Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A lament for Caprica

Yesterday was an unusual day in that I got to co-host a TV show. I've done television before, usually as a guest, but this was the first time I was in a co-hosting role, as it were. The show is Inner Space, on tonight on the Space Channel (11 pm Eastern time, I believe) following Caprica. Check it out, it's going to be a blast!

The format of the show usually has regular hosts Ajay Fry and Teddy Wilson talking about whatever the preceding program was, followed by a roundup of news from the sci-fi world. Teddy is on an ultra-secret project in an exotic location, so I got the call from producer Mark Askwith to fill in. I've known Mark - who I like to think of as the godfather of Canadian science-fiction because of his encyclopedic knowledge and vast contact base - for years, since my days running the short-lived Realms magazine. He helped us out quite a bit in those days, and he's one excellent dude in general.

We've been trying to get something together in relation to Caprica ever since Sex, Bombs and Burgers came out back in March. In the book, I talk about how the themes of Caprica and its precursor, Battlestar Galactica, are actually rooted in reality - particularly military and porn technology - so it seemed like a good fit with the show. I'm pleased we finally managed to make it work.

Alas, I was saddened to hear that the axe has fallen - for now - on Caprica. SyFy, the network that produces the show, announced a few weeks ago that it was not being renewed. Mark and company reminded me yesterday that that's not the same as being cancelled and there are petitions going around to save Caprica, so ultimately, you never know. Perhaps like some of the characters on the show, it too will be resurrected. (Interestingly, while Space is airing the final three episodes, SyFy hasn't yet committed to showing them. Translation: there's a whole lot of Americans Bittorrenting our Canadian-aired episodes.)

If you're not a fan of either BSG or Caprica, here's a quick synopsis. In BSG, the human race has created a race of subservient robots called the Cylons. Naturally, the Cylons rebel and nearly exterminate the humans, the remainder of whom flee into space aboard ships. The show was utterly gripping for a number of reasons: it had great drama, suspense and action and it was also a fantastic example of high-concept science-fiction, the kind that looks at modern-day issues through the detachment of a futuristic lens. BSG garnered all sorts of praise - Time magazine even named it the best show on television in 2005 - largely because it asked all the right questions about technology, religion, the nature of humanity, and even terrorism. Yes indeed, it was one of the best shows of all time, if you ask me.

Caprica was/is the prequel series, intended to tell the story of how the Cylons came to be. I fell in love with the pilot episode where Zoe, the main teenage protagonist, explains to her father how she had managed to create a perfect replica of herself in cyberspace using all of the electronic data - email, photos, bank records, shopping receipts, etc. - she had accumulated in her life. I saw this pilot at exactly the right time, just after I'd had some Google executives explain to me how their translation algorithms work, and I saw the correlation that what was going on in Caprica was actually happening in the real world.

Indeed, we are in the early stages of learning how the brain and personalities work and I'm confident that we'll figure them out, and I'm willing to bet it'll happen sooner rather than later. Once we get there, we'll be able to replicate and thereby inject them into the sorts of virtual worlds and robot bodies found on Caprica. And, as the show has been building to, once we can recreate and copy our brains/personalities, immortality will be achieved - we'll be able to live forever, either in a Matrix-like virtual reality or in a robot body.

I talked about some of this with Magda Apanowicz, the Canadian actress who plays Lacy Rand on the show, when she was in town earlier this year. Here's the video:

I found Caprica to be at its best when it dealt with these near-future issues. Unfortunately, the show was also tremendously inconsistent, with characters seeming to switch allegiances and/or motivations almost episode-to-episode. Unlike BSG, there also weren't really any characters who the viewer could like or associate with. There was also almost no humour (unlike on BSG, whose self-preservation-at-all-costs was often hilarious, usually tragic), and it was hard to tell in general where the show was going, which is strange for any sort of a prequel because the end destination is ultimately always known.

Nevertheless, I'm hopeful that some sort of miracle happens and that Caprica is saved from death. The show deserves another shot, if only because like BSG, it was asking all the right questions about the trajectory modern-day technology is taking.

In any event, be sure to check out Inner Space. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get video of it, but if I do I'll be sure to post it here.


Post a Comment