In Farscape (2002) episode “I Shrink, Therefore I Am” (Season 4, Episode 8), John Crichton (Ben Browder) calls out “Paging head Cylon” to bio-mechanized bounty hunters with glowing red eyes who have hijacked his ship. The then somewhat obscure pop-cultural reference to the original Battlestar Galactica (1978) now takes on new resonance with the pervasion of the Cylon into our consciousness following the re-imagining in the 2003 series and the birth of the Cybernetic Lifeform Node in the new series Caprica.
Don’t expect the intimacy, claustrophobia, and twisted film-noir emotions of the post-apocalypse in Caprica, a Battlestar Galactica spin-off prequel. The “pilot” which aired January 22 on Syfy has been available on DVD and download online for several months. It’s been expanded into a series this winter.
Fortunately, the viewer does not need to be familiar with its predecessor to follow the series. My hope is that some of the burning questions I have from Battlestar Galactica will be answered in Caprica. Such as, the details and causes of the First Cylon War, the actual origins of the Final Five, William Adama’s past, how Cylons gained artificial intelligence, and why they rebelled with monotheism in a polytheistic “Greek” society.
What’s refreshing is the planet of Caprica itself. Caprica City appears to be half New York, half Los Angeles, with a smidgen of Singapore. It’s part organized urban mise-en-scene and part water paradise. In Galactica, we had a few scenes of terra firma, mainly featuring interactions between Gaius Baltar and Caprica 6, and later glimpses into people’s pasts, and saw the planet post nuclear war when Starbuck returns to rescue David Anders and remaining survivors. It piqued my curiosity as to what life was like on Caprica before the Cylons devastated it.
I appreciate the old-school attention to planetary world building and civilian (versus military) life. In this respect, the series is unique in a landscape of television sci-fi that has been dominated by vampires (Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Vampire Diaries, need I go on), supernatural conspiracy theories (X-Files), space opera (Firefly, Farscape), and military science fiction (Battlestar Galactica, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and now Stargate Universe). This world is also quickly becoming a franchise much like Stargate, and I think it’s here to stay for a while.
Caprica, like Galactica, airs inconveniently at 9:00 pm on Friday nights. I used to make excuses at dinner to leave early to come home and watch BSG, because I couldn’t wait for the encore presentation at midnight. Let’s see if Caprica makes me want to do the same.