Beware: spoilers ahead if you haven't seen "Caprica."
After an enormous brain lapse in which I completely forgot that "Caprica" was out on DVD, I finally watched it the other day and was mightily impressed. It got me thinking about the "BSG" pilot miniseries and ever since, I've been trying to decide which one was better.
It's a difficult call given that we have the entirety of "BSG" to look back on and see how all the pieces of the pilot fit with the plots and characters that eventually evolved from it. The fact, though, that "Caprica" is a sequel of sorts also provides a contextual backdrop that I think permits a comparison or two.
The major difference between the two ventures is, obviously, the action quota. Save for one really big explosion, there's no action in "Caprica." Its main focus is thematic, examining familial ties, morality and really, really poor judgement. There's a lot of that in the "BSG" pilot as well but the character-driven stories didn't really become the show's bread and butter until later in the first season.
The two pilots are similar, though, in their willingness to put potentially unlikeable characters at the forefront. Bill Adama was already an arrogant but admired prick at the beginning of "BSG," Baltar's apocalypse-inducing weasel-ness was already on display and well, then you have Caprica Six offing babies. There weren't really a lot of rah-rah awesome characters to hang your fandom on in that opening episode. The same is certainly true of "Caprica," which focuses on a bitchy but brilliant teen and her father, a defense contractor who really likes himself an awful lot. And then there's Joseph Adama, Bill's father, who's apparently hooked up with the Tauron mafia. There's a chilly mother and a creepy headmistress and oh hey, there'sCigarette-Smoking Man from "The X-Files" who I refuse to believe is ever dead unless I see a signed confession from Krycek.
The two pilots differ, too, on the cheese factor. As much as I love the "BSG" pilot -- and I do, I really, really do -- there is just a hint of cheese here and there, nestled in an otherwise perfect amalgam of drama, space 'splosions and character study. In fact, the whole "so say we all" thing at the end kind of makes me want to crawl under the sofa. I love you, BSG, but if I'd seen another golf clap with swelling music scene, we may have had to break up. The "Caprica" cheese factor is fairly low except, sweet fancy Moses, what the hell was up with those nightclub scenes? Did the producers read over their script and think, "Man, this is a lot of exposition. You know what would really liven it up? Naked lesbian nightclub sex and human sacrifice!" Dudes, seriously, why? There was no purpose to those scenes other than to show that Caprica has naughty people and apparently, their version of "The Sims" is really, really messed up.
The thing that I like most about both pilots, though, is the questions they ask about humanity and religion and family. "Caprica" really pulled me in with its question of what happens when technology reaches a point where anything can happen? Will we, as humans, have the strength or the willingness to hold ourselves back? Or will we, as Daniel Graystone does, do what we want because we want it without a thought toward the consequences? Is it okay to create a Frankenstein's monster version of your daughter -- or Joseph Adama's daughter -- because you want them back and the desire to play god is too strong to ignore? Hubris always has consequences, and this time it's going to be angry enslaved robots.
Before seeing "Caprica," I would have been hard-pressed to believe that any sequel or prequel to "BSG" would have pulled me in as much as the mini-series itself did but I was wrong. To me, "Caprica" was every bit as strong as the best of "Battlestar." In fact, as I was watching it, I couldn't help but think to myself, "This is the way 'Dollhouse' should have affected me when I first saw it. This is how intense that show should have been." Of course, "Caprica" doesn't have the millstone of Eliza Dushku around its neck so it's not a fair comparison.
Overall, "Caprica" and the "Battlestar" pilot finish in a dead-heat for me. I love them both, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the rest of the "Caprica" story plays out...even if we all already know how it ends.