Caprica Review (spoilers after the break)

The prequel series, Caprica, is now available on DVD and for download. Caprica is set 56 years before the first Cylon war, and deals with the origin of the metal Cylons. This meta review provides links to some of the recent low-spoiler reviews. As you will read in all of them, Caprica is very different in tone from BSG. It’s a drama set on a planet, not a space opera.

My disappointment with how BSG was ended lowered my expectations for Caprica, which is of course a good thing. You always enjoy a work more when you go into it with lower expectations. In an ideal world, one would wish for a way to get great recommendations on worthwhile things that don’t raise high expectations — you would enjoy life more. It was the high expectations I put on BSG that in part led to the ending being such a letdown.

However, the overall review is positive. If you did not know it was Battlestar, you could treat Caprica as near-future SF set on Earth. If you didn’t have the references to polytheistic religion, in fact, a viewer would be hard pressed to spot differences from a typical tv-SF depiction of a decade or two in the future. Of course, the religion is important in this show, as it became important in BSG. While the God of Galactica (Gog) does not show it’s face directly, we must wonder if it will do so later. However, the religion is fundamental to the plot in that many of the characters do very dramatic things motivated by their religious beliefs. Which is perfectly fine, of course — some people mistook my criticism of the presence of an interventionist god in BSG as criticism of religion playing a role in a story.

You will get some items from Caprica that help explain important elements of BSG. They are more subtle than normal, but there. So the verdict is to watch it, though you will also do fine waiting the 8 months for it to appear on the air. The DVD version contains a bunch of mostly lesbian makeout scenes which won’t show on TV; presumably they are there to keep the boys titillated. They occur — no spoiler here, as you see this in the first 2 minutes of the show — in a virtual reality club which is the setting for a number of scenes in the show. It may be a bit surprising at first to see the Capricans using technology far beyond what is seen on BSG when it comes to computers and robotics. Obviously the colonies had a minor Butlerian jihad after the Cylon war. This was hinted at several times during the BSG series.

But now on to the spoilers…

In BSG, Moore decided, correctly I think, to show very little of the technology behind the show. He avoided explaining how the FTL or computers or Tylium fuel worked. This is good because most SF shows get it wrong when they try to explain these things, and even the best ones provide explanations that quickly become dated.

In Caprica, a few errors are made along these lines. The show has to focus on AI, robotics and computers, and it’s hard to do these in TV without technobabble. The first such item is a magic AI processor developed by Graystone’s rival, which he has Adama steal for him. It’s not clear what is special about this processor, since the uploaded mind of Zoe seems to run fine in the V-room processor and on the system at Graystone’s home, though these are advanced systems. It is possible it’s much smaller or does other functions we don’t see.

However, the cliche element is not that, but rather the fact that Graystone, after getting the chip — which he has never seen before — is able to integrate the Zoe upload (also a brand new technology he has never seen before) onto it in just a couple of days. The writers may be aware of this — Adama expects it to happen right away and Graystone says “don’t be silly it will take a couple of days.” This seems to happen often in TV about computers. Not unlike Scotty from Star Trek, TV computer wizards can often perform tasks that would take months or years of time in seconds or minutes. That’s human time, of course. TV computer wizards can also break any encryption code in a matter of seconds, and Graystone quickly breaks his daughter’s encryption, even though she is a more skilled programmer than her father.

Of course, encryption codes that can’t be broken, or which take time to break, would not make for good TV, even in a slower paced show like this.

Uploading

I would like to imagine that this show will spend a lot of time on the worthwhile SF issue of uploading — the transfer of a human biological mind into an alternate, digital implementation. In the literature, the usual approach is some sort of way of scanning the brain on a finely detailed level and copying all the interconnections. The scan can be safe or destructive, and on a live or only on a dead person.

However, there has been some discussion (the more fantastic) of the idea that the contents of one’s brain could be determined by calculating back from one’s “output” (recordings of all you said and did, all your e-mails etc.) Many would argue that’s not likely to be possible, but if it is, it’s a vastly more involved technique. This is, however, the technique that Zoe develops to create her upload, though since she personally tweaks it she is able to do a lot better job.

When the same software is used to make a Tamara Adama (Bill’s sister) upload, I give credit to the writers that this upload is incomplete and hollow. Joe Adama rejects it immediately, as an abomination.

Copying

The ability to have beings that can be copied is another one of SF’s hot issues, and this was covered in BSG to some extent, both in the downloading process for Cylons, and the ability of Cylons to share memories with those of the same model. In addition, it was revealed late that each Cylon model began with a prototype, and then many copies were made by the Final Five. These were presumably whole copies.

