I kind of feel unqualified to write about Caprica. I haven’t been a scifi geek since Next Generation and I’ve only seen 2 episodes of BSG, late at night, after a few drinks…and I didn’t get it (although I realize it’s something I’ll need to return to one day). But I got pulled into Caprica because it just looked so good and it has Trixie from Deadwood (who I love) in it! So while I realize that a two hour intro into the invention of the Cylon was probably very exciting for all the BSGers out there, and likely to be filled with significant references only they would get, there are a bunch of other themes that made me love last night’s premiere of Caprica. And they’re almost all themes we’ve discussed on this blog in other contexts before: the relationship between bodies and identity or personhood; concepts of the Divine, particularly in this mono- vs. polytheistic battle, the relationship between memory and identity, the conflation of sex and violence in pop culture imagery; and life, death and everything in between.
It’s probably this mono- vs. polytheistic theme that interests me the most. Caprica is a largely polytheist culture (interestingly enough, it seems to follow all ancient Western gods – from Athena to Jesus, perhaps to Zeus – the point being, this polytheism did have a decidedly Western bent to it). And there’s a small sect of folks who have discovered the one true God, the God who arbitrates right and wrong definitively, who can help you in times of crisis and who is higher than all other gods. The broader culture fears this sect – why would you trust anyone who has a concept of the Divine that could make them make absolutist claims or justify any action? And certainly, this God’s followers are diverse – a suicide bomber, a computer genius (whose name, Zoe, un-coincidentally, means life), and a highly educated prep-school principle. In other words, this God has followers symbolizing life, death and wisdom.
But what I also found interesting about this God was that s/he is found not only in some transcendent place and, in that place, seems to still be invisible, but that s/he also is willing to compete for attention within that alternative (technologically accessible) space. Lacy admits that her and Zoe tried out numerous other rooms first – particularly noting the use of the group-sex room; poor Daniel! – but that they brew bored. We might say, ennui set in! And they turned to the true path, the one true God. This is a monotheistic deity who doesn’t mind winning its followers over; proving itself better than the other options for pleasure on display.
But of course, we can’t just paint this God as a happy, humble helpful God – because it’s also a God that creates suicide bombers (that’s a scifi thing, right? Occasional extreme heavy-handedness to anchor more complex ideas?). There was no indication that Zoe’s bombing friend had any better or worse interpretation of the one true God than she did. And, in fact, we’re left with the possibility that this one true God is still some sort of wish projection for both of them.
Moments that got me hooked: right after the Soldiers of the One were explained for the first time, the subsequent cut to a street scene focused first for a moment on a Coliseum-inspired building…I love a show that can play with art and architecture like that to make a subtle point. This Coliseum had its spaces for god-statues left empty, just like the one that stands today. But its original polytheistic setting would have had it filled with those gods, and so I read this as a small indication that the polytheistic culture is not so strong as it appears (later buttressed by the revelation of other One-true-godders, like Sister Clarice). Also, the moment when Zoe-2 stood covered in blood and Lacy’s promise that it’s all going to be ok makes the blood disappear – I’m not even sure what that means yet, but it was a captivating image nonetheless. Is Lacy bestowing this Zoe with the right to take the original Zoe’s place? It’s certainly a sort of ‘baptized in blood’ moment – the cleaning perhaps symbolizing her being situated in her new identity. And of course, the amazing architectural details to the homes, particularly the Graystones’ – those guys have more super-cool bookshelves than I’ve ever seen in one two hour span!
Oh, my – there’s so much more to say, that I hope we’ll get to cover in later weeks: the mix of religious imagery in neck tattoos, the terrifying scene where Tammy couldn’t feel her heart beating (and pretty much everything having to do with bodies, identity and selfhood – this topic is rich for future discussion!), and Joseph’s decision to keep his family alive by denying the Tammy substitute and instead telling stories of their history. And did you notice his family name, Adam, as the Biblical first person? As Joseph spoke God’s words from Genesis over his family name, “and it’s good,” I wondered what was going on with this new creation…and I’m certainly excited to see!
Ok BSGers – I need your help! What have I missed that I just don’t know because I don’t know BSG? What’s the significance of these proto-cylons? Help me out in the comments, please – I’m very very curious!