Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

20 Jan 2011

(TV Series) Caprica

(Reaction) Missing Galactica by: Antonio Conejos

Caprica was a tragedy. I mean this not only in the sense that it was a show with a lot of potential that went horribly astray (see my review below). Caprica was a tragedy also in the classical sense - one where characters are brought low because of the very same traits which made them rise so high.

The television series features an affluent society in the throes of deliciously decadent decay. The loose morals of the time is established from the the get go as the series begins with extended shots of a club which features dancing, fornication and violence, in no particular order or preference.

Amidst this setting of hedonism, Zoe Graystone attempts to find a better path. However, in her rejection of the world around her, Zoe ends up falling in with the Soldiers of the One. This quickly leads to her untimely physical death. Thus, a positive moral trait of Zoe's (her rejection of the corrupt society around her) leads to very negative consequences as Zoe's digital avatar spends the rest of the series lashing out at everyone. This is particularly seen in Epsiode 9 where she kills a researcher who was studying her.

Another passionate character is Daniel Graystone, whose intelligence and ambition result in wondrous inventions and wealth. Yet this same intelligence and ambition means that he cannot accept failure. Thus, when he cannot complete a military project for an armed combat robot, he enlists the aid of goons (this is what the Adama boys essentially are early in the series) to steal the technology he needs from a rival company. Thus, the qualities which allowed Daniel to succeed (intelligence and ambition) also cause his fall (the theft results in a cascade of events which results in Daniel losing his company).

The ultimate example of tragedy in Caprica which binds all the characters is that they love much too well. The positive attribute of love becomes perverted and corrupted so they cannot let go of that which they have lost. Both Daniel and Joseph Adama go to great lengths, and destroy many lives, in their quest to reclaim their dead daughters.

This desire for what they can't have is tied to the kind of society they live in, one of affluence where everything is available for the right price. Thus, there is no conception of something not being available, it only becomes a question of what lengths are necessary in order to obtain what you want.

Heaven, life after death - everything is available through products which substitute for these experiences. Yet these substitutes are taken for the real thing. Since they can't have that which is real (in the case of Daniel and Joseph, this is their dead daughters) they all agree that which is fake (the digital avatars of their daughters) is genuine. Counterfeits made true by unanimous consent.

However, that which is fake can also give value to that which is real. New Cap City is a widely popular videogame with only one rule, if you die in the game, you're dead there forever and can never play again. Thus players must take care of their lives for it is the only one they have. This is in contrast to the real world where, with the resurrection program, people can become cavalier with their lives as they are assured of reincarnating in a virtual space. Ironically then, a fake world (New Cap City) values life more than the real, physical world of the society of Caprica.

Finally, this is a series about hubris writ large, of attempting to try too much and substituting that which we can't have with ersatz baubles which deceive the eye and fool the heart.


Thematically this series has a lot of layers. Just to name a few: the fall of man when he tries to act like god(s), the question of authenticity (if a copy is indistinguishable from the original then isn't it an original too), hubris, pride, religious devotion and its extreme, fanaticism, the nurturing of children and the corruption of affluence.

Sadly though these themes didn't cohere well and frankly there were some very dull episodes. The show at its worst is a ponderous melodrama, a soap opera set in the future. That histrionics mascarades as plot is already glimpsed in the ponderous tableauxs which form the show's introductory credits. (To be fair the graphics for these sequences were well done but the content was over the top to the point of being mawkish.)

Moreover, the series had a tendency to begin story arcs which either led nowhere or were unsatisfactorily resolved. (Amanda seeing her dead brother? The fact that only one Cylon worked, then Zoe crashes it into a roadblock then suddenly all the other Cylons work now? Tamara and Zoe spend the entire series dancing around each other and when they finally combine forces, nothing of consequence happens. For that matter, Zoe and her parents spend the entire series either screaming at, or running after, each other until its all finally resolved undrammatically around a campfire.)

Personally though I think the show's fatal flaw was putting the character of Zoe (as written) front and center. Everything revolves around this girl and yet she's annoying as hell - a spoiled brat who spends most of her time kicking and screaming. Why does Zoe hate her parents so much? We don't know. Why does Zoe care so much about the one true God? We don't know. How is it that she is able to create a program which her genius father is unable to recreate even though she has not displayed any aptitude before in programming? We don't know. (The only skill she ever displays in the flashbacks is for drawing a rudimentary Cylon chasis.) Why doesn't she ever defend herself and say that she wasn't responsible for the train bombing? We don't know. (Everyone in the series makes out as if Zoe did it but in truth, she didn't even know it was going to happen, her boyfriend detonated the bomb.)

All we know for sure is that Zoe is annoying and loud and if you piss her off she'll either ram you dead into a wall or beat your brains out with her detached robot arm as a club. This is the "mother" of the Cylon race - a spoiled teenager who doesn't know what she wants or why she's doing something.

Caprica isn't just a tragedy, it's a toaster.

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