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September 2, 2015

'Caprica' Gets Too Religious on Us

by Stephanie Earp, posted Oct 12th 2010 3:48PM
Was there a more a disappointing moment in childhood than the Sunday-morning realization that the only thing on TV was televangelists and 'The 700 Club'? You came looking for 'He-Man,' instead you got Pat Robertson. For some reason Ron Moore and the 'Caprica' team seem to want us to relive that moment every Tuesday night as we tune in for new episodes of the 'Battlestar Galactica' spin-off.

As other critics have noted, 'Caprica' has turned away from some of the deliciously-enticing ideas the show started to examine in the first half of the first season -- things like the potential origins of true artificial intelligence or completely virtual worlds -- and now, instead, we're getting a primer on the intricacies of a religion that doesn't even exist.

It's the fictional aspect of this religion that really gets my goat. I can understand having scenes involving detailed costumes and rituals if this was educational in some way, like, for example, if it was actually increasing our knowledge of an actual religion that was tied in with a terrorist group. But there is no reason that Moore and his team can't pursue the ideas that obviously fascinate them -- where terror and religion meet, what true belief can do, how people come to believe, etc -- without sparing his audience the dusty temples and colorful, sparkly robes (seriously, what was the deal with those?).

If such a thing as a tragic flaw exists, then this is Ron Moore's: His insistence on tying his beautiful characters and plots to religious themes. And it all started out as such a good idea. Back in the early days of 'BSG,' the zealotry of the Cylon agents mirrored that of the suicide bombers of al Qaeda, and if anything, humanized them. When these characters popped up on screen, we saw their faith and their anger, but thankfully we did not see them having meetings in ancient temples dressed like extras from 'The 10 Commandments.' As the show progressed, the theme of religious persecution and conversion came to the forefront, as the rebel Cylons tried to force the human captives of New Caprica to accept them. It was one of the finest allegories I've seen on television. And then things got weird -- Starbuck died and was resurrected, and when we got the promised explanation for her corporeal return, it was pretty vague.

Looking back, I see this was a massive turning point for the show. Early 'BSG' was a show about a war between people who believed in angels and prophecies and vengeful gods, and what they did to try to control each other. Late 'BSG' was a show in which angels and prophecies and vengeful gods were real. I was so caught up in the story I didn't even notice at the time. But all things considered, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised by the ending, which seemed to suggest that two of the characters were actually timeless, ageless beings -- angels or devils we're not sure -- who've observed humans from afar over our entire evolution. And of course, they don't like what they see.

But when it comes to 'Caprica,' my disappointment is two-fold. Not only am I pissed about the lack of return trips to V World, but I can't believe that Ron Moore got to invent a religion and this is the best he could come up with. If I have to put up with fusty details, it would be great if it was bit more original than scraggly beards, plain-faced 'mothers,' voluminous robes and nattering on about the 'one true God.' It's one thing when Tricia Helfer does it, but 'Caprica's believers are decidedly dowdy in comparison. In the realm of non-fiction (if it can be called that) new religions have all kinds of shiny attributes. L. Ron Hubbard came up with thetans, Bobby Henderson created the Flying Spaghetti Monster and spawned International Talk Like A Pirate Day, yet all Ron Moore can dream up is brown clothes, uncombed hair and ridiculously ornate jewelry.

In some ways, Moore has re-created some of those Sunday morning feelings right here on his show. You may not like 'Caprica' much right now -- you might find it boring, repetitive, slow and sort of judgmental -- but if you continue to tune in and watch Sister Clarice's endless scenes, maybe you'll get your reward in the last 10 minutes of season 1.5. Like a giant Cylon space fight in V World.

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Dave Brown

I have found the inclusion of religion in not only BSG and Caprica but also in other sci-fi series and expresive mediums very comforting. Not because of any personal belief system, as I am an atheist, but because religion, its study, its origins, its place within cultures, belongs within the arts.

October 13 2010 at 7:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well said, Joemama.

When telling a huge story like this one, every episode and every half-season can't be exactly the same. If that's what you want, go watch a procedural or a sit-com on broadcast TV. I like shows that constantly change and evolve as the main plot develops. I always know that even if some aspects of a particular episode aren't my cup of tea, that will all change soon. It's the big story I'm there for in shows like Caprica and I'm willing to let the creators take their time to fully develop every aspect of that story.

October 13 2010 at 1:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jeebus, guys! take a longer view of this. HOW has religion been presented? in particular, how has the "one true god" thing been presented?
THEY ARE TERRORISTS! What I love about this whole franchise is that religion, like most other things, are treated the way religion *is* in real life: SOME people don't believe, some people do, some people are fervent about it, some people kill for it. The fervent people, like in real life, are the loudest, most annoying, and take advantage of those who would kill for their faith.

you're all tv junkies and you can't see the likely story arc of this angle?
based on the religious douchebags in the story, all those machines being made by Greystone are going to get the souls of the people killed in the pyramid stadium, they'll become self-aware, and want payback. poof! we have BSG Cylons. end of series.

None of this would have happened if it hadn't been for those religious douchebags and their need for "converting the 12 colonies to our 'god'" ........does THAT sound familiar to anyone?
if not, ask a Christian about their faith.....

October 13 2010 at 12:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You know, now that I think of it......the Bajoran "religious" stuff on DS9 was really the only reason I didn't love DS9 as much as the other Trek series. It is bogging me down here on Caprica too.

October 13 2010 at 12:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Geez - it was one episode for crap's sake. Chill out.

October 12 2010 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree more or less with this recap by Stephanie Earp. While I don't think the topic of religion in BSG was handled well, it didn't bore the living daylights out of us/me like Caprica is currently doing.

This religious storyline with Sister Clarice isn't being as interesting as it should be. If you depict religious zealotry to current TV audiences, it should be done without boring them. Taking a half to two-thirds of an episode to deal with the zealots in the STO can't be a good idea if it feels like it's going on and on without something of substance occurring.

In my not-so-humble opinion, the Sister Clarice/STO storyline has been handled poorly all along in Caprica. While I can't suggest a better way to handle this plotline, RM had better think of a simpler/better way to explain the religious origins of the Cylon faith than the rambling way it's being done.

October 12 2010 at 7:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John F.C. Taylor

Did not care for new version of BSG, so what this show does is of absolutely no interest to me. Except it's another hour wasted on tv.

October 12 2010 at 5:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to John F.C. Taylor's comment

I wonder why then are you reading recaps of it and commenting on it? I certainly wouldn't use up lots of MY time on shows I didn't like, as opposed to those I did.

October 12 2010 at 5:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This seems like you're basing your opinion entirely on the last episode, which explains how Clarice takes over the STO. The whole religious aspect is very important to the BSG mythos, but in my opinion has been discussed very little aside from having one god versus multiple gods.

October 12 2010 at 5:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The spiritual stuff in bsg was there from season 1 the so there was no "bait and switch". Kudos to Moore for doing something unique in scifi.

October 12 2010 at 5:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If this is a prequel to Battlestar Galactica, the evolution of the Cylons' religion has to be shown along with the evolution of the Cylons themselves. Like it or not.

October 12 2010 at 5:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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