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Continuing an Epic

22 Jan, 2010 By: John Latchem

Sci-fi geeks experiencing a bit of “Battlestar Galactica” withdrawal should be able to get their fix with the prequel series “Caprica,” which premieres tonight on Syfy.

Granted, most fans have probably seen the pilot, which Universal released on DVD last year, and tonight’s version is an edited-for-TV version (with limited commercial interruption, at least). So for many fans, the real premiere comes next week with the first regular episode of the series.

I can’t wait to dive in. I was a huge fan of the “Galactica” remake, developed by veteran writer Ronald D. Moore, who cut his teeth on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” writing some of the better episodes of those shows. “Caprica” chronicles how the Colonials created the Cylons, a race of robots who would eventually turn against their masters and force them to flee their homeworlds in search of the mythical Earth.

With the arrival of the show on Blu-ray and its spin-off movie The Plan, I recently watched “Galactica” from start to finish again, and I must say it’s even better the second time around, avoiding the problem a lot of shows have once their freshness has worn off (I’m looking at you “24”).

Yes, “Galactica” took a lot of heat and criticism for a final season, and a final episode, that seemed to abandon its sci-fi ideals in exchange for a blanket spiritualism that overwhelmed the storylines, leading many viewers to conclude it overwhelmed the writers as well. Talk of angels and gods began to take on literal meanings within the plot, although it turns out the characters in question were saying exactly what they were the entire time.

This evokes the feeling of a Greek poem not unlike The Iliad or The Odyssey, when gods would interfere with the course of humanity all the time. Upon further review of the show’s plots and motifs, it seems clear that these ideas fit perfectly into the narrative structure. The Plan acts as an epilogue that reinforces the primary themes of the show.

Fundamentally, this is a show (and, with “Caprica,” a franchise) about the conflicts between parents and children. How a new generation’s desire to stake a legacy of their own often interferes with the goals of the previous generation for a better tomorrow.

We see it with the Cylons attacking humanity.

We see it in Cavil’s conflict with the Final Five.

We see it on a personal level, between Apollo and Adama. Between Starbuck and her parents. In Athena and Helo’s attempts to protect Hera.

We see it on a spiritual level, as a story of humanity’s metaphorical parent, God, attempting to set right the sins of its creation by orchestrating the destruction of one society and the creation of another. The Biblical overtones are obvious.

Further, we can extend the metaphor beyond the fourth wall, as the show attempts to surpass the original from the 1970s. “All of this has happened before, and will happen again” is more than just key mythology within the storyline, it is an acknowledgement of the show’s roots. In this sense the series seems aware of its place within the history of televised science-fiction.

Now, with “Caprica,” the franchise grows beyond its origins, maintaining its focus on the core story, but presenting it in a whole new light. I for one can’t wait to see how these new stories inform and enhance what we already know.

Sure, history has shown us that creating an effective prequel isn’t always the easiest task to accomplish. However, given the pedigree of the writers involved with “Caprica,” I have faith that they’ll pull it off.

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