may be too much to say that Season 1.0 of Caprica
started with a bang and ended with a whimper. Its descent wasn’t that steep
and it still finished off its first run as a pretty darn good show. But
considering its pedigree, and considering the amazing, extraordinary way its
first few episodes unfolded, the final impression measures less than the sum
of its parts.
Granted, the show demands the very highest standards, following on the heels
of the truly brilliant Battlestar
Galactica. It takes place fifty years before the destruction of the
Twelve Colonies, covering Dr. Daniel Graystone’s (Eric Stoltz) creation of
the Cylons and the way his good intentions go horribly, disastrously wrong.
It eschews the military conflict style of Battlestar in favor of a
soapier concoction, played out between Graystone and his various rivals.
That soapiness ends up biting it in the ass more than once. The science
fiction aspects fall away before the various betrayals, counter betrayals
and shouted altercations that punctuate the central drama. They hold a
modicum of interest but lend comparatively little to the storyline.
Caprica also suffers from very slow development, moving at a snail’s
pace to ensure that the basic premise can fill the allotted programming
time. Not a whole lot happens in terms of events, leading the producers to
focus on the emotional core of the characters rather than the ray guns and
robots. It works, but it fails to stir the drama the way it should, and
while we care about the figures, a certain clinical distance creates more
mild curiosity than emotional investment. Plus, we know where it’s all
going, which conjures up a lovely sense of foreboding, but further drains
the show of excitement.
Caprica does much better with the exploration of its world. The
Twelve Colonies closely resemble our universe, but with a few key
differences that lend them a unique flair. A virtual “internet” holds
forbidden enticements for the young and foolish, while gangsters and con
artists prowl the halls of power in Caprica’s capital. The world is rushing
headlong into disaster but no one seems to notice, as decadence and arrogant
appropriation work their way into society’s fundaments. We can see shades of
our own culture here, but when filtered through the prism of
Battlestar, it takes on fascinating
The early episodes of Caprica make full use of that potential,
delivering smart, timely sci-fi with a one-of-a-kind flourish. As the series
progresses, the novelty slowly disappears, returning in spikes but gradually
losing its power. By the final episode, the show has settled into a
predictable routine: enjoyable at best, perfunctory at worst. It rarely
becomes less than watchable, but looking at the DVD set, you can see how the
uniformly great early episodes dip into the merely good (and even the
occasionally mediocre) as the series goes on. We have yet to see whether the
second half of Season 1 will elevate the proceedings. The DVD highlights its
promise admirably… as well as the quiet yet undeniable ways the show has yet
to fulfill it.
THE DISC: The DVD is very bare bones, with only the nine episodes of
the series, a few deleted scenes and featurettes, and the unrated pilot with
commentary from the show’s producers. The transfer is fairly good, but the
price they’re asking ($50 retail) demands a few more bells and whistles.
WORTH IT? Look for a bargain purchase on Amazon or
the like. Shaving a few dollars off the price makes the investment much more
RECOMMENDATION: Fans of the series and those hoping to
catch up before the second half of the season should enjoy it. Just don’t
expect anything special beyond the core episodes.
- Rob Vaux