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Before the Fall

Last night, I finally got around to watching the pilot episode for SciFi’s* new series Caprica. For those who don’t know, it’s a prequel to the recently (and horribly) ended Battlestar Galactica, set 58 years before the events of that series in the titular city.

So far, so good. After being grievously disappointed with the “reimagined” V  and the unconscionable audience betrayal that was BSG’s deus-ex-machina series finale,  let’s just say my hopes weren’t all that high for the show, but I was still pretty impressed.

The feel of the show was entirely different from BSG, but yet reminiscent of the feel of the flashbacks to pre-apocalypse Caprica in the last year of the show. At the same time, Caprica isn’t exactly what one might have imagined from the early scenes and flashbacks in the prior series – it’s bigger and a bit more fleshed-out now than in those glimpses. The mechanical cylon (there’s only one so far) is quite retro, yet with all the familiar elements in place – given what I already knew of the plot, I was concerned that the cylon would be a human-form one, which would have made for a very contrived explanation given the known backstory of the humanoid versions. We once again see the inexplicably octagonal sheets of paper, but this time with a twist: some of them are paper-thin computers which appear to fill a similar niche to netbooks. The settings are also familiar – though the skyline is different, the Greystone home appears to intentionally recall the similarly-sited home of Gaius Baltar in the BSG pilot miniseries. Likewise, there were a few familiar musical cues, particularly near the end when Adama’s character theme appears as the background music to the reconciliation between the young William Adama and his father, and a familiar martial theme accompanies the successful demonstration of the cylon prototype.

And like good science fiction does, it tackles some intriguing questions regarding the consequences of speculative technology. The virtual reality element is cleverly done, showing how the simple knowledge that one can do anything in the virtual world (including virgin sacrifices for entertainment) and get away with it has a corrosive effect on the outside world in unexpected ways. The metaphysical status of one of the characters is also the subject of some debate among the other characters, applying the Turing Test concept to the identity and “soul” of an artificial intelligence.

The most interesting detail, though, was suddenly grasping during one scene the delicious weirdness of two characters having an earnest religious discussion in which classical monotheism polytheism was the common cultural point of reference and monotheism was something strange and even dangerous.

So, even though it is entirely bereft of killer supermodel fembots with an anthrocidal agenda (thus far, anyway), it has promise.

* – I refuse to use their corny new spelling. It’s embarrassing.

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