‘Caprica’: A chat with Ron Moore about the sci-fi soap opera
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Instead of the normal full recap of ‘Caprica,’ we’ll have an abbreviated one and get right to a Q&A with ‘Caprica’ co-creator Ron Moore -- who you’d probably rather hear from anyway.
In this ‘Reins of a Waterfall’ episode, one of the big things we and Daniel hoped to get was an explanation of why oh why Amanda Graystone would blurt out that her daughter was a terrorist in front of the world. No such luck -- apparently ‘it just came out.’ We understand emotional, even slightly irrational characters, but that’s just downright self-destructive. But hey, it will heighten the tension.
Zoe has figured out a way to ‘live’ in the avatar world, and she and Lacy find Tamara Adama -- then promptly lose her. As they pursue getting to Gemenon and sister Clarice pursues them (Zoe as a savior and Lacy as ... a wife?), this may turn out to be one of the more compelling plotlines to follow.
Those crazy Adamas. Another nugget of wisdom from uncle Sam: You should always go to school! Wait until they call attendance, THEN skip out. Love how Willie’s being influenced. And Joseph ... with trouble at work and a continued obsession over his daughter’s avatar, he finally goes a bit over the line when he sends Sam to take out Amanda Graystone after he and Daniel fail to find Tamara. And I don’t mean on a date.
Those were the high points; now on to Mr. Moore.
Some have called ‘Caprica’ a science-fiction soap opera. Is that a fair description and was that the plan?
Well, the intention was to go in that direction. To just do a drama that wasn’t set in space. It was kind of important to David [Eick] and I that the show not be about just another ‘Battlestar’ or yet another war series, but to really be different on a fundamental level to what ‘Battlestar’ was. We had always tried to pitch ‘Battlestar’ to the audience as a character drama first, then a sci-fi drama second. There were segments of the audience that we could never convince -- the female audience for instance -- to try the show. They were held back by the hardware and the really sci-fi trappings of the show, but I always felt like science fiction could accommodate different kinds of storytelling that were character-oriented and more grounded, for lack of a better term. So we decided that this show would be very much based on a planet and character-oriented. And the shorthand for that would be primetime soap.
I asked David Eick what his fears were going into production, and he mentioned casting. What were yours?
Mostly it was the budget -- not having enough money to do what we wanted to do. Trying to get enough funds to really realize the world of Caprica and tell the stories that we wanted to tell in the scope that we wanted to do.
The religious aspects are certainly heightened in ‘Caprica.’ Did you research religion for the show?
Somewhat. Remi [Aubuchon] really had done more research into that because it was a particular interest of his. A lot of the conversations and initial research on that was done by Remi.
Besides Caprica and Tauron, are there influential planets and societies that we should be on the lookout for?
Scorpia will be mentioned more frequently, and Sagittaron we know will eventually become a hotbed of terrorist activity. ... Gemenon is also a very important planet, probably the most important besides Tauron and Caprica, because it’s the homebase for the monotheism movement and is the most religiously-oriented of the colonies and a lot of the conflict in the colonies is coming out of Gemenon.
Ratings for the first couple of episodes haven’t been too hot, but how do you gauge a show’s success in general?
Too early. It’s kind of hard to say yet. Our launch was different. Syfy and the studio made a calculated gamble by deciding to release the pilot last spring well in advance of the series with the idea that that would build word of mouth and interest and momentum into the show now -- and we’re all just waiting to see how that strategy pays off. It’s an innovative and bold idea that nobody’s really done before and I definitely supported it. Now we’re just gonna have to see how that plays out. We’ve really only had one actual week of ratings because the first episode was the pilot that’s been on DVD for months and months. Hard to even know what to expect with that first episode. Now we’re waiting on the second and third episode so that we can get a read on where the ratings are going and what they’re going to be.
I’d asked Magda Apanowicz about the ‘Big Love’ storyline with Sister Clarice. How did that come about?
It was a sort of a notion that kicked around in the ‘Battlestar’ offices that there were different societal norms in colonial civilizations, and one of them was a group marriage. In terms of polygamy, here it’s usually framed in a ‘Big Love’ context -- it’s one man with many wives. I thought there was something even more intriguing about a true group marriage where all of the partners were married to one another. They have this much bigger definition of what a marriage was and I thought it was a fascinating cultural idea and I thought it would be very surprising if Sister Clarice was in a group marriage like that.
What do viewers have to look forward to in the series itself?
I think you’re going to see a lot of twists and turns. You’re going to see divisions within the STO, the Soldiers of The One terrorist organization, you’re gonna see surprises and revelations about the backstories of certain characters. I think Graystone Industries is going into places you didn’t think it would go, and the relationship between Daniel and the Adama family is surprising. Just a lot of left turns.
Are the pressures to perform on Syfy the same as anywhere else?
Well, sure. Ratings are the bottom line in all of television to varying extents depending on where you are. The broadcast model has to get more viewers than we do since networks function strictly as supported by their advertising revenue, while basic cable channels like Syfy have advertising and subscriber bases to lean on, so the bar is set lower to what is an appealing number. We watch our demographics more closely, DVR ratings are taken a little bit more into account ... but there’s still pressure. The favorable thing that we have in our favor is that the show wrapped a week ago! So no matter what the ratings are, it’s not affecting what we do down on the set. We don’t have to throw out storylines or go fumbling around because the network’s freaking out about something. Basically, we’re in the can, which is always a better place to be. You don’t want to be in production on a show and the numbers come in and you get a call with someone saying, ‘Well last week they didn’t like this, so don’t do that again!’
-- Jevon Phillips