Battlestar Galactica's prequel series, Caprica, may be about the origins of the Cylon killer robots, but a lot of its storylines will deal with battles between the twelve colonies... which may actually heat up into full-on interstellar combat. Spoilers below.
BSG and Caprica creators Ron Moore and David Eick, showrunner Jane Espenson, and actor Esai Morales, who plays Bill Adama's Tauron father Joseph, spoke at yesterday's Caprica/Battlestar Galactica panel about what we can expect from the show's first season.
If you were hoping the show would retain the topless nightclub shots from the DVD pilot, you're in for a bit of disappointment; the network demanded all nipple-y bits be digitally erased for the television premiere (officially announced today as January 22, 2010). But fans of Battlestar Galactica should still keep their eyes open for other visual goodies, says Eick:
The relationship between the two shows is very tangential, but there will be easter eggs for fans along the way. I think as fans of Battlestar watch Caprica there are occasional nods to Battlestar, to some knowledge that I think the fans will have.
For example, many fans noticed that the nightclub in the Caprica pilot suspiciously resembles the opera house shown throughout BSG:
Yes, as a matter of fact, we're going to some of the same sets. In fact, where Esai [Morales] and Trow have a conversation about what he has to do is the same place where we shot a lot of Helo and Sharon running for their lives in the first season.
At the same time, you won't see any of the twelve Cylon models we know and love, and we probably won't meet any other younger versions of our heroes, or their families, apart from young Willie Adama.
Although the look and feel of Caprica is a world away from the gritty Battlestar Galactica, the design team is the same, and Moore and Eick assure us that they'll maintain the same attention to detail, but to a different effect:
We wanted it to feel like it's a bit of a period piece, because it is a period piece for the Galactica. It's 58 years prior to Battlestar Galactica, so we wanted to have this feel like it's a different time within this particular universe. And yet we wanted to communicate different cultural identities, so we saw that the Taurons feel more like they're in the 1940s, with these hats, ties, and smoking clove cigarettes, the cars more vintage, and they sort of have that flavor throughout...it's a different style, an aesthetic different from seeing the contemporary Caprica during Battlestar.
And in the press roundtables after the panel, Moore told us that there was a deliberate decision to make Caprica look and feel as different from BSG as possible. That includes a lot more outdoor and street filming, as opposed to BSG's mainly interior shots. It's expensive and difficult to recreate Caprica in Vancouver on a regular basis, shooting one episode in seven days, but it's totally worth it, says Moore.
At the beginning of the panel, Moore listed Caprica's major theme as being mankind's relationship with advancing technology and the ethics of dealing with artificial intelligence. But as the panel went on, he, Eick, Espenson focused most of their discussion on the political and cultural conflicts between the humans. We'll apparently get to see more of the world-building around Colonial life that we glimpsed in the pilot. Says Moore:
At this point in time, the planets, the Colonies, are at war with each other periodically. It's not a time of war...the colonies themselves are a loose commonwealth, confederation. There is no president, no equivalent to Laura Roslin at this point in time. There's a prime minister of Caprica and there are heads of state on various other colonies.
There are tensions, reservations, biases. There's a certain racist thread that runs through some of the relationships in terms of Taurons and Capricans.
So does this mean we'll get to see what armed skirmishes look like between the individual Colonies? All signs point to yes. During the press roundtables after the panel, Moore told us that "the twelve colonies actually war with each other" during this time period. And instead of the Cylons being the main "other" that our heroes are threatened by, the humans treat each other as the exotic threat, because the Cylons don't really exist yet. Moore says science fiction can address thorny issues like racism, because people who would get offended by the discussion of such topics don't take the genre seriously enough to care.
Jane Espenson noted that this different situation for the colonies allows the writers and designers to differentiate between the different colonies through their dress, traditions, and — she said rather pointedly into the microphone — their tattoos, like the one on Sam Adama's neck.
The panel's moderator asked Esai Morales whether his character, Joseph Adama, has a tattoo as well:
I may not have done what my brother did, but I may have a tattoo here or there somewhere. But we can't give it all away here. We have to save some of it.
In the press roundtables, Espenson added that she's trying to go against real-world ethnic stereotypes in portraying the twelve colonies. The writers have a bible describing all twelve of these worlds, saying things like "This one is like India, except," followed by a big list of differences. Each of these twelve worlds could be its own TV series, and they're trying to make sure each planet has a varied climate and its own mix of cultures and classes, rather than having planets that are purely homogenous. One example of avoiding stereotypes is Sam Adama, Bill Adama's brother — he's a gangster, but he's self-educated and always speaks with perfect grammar. So he's a total thug, but without any of the usual cues that would make it easy for us to identify him as such.