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‘Caprica’ Stands on Its Own at PaleyFest

April 21, 2009 4:52 PM

The “Caprica”/“Battlestar Galactica” event Monday at PaleyFest started with a clip from “The Outer Limits” featuring an early man-discovering-he’s-really-a-robot clip. It was awesome to see how far the genre has come and yet how the basic themes and guiding philosophies remain the same.

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NOT CYLONS Executive producers David Eick, left, and Ron Moore.

Moderator Seth Green, introduced to loud applause, told the crowd at Hollywood’s Arclight that he’s a huge “fanboy.” He also admitted he resisted the “BSG” phenomenon at first until friends finally talked him into watching it—at which point he got the DVDs and tore “through the first two seasons in like a week.” He said his plan for the night is to try to corner showrunners David Eick and Ron Moore and get them to explain the unanswered questions left floating around in the “BSG” universe after the season finale.

Moore and Eick came out to even more applause and described the inception of “Caprica.” It was brought to them by NBC Universal as an independent non-“BSG” series pitched by Remi Aubuchon; because of its artificial intelligence-heavy plotline, the three thought it might make an interesting collaboration and a distinctly different way of continuing the themes of “BSG” within a very different show structure.

Moore went on to thank “Friday Night Lights” alum Jeffrey Reiner (who was not in attendance), director of the “Caprica” pilot, for establishing a completely different and “unique tone, cinematography, sensibility” for the new show.

In fact, everyone on the panel emphasized how different “Caprica” will be from the “BSG” series. Moore admitted that, although the new show they might lose some die-hard space battle fans, the creators really hope to bring in a lot more mainstream viewers, people who might not typically watch a sci-fi show, with “Caprica.”

Eick then pulled out a flask of tequila and did a shot with Moore, toasting the new franchise and its successful launch.

Here are a few initial thoughts the Daily Blink jotted down in our (spoiler-filled) notes in the dark during the “Caprica” screening:

—Whoa, this show’s intense! Lots of sex, huge rave scene, orgies, a fight club, human sacrifice, more sex … and that’s just the first 20 minutes. The opening scene takes us through a night-club environment that we later learn is an underground use of technology, a virtual reality, that kids retreat to ”the V-Club” via “holo-band.” Pretty much a parent’s worst-case-scenario of MySpace on steroids. (The Daily Blink assumes some of that nudity is going to get cut from the basic-cable premiere.)

—The main character, Zoe, the daughter of Eric Stoltz’s character Dr. Graystone, is a brilliant computer scientist herself and has created a virtual twin of herself that exists only in the virtual realm.

—BSG requirement: Lots of quiet moments where characters debate spirituality, technology, philosophy and the meaning of life. Check!

—Whoa! Big fracking explosion … huge terrorist attack on the subway. Guess this show is really gonna “go there.” High school-age jihadists?! This pilot just got a lot more interesting.

—Oh, and the term “fracking” is used throughout the show. You might have thought it would be retired along with “BSG,” but the Daily Blink heard it at least five times in “Caprica.”

—So with the main character Zoe blown to pieces, we discover her virtual twin is still alive and continuing on in the virtual realm … With the gorgeous Vancouver locations, realistic cybertech devices and random acts of violence, “Caprica” is headed into William Gibson territory.

—“Buffy” fans, watch out: There’s a Giles-type mentor character, Sister Clarice Willow, played by Polly Walker, guides her students through their spiritual questioning with a soothing British accent. There also a researcher named Cyris Xander. Coincidence? You decide?

—Sister Clarice Willow ultimately debates the merits of the “One God” with her students and reveals herself to be the headmistress of “Caprica’s” version of a madrassa. Between the suicide bombings and all the religious iconography, the show is clearly laying the foundation for some pretty heavy religious debates under the guise of sci-fi as the series progresses.

Roll credits.

Then scenes from “BSG” start playing—suddenly we’re watching the awesome trailer to the latest and final, final “BSG” television movie, “Battlestar Galactica: The Plan.” It’s jam-packed with favorite characters from the original series, and it looks like it’s going to retell the entire series from the perspective of the Cylons. Good stuff—stay tuned for the trailer to appear online in coming weeks!

