Caprica: Season 1.5

When “Caprica” first premiered, I wondered (out loud) if anyone was really clamoring for a prequel to the “Battlestar Galactica” story and outlined the obstacles that the series faced at the time:

“Caprica” has the same challenge that the “Star Wars” prequels had: Everyone knows how it turns out. The question is whether or not the history is compelling enough to outweigh the certainty of the story’s outcome.

The two-hour premiere was solid, but the plodding start (lots of death and mourning) and uneven storyline made it something of a tough watch for many “Battlestar Galactica” fans. In fact, our own Ross Ruediger gave the Season 1.0 DVD set just two stars out of five:

With “Galactica,” we rooted for the characters because they were fighting for survival. With “Caprica,” there is nobody to root for, mostly because the characters are nearly impossible to care about and their struggles are negligible. It was probably too soon to mount another lengthy chapter in the “Galactica” concept. I don’t think creators Ronald D. Moore and David Eick had enough distance from the original series to be able to see this one clearly. It was also too soon for viewers, who weren’t clamoring for this new story, having been exhausted by the ride that was “Galactica.” The series feels as though it was put together solely to capitalize on a brand name, and not because there was actually a compelling story to tell.

I was willing to forgive the slow start in the hopes that Moore and Eick would be able to pull it together for the long haul. As it turns out, the series was canceled before the final five episodes even aired, so we now have the Season 1.5 DVD set to review. It contains the final nine episodes, along with a plethora of special features, including deleted scenes, cast and crew commentaries, podcast commentaries and more.

Having finally watched the entire run, I’d only recommend the series to “Battlestar Galactica” (and easily pleased) fans who are interested in finding out how and why the Cylons were created and how they became sentient. Most of those fans have probably already watched the series, so I’m not sure what subsection of sci-fi fans this review really speaks to. There’s no doubt that “Caprica” is a disappointment when compared to its predecessor, but those expectations were probably impossible to meet from the get-go.

For those fans that lost track of the show after the first nine (or thirteen) episodes, it’s worth finishing, because Moore wisely ramped up the action and intensity in the final hours and provided a five-minute “Shape of Things to Come” epilogue that quickly shows what happened to the main characters in the “Caprica” story, answering a few of the lingering questions along the way and providing some closure for those that need it.

Despite excellent acting from its ensemble cast (especially Polly Walker, who is positively loathsome as Clarice Willow) and the trademark Moore production values, “Caprica” was done in by largely unlikable characters and a meandering storyline that took way too long to get moving. The conflict between the humans and Cylons in “BG” was clearly drawn, but over the course of 18 episodes, I never really understood why the two religious factions in “Caprica” (monotheists and polytheists) hated each other so vehemently. Seeing as this was the crux of the plot, it’s understandable why “Caprica” failed to capture an audience as devoted as its predecessor’s.

  

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“Caprica” finally takes off

In my first impressions of the two-hour pilot for “Caprica,” I wrote the following:

While I’m certainly excited about Ronald D. Moore’s next project, I can’t help but be a little leery of a prequel. “Caprica” has the same challenge that the “Star Wars” prequels had: Everyone knows how it turns out. The question is whether or not the history is compelling enough to outweigh the certainty of the story’s outcome.

Were there any “Battlestar Galactica” fans clamoring for a prequel? I’m sure there were a few, but I hadn’t even considered the prospect until I heard that “Caprica” was already in development. How interested are we in seeing how Cylons were developed?

On the whole, I enjoyed the two-hour pilot, though I didn’t find it as compelling as “BG.” And the next two episodes consisted of a lot of mourning, religion and setup — in other words, it was a little slow. It wasn’t until the most recent episode — “There Is Another Sky” — that the series really took off.

And it would seem that most viewers out there agree. The series was getting consistent scores in the 8.2-8.8 range at TV.com, but the latest episode garnered a 9.2, the highest of the series. On the whole, “Caprica” is getting an 8.7 compared to a 9.2 for “Battlestar Galactica.” Some might argue that “BG” fans are being too hard on “Caprica,” but there is also probably some element of support for the show that wouldn’t otherwise be there. Those two factors may very well offset each other.

There are spoilers ahead, so if you recently gave up on “Caprica,” you might want to track down this episode and give it a go. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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TCA Tour: Caprica

Although Syfy’s “Caprica” is a prequel to “Battlestar Galactica,” the fact that the series are separated by 58 years and an apocalypse (give or take) doesn’t mean that the two don’t share similar elements. Indeed, writer / executive producer Jane Espenson immediately offered up two words that link the shows: moral complexity.

“There’s no stark bad guys and good guys,” she explained. “This is a world that is perceived by some of its residents as sort of sliding over the edge, there’s a whole bunch of people who think they’ve got the answer, and it’s not at all clear that any of them have the answer. The guy who believes in technology thinks that’s the answer. The person who believes in religion thinks that’s the answer. And if everybody has moral shadings, we can tell very complex stories as a result.

Espenson’s fellow writer / executive producer, David Eick, clarified another similarity: the two shows take their genre very seriously. “We really do try to involve depth of character, realism, grounded-terrestrial naturalism to a science fiction world,” he said. “That sort of came from what we always admired about the greats and the classics, from Asimov to Heinlein to Philip K. Dick, this idea that science fiction was not just fun and games. We wanted to go sort of the opposite direction of George Lucas, if you will. We wanted to make it less about escapism and more about moral complexity, as Jane was saying, and great characters.”