All this is good, but for some reason the Caprica writers twice worked as though copying a mind meant destroying the original. When Zoe is pulled from the V-Club onto Graystone’s thumb-drive — her mind an improbably small 300mb — she is removed from the V-Club. We could see this as Graystone’s intention, but later, when he wants to try the first experiment of transfer into a robot body, the same thing happens. Destroying the original should surely not be his intention here, and doesn’t seem to be, but it’s also silly to imagine he would not have a backup — on the thumb-drive if nowhere else.

We must presume the plot demanded this, and I wonder if the writers will continue to have the uploaded beings always copy and delete, or if they will have more copying. As more Cylons are created, it seems that copying will be necessary. In addition, the casting sheets tell us we’ll see more of the actors playing Zoe and Ben, indicating a VR copy of Zoe is seen again, and that Sister Clarice may have a copy of the upload software.

Cylon motivations

That the Cylons come from a rebellious zealot teen-ager with a is a nice touch. What we see in the show does explain why the metal Cylons, many years later, will be so keen on developing biological bodies. Zoe didn’t want transfer into the robot, and her successors follow up on this. It explains why the Final Five’s offer of biological bodies is enough to get the metal Cylons to stop the war. It may even explain something that so far has made no sense — the apparent lack of transfer of metal Cylon memories into the 8 biologicals. At times it seems as though the metal Cylons gave up everything so the Final Five could creation new Earth-style biological cylons unconnected with them. Zoe’s emotions may explain this, if it is indeed the case.

I wonder if we will see a background for why John was so keen to have a metal form, or to return to a metal form if he has memories of Zoe or the others.

The planet

As noted, the setting could be a future Earth, if not for the religions. In fact, it’s a bit too much like one. They still drive their cars, which they would not do if they had robotics at this level. In fact, they would also not have gasoline cars if they had the sort of battery and power technology necessary to make self-contained Cylon robots. I hope the writers take the time to think through other consequences of advanced robotics and power technology as they show more of this world. Of course, 50 years later, their world still looks like Earth in many ways, but that’s after a butlerian jihad and a war.

I expect we’ll see more of th virtual clubs. TV producers love VR, it lets them get away with so much. Like most TV VRs, the VR goggles are tiny things which must be beaming directly into the brain rather than the eyes. This reminds one of Cylon projection, and if we didn’t know better, I would take it as a sign that they are all Cylons :-).

The religion

It’s no secret that I hated how the religious aspects of BSG ruined the ending and cheapened the characters’ meaning. So far, there is no evidence of a direct connection between the “One true God” of Zoe and the “Soldiers of the One” cult and Gog, the real God of Galactica. The Soldiers of the One think of their god as a loving god, one who clearly defines right and wrong, good and evil. They are attracted to this god for that very reason — they feel the polytheist religions are lacking in morality.

They do claim their god is real, and suggest they have evidence, but do they? Or is this, for now, just another invented god of a cult, a cult that just happens to be right about how many gods there are? Or has Gog sent messenger angels to members of the Soldiers of the One, or performed some of its many miracles and interventions? Is Gog manipulating things to help create the Cylons, knowing the Final Five are just 15 years away on their 2,000 year sub-light journey?

Gog is not a loving god who defines good and evil. As Baltar declares with authorial voice in Daybreak, Gog is beyond good and evil, more like a force of nature. Man, Baltar says, created ideas like good and evil. Gog is an amoral, interventionist force that seems content to lay out a plan with many cycles of genocide, and who acts to have that plan become real.

As we watch Caprica, we can’t avoid knowing that Gog is real, but I hope it stays offstage as much as possible. Characters who have religions are great. Real gods are another matter.

"I expect we’ll see more

"I expect we’ll see more of th virtual clubs. TV producers love VR, it lets them get away with so much. Like most TV VRs, the VR goggles are tiny things which must be beaming directly into the brain rather than the eyes. This reminds one of Cylon projection"

Nothing gets by you.

... They are called Soldiers of The One!

VR in tv and movies

VR in TV and movies has a long history of course. It’s often done as sending images directly into the brain, sometimes done as goggles in a tank, and of course there is the Star Trek “holodeck” style where it is a solid-yet-fluid 3D projection. Moore has a fascination with it — he has or had a series called “Virtuality” in development which was all about it.

