[Minor spoilers for Rebirth, major ones for Pilot]
Caprica on SyFy is getting better and better. The writers keep bringing on those details us sci-fi geeks love. Caprican seedy drug world! Planetary anthem! Little Tauron neighborhood! I must note that this first episode after the two-hour pilot (which would be episode zero) opened with a gorgeous series intro that reminded me of those newer SyFy channel promos. Very well done! Check it out here:
This episode focused mostly on the Graystones, and we begin as Daniel Graystone tries to fulfill his robot order to the Caprican military. He needs to program 100,000 Cylons and so far the MCP device that allowed him to transfer Zoe into a mechanical Cylon (a U-87) isn’t replicating correctly and he’s ending up with a bunch of units that aren’t responding well to commands. Meanwhile the prototype we saw from the Pilot that has Zoe’s programming is hiding in plain sight- she doesn’t want anyone but her best friend Lacy to know that she’s still there behind the glowing red eye. (I think Cesar the Dog knows!)
Esaí Morales’ Adama didn’t do much in this episode. However, we see how his character evolves from complete rejection of the “resurrection” concept to a somewhat sad acceptance that he misses his daughter and wife too much to let go completely.
Olaf and Zoe
I didn’t realize we had at least one other cast member of Latin American heritage! The Canadian of Haitian heritage Panou plays Olaf Willow, a member of Sister Clarice’s family. I don’t actually recall if he’s in this episode, but Clarice did introduce him. Panou (one name) has been in other science fiction TV series in minor roles including Stargate Atlantis, SG-1, and Sanctuary. Here’s hoping that his Caprica role gets more interesting.
I like that Caprica allows itself a sense of humor. Battlestar Galactica rarely got that privilege considering the context. In this episode Shmoo Serge, the Graystone robotic butler, had a great line that made me laugh out loud. Also Sam Adama has an interesting sense of humor, dark, but practical. We see him showing his nephew Will some mafia techniques. The lab assistants Philomon and his (unnamed?) lab partner are also amusing although I don’t think they’re meant to be.
One thing I didn’t notice from seeing the Pilot the first time was that the MCP device that Graystone stole came from the Vergis Corporation on Tauron. That changed my concept of that planet and again, made me want to see more of it. So it isn’t just a war-torn planet without flowers- can we get some space travel and have a look?
The new Battlestar Galactica series Caprica (SyFy) begins fifty eight years before the fall of Caprica to the Cylons. We finally get to see what life was like before humanity ended up living in run-down spaceships jumping from place to place in an attempt to outrun the Cylons. You don’t need to have seen BSG to understand the Caprica prequel, but you would certainly have a different perspective considering future events.
This is a richly created world. The details are wonderful. Little things like mourning customs, a silly “So Say We All” hand gesture (nice try, but glad it didn’t survive the genocide), the Pyramid sports game that for some reason reminded me of Quidditch…
In Caprica City, teenagers don’t merely flirt online; they enter virtual nightclubs where every type of decadence is permitted. The Holoband technology that allows this is the Caprican answer to the holodeck. (Bonus- when you get scanned for your avatar you tingle.) House robots that resemble large floating dildos guard your house. Levtrains looking eerily like Cylons transport the masses. Extremely large deity statues benignly observe the Pyramid games. Proto-centurions play paintball with mechanical Shmoos.
Not everything is a utopia. There is a terrorist organization called the Soldiers of the One, a monotheistic group amongst the gods-worshipping Colonials. Prejudice according to what planet you’re from substitutes for racism.
Daniel Graystone, the creative genius behind the Holoband and Joseph Adama, lawyer, both lose family members in the same event, and they “coincidentally” meet while having a smoke. They end up talking for hours about their loss over coffee and more cigarettes.