Here are some highlights from the Q&A following the “Caprica” screening:

—David Eick described the sci-fi genre as an allegory for our times, adding that “BSG” and “Caprica” are a rare coincidence of producers and the studio wanting the same thing at the same time. “Caprica” will premiere in 2010 at a time when the Sci Fi Channel will be trying to establish its new branding as Syfy, a more cerebral, intelligent network aiming to draw more female and mainstream television viewers and fewer space-battle, sci-fi fanboys.

—Ron Moore described his love of history and the rise and fall of civilizations, explaining that the finale of “BSG” was intended to bring the show’s theological and philosophical debates back to “where we are now.” In response to moderator Seth Green’s continued interrogation, Moore went on the record as “aggressively agnostic” and said he hopes his work helps people to articulate their grasping for meaning.

—Moore had originally planned for the character of President Laura Roslin to die right before the crew reaches Earth, he said, but in the end he trusted his instinct that fans of the show had a built-up need to see her character reach her destination.

—On the Angels, Six and Baltar: Moore admitted that in the first season, Six was merely intended to represent a manifestation of Baltar’s guilty subconscious at being instrumental in the destruction of humanity. However, as the show progressed, and with the addition of the hybrid character, Moore started to feel the hybrid was looking into a level of existence greater than our own, so it became part of the world of “BSG” that “there was something else out there.” In the “BSG” finale, Moore said, he felt it was important to not explain away everything, or to label Six and Baltar as Angels, because by “keeping it vague, it was all about the mystery.”

—Asked why Lt. Felix Gaeta’s role became so complex, Moore explained, “We had an exceptional writers staff and there was always something for him to do. As the drafts started to develop, Gaeta became more and more complex.” Moore added, “Writers are inspired by what actors provide them”—because actor Alessandro Juliani had such rich delivery of lines filled with nonsense sci-fi jargon, the writers assigned him a lot more of the secondary background action.

—Eric Stoltz responded to a question on what it was like to take on a character who will be responsible for humanity’s downfall. He downplayed his excitement, but seeing Dr. Graystone as an allegory for Robert Oppenheimer seems to be filled with tragic potential.

—Moore again emphasized the producers’ intention to develop “Caprica” into its own show, with no need for prior knowledge of the “BSG” universe.

—Actress Alessandra Torenson, who plays Zoe Graystone, said she was unfamiliar with “BSG” when she read for the role on “Caprica,” but ultimately she “was impressed with the incredibly intelligent, strong female role” she’ll be playing, the daughter of a genius inventor who develops a method through which she uploads herself into a computer mainframe.

—All of the “Caprica” cast said it was a great experience working with director Jeffrey Reiner. Reiner shoots with multi-camera setups that didn’t require going back to shoot closeups, so the actors felt they could get more theatrical in their approach.

—With “Caprica” ditching the space battles and action scenes, one audience member wondered what the narrative development of the new show would be. The showrunners described “Caprica” as taking a more serialized, personal exploration of the culture and people in the “BSG”/“Caprica” universe, while the underlying and larger mythos of the show will be watching the gradual evolution of technology within that culture.

—Responding to a question about whether “BSG” stuck to a series “bible,” Moore said that as “BSG’s” narrative, he forced his writing staff to evolve with its creative success and with fan reaction, rather than “stick to the plan.” His constant principle in the writing room is to remind the writers, “I know what we were saying—but this is what we are saying now.”

—Eick declared that writers’ rooms must acknowledge the evolution of the Internet and television writing. Writers must watch how their stories are playing out within their audience, and craft their characters accordingly, in a sense collaborating with the creativity of the fan community.

The Daily Blink is curious to see what kind of research the network will conduct on viewers’ response to the “Caprica” pilot already out on DVD, and how the fan response will be incorporated into writers’ room conversations and character development. Will future development of the series be affected by online fan response to the DVD, given the unusually long lead time between the pilot premiere in April 2009 and the show premiere in first quarter 2010? The Daily Blink can’t wait to see what changes are ahead.

—Chad Rooney

(Updated at 7:21 p.m. ET.)

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Comments (1)

alex:

great recap!

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