Thursday, January 21

What to expect from 'Caprica,' Syfy's 'Battlestar' prequel

Source: The Watcher

"Caprica" (8 p.m. Central Friday, Syfy)
Who is on the creative team? Ronald D. Moore ("Battlestar Galactica") and Remi Aubuchon ("24") wrote the pilot; the show's executive producers include Moore, David Eick, Jane Espenson (all of whom also worked on "Battlestar") and Kevin Murphy, who joined the show mid-way through the 19-episode first season (9 hours air this spring and then the show will return in the second half of 2010; for more on the show's background, look here).

What's the "Battlestar Galactica" connection?
"Caprica" is a prequel series set more than five decades before the events of that acclaimed drama. However, you do not need to have seen "Battlestar" to watch "Caprica."

What's the "Buffy" connnection?
Espenson has written for "Buffy," "Angel" and "Dollhouse."

What's the premise? Mega-wealthy technology genius Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) and conflicted lawyer Joseph Adama (Esai Morales) are united by a tragedy -- they both lose family members in a terrorist bombing. The show examines how they and their families deal with that loss and how the government responds to the terrorist threat posed by an underground religious group.

How much sex is there? The normal amount for a basic-cable drama.

Are there robots?
Yes, there are a number of robots, and viewers get to know one robot well.

How's the first episode?
The two-hour pilot is quite compelling. Morales and Stoltz are well-matched in their subtle approaches to their characters, and the pilot asks the kinds of questions you'd expect from the creators of "Battlestar": When should we let go of what we've lost and how do we use technology to avoid painful truths? (My full review of the "Caprica" pilot, which came out on DVD a few months ago, is here.)

How many episodes have you seen?
I've seen the pilot and two additional episodes, and the post-pilot episodes are less focused and more melodramatic than the pilot. In its early going, "Caprica" doesn't have quite enough narrative drive; there's a certain choppy quality to the proceedings, as episodes jump around among the characters' somewhat separate story lines. Still, it took "Battlestar" a while to find a consistent tone and to hit its creative stride. If the handsome-looking "Caprica" can beef up the urgency, unify the storytelling and make me care more about the characters' dilemmas, it should take its rightful place as Syfy's flagship drama.

Why did you feel a little guilty when watching it?
I didn't love it as much as I loved "Battlestar," but I had to remind myself that my affection for that show developed over several seasons. "Caprica" is a different show with a different tone and goals and I'm OK with giving it time to prove itself. If the show is guilty of anything in the first few episodes, it's of trying to do too much, which is preferable to a lack of ambition.

What's the reason to watch? Did I mention the robots? No, seriously, "Caprica's" cast (which includes Paula Malcolmson as Amanda Graystone) is very good and the questions "Caprica" is asking about our reliance on technology to supply (or replace) intimacy are certainly timely.

Who's the breakout actor?
The wonderful Polly Walker imbues the mysterious Sister Clarice with a steely mystery, and I look forward to seeing more of Patton Oswalt as Baxter Sarno, the host of an irreverent "Daily Show"-type program.

What should viewers not expect? This is not a show set in outer space. There are no aliens, there are no space ships and there's not much of a military element at all. "Caprica" is much more of a prime-time soap than a sci-fi adventure tale, so don't be expecting multi-tentacled visitors from the planet Gorp.

What silly nickname did you give this show?
I don't have one yet. Feel free to make suggestions.

Rating: Three stars. "Caprica" is still finding itself, but it's worth your while, and if it can knit its various elements into a more coherent whole, it could get even better.

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