Clint’s been to Caprica

My buddy Eric Stoltz warned me that “Caprica” (the pilot of which is released on DVD this week) would be a very different show to “Battlestar Galactica” – despite being set in the same world,er, literally – and he was right, it’s apples and oranges. But like the fruit, both are tasty.

I loved Ron Moore’s hip spin on Glenn Larson’s classic science-fiction TV series (never bothered me that Starbuck was a female, either), and like every other fan of the groundbreaking series, wasn’t quite prepared to say goodbye to “Battlestar” when it concluded last month (but what a finale it was! Wow!), but I didn’t shed a tear. Not one. And why isn’t my cheek wet? Because “Caprica” is coming – and by all accounts, it’s going to be just as fine an hour.

Set 50 years prior to the events in “Battlestar Galactica”, “Caprica” essentially tells the story of the first Cylon – and the man that made it so.

Daniel Graystone (Stoltz, “Pulp Fiction”, “Killing Zoe”) is a billionaire scientist with the perfect home (beautiful tennis court overlooking the ocean!), the perfect wife (Paula Malcolmson) and loving teenage daughter (Alessandra Toreson). Did I mention everything is perfect!? Oh.
Daughter Zoe spends most of her time in a virtual-reality program – where she and a bunch of other teenagers spend the night partying at a seedy club where murder is the norm, and group sex occurs right there on the dance floor (what’s the cover charge for that place I wonder!?). It’s in this program that Zoe has created a near-exact copy of herself. If you met the clone in the faux world, you’d swear she was the Zoe – and some will.

Immigrant Joseph Adams (he’s still hiding his heritage hence dropped ‘Adama’ as his surname), played by Esai Morales, is a lawyer with, like Graystone, a loving family (wife, son and daughter) and a reasonably good job. Being an outsider, he’s had to work hard to get to the place he’s in now, and by most accounts, he’s got there from pure hard work (though he does do the odd favour by a gangster he’s still tied to for one reason or another).

When Adams wife & daughter, and Graystone’s daughter Zoe, are killed in a terrorist attack (which we’ll learn Zoe may have known about prior to the event; she seems to have been connected to some form of rebel group), it sends both men over the edge.

The two men, though from completely different worlds, ultimately meet and develop a friendship (if only out of need) – a friendship that lasts right up until the moment Graystone proposes a way they can resurrect their children (clue : it all begins with the clone of Zoe that’s living it up in the VR world).

The pilot episode of “Caprica” (which is all that’s been filmed at the moment; the show starts filming officially this Summer for a 2010 Broadcast) is an absolute winner. It’s dark, it’s thrilling, it’s captivating, and it’s immaturely performed. Stoltz, in what’ll be his first regular TV stint since playing heartthrob ‘Dr Bobby’ on “Chicago Hope” all those years ago, really embodies Graystone; it’s almost as if the character was written for him (or in the least, re-written for him). There’s something warm about Stoltz, which is interesting because Graystone is such a cold, calculating character. Granted, what the inventor does, he does because of love, but that doesn’t mean he won’t step on anyone to get what (or who) he wants. When Adama lets Graystone know that, not only will he not involve himself in this harebrained idea of his to rescue their daughters, but that what he’s doing is wrong in a human sense, it only pushes Graystone more towards the grand plan. He likes to win, it seems. And who better to play a determined scientist that doesn’t mind playing with fire than The Son of The Fly!? I’d go so far as to say this is the best Stoltz has been in years. It’s a meaty role for him, and one that I’ll imagine will get even juicier as the series progresses.

In addition, Esai Morales (who, ironically enough, played Edward James Olmos’s son in the Ritchie Valens biopic “La Bamba” in the 80s) is both a brilliant and smart choice as Joe Adams/Adama. He mightn’t be as gruff or macho as Bill Adama (who appears in the series as a youngster – obviously), but he does embody much of the qualities we’ve seen from his commander father on “Galactica”. He even looks a little like his grown-up son.

The supporting players are also very solid. Paula Malcolmson (probably best remembered for role as the hooker Trixie on “Deadwood”) is suitably cast as Graystone’s restless wife, newcomer Alessandra Toreson is both likeable and strangely-enough frightening (probably appropriate considering she’s about to become a killer robot) as the late Zoe Graystone, and Polly Walker has that mystifying maharishi thing down pat as the shadowy Sister Clarice Willow.

“Caprica”, I guess you’d say, is more of a straight-up family drama than a science-fiction actioner like “Galactica”. There’s not a space-fight in sight, yet it still has its elements of sci-fi – and how could it not? It’s set in the future, features robots, and has a Frankensteinien lead character. Because it isn’t as fast-paced or as action-centric as “Galactica” was, it’s not filmed in ‘shaky-cam’. Honestly, I miss the ‘shaky cam’ but understand that this show doesn’t call for it.

Though I’ve only watched the pilot episode, I think it’s safe to say “Caprica” is going to be one of the most exciting Television Series’ of the next couple of years.

Grab the pilot episode on DVD. You’ll be drooling for more by the time the end credits roll…