Caprica’s pilot episode on Sky One

The prequel series to Battlestar Gallactica – Caprica – started tonight on Sky One. Now, a moment of full disclosure: Battlestar Gallactica is one of those massive sci-fi series that I’ve steered clear of out of sheer terror. BSG had/has an enormous geek following, and it’s difficult to break into a series that is so well-established, so late on.

Caprica is a fresh start for an old series. It begins with an orgy of sex and violence (a strong start?) which turns out to be some kind of virtual world that three school children are inhabiting. Back in the real world, the three are planning to run away from home together. One of them chickens out, the other two get on a train together. But here’s the shocker – one of them is a suicide bomber who promptly proceeds to blow the train to pieces.

Zoe – one of the two who died on the train – is the daughter of a wealthy inventor, creator of the visor technology that allows access to this virtual world. He discovers Zoe’s friend using the technology and discovers a digital ‘replica’ of his daughter stuck in the VR world. He very quickly works out that this advanced technology could help his business out of a rut – and captures the digital Zoe to analyse.

After hearing that Battlestar Gallactica was a futuristic series, I expected a reality far removed from our own. In fact, many of the styles of dress hark back to the 50’s while the clearly advanced technology is light years ahead. There are subtle differences in speech – the characters talk of ‘worlds’ and ‘gods’ as plurals, so for the newbies like me, that’s intriguing.

The pilot of Caprica mostly follows two fathers who lost relatives in the bombing – Daniel Graystone (played by Eric Stoltz) whose daughter Zoe has a digital replica hidden in a virtual world, and Joseph Adama (Esai Morales), a lawyer whose wife and daughter died in the bombing but who has a living son. When Graystone discovers his daughter’s secret, he sees the possibility to bring her back to life. This raises some complicated ethical issues for the bereaved parents.

Set some 50 years before the events of the BSG series, Caprica gives us the birth of the Cylon technology which will be interesting for BSG fans. A minor grumble is the inclusion of Eric Stoltz, mostly because I’ve always thought he looked like a more serious Michael J Fox. Still, he carries off the role of the bereaved father with the right amount of sincerity, and manages to horrify us whenever he ruthlessly captures the technology of Zoe’s replica in order to analyse it.

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