It’s not surprising they went with the “beam into the brain” approach from a logistic standpoint. The “holodeck” style is far from the technology they have in the BSG universe. And it hurts the drama if characters have to get all wired up and put on heavy goggles and get into a special tank. In SF, it’s more common to find people who have had a neural implant surgery to get things beamed into their brains. The first TV SF to have VR and cyberspace was the 1976 Doctor Who episode “The Deadly Assassin” where they put a crown of sorts on their heads and lay down. Way ahead of its time.

"I expect we’ll see more

"I expect we’ll see more of th virtual clubs. TV producers love VR, it lets them get away with so much. Like most TV VRs, the VR goggles are tiny things which must be beaming directly into the brain rather than the eyes. This reminds one of Cylon projection"

There is a very valid reason as to why the two seem to be alike. The centurions wanted to be more human in everyway possible and if they stil havd the memories of Zoey, they would see VR as a way to achieve this goal.

Some how I can see this being true and cylon projection just becoming an evolved version of the holoband. The final five may not have had this ability until they met the centurions and had it added into their programing as they created the eight.

F5 projection

I am not sure how readily they could change their own programming. They came from a society where they lived as humans from all we can see. They abandoned resurrection which is quite telling.

However, it seems to me that a society advanced enough to make digital beings is likely to have had virtual worlds long before that. I mean we’ve been dreaming of it for decades, and have our simple attempts like Second Life and the various fictional forms of it.

So I see it the other way around. VR has been present in SF for some time, and the Cylon projection comes from that history, as does the VR in Caprica and Virtuality. Cylons would have a VR interface because if you were a metal being, of course you would have such an interface. It is not necessary to explain it through Zoe’s history. However, this doesn’t mean that the show won’t explain it that way, it probably will — it’s just not necessary.

I haven't made it past the

I haven't made it past the first lesbian make-out scene, but hopefully I'll have some publishable thoughts on Caprica once I do.

"I am not sure how readily

"I am not sure how readily they could change their own programming. They came from a society where they lived as humans from all we can see. They abandoned resurrection which is quite telling."

The technology was abandoned centuries earlier, and they had to reinvent it... You'd have to also conclude that they had to reinvent the technology used to make a new body to download into, since one without the other is pointless. The bodies they downloaded into when leaving their Earth were not the same human bodies they lived in while on their Earth.

In addition, Cavil killed all of them at one point or another, so the bodies they are in at the time of the fall are not even the same bodies they arrived in during the Cylon war. And seeing how Ellen downloaded again into at least a 3rd new body, 3 times removed from the one she was born with, you'd have to conclude that Cavil has a few extra copies of their bodies locked away in storage somewhere, especially given the fact that part of his "thing" was to keep killing them over and over until they admitted he was right about humans and they were wrong about them.

They never mentioned having extra bodies with them as a way of surviving the 2000 year travel, they survived it by other means, so the extra bodies were made by Cavil, using the same technology that made him and the other models, which was in fact the technology used by the Final 5 to begin with, so their programming would have to be the same.

That was my point

The F5 probably didn’t change their nature much. Cavil probably didn’t make the bodies, by the way, as he doesn’t understand resurrection tech on his own. The F5 made their own bodies for the trip, they probably made the spares that Cavil had. He understands something of Cylon-making though

Caprica

My feelings on caprica are very much the same as yours. It is flawed both story-wise and acting-wise, but I feel it has loads of promise. One wonders how we'll look back on this movie if the series sticks and the characters and story are allowed to fully develop. I am curious to see what these characters will be like once they are fully formed and given greater depth over time.

One point about the advanced technology:

You call their use of cars a sort of anachronism, but I don't (more below). I got the impression that Graystone was one of a very select few with access to this kind of advanced technology, either due to his inventing it, or perhaps even his wealth. It's possible that Caprica (and the colonies) are undergoing a sort of technological renaissance, and old technologies will slowly be replaced (or they would were it not for a certain robot uprising).

You will also note that automobiles today are still essentially the same as they were 80 years ago and are still in use, despite the fact that our technology has progressed a thousand fold, and our society is radically different than the 1920's (feels like the dark ages when we look at it now). Cars may be different cosmetically and the technology that operates them is more advanced, but they are more or less the same. I don't find their use of cars that odd.

