Review for Caprica (Complete Series)
It took me around 10 years after it was broadcast to finally get on board with the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, when I picked up the complete series on Blu-ray, along with a few spin-off movie odds and ends. I guess that now ten years have passed since the broadcast of the prematurely truncated Caprica prequel series, that it would be incumbent on me to watch that now. Actually, my urge to watch it coincided with my ‘discovery’ of nuBSG; it’s just that there was no convenient Blu-ray release to snag. There has been a UK release believe it or not. In 2015, an Ultimate Collection of nu-Battlestar Galactica was released, a limited Edition with all of the TV series, the movie spin-offs, and for the first time in the UK, the Caprica series. I wasn’t going to buy the whole lot again just to get the latter, and Caprica on Blu-ray does have an issue that might make you think twice about dropping that kind of money anyway.
Caprica has no Blu-ray release in the US at the time of writing. Its initial Blu-ray release was actually in France in 2011, and it’s not an English friendly release when it comes to menus and default disc options. To coincide with the Ultimate Collection, Universal in 2015 released Caprica in several European territories as a standalone collection, the same discs across the UK, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway, and it’s the German release that I imported (BBFC logos present and correct). But like the French release, this pan-European release is encoded at 1080i 50Hz (the hi-def equivalent of PAL). The frame rate is four percent faster. The French version of the Pilot episode is some 10 seconds longer with a little more footage (mostly dialogue), but the convenience of English language menus won out for me. If you want the correct frame rate and a 1080p transfer to match with the nu-BSG Blu-rays, you might want to wait for the day that the show gets a release in the US, if it ever does...
Set 58 years before the events of Battlestar Galactica, Caprica takes place on the eponymous colony world, following the stories of two families, the Graystones and the Adamas. Joseph Adama is a lawyer with links to organised crime, while Daniel Graystone is the head of Caprica’s biggest tech company, a driving force behind virtual reality. Caprica’s ostensibly a peaceful world, but a fledgling monotheistic movement is rubbing up against established polytheism, made tragically apparent when a terrorist attack on a train results in the deaths of Adama’s wife and daughter, and Graystone’s own daughter Zoe. But Zoe was a chip off the old block, and had figured out a way to recreate a virtual person by harvesting personal data from across the web, and she began by creating a sentient AI of herself. Following the bombing, when Daniel Graystone discovers the avatar, he tries downloading it into a prototype U87 Cybernetic Lifeform Node that his company is developing... a Cylon.
-Audio Commentary from director Jeffrey Reiner, and producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick.
-Audio Commentary from producers David Eick and Jonas Pate.
3. Reins of a Waterfall
-Audio Commentary from producers David Eick and Jonas Pate.
-Audio Commentary from producer Ronald D. Moore.
-Audio Commentary from producers David Eick and Jonas Pate and actors Paula Malcomson and Sasha Roiz.
-Audio Commentary from producer Jane Espenson.
5. There is Another Sky
-Audio Commentary from David Eick, Editor Andy Seklir, and Visual Effects Supervisor Gary Hutzel.
6. Know Thy Enemy
-Audio Commentary from David Eick, Editor Harry Miller, and Composer Bear McCreary.
-Audio Commentary from David Eick.
8. Ghosts in the Machine
-Audio Commentary from David Eick.
9. End of the Line
-Audio Commentary from David Eick, writer Michael Taylor, Actresses Paula Malcomson and Magda Apanowicz.
-Audio Commentary from Producer Kevin Murphy.
-Audio Commentary from David Eick and Actor Eric Stoltz.
-Audio Commentary from David Eick, Universal Director of Development and Current Series Tom Lieber and actress Magda Apanowicz.
12. Things We Lock Away
13. False Labor
-Audio Commentary from Tom Lieber and actress Magda Apanowicz.
15. The Dirteaters
-Audio Commentary from Tom Lieber and actors Esai Morales, Sasha Roiz, and Magda Apanowicz.
16. The Heavens Will Rise
17. Here Be Dragons
- Audio Commentary from Producer Kevin Murphy
Caprica gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080i transfer encoded at 50Hz. It’s created from the French master it seems, on screen text still is in French in some places, Soldats d’Unique (SDU) instead of Soldiers of the One (STO) but it’s just an observation rather than a niggle. Like Battlestar, Caprica is moody and stylish, plenty of realism when it comes to the cinematography, although the reliance on CGI does get a little excessive at times, digital sets seeming blatantly obvious and artificial. The image is clear and sharp, the detail level is excellent, and you won’t see any sign of interlacing as the playback remains smooth and free of artefacts.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English, DTS 5.1 Surround German, with subtitles in these languages and Danish, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian. Going from 60Hz to 50Hz (NTSC-PAL, but in HD) there is a 4% speed-up, but the warble of pitch correction is missing from the music. The dialogue is clear, the action comes across well, and the surrounds are put to use creating these fantasy worlds, particularly the virtual ones. Bear McCreary supplies the music again, and yes, there are Japanese drums.
