One of the great things about the recently concluded update of Battlestar Galactica on Syfy was the way it expertly combined rousing spaceship action sequences with heady discussions about philosophy and religion. Producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick never hesitated to have their characters engage in debates about monotheistic versus polytheistic belief systems, or about the nature of the soul, or about what constitutes tyranny. After one of those discussions, though, those same characters would often suit up, get into sleek spacecrafts and go shoot at evil robots.
Moore and Eick’s new Galactica follow-up, Caprica (Syfy, Fridays, 9 p.m.), features even more ethical quandaries and abstract ruminations, but it eschews action almost entirely. The show takes place 58 years before the events of Galactica, in the capital city of the titular planet, where a prosperous, America-like society flourishes, just on the cusp of technological breakthroughs that will create self-aware robots known as Cylons (who will then go on to nearly destroy the human race).
But other than the terrorist bombing of a commuter train, which occurs early in the first episode and sets most of the storylines in motion, there’s no action whatsoever. Caprica is practically a soap opera in its focus on family squabbles and conflicts between tradition and modernity, and as such it can seem a little overwrought and ponderous, rehashing the same arguments and relationships again and again.
- Worth watching?
- Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Starz, Fridays, 10 p.m.) might as well be subtitled Blood and Sex, to more accurately capture its two primary occupations. The new series about the ancient Roman rebel slave borrows liberally from 300, Gladiator and HBO’s Rome, with more emphasis on gushing blood and naked flesh than character or dialogue. Producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert previously brought Hercules and Xena to TV, but the dreary Spartacus lacks their camp sparkle. -JB
In a way it’s a shame to connect the show to Galactica at all, since it’s clearly a different type of science fiction, one we don’t see very often anymore on TV or at the movies, where sci-fi has become inextricably linked with action. Some of the Galactica connections are slight background touches (octagonal documents, the frequent use of “frak”), while others seem destined to bind the series to a set timeline (one of the main characters is an 11-year-old version of Edward James Olmos’ Captain William Adama). When battling patriarchs Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) and Joseph Adama (Esai Morales) debate the moral implications of creating artificial souls, any Galactica fan knows exactly where that endeavor will end up.
And so Moore and Eick instead circle around marital troubles and parent-child conflicts, and they make a semi-convincing case for the place of such domestic drama within a sci-fi framework. Like Galactica, Caprica looks fantastic, with a seamless blend of effects and locations. Its blend of genres, however, is not yet quite as effective.