Only a month after the series finale of Battlestar Galactica comes this prequel series set 58 years earlier and helmed by the same creative team of Ronald D. Moore and David Eick. In an unusual move meant to capitalize on the late BSG’s fanbase, the pilot episode of Caprica has been released on DVD a full year before the series is set to begin airing on the Sci-Fi Network. The series centers on Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz), the inventor of the first Cylon, and Joseph Adama (Esai Morales), father of future Galactica commander William Adama. Their lives are intertwined after a tragedy claims both their daughters and Graystone determines to resurrect the girls using advances in artificial intelligence. While Adama first supports the idea, he soon questions the morality of what Graystone is attempting and becomes a vocal opponent of artificial life.
With a spin-off set nearly 60 years before BSG, there’s little to compare Caprica to its source series other than the usual, and overused, “frak” in place of “fuck” and groups of polytheists versus monotheists. Given the religious overtones embedded in BSG, Caprica is sure to continue this trend and become a program based around ethics, zealotry, and technology—three things that made BSG a successful series. Another element was BSG’s ability to weave present-day political and social concerns into the show. Here, the Caprica pilot falls short, focusing instead on the well-treaded ground of artificial life. Admittedly, Moore does do his best to write a story that distances itself from the likes of the Terminator films and Blade Runner, but the comparisons are inevitable. It doesn’t help when the show steals the latter’s anachronistic styling, incorporating futuristic elements with costumes and settings inspired by classic film noir—Adama himself seemingly plucked out of a Raymond Chandler novel, complete with a pinstripe suit and fedora.
Weakly tethered to BSG through the existence of Cylon technology and one character’s last name, Caprica is a very different series in look and feel. It’s unknown if the show’s spin-off factor will enhance or distract from its own storyline, as while watching this pilot questions about its connection to BSG continually came to mind. In Caprica, the first fully functioning Cylon is only introduced at the end, with a surprising characteristic likely to make it the foothold of the rest of the series. This characteristic, which will be left unmentioned here for the benefit of those who have yet to see it, could turn Caprica into a provocative series if it can avoid the trappings of other genre storylines about artificial life. But given BSG’s ability to surprise viewers, Caprica has the current good fortune of receiving the benefit of the doubt. Whether it will manage to be as unpredictable and engaging as its progenitor remains to be seen.
Image quality on the main feature is very strong, with Joel Ransom’s cinematography swapping between warm areas enveloped in darkness to glassy white scenes where nothing seems to cast a shadow. However, the extra features seem to be encoded at a lower bitrate and suffer some noticeable compression artifacts. Sound levels are sharp with Bear McCreary’s evocative score coming through nicely.
For a single-disc release of a pilot for a series that doesn’t exist yet, the extras are surprisingly well rounded. There’s an informative commentary track with creators and the director, five incidental deleted scenes, and four video blogs featuring interviews with the cast and crew. In the "Why do TV studios do this?" department, there is an episode of the Sci-Fi reality series Ghost Hunters. Showtime does the same with their season sets of Dexter and it’s equally annoying. The goal must be to get those already interested in one network show interested in another. But what do goofs playing Ghostbusters have to do with this drama? Had this unnecessary extra been eliminated, it likely wouldn’t have been necessary to encode the extras at such a lower bitrate than the main feature.
An interesting opening for what could be a unique spin on an old sci-fi trope.