[20 October 2010]
It might be dangerous for ratings to divide the first season of a serialized drama in half but if Caprica’s part-two season opener, Unvanquished, is anything to go by, it’s even more dangerous to combine virtual technology and religious fundamentalism. While part one established the series’ conflict between science and faith, part two complicates the fight by exploring the far more frightening idea of what happens when technology and faith start to work together.
We rejoin the action with Soldiers of the One (STO) member Sister Clarice (Polly Walker) who designs an explosive plan to bring the masses “apotheosis” through a virtual heaven filled with avatars of the One God martyrs. Her plan to bolster the faith through an artificial afterlife finds a counterpart in Daniel Graystone’s (Eric Stoltz) equally disturbing scheme to conquer grief by creating digital avatars of the deceased with whom the living can interact. Graystone however, cannot implement his plan alone and his Faustian deal with the Tauron criminal underworld suggests that his troubles are only beginning.
In Unvanquished, the series continues the theme of blind ambition. Both Graystone and Sister Clarice are motivated by their unwavering commitment to their belief systems. Graystone’s turn to the dark side in part two is a continuation of the character’s downward spiral. If part one was about Daniel losing his daughter, his wife and his company, part two is about him losing what’s left of himself. When his resolve to honor the deal with the Taurons is tested by their request for him to make a disturbing choice, it’s clear that Graystone is walking a thin line between good and evil. Similarly, Clarice’s success in convincing the One God leaders that her plan will work comes with a steep price that she accepts all too easily. Daniel’s blind devotion to technology is perhaps a too obvious counterpoint to Clarice’s slavish adherence to her religion. Yet, both characters are complex depictions of the inner struggle between right and wrong which makes Caprica an enjoyable change from the ‘battle in space’ storyline of its parent series, Battlestar Galactica.
Caprica’s mix of ancient and modern—the characters worship the Greek gods but live in a society of ‘holo-band’ technology where anything is possible in a virtual world—sets-up an intriguing tension between both old and new and science and ethics. Because the show also deals with more classic themes, including the relationship between parents and children and wives and husbands, the narrative is more conventional than other science fiction series. Yet, it is this nod to traditional plot devices that makes ,Caprica relatable even as it envisions a dystopian future on the verge of moral destruction. If you watched Battlestar Galactica, you are aware that the robotic race of Cylons, who are given a back story here, will destroy most of mankind. What makes Caprica an interesting prequel is its suggestion that mankind had a strong role in its downfall long before the rise of the machines.