The discs present their content with animated menus, following a language select screen.
As you can see from the episode listing, most episodes have audio commentaries, in some cases two.
Here you’ll find deleted scenes for all four episodes. These run to 22:00 and are presented in 576i format.
There are also Videoblogs here, behind the scenes featurettes really, four of them running to 13:08.
There are deleted scenes for all four episodes, this time running to 38:16.
The Caprica Dynasty is another making of featurette, running to 13:14 with interviews with the cast and crew.
Creating a Look lasts 4:56 and examines the visual style of the show.
Re-Caprica is a 4:45 recap of the first half of the series, a little premature on this disc.
There are seven Videoblogs on this disc running to a total of 29:25.
Deleted Scenes for all three episodes running to 16:48.
This time the only Deleted Scenes are for Blowback and Dirteaters running to 4:57.
Creating a World looks at the special effects of Caprica, and runs to 6:23.
There are 8 Videoblogs on this disc, and they run to 31:00.
Apart from the commentary, the only extra on this disc is a 1:22 Deleted Scene for Here Be Dragons.
The reimagining of Battlestar Galactica had an uneven first season, so uneven that I actually gave up on watching it, and it wasn’t until the complete series Blu-ray was on sale that I finally saw the rest of the series, which justified having faith in the show. The prequel spin-off Caprica too had an uneven first season, but it got cancelled. Who knows if it could have become something spectacular, just like its forebear, but by the end of this curtailed 18 episode season, I certainly wasn’t sorry to see it go.
If Battlestar was space opera, Caprica was designed to be a soap opera, and in the tradition of the genre, centred on two families, the Adamas and the Graystones, just like the Ewings and the Barnes, the Carringtons and the Colbys, the Ramsays and the Robinsons. The first, obvious flaw in the premise is the sizes of the respective clans. Usually there are patriarchs, matriarchs, and several offspring, some illegitimate, to ensure that the feuds between the two clans will run for years and years of episodes. The first episode of Caprica kills off the Graystone’s sole heir, and the wife and daughter of Joseph Adama. There’s not a lot of clan left to build a soap opera around.
Caprica’s second job is to serve as a prequel for Battlestar, and it sets its stall out early in the run, introducing the Graystones (the Caprican equivalent of Apple) creating the ‘first’ Cylon in the form of a robot for the military, one which doesn’t perform until Zoe Graystone’s avatar is uploaded into it. On the other hand you have a religious conflict brewing, that between polytheism and monotheism and there is a terrorist group of the latter with which Zoe Graystone was affiliated, and who play a major part as the series unfolds. The third strand is “The Mob”, or the Tauron crime syndicate, with which the Adama family is involved, providing a lot of colour to William Adama’s heritage in Battlestar. Joseph Adama is a lawyer for the Ha’La’Tha, while his younger brother Sam is an enforcer.
Tying it all together is virtual reality, the tech for which the Graystone Corporation created in the form of holobands, a purely recreational device which has been subverted by a subculture into a hedonistic escape where anything is possible. Seeing such virtual depravity, Zoe Graystone was primed for the monotheistic cult which promised morality. Following her death, her avatar survives in virtual reality, evolving and growing, as does that of Joseph Adama’s daughter Tamara. Seeing the promise of this technology, the leader of a terrorist cell on Caprica, Clarice Willow decides that the monotheists should be rewarded with a virtual heaven, their avatars promised eternal, digital paradise, something more tangible than mere faith. That no one ever indicates the ill-advised nature of a heaven where someone can pull the plug is another glaring flaw in the story, and the monotheist terrorists become somewhat clown-like as a result.
Caprica verges on worthy as a prequel to Battlestar Galactica, and just like that show, it might have pulled something special out of the hat had it been able to bed in, in a second season. Alas the plug was pulled early, and we got a 5-years-later montage in the last couple of minutes to fill in what few blanks remained. As it is, Caprica is all over the place in these eighteen episodes, trying to find a tone, a direction of travel. It has moments which surprise, astound, and have you hooked, and it has moments of the pure absurd. You could play a drinking game in the first half with appearances of Ruth (Joseph Adama’s mother-in-law) chopping meat, and as a European, the decision to make Caprica look ‘alien’ by filling its streets with European cars and forties and fifties fashions just seems odd. While the prevalence of virtual reality technology is central to the storyline, it does lead Caprica in a very Matrix direction.
Caprica just needed to be a little tighter, retain some focus and it would have been a strong show in its own right. As it is, it’s an interesting curiosity which adds some flavour to the Battlestar universe, and unlike a couple of the prequel movie spin-offs from the show, Caprica is good enough to watch, and re-watch. It would have been preferable to have the show in its native frame rate, progressive HD, but this European interlaced release is good enough. But this is one show for Battlestar fans only.