Tag Archives: Battlestar Galactica

Killing Zoe

Caprica

I have a memory which I think is false, because it would have required a babysitter, which we could never get, of seeing a violent but funny film, somewhere in London, possibly free due to the generosity of Time Out, but I think my memory serves me ill and while, no doubt it was recommended by Time Out and shown late and free to those who could get there, I think we must have seen it on TV after the kids had gone to bed. The film was Killing Zoe (Dir. Roger Avary 1993) and it starred a young and intense red head, Eric Stoltz (iPad predicted “stilts” that must annoy him). Anyhow, it was the era of Reservoir Dogs (Dir. Quentin Tarantino) and Killing Zoe was a take on a similar style. Written and directed by Roger Avary the film is set in and involves a bank robbery, a siege and a girl (Julie Delfy), all conducted, in somewhat of a drug induced haze. It was funny and dark and Eric Stilts – sorry Stoltz – was intense and memorable. The film was well thought of by the critics although some felt its dependence on violence was over the top and we shall draw a veil over its financial success so pretty soon Stoltz disappeared. Caprica on AmazonHe reappeared in the famous and funny scene in Pulp Fiction (Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 1994) that involved a cell phone, a car crash, a gangster’s wife (Uma Thurman) a very big needle and some adrenalin. 2 Days in The Valley wasn’t bad either, but I guess the reason haven’t seen much of him recently is because most of his TV choices have not been run in this country (UK) until Caprica.

Let me say from the outset that, like most of the stuff I watch, Caprica (iPad predicts “Caprice”….awkward) has been cancelled, that almost goes without saying, but it seemed a shame to let it go without a mention. Like its famous predecessor (although, in fictional terms, its successor) Battlestar Galactica, it was thoughtful science fiction. The backstory to the re-imagined world that was Battlestar Galactica, this prequel to the Cylon wars has the customary detail and verisimilitude that we have come to expect from Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, the makers of Battlestar. Whilst it might have been tempting to fling together a few stories to capitalise on the success of the main series, not so with Caprica it was presented as a piece developed with respect for the audience as opposed to an attempt capture their attention for as long as possible before they wise up to a second rate con. Whether it is myth or practice that Hollywood writers and producers develop copious series notes and a variety of back stories that support their characterisations I don’t know, but the stories of Caprica, the ancestors of Adama, the thinking that led to the creation of the Cylons remains detailed and original.

Most of all the decision to suggest that the creation of the Cylons could trace its original genesis to a feud between a teenage girl and her parents was little short of a stroke a genius! Of course a teenage girl might be rash enough to join a cult, to court death without regard to the consequences, of course a teenager might be able to code a program more sophisticated than anything her clever father might do, of course the love that father had for her might drive him to resurrect her in a virtual world and think about how to transfer her to a body later. The teenage daughter’s name is Zoe and whether that is a reference to the film Killing Zoe or to the meaning of the name in Greek ‘life” is a mystery to me, but a great deal about the nature of the Cylons is explained by that device: immaturity, contrariness, but also passion and originality, even sincere religious belief, especially if you understand that their genesis lies in the mind of a teenage girl.

However it was not just the representation of the Cylon back story that was compelling but, as with the original series, the portrayal of characters and relationships that play out against the background of an imagined world almost exactly like our own. The Adamas are a driven family, exiled from their planet, living the balance between honesty and gangsterism, murder and freedom fighting. The brothers, Sam and Joseph, are fiercely loyal to each other in the light of their oppression. Tradition, family and a mafia-like underworld inform the history of the Adamas with Joseph’s son, Willy, presented as an interesting possibility. Eric Morales (Joseph) portrays a desperately bereaved father with visceral verisimilitude and Sasha Roiz plays an assassin with a heart of gold with tact (if that’s possible) including a nice cathartic moment with a Cylon.
Then there’s the Graystones (ipad predicts “gravestone”) with an aristocratic name that echoes perhaps the great lord Greystoke (Tarzan) and with more than a hint of a combination of Steve Jobs’ sex appeal and Bill Gates’ house the family plays out its saga against the backdrop of what appears to be Pugit Sound in an echo of Baltar’s doomed apartment in BSG. It is Paula Malcomson as Amanda Graystone and Stoltz as Daniel Graystone whose performances as a long married couple who suffer the loss of their daughter together that underpin the grammar of relationships against the backdrop of science fiction. The couple copes with the subsequent dissonance that their loss brings to their marriage and offer a thoughtful take on a mature and loving relationship, much as later, in BSG, Adama (Edward James Olmos) and Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) slowly form a loving and mature relationship. In Caprica, Daniel and Amanda are a couple who know each other intimately, so well in fact, that despite their differences, they are more comfortable with each other than they are with anyone else.

