Category Archives: Caprica

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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Season Premiere: Caprica – “Unvanquished”

“Unvanquished”

October 5th, 2010

Returning to numbers below its performance earlier this year, Caprica seems to be heading for an early death. On the one hand, this disappoints me: as a fan of this franchise, I am interested in seeing where the show might be headed. However, watching “Unvanquished” I realized that I do not feel any particular need for the series to continue. There is a decided lack of urgency to the way we approach the series: I’m co-editing Antenna this month, and I concur with Derek Johnson’s question mark in regards to our anticipation regarding the series’ return (in fact, I couldn’t prepare his piece for publication until I watched the finale, which only happened last night, thus proving his thesis).

What’s fascinating is that “Unvanquished” seems like an incredibly intelligent start to the second half of the season and yet does nothing to make the series seem more exciting; it seems more logically planned out, but logic is not enough to convince me that this show deserves to be saved.

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The Stealth Launch: Lie to Me and Caprica Return on Short Notice

The Stealth Launch: Lie to Me, Caprica Return

October 4th, 2010

This week marks the return of two series which were supposed to remain on the bench for a bit longer.

FOX’s Lie to Me was originally scheduled to return in November, but its third season will slot behind House (where it was last season) starting tonight at 9/8c.

SyFy’s Caprica, meanwhile, wasn’t going to return until January, but the decision was made to pair the conclusion of the series’ first season (10/9c) with the return of Stargate Universe on Tuesday.

As someone who was compelled by Caprica, and who finds Lie to Me to be a solid procedural, I should be excited by these returns. However, both because of a general lack of promotion in one case and a sheer lack of warning in the other, these series risk being missed by their prospective audience. While there is some value to flying under the radar, and it is possible that reduced awareness could lead to reduced expectation, I can’t help but feel that these series are being put in a position where sooner is not necessarily better.

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Season Finale: Caprica – “End of Line”

“End of Line”

March 26th, 2010

While I hadn’t seen “End of Line” before writing my post about Caprica’s memorable scenes and their impact on its storytelling earlier today, I could feel myself posturing towards the finale throughout writing it. While I liked “End of Line” just fine, its position as a hackneyed [mid]season finale designed to allow SyFy to split up its original programming across different quarters meant that it would be pretty much forced to push the stories that haven’t had the same sort of thematic dialogue and striking sequences as Zoe’s story to some sort of conclusion sooner than might be ideal.

And while I know Battlestar Galactica got a reputation for its cliffhangers, I don’t think Caprica is particularly good at them, especially with its pacing as it is. The result was an episode that forced every story along like it was a high speed chase, leaving no time to really stop and consider the consequences or the thematic ramifications in the process. The few stories that had a chance to stop and slow down turned out alright, and those desperate for plot advancement are probably somewhat appeased, but “End of Line” is very clearly not the end of the line, and the usual slow build that defines the series was entirely absent in an episode that offered some good thrills but left out the chills.

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Scene-ic Storytelling: Philosophy and Memorability in SyFy’s Caprica

Scene-ic Storytelling in SyFy’s Caprica

March 25th, 2010

I was listening to last week’s episode of the Firewall and Iceberg podcast, where Alan and Dan were explaining how hard it is to pick your favourite episode of a television show. I concur with their evasion of the question at hand, as picking a favourite episode of a serialized television series seems disadvantageous while picking a favourite episode of a comedy is so highly subjective that it’s a bit dangerous, but I have a followup question: could we pick a favourite scene?

I find this, when I think about it, considerably easier. While picking a single episode of The Wire is impossible, picking a favourite scene seems like it’s possible: sure, there’s still too many to choose from (McNuggets, Chess, FuCSI, Co-Op Meeting, etc.), but we’re more comfortable singling out scenes because there’s an expectation that what we select will capture the quality we most admire in the show being discussed without the baggage that comes with an episode of ensemble, serialized drama which goes in various different directions.

There is a lot of power in scenes to tell a story, or to capture a viewer’s attention. The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds, both nominated for Best Picture this year, are effectively a series of vignettes which rely on being making both collective and individual impressions, building character by creating unforgettable tension and suspense from various circumstances. And on the comic end of the spectrum, Noel Murray’s fantastic A Very Special Episode series at The A.V. Club turned its attention on The Simpsons’ “22 Short Stories About Springfield” episode this week, and the wealth of comments on the post demonstrate that its collection of short vignettes are perhaps amongst the most quotable and memorable scenes in the series’ run precisely because they are part of an episode which admits to being a collection of scenes rather than a cohesive episode.

I raise this question because I want to talk about SyFy’s Caprica, a show that has thus far been more successful at creating memorable scenes than at creating memorable characters or stories. Ending the first half of its first season with a finale of sorts this evening on SyFy and SPACE, the show has used scenes with deep philosophical meaning and implication in order to create a lasting impression that makes me want to see more even when I don’t have as much of a vested interest in what I see in the rest of each episode. These scenes, at times single-handedly, have made Caprica into a show I admire a great deal, but at the same time they are doing nothing to alleviate concerns that some viewers seem to have about plot and character in the show’s universe.

Some thoughts on why this is, and why I think this sort of “scene-ic storytelling” is good for the show in the long run, after the jump.

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Caprica – “The Imperfections of Memory”

“The Imperfections of Memory”

March 12th, 2010

One of the largest concerns that many seem to be citing when explaining their dislike of SyFy’s Caprica is “poor pacing,” which isn’t an uncommon complaint of any serialized drama. Really, Caprica is trapped between the two most common circumstances where pacing becomes a concern: not only is it a new series that is taking a while to get to the bulk of its story, but it’s also being (unfairly) viewed as a continuation of a previous series, which creates other expectations about how fast the show should (or shouldn’t) be moving. For some it’s starting from scratch, and for others it’s having to contend with concerns over pacing that plagued the final season of Battlestar Galactica.

