Caprica: Where No Battlestar Galactica Has Gone Before
First the wars: now the social and political events that caused them.
Which is why the genesis of the Cylons is so ripe for exploration in Caprica, the prequel to the highly-acclaimed Battlestar Galactica, premiering tonight on Syfy (9/8c). However, last spring we got a sneak peek when an extended version of the pilot bowed exclusively on DVD from Universal Home Ent. Tonight's series premiere, though, offers more.
But it's very clear that Caprica is no BSG. Despite the great acclaim and terrific production values, there were creative and commercial demands placed on the prequel, so creator Ron Moore made sure that Caprica offered something very different.
"Galactica was unique in that it was a very demanding show for television -- you really had to watch it carefully," explains Gary Hutzel, the visual effects supervisor now overseeing Caprica. "And I think what that meant was that a lot of the stories didn't reach a real wide audience. We had a consistent audience; we had a very dedicated audience. I think the producers felt that it didn't get a wide enough audience: it was great drama; it was a fascinating story. It could've had a wider audience had it not been so relentlessly depressing."
Caprica takes place nearly 60 years before the two robotic Cylon wars and the fall of the 12 colonies, including Caprica. But now there is peace yet the underlying issues that will eventually lead to the annihilation of humankind (a culture of excess, technology, terrorism, racism) begin in this series. One of those big issues is the development of artificial intelligence. The first version of the Cylons created is called the U-87, which actually looks like a more primitive Cylon from the original Battlestar 1978 series. It's created through the investment of wealthy technologist Daniel Graystone (Eric Stolz), who is obsessed with the idea of reincarnating his newly-deceased 14-year-old daughter Zoe (Alessandra Toressani) as a cyborg. The story reveals how, before her death, the young girl, who was also quite brilliant, managed to download "rudimentary elements of her personality and DNA into the machine," forging this astounding hybrid that elicits all sorts of moral and ethical quandaries.
Now that Hutzel is well into the series, he says it's rapidly evolved with heightened use of virtual environments as an interactive escape. "The show is interesting in that it's changed its context quite a bit before we started. In other words, the original premise of Caprica was to explore international relations through the science-fiction framework of a series of planets that represent widely different ethnic groups. As the show moved ahead, there were more and more requests to introduce more of a science-fiction element to that and push it into a slightly more fanciful mode, so we've been accommodating that.