A couple of years ago, just as Battlestar Galactica was nearing its conclusion, Ron Moore and David Eick approached the SyFy Channel with the idea of exploring the world of the Twelve Colonies from a different perspective. They wanted to use the rich canvas of Battlestar Galactica to springboard it into a new standalone series.
Set 58 years before the apocalypse of Battlestar Galactica, Caprica explores a vibrant world very much its own and very much one that’s like ours. Told through the stories of two dynamic families that are brought together by a tragedy, the characters on Caprica are grappling with new technology, religious extremism, the corrupting influence of the Internet, love, loss, betrayal and revenge.
I spoke with Executive Producers David Eick and Jane Espenson about their prequel at the TV Critics Association tour.
For people who were fans of Battlestar Galactica, what can they expect from Caprica?
Jane Espenson: Moral complexity. There’s no stark bad guys and good guys, that this is a world that is perceived by some of its residents as sort of sliding over the edge, and there’s a whole bunch of people who think they’ve got the answer.
The guy who believes in technology thinks that’s the answer. The person who believes in religion thinks that’s the answer. And if everybody has moral shadings we can tell very complex stories as a result.
David Eick: Caprica, like Battlestar, doesn’t treat the genre as the toy department. We really do take it seriously, and we really do try to involve depth of character, realism, grounded-terrestrial naturalism to a science fiction world.
That sort of came from what we always admired about the greats and the classics from Asimov to Philip K. Dick. This science fiction is not fun and games. We wanted to go the opposite direction of George Lucas, if you will. We wanted to make it less about escapism and more about moral complexity, as Jane was saying, and great characters.
Both Battlestar and Caprica deal with Christianity, which is an area that we don’t see a lot in primetime. Talk a little about your faith and why you find it to be fodder for drama.
David Eick: It doesn’t necessarily deal with Christianity, per se. It deals with monotheism versus polytheism, and I think when we were crafting Battlestar, there was a great deal of reliance on the cultural reality of the day to inform the storytelling. We were all news junkies and political science junkies and so it was very difficult to write about a war taking place in this imaginary world without reflecting on the war that was taking place in the real world.
As we know, that war involved a great deal of religion. And it really began there. It was rooted in the cultural realities of our times, and I think science fiction has historically been a genre that reflected the times that they were in.
What are the similarities between this series and Battlestar Galactica?
Jane Espenson: There’s something wonderful and amazing about the culture that was set up in Battlestar, that there’s this world in which there’s never been any discrimination based on gender or preference, and other interesting things in this culture that have carried over from Battlestar to this world that we’ve gotten to explore a lot more because we’re dealing with a thriving city in which they’re not running for their lives. They’re settled into this culture, so we could really explore that.
Do you think viewers who haven’t watched Battlestar will be interested in this prequel? Why do you think this can work as stand-alone?
David Eick: You’ll notice, it’s not called Battlestar Galactica: Caprica or Caprica from the World of Battlestar. There is no indication from a marketing standpoint that you should know or even be aware of Battlestar Galactica.
So from the standpoint of why will people come to it, I think the same reason they come to any well-marketed and well-executed television show; that it’s compelling in its own right, that it has ideas embedded in it and a visual style that looks inviting and exciting.
New viewers who never watched Battlestar will find that there’s virtually no tether to it from a storytelling standpoint whatsoever. There are the occasional Easter eggs and nods and acknowledgements for the Battlestar faithful to enjoy or maybe deepen some of their appreciation for it, but I think legitimately the show stands on its own.
Jane Espenson: Imagine you were watching a show that you knew nothing about and they were developing sentient robots. You might very well get a glimmer that these sentient robots are going to be trouble down the road. You don’t need Battlestar Galatica to tell you that, the story tells you that.