Caprica is over – heady science fiction does not sell
Thought-provoking entertainment does not appear to belong anywhere on television. Earlier this year we watched Dollhouse crash and burn, and now it has been announced that Caprica will not be returning to SyFy for another season. The reason cited is that the show did not generate enough viewers. Never mind that SyFy split the first season into two halves, reprising the season at some random point in Autumn on a completely different night of the week. (A Friday to Tuesday move is odd, but it is sensible when one realizes that pro-wrestling presently earns among the highest ratings of anything on the channel.) But the problem is not with SyFy, as much as I want to blame them. The problem is the lack of audience.
It has to be admitted right off that Caprica is an extremely difficult show to get. Battlestar Galactica fans were not given the easy admission they assumed they would have because the only carryovers were the idea of Cylons and the simple name Adama. Sure, William Adama is present in both, but the different ages make for very different characters. So no matter what, you start the show trying to understand this different world. The planet Caprica is jarring in that it seems to embody its own anachronism. The technology is far futuristic and incomparable to our own, but some of the settings and definitely some of the fashions represent the 50’s and 60’s of our past. And the technology is the crux of the show. Not only is there a headpiece people can wear to find themselves in a completely immersive and interactive virtual world, but data (both personal and social) can be used to completely reconstruct a person in that virtual world.
The whole point of the show, similar to Dollhouse, is what constitutes identity and humanity. Both Zoe Graystone and Tamara Adama were lost in a terrorist attack, but nearly complete copies were made from data and live seemingly as immortals over the Holoband network. Are they the same people that died in the attack? Are they completely different? Somehow, the answer to both is yes. We watch the show to find out what it means. Meanwhile the rest of the characters struggle with their own feelings of guilt and loss, pushing their morals and beliefs regarding what it means to be human.
Of course, that means nothing now. The show is canceled. SyFy will not even air the remaining episodes until early next year, meaning there is no reason to tune into the network next Tuesday night. This week’s episode was just so strong. I was really looking forward to its follow up.
In other news, SyFy has already optioned another Battlestar Galactica spin-off. This one will feature William Adama when he first becomes a fighter pilot. Obviously, this series will be much more action oriented – just the kind of thing to get people watching. And it will be yet another scifi show that takes place predominantly in space, which is certainly a backdrop that never becomes tiresome in science fiction. If the producers of the show were smart, they would immediately start integrating elements of Caprica into the new series to function as a backdoor finale of sorts – if not just for the sake of continuity and coherence because this new show essentially bridges Caprica and BSG. That is my wish.
But we know wishes do not come true. Otherwise I would still have philosophical entertainment on television.