wife, Shannon (Anna Galvin), an older daughter Tamara (Genevieve Buechner), and son William (Sina Najafi). Joseph only wants to provide a good life for his family, but is drawn into the criminal underworld of his past. His brother Sam (Sasha Roiz) lives in that underworld and acts as a reminder of the death and violence trying to pull him back in.
When Zoe, Ben, and Lacy try to escape to a different world with more tolerant religious beliefs, Lacy backs out of the plan and Zoe and Ben die in a terrorist attack along with Tamara Adama and her mother Shannon. This causes both Daniel and Joseph to do some soul searching as they find ways to carry on in the wake of their losses. Though there are some soap opera-ish aspects to the story (mostly surrounding the teenagers), the story seems to really hone in on the boundaries of science and technology.
In BSG, you took it for granted that there were Cylons — these cybernetic organisms intent on destroying humankind. But in Caprica, we see how the Cylons start. And with this brief taste of the series, I'm hooked and want to know more about the families and how the Cylons progress beyond the lab. But more than that, I have to admit to getting goosebumps at the end of Caprica when I heard "by your command" come out of a Cylon's voicebox during this movie.
In addition to the 93-minute movie setting up the series, you also get a number of extras on the DVD, including deleted scenes, video blogs, feature commentary, and a bonus episode of Ghost Hunters called "Hometown Haunts."
There are a number of deleted scenes; all but one I felt could have been left in to fill some gaps in the narrative.
- Scenes 4-5 features a discussion between Zoe and Sister Clarice Willow (Polly Walker) from Zoe's school that explains an exchange between Zoe and Lacy Rand.
- Scenes 97-98 explains a bit more about the relationship between Joseph, his son William, and his mother-in-law and their disagreement about how William should be raised in the wake of his mother's death.
- Scene 122 is a deleted scene between Joseph and his brother Sam (Sasha Roiz), who is deep in the crime syndicate that Joseph has kept at arm's length. I think this is a very powerful scene that would have set up the rest of the series and what I perceive as battles between Adama and Graystone over the technology that Graystone is flirting with.
- Scenes 124-135 features a scene between Lacy and Sister Clarice in the virtual club that would be one of those scenes I could see deleting if not for the next deleted scene, Scene 137.
- Scene 137 possibly introduces an interesting wrinkle in the ointment. Without giving away any secrets, it's quite possible that someone else managed to survive the explosion in a virtual way. Either that or they're introducing a relationship similar to Number 6 (Tricia Helfer) inside Gaius Baltar's (James Callis) mind in the BSG series between Sister Clarice and another character.
Five video blog entries are included as well, focusing on a number of great topics, including:
- "What The Frak Is Caprica?" answers that key question from the perspective of the people involved in the production. It's interesting to hear the differences between their viewpoints. The goal seems to be to use science fiction as a way to analyze what's going on in our own societies. And ultimately that's the role of science fiction – to explore areas of our own culture, history, and technology and see how things might evolve.
- "The Director's Process" features director Jeffrey Reiner talking about how he arrived at the look for Caprica. No shaky cam like in BSG, but a more stable, gliding camera style to reflect a more stable, established society. He shoots with multiple cameras to film every scene from different angles, taking the onus off the actors to know which camera to act to and providing them more freedom to simply focus on their performances. And the actors really seemed to react well to this open, more free form directing style.
- "The V Club" allows Toressani and Jogia to introduce us to some of the actors, extras, and locations for the virtual world where teenagers were free to explore their wild sides. The V Club is a dark, gritty, and sexual virtual world that is a more modern and interactive version of Facebook or MySpace. Anything is possible in this virtual world and Reiner obviously had fun exploring the dark corners of the world of Caprica.
- "The Birth of a Cylon" allows Reiner to walk us through the lab where the first Cylon is created by Dr. Graystone. He introduced us to many of the props in the room and provided some silly descriptions (such as a "finger poker") and some more detailed bio-mechanical engineering descriptions for things as well.
And the feature commentary features director Jeffrey Reiner and executive producers/writers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick talking about the various aspects of how the movie and series developed. It's obvious they approached this series with the same love and care they lavished on their reimagining of the BSG universe.
If you're a BSG fan still reeling from the fact that there will be no further episodes of the series, this Caprica DVD will give you a brief taste of a new series sure to keep you wanting more. The series isn't set to air until 2010, but that gives us lots of time to watch Caprica a few more times so we can hear those mechanical words once again… "By your command…"