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The Spin Sheet

DVD review by Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits

Caprica: Season 1.0

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!

Caprica: Season 1.0
2009-2010 (2010) Syfy (Universal)
Released on DVD on October 5th, 2010

Program Rating: B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/B-


Set some 58 years before the events of the recently ended Battlestar Galactica, Caprica tells the story of two families living in the Twelve Colonies, the Graystones and the Adamas, and their connection to the advent of artificial intelligence - and thus the creation of the infamous Cylons - and all of the dreaded events that fans of Battlestar know those developments portend. Civilization on Caprica in particular is rich and vibrant on the outside, but this is also a culture in decay. There are problems under the surface... spreading cracks in the foundation, if you will. As is the tradition with all great science fiction, Caprica is a mirror for our own society, and here the parallels are clear, from themes of religious and ethnic unrest, to economic inequality and class warfare, to technological development that far outpaces humanity's ability to adapt.

Say whatever else you will about it... Caprica is a genuinely interesting series and is quite unique on television. BUT... while I really want to love Caprica, I don't yet. I was a huge fan of its parent series, Battlestar Galactica. And I know this series is different. Having seen all of Caprica's first 9 episodes, I truly do appreciate the intricacy of the world and the cultures the series is portraying, the complexity of its characters and moral dilemmas, and the exceptional production design. There is much here to like and celebrate. But I just haven't really connected with the series, and it boils down to the characters. They're all well-acted, but they're almost all entirely unsympathetic as well. The teens are bratty and unlikable, the adults are brooding and unpleasant. Caprica is meant to be more of a traditional soap opera, but any good soap showrunner knows you need at least a couple characters the audience really relates to. Other than Esai Morales' Joseph Adama (and him only barely) there's not one character on this show I empathize with and am inclined to pull for, whereas on Battlestar, there were any number of characters you loved (or loved to hate) - the easy friendship between Adama and Tigh drew you in, as did Adama's relationship with Apollo and Roslin, Starbuck and Apollo's connection and that's just for starters. There's nothing like that on Caprica. And sadly, when you're already having trouble connecting with a show, any little distraction can pull you out of the story. On Caprica, for me, it's the smoking. Now, I get that they're going for a whole 1940s stylistic vibe with the series. And I'm no fan of political correctness. If lighting a cigarette fits the story or the scene, then fine. But even in films from the 1940s, the whole dramatic light-up thing became something of a cliché. On Caprica, it seems to happen 3-4 times per act - in other words, it's WAY overused. Seriously, there are college students playing a drinking games based on the amount smoking in this show. We get it. Capricans smoke a lot. Enough already.

Anyway, its clouds of sexy, melodramatic smoke aside, I've continued watching Caprica BECAUSE of Battlestar, because I like and respect Ron Moore, David Eick and their writing/production team, and because I'm so impressed with the show's production design. And I will probably continue to do so when Season 1.5 begins on Syfy next week (starting on 10/5), hoping that as the show begins to visit the other Twelve Colonies beyond Caprica, and gradually builds its way to the eventual Cylon uprising and towards the established Battlestar mythology, I'll somehow connect with it. And hoping that maybe - just maybe - some new character will come along that I actually give a frak about. We'll see.

Universal's new DVD release of Season 1.0 features all 9 episodes in solid anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Note that both the original and unrated, extended editions of the pilot are included. Color is warm by design and contrasts are good in the 1.78:1 image, with a fair amount of detail visible. There's the usual analog softness and DVD compression artifacting - it's a bit distracting to me after watching this show in broadcast HD (and viewing so many other shows on Blu-ray) - but it's nothing out of the ordinary for TV releases on standard DVD. The 5.1 surround mix is good and atmospheric, delivering a punch when it needs to (but the nature of the show is that it seldom needs to).

Extras on the 4-disc set include audio commentaries with the producers (on the unrated Pilot, Reins of a Waterfall and Gravedancing), executive producer David Eick's podcast commentaries and 13 video blogs, nearly 70 minutes of deleted scenes from various episodes, interesting featurettes on the show's history and genesis (The Caprica Dynasty), production design (The Look of Caprica) and special effects (Creating a World), as well as a look ahead at what viewers can expect in Season 1.5. Those of you who purchased the pilot on DVD previously will be glad to know that all of its extras carry over as well (save for the lame Ghost Hunters promotional episode, which few should miss). It's not a lot of material, but at least it's all interesting.

Universal isn't confirming it yet, but I'd bet more than a few cubits that they'll be releasing a Caprica: Complete First Season Blu-ray set early next year, after the show's remaining Season 1 episodes air - no doubt the same day that Season 1.5 hits DVD. As such, many of you may wish to hold off your purchase until then. In the meantime, this DVD is a good way to catch up on the action so far, to get yourself ready for the back nine. Fingers crossed, they'll finally hook me. (Cue: sound of a cigarette lighter and a dramatic smoke-filled breath...)

Bill Hunt, Editor
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com
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