The new series, Caprica, on Syfy appears on the surface to be an exercise in not letting a good thing go. This prequel to Battlestar Galactica looks like it has the legs to run with the franchise, but who knows? I haven’t spoken to any of the B.G. die hards that I know about it. I don’t want to write a review of the show, but highlight some of the themes that are possible in this genre.
The pilot episode (synopsis) introduces some interesting topics for Christian educators who like to use science and fiction in their teaching.
1. a monotheist uprising in a polytheist society
The Capricans are a religious people, somehow connected to the ancient Greeks. Their lives are “guided” by the Greek pantheon and several are mentioned in this episode, namely Athena and Hecate (here summoned in her chthonic form). In this episode, Athena is heralded as the patron goddess of the perochial academy attended by the troublesome Zoe Graystone. Athena, in this context, is a beacon of wisdom and educational elitism. The only Jesus quote that I picked out in the 2 hour episode was attributed to her…or was it?
In contrast, Hecate abides in the dark, underground rave inhabited by teen avatars who revel in their freedom to commit murder, illicit group sex and sacrifice virgins during crazed performance art. I didn’t mention the drug den because it just seems so tame by comparison.
Most interestingly, there is a monotheistic uprising that seems to threaten the religious quo. Sound familiar? There’s a hitch, however. This group of monotheists comprise a violent uprising. They are technocrats and lay persons that will ultimately spell the end of the human race. While one may jump to the conclusion that the show’s creators are giving Christianity a thumb in the eye, it plays on another level. While the monotheists are largely Caucasian, there is another monotheist group with ties to terrorist activities. Like many things in the Caprica Universe, very little will be as it appears…hopefully.
2. the pursuit of truth through science
Caprica involves deep loss. Eric Stoltz plays the Cylon-pioneering Daniel Graystone. The father of Zoe, ultimately, is contracted to develop the technology that will become the Cylon warrior. In the pilot, at least, it is science that provides the avenue through which the lines between right and wrong, good and evil, moral and corrupt. While the Gods have popular claim to these dualisms, it becomes clear that the they have nothing to do with the present and especially nothing to do with future events. The shades of gray are what make story arc in Caprica possible and the Caprican science produces plenty of them. A good question here is, “to what extend does science in Caprica intrude on Caprican religion” versus “the extent to which science intrudes on Christianity.”
3. relentless pursuit of achievement and success
We live in a “forward progress” world. We measure our success and achievement in terms of progress. Knowing what we know about Battlestar Galactica and the struggle of humanity to survive, as we watch Daniel Graystone push forward a new technology that ultimately brings avatars to life (now there’s some centripetal ontology), we as the audience and participants in our own non-fictitious future are pushed to ask…is progress always good? Is pushing the envelope to the furthest extent of our ability and knowledge always beneficial? Where do accountability and discipline enter into the equation?
**Cheers to the writers for creating a plot where the situational ethics of moving forward toward oblivion make sense.
4. immortality and security tied to the use of an avatar
I’m not sure what the zeitgeist is saying right now, but the idea of the avatar is so hot right now. It is the avatar in Bruce Willis’ Surrogates that highlights our human tendency toward vanity and ultimate desire to escape conflict at all costs. It is the avatar in James Cameron’s Avatar that highlights our inherent desire to be set free from our lingering urge toward Manifest Destiny and environmental decay. It is the avatar in Caprica that provides a link to immortality, which also, ironically, will lead to extinction.
What happens to our humanity when we are able to bypass tension between our desire to stay young and beautiful and the reality that everything fades? What happens to our humanity when we can choose to wage war but don’t have to bear the weight of holding a gun on out enemy ourselves? What happens to our humanity when we refuse to take responsibility for our relationships? When our desire to get what we want eclipses our need to love? Avatars raise interesting questions…if I may say so.
5. a new eve and a new fall
A rather latent theme in the show, but certainly not in the advertising, is the Eve/Fall motif. The pilot begins with the supertitle, “53 Years Before The Fall.” Central to the very onset of the story is the idea that Caprica is destined for destruction. You know starting out that what you are about to see is not good. You know that the actions of the heroes are far from heroic. In a way, you know that your central characters are antagonists. In my view, the most sympathetic character in the show is Esai Morales’ Joseph Adama, a man from a family of established mobsters who dances pretty close to the line at all times.
Zoe (get it? The Greek name for “Eve”) Graystone, a computer prodigy, creates the technology that leads to her own “fall” and the demise of all of humanity. It’s cliche to blame her and her alone, and the writers ultimately don’t do that. She is a teenager who is frustrated with her family and all of the superfluous wealth that she has access to. Her creation is a result of both parental tension and the influence of the “one true god.” Interesting…
How does Caprica mirror the story in Gen 2 & 3? How does John 1 speak into the Caprican problem?