Caprica Cancelled… And Few Notice

23:58 Thu 28 Oct 2010. Updated: 01:20 29 Oct 2010
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Battlestar Galactica seemed to me to be a rather successful series. This is probably because know a lot of people who watched it, but it did survive through four seasons and has been hailed as the most successful science fiction series in years. It also generated a fair amount of discussion, and I had conversations about it with a lot of friends. But no-one I know said anything to me about Caprica, and I think this is because no-one I know was watching it. And now it’s dead.

Spoiler warning: I discuss events from Battlestar Galactica below.

When I first heard about it, I wasn’t too enthusiastic. I liked the idea of more from the BSG universe, but “Dallas in space” isn’t that compelling an idea for me. On top of that, though, setting it decades before BSG began seems problematic to me: the viewers all know that the civilization they’re watching will be essentially destroyed, which seems like it takes something away in terms of dramatic tension. Not only that, but certain things simply cannot happen, such as anyone successfully warning the Twelve Colonies about the Cylons, or any technological advances that would shift the balance forty years later, and so on. Also, any characters vital to the existence of characters in the later series are guaranteed to survive, which for me would also drain away a lot of tension. Finally, I was simply unconvinced by the core story. BSG had a very compelling story, one of a desperate fight for the survival of an entire culture (and possibly race). Compared to that, well, the political maneuverings and economic machinations of earlier scions of that culture pale.

So I was never too enthusiastic, but I had intended to try it. However, then I watched the second half of the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica.

Terrible. I know it can be hard to finish something like that, but really? A combination of nonsensical religion, stunningly implausible decision-making, an awful and utterly unnecessary tie-in with our own civilization (I just might hate that more than I hated the religion), and hideous platitudes about “god’s plan”? That’s really how you end a show that had such promise?

Yeah, I hated it. Absolutely hated it, and really wished they’d just ended it on the terribly bleak note of finding a devastated Earth. That would have left just as many questions unanswered, but it wouldn’t have injected vast quantities of ridiculousness into the show at the very end.

After watching that, my very limited interest in Caprica diminished to nothing. After they “answered” the questions they raised through the first four seasons with such banal tripe, I really had no interest whatsoever in their exploration of the forces at work in the society of the Twelve Colonies decades before the attack. Could that have been done well? Probably, prior to the second half of season four. After that? Not likely, but furthermore I wouldn’t trust those writers to do it.

Actually, I just thought of one way it might have worked. Given that the events of the four seasons of BSG clearly followed “god’s plan”, it also follows that the success of the attack on the Colonies was part of that plan, and that in some senses the Cylons were truly instruments of the divine. But why? Why would the utter destruction of the Twelve Colonies be so high on the divine checklist?

Well, what if the civilization of the Twelve Colonies was irredeemably corrupt, unsalvageable in any way? The Cylon attack then becomes rather like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Caprica would need to show the slide of a culture into depravity so dire that it would be unmistakable. We would come to see the survivors from BSG less as heroic figures and more as the very few sufficiently worthy individuals who could be tolerated to carry the taint of their benighted society for a few more years before that stain upon the divine canvas would be wiped away forever, or at least until the descendant of their civilization becomes, as it does at the end of the fourth season, modern-day America. That would make the series’ message that everything occurs again cyclically vastly more unsettling; it would also expose the Six/Baltar “angels” as twisted and perhaps psychopathic agents of a clearly cruel and unspeakably judgmental divinity.

Now that, I would have watched. But I’m pretty sure that’s not what Caprica was.

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