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Caprica - First two episodes reviewed

Caprica

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THERE were probably two kinds of people who tuned into the pilot episodes of Caprica last night (Tuesday, February 2, 2010): Battlestar Galactica fans keen to see how it all began, and those people curious enough to want to play catch-up.

I must admit to falling into the latter category, having missed the voyage on Battlestar Galactica… and regrettably so. If Caprica could be half as good as the critical acclaim surrounding BG, then I might be onto a new TV treat.

It is, admittedly, very early days. But the signs are good. Caprica offered emotionally involving, intelligently written sci-fi that made me want to see Battlestar Galactica even more.

Part BG, part Gattaca and – incredibly – part Avatar, Caprica is a thought-provoking sci-fi thriller that puts character to the fore.

Its principal focus is on two fathers as they attempt to come to terms with the loss of their children in a terrorist attack aboard a train. On the one hand, there’s billionaire Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz), a scientist businessman who has hitherto been on the point of making virtual avatars into living robots, and who lost his daughter in the tragedy.

On the other, there’s Joseph Adama (Esai Morales), a shady lawyer and Tauran immigrant who lost his daughter and wife in the explosion.

When a virtual nightclub visited by Graystone’s precocious teenage daughter affords Daniel the opportunity to become reunited with a virtual alternative to his daughter, he promptly abducts the avatar and places it inside the Cybernetic Life-Form Node, or Cylon, he has been struggling to create.

The final image, therefore, was of his daughter’s avatar crying for help in cylon form. It was a haunting, yet strangely exhilarating finale to a gripping couple of hours.

What makes Caprica so fascinating, however, is its carefully constructed scenario. The themes explored are all revelant: whether as personal as parents coming to terms with grief; global, as in the threat to humanity posed by terrorism; or scientific, such as whether man should ever really play God.

Religion also gets a look in by virtue of the various faiths and Gods mentioned in fleeting conversations, while issues of racism are simmering beneath the surface by virtue of Adama’s nationality.

There’s a lot in the melting pot already… as well as nice nods to the future in terms of the technology being used and enjoyed by Caprica’s residents, or the brief glimpses afforded of the planet’s beauty spots and cityscapes.

The sombre tone might be a little too heavy for some, while the slow pacing may not necessarily appeal to sci-fi fans more accustomed to action. But this only makes for more time to explore the intricate themes, and to really get to know its characters.

As such, both Stoltz and (especially) Morales get to shine… their scenes together, as they argue the merits of reclaiming their lost children, make for utterly absorbing viewing.

Hats off, then, to Sky1 for ensuring it has laid claim to another classic American series – for on the evidence of the first two hours, Caprica looks to be another imported gem that only makes me want to rush out and buy those Battlestar Galactica box sets to find out what I’ve missed!

Caprica is on Sky1 on Tuesday nights, from 9pm.