There is more to the series and would have been more that I would happily have indulged, but once again the hungry money machine that is network TV spits out quality in fear of the loss advertising revenue. The second DVD’s out Monday … If you’re new to the whole franchise start there and move on to Battlestar Galactica.

And for those of you hankering for more a new series in between the two Blood and Chrome starring local boy for us Luke Pasquilino as Adama is on its way. I’m guessing more action and less thought will hook the audience but will it be quality?

Also: http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2010/oct/29/caprica-battlestar

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OUTCASTS CAST OUT


Rudi (Langley Kirkwood)

Set in 2040, Outcasts (just finished on BBC 1) was a show that posited, or deposited, a remnant of humankind on a planet called Carpathia. This remnant was to pioneer a new civilisation after an apocalypse on a dystopic earth. The title may have referred to these pioneers, isolated from earth to forge a new world, or perhaps to the clones known as the ACs made outcast after the first settlement on Carpathia. Episodes were long (90 minutes) yes there was a lot of talking, yes it took a while to get know what was going on and who was who, but do we have to have an explanation of everything up front in order for a show to get an audience?. Like the first US pioneers the outcasts were a combination of settlers, military, religious and commercial who struggle to survive in a hostile wilderness. There is a governor, or president, who brokers peace with the indigenous peoples or the outcast ACs and there is a military wing, hawkish and troublesome to its leaders. All this combined to leave the audience needing to persevere a bit with narrative, character and concept but I was more than willing to give it a go, but the show has been cancelled and to add insult to injury there was a monumental cliff hanger at the end of the season. Thus Outcasts joins the ranks of Jericho, Firefly and Invasion for leaving its audience hanging, although Jericho made a brief come back for the fans and Firefly headed for the big screen.Ashley Walters, Danny Mays and Amy Manson The purpose of the cliff hanger is to invite the audience to watch the next season, but now, all that wasted talent, all that wasted time and all those hours I spent on the sofa expecting to be entertained are gone to naught with my licence fee. Only recently I was bewailing the fact that there was nothing to watch on TV. Sky Atlantic has attracted a little attention from me, but the Boardwalk is not the tremendous break into telly for Martin Scorcese that Twin Peaks was for David Lynch, Treme is not The Wire, so only Mad Men will keep my subscription. I agree with some critics of Outcasts that it was a bit of shock to lose Jamie Bamber in the first episode, yes there were shades of Battlestar Galactica (not just Bamber), sometimes, just sometimes there were moments when it didn’t seem to gel. However, I read the first scripts of Only Fools and Horses for coverage in the Radio Times and I didn’t think that would take off, and the first series did not herald the success it would later be (she states defensively) but the BBC stuck with it and the rest is history – no such loyalty now. It also took up the apparently failed series Men Behaving Badly – no such risk taking now. GroupI have some beef with the casting of Hermione Norris, I think the producers went for a known face because they didn’t have confidence in the scripts but with Ashley Walters, Eric Mabius and Liam Cunningham plus talented newcomers – why not risk a new woman in the role? No doubt Kudos owes Norris for Spooks, but she dominates perhaps not in a good way. Her presence overshadowed the series, not enough to put me off, and others may differ, she is a convincing authoritative woman and I cannot fault her performance. In addition, given time, characters can take a back seat whilst others come to the fore or are introduced …given time.

It’s been a bad year for me and telly so far, The Daily Show has been pulled, reality and fashion dominates the schedules, Stargate Universe is winding down, where the hell is Dexter? Mad Men has gone to Sky and now the BBC’s best effort at a serious sci fi (no offence Dr Who) has fallen to cowardice. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this is that there is no come back to the powers that be, nowadays everything from the price of petrol, the job I do, the tax I pay to the things I teach in the classroom, are proscribed by someone else and when a TV series I like, gets unceremoniously dumped by nameless accountants, that sense of powerlessness is accentuated, melodramatic I know put it down to a long winter and a bad news week.

There may be a longer blog on audience dependence, not a passive audience as such, inclined to absorb and imitate, but an audience dependent on commissioning editors for their entertainment, manipulated for the benefit of the mass audience, a mass audience that leaves the moderately intelligent drama uneconomic and unsuccessful. Over the years something similar happened to publishing, publishers in search of the huge success have paid massive advances and the subsequent distribution and marketing costs, to sell the likes of Dan Brown and good for him, but where are the Paul Scotts and Daphne Du Mauriers of modern books, and where are the Alan Platers and Troy Kennedy Martins  (look ’em up) of modern television? At the very least if TV series are so risky must we have the cliff hanger? Why not make a season a complete piece in itself.  Mad Dogs the recent high concept four parter for Sky started and finished in one season, four consummate actors, playing out a dark comedy in the sun, a beginning, a middle and an end – what’s wrong with that?

Cast pix: Top: Langley Kirkwood. Centre right: Ashley Walters, Danny Mays and Amy Manson. Bottom: Ensemble