Joseph Adama, played by Esaí Morales, is a lawyer from the planet Tauron, the “racial” underdog of Caprica. He and his brother Sam are orphans due to a Tauron uprising and civil war. Adama is an unbeliever of sorts and lives in the city with his mother in law and son Billy (future Admiral Adama). His brother Sam is a member of the Tauron mafia and has the tattoos to prove it. Seems like Adama gets to defend Tauron syndicate members in court but isn’t involved directly with them so he can feel ethical about it. Yet during this episode he gets called upon to do dirty work not only for the syndicate but also for Graystone. He doesn’t get a break. He routinely deals with anti-Tauron prejudice, even to the extent of modifying his surname to fit in. He can’t quit smoking. He has to deal with a nagging mother-in-law. The one bright spot in his life is his son. It’s a rich character for Morales to interpret.
The Caprica series looks very promising. I was a bit worried by the promos heavily featuring the decadent virtual V-Club and Graystone’s daughter- naked. Looks like it will be an excellent addition to the BSG world. Hopefully we’ll get to see some more planets during the series. Tauron would be a good place to start. Gemenon too, since it might be related to the Soldiers of the One.
Lunar Braceros (Calaca Press, 2009) is a science fiction novella set in a dystopian 22nd century in which class relations have taken a turn for the worse and where corporate greed is barely limited by the State. The United States is no longer united; after an east-west war some U.S. states joined several Mexican states to form a new political entity called Cali-Texas. An association of the top multinationals has formed the New Imperial Order and control just about everything, including governments.
The unemployed and homeless are rounded up in Reservations, where they are forced to work as cheap labor to pay for their upkeep unless they can get a job outside the reservation or have the smarts to go to college for an in-demand position. Earth has no more room for trash, and since humans depend increasingly on nuclear energy, corporations have decided to ship off some waste to Earth’s moon. They also expand the lunar mining business and begin establishing lunar colonies. The main character, Lydia, is a Reservation resident who joins the burgeoning resistance movement with her brother and gets sent to prison for her troubles. To get out early and send money to her family (thus freeing them from the Reservation) she signs up to use her computer skills as a lunar waste worker. While there, Lydia and her coworkers discover a horrifying truth that forces them to reevaluate their jobs and create a new resistance, this time on the moon.
While I found the concept very interesting and different, I wasn’t particularly fond of Lunar Bracero’s narrative style. It is contrived so different people jump in telling bits of the story and world history to a ten year old boy- often making it read like a lecture. I preferred the parts where it seemed more real-time, drawing you into the action. Also, because the story is set up so only the rebellion sympathizers are speaking, you get a very limited view of the world. The ones telling the story are the little boy’s family and friends, so the voices are biased, presenting themselves (the poor people) as inherently good, and the rich capitalists (if we see them at all) as evil or at best indifferent. Still, it is refreshing to see the point of view of the oppressed and their grassroots efforts at improving their situation when a lot of sci-fi tends to focus on solitary heroic figures or present a top-down approach. Another thing I liked was the mixture of cultures and a strong, smart, female presence.
Shorts (2009) is a Robert Rodríguez family film narrated by a boy who finds a rock with mysterious powers, and this leads him and his neighbors into more trouble than it’s worth. The film focuses on different characters at a time in separate “shorts” that tie together. Basically each short shows how different characters use and abuse the wishing rock. The narrator, Toby Thompson, lives in Black Falls Community, at the center of which is Black Inc., makers of the all-in-one gadget the Black Box. The Box is a phone, a vacuum cleaner, a pet groomer, and a shredder, amongst thousands of uses. Unfortunately the Box is facing stiff competition from imitation products and Black Inc.’s owner, Mr. Carbon Black, is on a rampage to get the Black Box upgrade out to crush the competition.
The film uses the Black Box as a glaring metaphor for all that keeps us from connecting in real life with our friends and family. While the parents and teachers are distracted by their jobs and black boxes, the kids are running around making dangerous wishes. The movie has its amusing moments for us adults, but mostly it is silly fun for kids. The timeline isn’t straightforward so it keeps you interested. There are some great performances by the children, especially Jolie Vanier (playing Helvetica Black), and by veteran actors James Spader (Mr. Black) and William H. Macy (Dr. Noseworthy) as the company germaphobe.