The brief: A prequel to Battlestar Galactica, set on Caprica 50 years or so before the fall. Two very different families find themselves connected and possibly, accidentally, bringing about the end of civilisation.
This pilot has been out and about for a while thanks to a DVD and iTunes premier last April, but I hadn’t watched it as I felt I needed to detox a little from Battlestar Galactica. But the full series is now starting on the US SyFy channel, so it seemed fitting to review it as the first of my mid-season reviews.
If you liked Battlestar Galactica I think there’s very little chance you won’t like this show. In all the core qualities it is very similar, it reaches the same high standards in terms of production values and demands the same attention and consideration from the viewer. This is not an easy show to watch, the characters are pretty much dumped in unpleasant situations and forced to make the best of a bad lot. As independent observers we can judge that the decisions they make are not necessarily right, but while the end point of their actions may be terrible, each step in their processes is understandable.
Where it most obviously differs from Battlestar is in the visuals. Where Battlestar was cramped interiors in gun metal grey, Caprica is open plan houses and shiny glass. It actually feels more like a science fiction show than Battlestar did; there’s more technology and it’s all more obvious and slick. While Battlestar had very good reasons for using minimal technology (even the space ships somehow felt far less technologically advanced than our own fighter jets), it is really nice to see cool stuff just treated as part of everyday life. Everything here feels right, not just the technology, but the architecture and costumes all feel like they’re not far out of our own reach. But it’s not all shiny new things, there’s still historical buildings and varied fashions making it feel like a culture and society that’s developed, not just sprung into life fully formed for a TV show.
Like Battlestar Galactica this is Good television with a capital G, but it is by no means easy to watch. The sense of doom hanging over the characters and civilisation is depressing, but also somehow freeing. With Battlestar part of what made it heartbreaking was that there was always the slight hope that things would get better. With Caprica, knowing that the end of the story has already been written means that you can just focus on appreciating the way fate unravels. With the quality of design, writing and acting on display in the pilot, I’m confident that it will be a fascinating and satisfying journey to watch.
Caprica starts on Sky1, Tuesday 2nd Feb, 9pm