Breaking Down The Fall of Man: Ron Moore’s Caprica

Copyright © 2009 by Syfy.

If you were a fan of the 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica, then doubtless you were interested in following the prequel series Caprica.  It had the same production value, dramatic tension, and rich soundtrack, but while Galactica was a military sci-fi show, Caprica was a family drama in a sci-fi setting that was building up to the cataclysm that jump-started the previous series.

If you’ve noticed by now that I’m referring to the show in the past tense, that’s because it was canceled not long after its mid-season premiere back in late October.  The remaining episodes will air in early 2011.

Even so, I want to talk about the series as a whole and how it compared to Battlestar Galactica.  First of all, its premise is different, as there isn’t a clear conflict between humans and Cylons.  The show begins with a terrorist attack by radical monotheists, which sends shock waves through Caprican society and deeply affects two families: the Graystones and the Adamas.

Zoe Graystone perishes in the terrorist attack–one launched by her boyfriend, no less–but she lives on through a near-identical digital avatar.  When her father Daniel discovers this avatar, he uploads it into a prototype robot that his company is producing–a robot properly known as as a Cybernetic Lifeform Node or “Cylon.”  This is only the first in a series of tragic decisions that Daniel makes, which nearly costs him his marriage and his career.  On the other side of the story is Joseph Adama, a lawyer of Tauron descent who lost his wife and daughter in the attack, and who struggles to raise his only son, William, future commander of the Galactica.  The Adamas attempt to maintain their ethnic identity while living on Caprica, facing discrimination and getting involved in the Ha’la’tha, or Tauron mob.

One of the recurring themes in this series is about sin and redemption.  The creation–and exploitation–of the Cylons proves to be the original sin of mankind in this tale, as their creator Daniel Graystone explains when unveiling the prototype:

This is our future.  Beyond artificial intelligence, this is artificial sentience.  It’s more than a machine–this Cylon will become a tireless worker.  It won’t need to be paid.  It won’t retire or get sick.  It won’t have rights or objections or complaints.  It will do anything and everything we ask of it without question… The desire to anthropomorphize, the need to connect is powerful, and that is why this thing is going to sell. We make them, we own them, they’re real. And the worlds just changed.

Such hubris, however, doesn’t just end with the Cylons, but extends to many human beings throughout the story.  Ardent monotheist and terror cell leader Clarice Willow manipulates Amanda Graystone in an attempt to steal her late daughter’s digital avatar, and has no qualms about eliminating anyone who stands in the way of her “divinely-inspired” mission.  Daniel manipulates Joseph Adama and his Tauron brethren into helping him advance his own career, even though he usually earns some swift retribution at each turn.

If I had to sum up the central theme of Caprica, given all the decisions being made and the actions undertaken, it would have to be this Biblical verse:

Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

Though its success may be short-lived and its drama less than stellar, I still enjoyed Caprica for what tension it did build up and deliver on, and for the intricate worlds it fleshed out in its story.  The cast is great, especially the interaction between Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales, who play the heads of the Graystone and Adama families.  It’s quieter and less intense than Galactica, but it still delivers a solid kick, upsetting the peace in every character’s life with sharp setbacks instead of massive explosions.

Bibliography: Caprica.  Created by Remi Aubuchon, Ron Moore, and David Eick.  Directed by Jeffrey Reiner.  Syfy.  January 22, 2010 – October 27, 2010.

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