Wednesday, February 17, 2010

TVOD: Caprica and the Spi-Fi Ascendency

OK, I need to rinse the rancid taste of Braintree out of my mouth...

A lot of you may have seen this already, but I'm so jazzed on this series I want to make sure the rest of you do as well. This is the prequel to the Battlestar Galactica revamp, but it's grabbed me in a way that BSG still has not (never fear, the missus and I have the first season DVDs and plan to dig into them soon).

There are several aspects to this show that have really hooked me. First is the alternate reality vibe of Caprica itself- it's no much a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away as an other-dimensional version of 21st Century Earth (particularly considering we're currently trying to build our own Cylons). I've always been sold on that concept. It's an old standby in comic books (Earth 2, 3, 4, etc) and in a way in Ed McBain's 86th Precinct novels (set in the fictional city of Isola) or his Matthew Hope novels (set in a fictional Florida exurb).

It's almost as if by taking a step back from our reality- or looking at it through a mirror- we can better understand ourselves. But it also gives lots of room for the imagination to run free and rewrite our histories and reconfigure our environments.

Second, Caprica is part of the sudden revival of cyberpunk, specifically the immersive virtual reality environments in William Gibson's seminal Sprawl novels (or his Matrix novels if you prefer). Lots of really mediocre-to-horrible cyberpunk films in the 90s tarnished the brand (one of which- Johnny Mnemonic - Gibson is partly to blame for) and the fizzle of VR hype soured people on the concepts. But the immersive environments of Avatar seem to have reawakened the VR meme, and we're also looking down the barrel at the same dystopian conditions that Gibson prophesied. And I mean "prophesied" quite literally.

Which brings me to my next point- like the Sprawl novels, Caprica is a landmark in the burgeoning Spi-Fi (or spiritual sci-fi) movement. Meaning that spiritual concepts like reincarnation and resurrection - and yes, apotheosis- are playing out in a technological context (as is a very compelling subplot of religious extremism). And the whole idea of an artificial intelligence achieving not only sentience but spirit is straight out of the Gibson playbook.

The main conceit here- the very origin of the Cylon race- is ripped straight from my favorite all-time short story, Gibson's 'The Winter Market', in which a gifted cyberspace artist reincarnates in the Matrix. Read this:
I looked down at my feet and saw my toes clear of the edge of concrete, the water between them. I was wearing Japanese shoes, new and expensive, glove-leather Ginza monkey boots with rubber-capped toes. I stood there for a long time before I took that first step back.

Because she was dead, and I'd let her go.

Because, now, she was immortal, and I'd helped her get that way.

And because I knew she'd phone me, in the morning.

fans know what I'm talking about here.

It's a shame that it will all have to end badly- well, at least until the events of the BSG series finale- but I'm really looking forward to the ride. Apparently the show hasn't found its audience yet- at least not in the Friday night death slot, but I'm willing to be a lot more people are doing what I've been doing and watching it on DVR or online.

It kills me that this and Fringe are put in such tough slots in the weekly schedule, but perhaps by now the nets have factored in all of the viewers coming in from secondary sources. I hope so-I desperately need this stuff. The Fringe winter finale kicked my ass so damn hard I'm still having trouble sitting down.

I'm willing to bet SyFy is in it for at least two seasons, since Ronald Moore (who cut his spi-fi teeth on my beloved Deep Space Nine) is someone whom they want to stay on the good side of.

More on this in the days to come. Non-US readers, try this.


  1. You know, it's odd Chris you haven't gotten into BSG, and yet are connecting with Caprica, some of the themes that you are marveling about, Reincarnation, resurrection, and Apotheosis, become very present from season two through four in BSG. Ironcially, the cylons have to give up ability to resurrect / reincarnate in order to survive as it develops, as well as the ancient astronaut meme that comes into play.

  2. Oh, it's not odd at all. When BSG kicked off I wasn't watching any TV that wasn't an X-Files rerun. I tried jumping in the second and third seasons but hadn't a clue what was going on. That newbie-unfriendliness never went away so I was never able to hop aboard. Hence the first season DVDs...

  3. I've been watching CAPRICA, and I'm very impressed. It is simply good film-making and engaging storytelling. Both are rare these days. Episodic television seems to be the high point of the film industry these days.

  4. Geez, looks like Eric Stoltz has fallen on hard times: "Out!" "What?" "It was as out as can be!"Activate the line sensor!"

    I mean who writes this dialogue? Some tin-eared dingbat. "I have faith in you. She'll be perfect... because you're perfect!" Oh dear.

    "So say we all!"

  5. I think Caprica is off to a good start, and I like how they're exploring the origins of the Cylons' monotheism (you really need to watch those DVDs!). Some might quibble over details, but for me it speaks to how most all religions begin and grow.

  6. Totally off topic, Chris. But I thought of what you said about looking out for water or symbols of water. Last night, during the men's short skate program at the Olympics, the design around the wall of the ice was a wavy green and blue motif that looked very aquatic. I actually think they were going for a mountain interpretation but it gave the impression of waves to me.

