The Much(?) Anticipated Return of Caprica
While I am perhaps in the minority in thinking that Battlestar Galactica actually capped its story nicely, my thirst for anything Battlestar meant I also didn’t mind SyFy announcing a prequel spin-off to restart the flow of content. Simply put, I was exactly the built-in, guaranteed audience that likely fueled SyFy’s interest in Caprica.
This is why I was shocked to receive a reminder about this Antenna post I’d promised about the mid-season return of Caprica and then to have asked myself, “oh, is that tonight?” Sure, I’ve been busy. But I’ve been busy before, and Battlestar viewing was always something I met with great anticipation. Whether separated by hours or days, viewed “live” or in DVD marathons, the space between episodes was consistently filled with excitement and build up, causing my internal clock to keep a constant countdown until my next Battlestar appointment. That clock, apparently, has ceased to run for Caprica.
I don’t think it’s because Caprica is a bad show, necessarily. Sure, this mid-season premiere could have been better. The previous cliffhanger left the fates of Amanda and Zoe in the air, and this episode teased at their deaths without directly confronting them: an obvious fake-out confirmed by the last minute reveal of their survival. Joseph Adama’s seemingly complete embrace of a criminal lifestyle (rather than tenuously negotiating it as a lawyer) makes him a far less interesting character in my eyes. And the Gemenese clergy costumes looked too much borrowed from a Vulcan monastery to match Caprica’s more grounded textural palette. But there was a lot of great stuff going on too. The virtual representation of a terror attack at a Caprica Buccaneers game was not only chilling, but also gave needed meaning to Clarice’s long-promised “apotheosis,” granting her character new purpose and heft. Seeing that Tomas Vergis had taken over Daniel Greystone’s company between episodes to put the Cylons into production advanced the well-played personal and corporate conflict between the two tycoons, all while generating a sense of inevitable dread. It’s not clear how this conflict will resolve, but Battlestar fans know the stakes involve an army of robots destined to wipe out both sides. The whole premise of the series, and its greatest strength, is anticipation of certain societal ruin.
But I can’t have an internal, step-by-step countdown to robotic apocalypse if I have no idea when the next appointment in the countdown will be. At the unresolved moments between episodes and seasons when I should be feeling the most tension and anticipation, I actually feel the least, because I have no idea when or if that resolution might be coming. Despite the series having premiered in January, SyFy only aired the first half of the season and then waited several months until the summer to announce a return date. That return date was then slated for January 2011, and only last month bumped up to this week. I can’t help but feel my anticipation of this return would have been stronger if I’d seen the previous cliffhanger with some sense of how long I’d be waiting, so that I could invest in its dramatic tension on those terms with a target for resolution in mind. I can look forward to next week’s episode a little bit more, perhaps, and the week after that, but since SyFy hasn’t committed to a second season yet (and likely won’t by the end of the season), I fear I’ll reach another impasses when I’m asked to sustain anticipation and excitement indefinitely. Yes, this kind of scheduling did occur on occasion with Battlestar too—but it seems that SyFy has institutionalized the temporal uncertainty once necessitated by the writer’s strike.
That institutionalized uncertainty has stopped my ticking clock. Despite having a real fondness for the series and being part of the built-in, loyal audience it needs to survive on SyFy, I find this uncertain wait makes Caprica increasingly difficult for me to anticipate.