I don’t intend to repeat my previous argument on why I disapprove of the latter concern, but the former issues are legitimate and, to some degree, quite accurate. “The Imperfections of Memory” reminds us that this is in some ways the story of a group of people stumbling into knowledge that we as an audience (regardless of whether we’ve seen BSG) already know, and watching that unfold can be at times a slow and unsatisfying process.

However, personally, I think there’s something interesting about watching the process of discovery, and the power that yields has thus far been worth the slow build, and worth the sideways momentum, and worth the “poor” pacing so long as it’s building to something as philosophically intriguing as it seems to be.

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Caprica – “Know Thy Enemy”

“Know Thy Enemy”

March 5th, 2010

I don’t intend to miss Caprica every week, really, but I’ve been busy the last few Friday nights and it’s always taken me a few days to get to the latest episode. This isn’t a show that I find myself anticipating each week, perhaps, but it is a show that really captures my attention while I’m watching it, which is ultimately more important so long as I’m not spoiled before I get the chance to watch the latest episode.

“Know Thy Enemy” isn’t quite as tonally rich as last week’s episode, but it does a few things that I think are working really well for the series, a sign of its quiet confidence rather than its confident ambition.

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Caprica – “There is Another Sky”

“There is Another Sky”

February 26th, 2010

Early last week, I posted some thoughts which had been percolating for a while about SyFy’s Caprica, in particular how some people just can’t seem to get over the fact that it’s connected to Battlestar Galactica and judge it based on its own merits. And while I didn’t get to this week’s episode, “There is Another Sky” when it aired on Friday, I did notice that I wasn’t the only one with this point of view: both Todd and James came out with much the same perspective after this week’s entry, which indicated that the show’s roll continued into its fifth episode.

“There is Another Sky” is probably not the best episode of the show thus far, but I would argue it may be the most significant. You see, while I wrote last week about how the show shouldn’t be judged solely on its connections to the world of Battlestar Galactica, this week painted a picture (and visited a world) which offers a serious expansion of the Caprican landscape that blows this series wide open and yet simultaneously narrows in on what we know will happen in the future thanks to our BSG knowledge.

And by managing to juggle these two roles so successfully, Caprica remains on a rather exciting journey, whether you know the destination or not.

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Battlestar Baggage: Why SyFy’s Caprica Deserves to be Judged On its Own Merits

Battlestar Baggage: SyFy’s Caprica

February 23rd, 2010

Early on in a show’s run, there is always room for improvement. Every show will take time to find its feet, and whether it’s a rough pilot or a case of pilot repetition or a character that feels underdeveloped, all freshman series will have points of contention.

This doesn’t mean that, from a critical perspective, we forgive the show these problems, but it also means that we don’t rake a series over the coals for them. The critic’s job becomes almost like a meteorologist’s, analyzing the storm patterns (the cast, the plot’s general direction, the world-building, etc.) that could eventually develop into a great series or fizzle out quickly. It’s still very much a personal analysis of the situation: Starz’ Spartacus: Blood and Sand was written off by many critics (myself included) as something which would never evolve into anything worthwhile, but I’m hearing from a lot of fans that the show (so long as you lowered your expectations based on the quality of the pilot) is surprising them, so this (like meteorology) is not a precise science in the least.

It’s not often that I’ll outright question negative responses to particular series I enjoy, but I’ll come right out and say it: I don’t get the tepid response to SyFy’s Caprica. Judged as a new series, Caprica has overcome a weak pilot with a series of episodes that demonstrate a clear sense of the world being depicted, offer a complicated moral tightrope for the characters to walk, and take their time in order to let the show’s fantastic sense of atmosphere sink in rather than be thrown in our faces. While it is not perfect in any way, it is subtle when it needs to be subtle, and doesn’t allow its more large-scale developments to deliver only large-scale consequences, making significant progress from its pilot even while taking the time to ruminate on key themes and ideas.

In short, it’s in pretty fantastic shape for a new series, so I really wish that everyone would start judging it as one.

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Caprica – “Rebirth”

“Rebirth”

January 29th, 2010

I was warned ahead of time that Caprica’s pilot was not necessarily representative of the series, and that the two additional episodes sent to critics seemed to offer something very different. However, all of those people who had seen the episodes seemed excited but in a way that was at the same time quite cautious: when I chatted about the episodes with Todd over at Media Elites, he indicated that, while he was quite taken with the episodes, not everyone is going to fall head over heels in love with the show that Caprica has become.

I, however, have. What surprised me about Caprica was that it managed to resist diving straight into melodrama, despite a premise that lends itself to that sort of interaction. After a pilot that felt steeped in the complexities of holo-bands and avatars, “Rebirth” takes that scenario and investigates the human consequences: stories that are big philosophically, like the fate of Zoe Graystone’s Avatar, are small in the context of the story, while the stories which go public are those which are more personal and thus more devastating. Rather than focus on creating conflict between characters, the episode allows the characters to start developing independent of that conflict, discovering new ways to adapt to a world without a daughter or a family shattered by tragedy.

It’s an episode that manages to subtly investigate the show’s premise while also triumphantly proclaiming that Caprica is a place of great complexity, and a place that has no idea the changes that the next decade or two will bring; in short, it’s a damn fine start for the series at hand.

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