As fans already now, the TV series “Caprica” is a prequel to “Battlestar Galactica” in that it takes place within the same world, some 50 years before the Cylon attack on the 12 Colonies. The show focuses on two families--the Graystones and the Adamas--brought together by a tragedy involving teenage daughters. In their obsession to bring their daughters back to virtual life, the fathers help change the face of humanity forever. However, while the themes of “Caprica” may be similar to those of its predecessor, the show is a very different one.
Executive Producer David Eick, in a recent press conference call hosted by SyFy, explains. “We’re very intently committed to the idea that this show stand on its own, that it not in any way feel like an echo or a descendant or an extension of ‘Battlestar Galactica’ in any way…And the relationship that it has to ‘Battlestar’ is purely inconsequential. It’s kind of, in an Easter egg sense, fun for the fans and audience that followed ‘Battlestar Galactica.’ But if you never saw a lick of that show it will have no impact on your ability to really get involved in and relate to the characters and the drama we’re doing on this show.”
“Caprica” is mostly terrestrially-bound, unlike “Battlestar Galactica,“ and seems to reside in a future not too distant from our own. Despite the differences, though, scifi TV fans will still see some similarities between the two shows, including big ideas like morality versus technology, what makes up the human soul and the nature of violence. “Character is always where we start our story,” Eick says. “Like ‘Battlestar’ I would say ‘Caprica’ is not terribly plot-driven. There are wonderful yarns and threads wrapping around episodes and through episodes, but ultimately I think the audience for ‘The Sopranos,’ for ‘Mad Men,’ for ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ for ‘The Shield’ and ‘The Wire’ and the kinds of shows that really are about delving into character are going to be the audience for ‘Caprica.’
One of “Caprica’”s main characters is Amanda Graystone, played by actress Paula Malcomson, who also participated in the press conference call. Amanda, like many of “Caprica”’s leads, are not wholly good or evil--just complicated. She says, “I think audiences want challenging characters and characters who are neither black or white, but are somewhere in the middle where they’re morally gray, and they’re going to challenge the audience’s expectation in every way.”
Malcomson says, “It’s been an incredible odyssey, this show….There’s been a lot of freedom here to really feel as though almost anything is possible on this show. Like if we take a turn somewhere, we can end up going down another road. It’s been quite an organic process.”
Such a process, in which the plot isn’t completely mapped out to the end, is the same one that Eick used for “Battlestar Galactica.” And why is that? “Yeah, that’s just called laziness,” Eick says. “There’s no mystery.”
But he does say that on some shows his partner Ron Moore had worked on previous to “Battlestar Galactica,” the atmosphere was more precise, detailed and structured, with very little improvisation or spontaneity. Meanwhile, on some of the shows he worked on, young writers were encouraged to contribute and change. “You might somehow find something brilliant,” he says. “The downside is that sometimes you can’t find your a$$ with both hands and you have an episode that doesn’t work.”
Eick wanted to combine the best of these environments, which is the process that was used in “Battlestar Galactica”--a big-picture plan would be concocted by the creators (Eick and Moore) over a few drinks in the off-season, and then it would be delivered to the writing staff. “Then everyone was encouraged to improvise and add on and subtract and go crazy, and just sort of create an environment where there are no bad ideas,” Eick says. “And then if we lost our way we’d circle back to where we want to go. So it really is a combination of running a tight ship and yet really allowing for there to be a lot of improvisation and changes on the fly--purely with the intent of having the best ideas.”
Malcomson adds that this process also applies to the actors as well as the writers. “When a surprise or something interesting comes up we’ve had the luxury to be able to follow that instinct. Like the other day, I had a scene where I just decided for the good of the show it would be an excellent thing to slap Eric Stoltz. And so I did. For the good of the show….It’s really the only way to work, as far as I’m concerned. Otherwise, there are no surprised. It’s boring. One of the directors said to me the other day, ‘I never know what you’re going to do.’ And I said, ‘No, neither do I.’ And there’s just something amazing and beautiful about that. Hopefully, it works.”
Filming for the first season of 12 episodes is wrapping up soon. What are we going to see during the course of the series to date? “The show’s definitely undergone a great and positive evolution in growth from its beginning to the conclusion of the first season,” says Eick. “But only in a way that I would say is consistent with any first-year show. Good shows should get better as they go, and I think this one does.”
This appropriately vague response will definitely keep us watching. Don’t miss the pilot tonight at 9 p.m. ET on SyFy, and stay tuned in to the SciFi TV forum because we’re going to be offering a DVD copy of the pilot episode, signed by cast members!