The End of the Beginning: Thoughts on Caprica’s Cancellation

Brief Thoughts on Caprica’s Cancellation

October 27th, 2010

Battlestar Galactica was so novel because it merged the world of the space opera with the special effects-laden battles that we expect from blockbuster cinema. If the series was only one of these things, I think that it would have been half as popular as it was: the former kept you engaged, while the former punctuated key moments (“Exodus: Part Two” immediately comes to mind).

Caprica ultimately failed – having been canceled earlier today – because it was entirely the former. It was more soap than space, and its heavier science fiction elements were peddling complex identity politics – that Battlestar framed in terms of relationships or terrorism – at face value. In reality, this made for a decently engaging television program that deserved a larger audience, but it’s nearly impossible to recommend the series to someone. With Battlestar there was that sense of surprise, wonder over the notion of a mature, intelligent series featuring aliens and space battles – people tuned in because it seemed like a novelty, the same kind of audience which has allowed Friday Night Lights to become a cult hit as opposed to a forgotten gem. Caprica, meanwhile, is what it is: there’s no surprise, and there’s certainly no punctuation, and so the show was almost destined to fail.

It doesn’t help, of course, that SyFy is moving on with a new project that takes the other half of Battlestar and spins it off. BSG: Blood and Chrome is, as Jeremy Mongeau puts it, “demo-friendly”: it’s going to have plenty of action, deal with younger characters who may be more appealing to audiences, and its effect-heavy production elements are likely to appeal to those who found Caprica slow or “boring.” It’s unfortunate that they couldn’t have found a way to make both spinoffs work, or to build one spin-off that could appeal to both sides of Battlestar’s appeal, but this is the situation that we’ve found ourselves in.

I’ll watch Blood and Chrome out of curiousity, don’t get me wrong, but I am really uncomfortable with the message being sent here. I will not necessarily miss Caprica: some great performances, sure, but the show was uneven and I am not desperate to see how it resolves its first and only season (or even to see the remaining episodes). However, I mourn the idea of Caprica, the notion that a complex science fiction drama series can survive on cable – I don’t blame SyFy for making this decision, but I do anticipate that they will be producing nothing even close to Caprica in the future. It’s all going to be science fiction procedurals like Warehouse 13, science fiction action series like Blood and Chrome (which is the network’s answer to Spartacus), and B-Movies like Sharktopus.

SyFy was the last home for shows like this one: unless someone can convince HBO or Showtime that science fiction is an area they need to investigate, it seems as if we are at a point where smart, complex science fiction truly has no home but in our imaginations and on our DVD shelves.

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12 Comments

Filed under Caprica

12 responses to “The End of the Beginning: Thoughts on Caprica’s Cancellation

  1. There have been dark times in science fiction TV before. Before the 1990’s, there was Star Trek, and that was about it. Babylon 5 showed that a series could last that wasn’t Trek-based, and the X-Files (while obviously not a space opera) showed the potential for crossover. Battlestar Galactica showed up towards the end of this era – or perhaps even resurrected it after it had already collapsed.

    In other words, all this has happened before, and all this will happen again?

    I would like to see what HBO could come up with if they aimed for a space opera or hard SF show.

    • Tausif Khan

      Star Trek earned a rebirth through first run syndication. With cable original programming and the death of Legend of the Seeker the first run syndication possibility may be dead.

  2. belinda

    Imagine how freaking awesome it would be if AMC and RDMoore work together to make an AMC scifi show.

    I can understand Syfy’s decision, and Caprica never did quite live up to what it could have been, but I’m still a bit disappointed. (Especially since I read somewhere that 5 remaining episodes will be aired (again) at some later time). The show’s dead, and there’s probably going to be a cliffhanger ending, but I still have to wait yet a few months to finally finish up watching the show?)

    • Tausif Khan

      Apparently Ron D. Moore has a couple of pilots in the works. One is a remake of The Wild Wild West for NBC. Ron D. Moore is also not attached to BSG: Blood and Chrome this is Michael Taylor’s baby alone.

      I wonder if I trust BSG writers without Ron D. Moore after “Persons Unknown”

  3. Tausif Khan

    2 points:

    Myles I really, really think you should watch the last two episodes of Caprica. I felt the last three episodes were very muddle but that I feel that is only because they were trying to radical reorganize the origins of the story without upsetting what has already happened.

    The episode before the one that aired this last Tuesday night is a very complex story about identity/written by Drew Z. Greenberg (with I believe references to Buffy)/ Connections to BSG themes. I can not recommend this to you enough just on the risk it is taking in plumming through so much information to focus on identity within a single hour. Please, please catchup and share your thoughts.

    My second point is that I am now scared of cable executives as well. Once for me the beacon of hope for television auteurs like the 3 Davids (Milch, Chase and Simon), Matthew Weiner, Shawn Ryan and Kurt Sutter it is now turning to decisions made similar to those on broadcast networks. ABC Family canceled Friday Night Lights and now Syfy has canceled Caprica. Where is intelligent programing to run to now?

    • To be fair, ABC Fam removed FNL reruns when they underperformed. Even the most prestigious cable networks have removed underperforming reruns.

      • Tausif Khan

        That is my point actually. I am not blaming ABC Family or Syfy at all. I just thought cable was the place where low rated critically acclaimed shows could survive given cable’s added revenue source from subscriptions. NBC did manage to keep Friday Night Lights alive for 3 seasons on their own. I thought a cable channel would give it a while to find its audience (more like a few months). Looks like the leash is shorter and that scares me.

        I was surprised that ABC Family took on Friday Night Lights at all given Becky’s storyline in the fourth season and that in one of its slots the show was preceded by 700 club and is on the same network as Gilmore Girls and The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

        The thing that has shocked me in all of this is that both Caprica and Friday Night Lights (cable version) were both axed before Running Wilde.

  4. Eleanor (undeadgoat)

    Yeah–I had been really excited/hopeful about Caprica, because they were so successful in building an utterly alien yet totally familiar world–and then the first episode had some “strange” character choices, unnecessary suspense (we didn’t know if Zoe *or* Amanda was still alive, those revelations didn’t both need to wait for the end of the episode), oh and also laptops with QWERTY keyboards. I mean come on, every single computer we have seen, even those belonging to programmers, has been touch-controlled, and now all of a sudden you’re using “Space Skype” instead of straight-up videophoning?

  5. Red

    It did a lot of world building w/ great ideas about family, technology, artificial intelligence, culture, religion, the afterlife, politics, business and all kinds of possibilities. With compelling and complex characters, many of whom were women and girls. Things that i want from good drama and sci fi.

    But, Caprica had no space fights so it got cancelled. Frak SyFy. I no longer have any reason to watch that channel. At least not until next year when they air the last episodes.

    And what was the point of airing 9 eps, wait 6 months, air 3 eps, then cancel and air the last 4 or so eps yet another 3 mos later? No wonder the audience was shrinking.

    eta: lots of great articles out there lamenting its end. I really like this one http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/10/rip-caprica-we-hardly-frakking-knew-you#more

  6. mike

    Write in campaigns have started. A rabid fan has spoken and is trying to get people organized.

    http://www.mycomicbookcrisis.com

  7. Moosey

    Caprica is just a typical blow to us “intelligent television” watchers (i.e., those of us who recognize impeccable productions, generally don’t care whether action portrayed is physical or not, like what the common-man might call “slow” or “boring”). Caprica and Rubicon dieing in the same year was particularly sad.

  8. Owen Taylor

    When SyFy bought into “wrasling” I knew the end was near. Alas.

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