V-Club

The V-Club is the Opera House. At least it appears to look a bit like it in the DVD extras when the lights are up. Cylon projection is obviously this holoband. Remember the strange device in CIC in the BSG miniseries, perhaps that's the advanced emitter. Once out of range of these emitters, you are out of range of the signal and ability to download. To me, Caprica explained a lot left unresolved in BSG. I am really looking forward to how this series develops and how the humans deal with the various stimuli that come their way. Whether the science is workable is as immaterial to me as knowing how FTL works or whether Mitochondrial Eve was a good choice from a technical standpoint (i.e., to me, this is no documentary but an exploration of humanity).

Holobands and projection

While holobands and Cylon projection are both examples of virtual reality via direct interface, there is no particular reason to see a connection. VR systems are very frequent things in SF stories and dramas. In this case, the Cylon projection was obviously developed by the 13th tribe Cylons on Kobol or Earth-1 (Tyrol is able to do it, after all) and thus would be unrelated to the holobands made by Graystone, at least unrelated in technological ancestry — they may be using the same concepts.

Centurions were also created

Centurions were also created by the 13th tribe. The creation of the technology repeats itself.

There is no reason to not believe the first Cylons on Kobol began as centurion machines... It all happened before and it all will happen again. If that is the case, you can only conclude that if Tyrol can project, then the Kobolian/Earth Cylons also had virtual reality technology programs at one point. The first centurion on Caprica was made using virtual reality, Zoe is a virtual being, all Cylon projection does is project a virtual world, it's not real, it is a virtual reality, and it came from the same creator at the same time... It is CLEARLY an evolution of the holoband technology.

My point is that the

My point is that the holobands and Cylon projection are obviously not the same technology, but independent inventions of the same or similar tech. Cylon projection dates back to Earth or Kobol, while holobands were developed on Caprica, independently, by Graystone. He did not get them from the Earth Cylons. They were not even there yet. On the other hand, as they are compatible, I presume the projection of the 7 Cylons came from the Earth Cylons, not from the holobands. Though it could be either, but as the 7 Cylons were made by the Earth ones, that route makes more sense.

...oh. Wow.

'Cylon projection is obviously this holoband. Remember the strange device in CIC in the BSG miniseries, perhaps that's the advanced emitter. '

The first sentence is no new thought for me -- even if Tyrol can Project, it's only with Boomer's help from memory, and it certainly takes him by surprise ('Someone To Watch Over Me' -- hey, look at my Wiki impersonation...!). There's simply too much to plumb as a writer in terms of Projection/VR to not go there somehow.

But the second sentence is something I totally did not consider. If the Cylons could not only Project but to a limited degree force Projection, then we have an explanation for the shared Visions of Laura, Baltar and Boomer regarding the Opera House. All prophetic value aside, I'd really appreciate a slightly less 'divine' explanation for those shared visions/dreams. And then there was the episode with Adama seemingly Projecting with his ex- (and presumed dead) wife. To me, that was a clincher: of course he's a Cylon if he can do that -- especially considering the emphasis on Projecting at around that time in the series. But that'd make Baltar a Cylon too, because he's technically been Projecting since the destruction of the Colonies...oh man, is EVERYONE a cylon? (Of course not).

So I like this! The notion of forced VR interpretted as visions. And while the Cylons themselves might not be able to see the future, they have an 'Angel' on their side too, in the form of Six's 'head' Baltar -- who I hope to see more of in 'The Plan'.

Sure, the ultimate answer is still 'Gog did it', but I much prefer His mysterious ways over the blatant, and I get the feeling so does He.

I still think RDM got it

I still think RDM got it wrong and his attempts to reinvent aether don't make it go any better. After the final series frnachise killer I'm not looking forward to 'The Plan'. It's like some drunk in the bar who can't stop taking one last swing. BSG could've ended much better and opened the door to a more interesting and greatly expanded universe but RDM killed that dead because he was too arrogant or vain to admit he'd lost the plot. Something less blatant and what I fear will be a technocratic TV movie would be prefered but I'm not sure RDM can deliver that.

Maybe,,,,,

Greystone designs a holo technology thats very similar to Cylon tech past and future....
He's even designed a Cylon that looks like a past and future Cylon...
Isn't it possible that his hand is being guided by someone? Perhaps via his remarkably brainy daughter. Who in turn is possibly being manipulated by Sister Clarice? I got the definite impression she knew how things were going to turn out for Zoe. I cant wait to see more.

Similarities

Well, the final five have not arrived at this point, and the past Cylon you refer to is from their planet, not from Kobol as far as we know. And the projection they do is also from their planet. If it came originally from Kobol, it’s not clear how it got to Graystone, except as you say through the intervention of agents of the god.

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