  7. King Tut's DNA article revealed today, the 17th.

    Also, did you see this?

    Whistleblower Laura Magdalene Eisenhower, Ike’s great-granddaughter, outs secret Mars colony project.....

    In a public statement, Laura Magdalene Eisenhower, left, great-granddaughter of former President Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969), has exposed her attempted recruitment from April 2006 through January 2007 by a secret Mars colony project.

  8. What's the semiotic symbolism of the name 'Zoe Greystone'? The actress does look like a younger Zoe Deschanel, but I'm sure it's more mythic than that... I love all the fedoras the dudes wear on Caprica... the crowns are tapered so they look more contemporary than retro... and what phonemics are happening in the Taurean language? They're more 'Mediterranean' than the Capricans... we see Asian characters... are they from elsewhere in the Zodiacal planetary federation? Just askin'. Is this backstory all summarized somewhere or is the exposition what we're being shown?

  9. Not sure what to make of this, Chris. There is no known great-granddaughter of Eisenhower named Laura Magdalene Eisenhower. Hmmm. Did Red Ice not check the source?

  10. The first time in my life that I got so scared that I hid behind the sofa and had nightmares for a month was because of Dr Who and the arrival of the Cybermen!

    Now there are the Cylons and they have a religion (Monotheism, well there's a surprise)and I am no less uneasy, and no less 'Borged-out' than when I was little.

    I haven't watched Caprica other than clips, but of course it resonates with Capricorn: a constellation identified by the Babylonians, who saw it as the fish-goat, associated with their God Ea 'the antelope of the subterranean ocean', no less.

    The colouring of the series is interesting with mostly black & white & blue and a little red......Chrome-ish, very Metropolis in the Season One opening theme, in fact very Futurama.

    Sorry I have'nt got the dosh or will to get the DVDs.

    Lovely day in London town today and a very pretty moon.

  11. C!- Scifi TV, at least. I've gotten to a weird point where if it's not genre I don't want to know about it.

    River- It seems that Moore pulled a lot of ideas from the Borg during his time in the Trekoverse.

    LD- I don't know what to make of that story. With anything like that I need to see some evidence and I haven't yet.

    Ned- Zoe- Life / Grey-stone- Metal. Metallic Life.

    I have been wondering if fedoras will make a comeback among the con crowd.

    Flossy- Which doctor? Keep watching- maybe we can start a Caprica Club here.

  12. When I see the name Zoe or Oz something inside pulls me to Zoraster. Conventional theory is he was born around 450 BC, but the Greeks in Plato's time were convinced he was born thousands of years pre Plato. His birth place Afghanistan! The land were all empires end their reign as if it is a ritual. Sort of like what were doing right now!

  13. Neddie- resend that comment- I saw the html and hit reject before I saw your tag. I get killed with URL spam here.


  14. Pardon my off-topicness, but speaking about aquatic memes.....

    look who's back!

    Have a great day!

  15. Right I was saying... if any Sunsters think it worthwhile to order themselves the best custom-designed fedora currently available... to properly command respect at the next Con(hats work!)... Art Fawcett, formerly of LA, now up in Oregon is generally acknowledged as the current top master-craftsman of Art Deco 'skypieces'...

  16. Chris, I just checked out First Wave on the Sci-Fy channel. If you didn't know it's about an alien invasion and Mabus is the leader for Armageddon. The protagonist is subject 117. This is from '98-'00 produced by Francis Ford Coppola. Just saying.

  17. I have just watched the "Caprica" pilot. Last summer the production crew and cast were filming here in the Coal Harbour area of downtown Vancouver. After watching the show it is weird that the cyborg/Cylon experiment that runs amok has an odd connection to the Winter Olympics in the city.

    The opening ceremony where the mechanical and futuristic multi-torch has a weird mechanical failure seems suggestive of the series theme. Also more weird is to have the external torch or cauldron permanently located here in Coal Harbour the same place where the Cyborg evolution story plays out every summer. I wonder if there is a bizzare connection between Cyborg development and Vancouver that I don't know about.

  18. Yay Caprica plug :D

    I love how Zoe referred to herself as a "trinity" being human, virtual/avatar, and a mix of both in the Cylon body.

    Now we know why the Cylons could go into those internal worlds in BSG, they're all on the holoband!

  19. You may know this, but BSG has a miniseries pilot that goes before the first season. You can enjoy it without seeing that but you probably shouldn't.

    When Galactica finished, I lost all interest in watching TV because I felt, and still do, that it's not possible to make a better TV show than that. I also won't see Caprica, mostly because the bandwidth would be too expensive for me, but also because the events in Galactica are the best part of the storyline. It wouldn't be possible for Caprica to be better than Galactica, and there's always a small chance that it might contaminate my experience.

    I should also mention that while the early seasons are clearly head and shoulders above the quality and content of any other TV show, it gets so awesome after a certain point in season 2 that everything that comes before that pales in comparison.