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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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