For those who have seen the pilot to the series, which will air again tonight on SyFy, you may be wondering if its tone and content will remain consistent when the series officially kicks off next week. Apparently, so were stars Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales. According to Eick, both actors wanted some reassurance that the pilot was not going to be a one-off, with the series going in a different direction altogether.

“I think, if anything, we go towards that even more rather than shying away from it,” said Stoltz, “because that’s what interests all of us as actors: playing these ambiguous, conflicted people living not in a black-and-white world and trying to find their way in it. We wanted to be exactly like that, so we’re all striving to make it as good as possible.”

“Also,” added Morales, “the naturalism in what I see from my fellow actors and their acting, it’s very unlike anything I’ve seen on television. The atmosphere of the show as well. The planet feels like it has a presence, a consciousness, in a sense, that I think is taken from the pilot, and it moves. It’s rooted in the pilot, but I think the show will evolve from what you saw in the pilot.”

Rest assured, however, that you don’t have to have to know “Battlestar Galactica” to appreciate “Caprica.” In fact, as Eick is quick to point out, the network’s marketing strategy for the series involves a notable lack of the words “Battlestar” or “Galactica” in the title of the show. Still, it’s not as though there’s a single article that’s been written about the show that doesn’t mention the connection, so why should newbies join in the fun?

“The same reason they come to any well-marketed and, hopefully, well-executed television show,” replied Eick. “That it’s compelling in its own right, that it has ideas embedded in it and a visual style that looks inviting and exciting. On that front, I’m not terribly concerned. From the standpoint of the execution within the show once you’re in, new viewers will find that there’s virtually no tether to ‘Battlestar Galactica’ from a storytelling standpoint whatsoever. There are the occasional Easter eggs and nods and acknowledgments for the faithful to enjoy or maybe deepen some of their appreciation for it, but I think legitimately the show stands on its own. Other than the fact that, if you happen to know ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ you know that that show had its roots in some of the stories we’re telling now, there really is no relationship between the two shows whatsoever.”

“Imagine you were watching a show that you knew nothing about and they were developing sentient robots,” added Espenson. “You might very well get a glimmer that these sentient robots are going to be trouble down the road. You don’t need ‘Battlestar Galactica’ to tell you that. In a storytelling sense, (‘Caprica’) tells you that.”

“I have a lot of friends who have never seen “Battlestar Galactica,” don’t like sci-fi, and they watch it because of me,” admitted Magda Apanowicz. “But when they actually end up watching it, they love it. Like, they’re shocked, and they’re, like, ‘There’s so much that you can take away from it. There’s so many different storylines that you can relate to.'”

“We just have fun, guys,” said Morales. “We hope you do, too.”

  

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Patton Oswalt talks “Big Fan,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Dollhouse,” and more

In the past several years Patton Oswalt has plotted an admirable career arc, going from being “that guy on ‘The King of Queens'” to the voice of Remy in “Ratatouille” to a progressively more well-known stand-up comedian. His hot streak continues this month with the theatrical release of the positively reviewed “Big Fan” and his latest comedy CD, My Weakness Is Strong — all of which means now is a pretty great time for Bullz-Eye’s Will Harris to have a chat with Mr. Oswalt.

“Big Fan” was naturally a main point of discussion, and Oswalt opened up about taking on a dramatic role after spending so long building his comedy chops, saying:

A lot of my instincts as an actor, I had to kind of sit on (during ‘Big Fan’). Like, my instinct was, ‘I need to end this scene with a funny look or a button of some sort,’ and I couldn’t do that. So that was certainly odd for me to not have that resource in this role, but…it was kind of cool to be in that situation for once in my career, where I’m just totally outside of my comfort zone. I mean, unbelievably outside of my comfort zone. It was kind of thrilling.

But don’t worry — Oswalt isn’t abandoning his funny side. In fact, as he discusses in the interview, his standup is evolving as he gets older, something illustrated on My Weakness Is Strong:

I think most comedians go through that, where you have to change or evolve. You don’t want to just keep doing variations on the same themes. And, besides, it would look kinda creepy for a guy my age to be doing stuff that, like, a 20-year-old would do. ‘Yeah, this is bullshit!’ It’s, like, ‘Really? You don’t have bigger concerns at this point in your life?’

To read more of the interview — including some of the performances Patton feels never got the attention they deserved, favorite unheralded films, and what it was like to work on Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” — click on the image above or follow this link!

  

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First impressions of “Caprica”

The two-hour pilot of “Caprica” debuted on DVD and digital download late last month and I finally found the time to watch it. Regular readers might be wondering why a huge “Battlestar Galactica” fan like myself would wait so long. Well, I’m not really sure. Maybe the “BG” finale was still a little to raw in my mind. Maybe there was too much other good television grabbing my attention. Or maybe I just couldn’t find the right time to watch it.

While I’m certainly excited about Ronald D. Moore’s next project, I can’t help but be a little leery of a prequel. “Caprica” has the same challenge that the “Star Wars” prequels had: Everyone knows how it turns out. The question is whether or not the history is compelling enough to outweigh the certainty of the story’s outcome. In the world of “Star Wars,” fans were clamoring for a better understanding of how Anakin Skywalker actually became Darth Vader. The transition was mentioned several times over the course of Episodes Four, Five and Six, and it became almost inevitable that there would eventually be a series of prequels to explain just how Anakin turned to the dark side.

Were there any “Battlestar Galactica” fans clamoring for a prequel? I’m sure there were a few, but I hadn’t even considered the prospect until I heard that “Caprica” was already in development. How interested are we in seeing how Cylons were developed? Personally, I’d rather get a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes scheming that led up to the Cylon invasion.

That said, there’s no doubt that “Caprica” is two strong hours of television.

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