So I finally got around to watching the pilot of Caprica last night. Those of you in the geek circles will say, "About time!" while others will say "Capri-what?" Caprica is the second series in what appears to be the new Battlestar Galactica (BSG) franchise on SyFy on Friday nights. Whereas the remake of BSG had to deal at least passingly with the legacy of the original 70s space opera, Caprica is largely free of any burden, other than occasional references. (The first Cylon still says, "By your command!") One of the strengths of the BSG revival has been its great character development and exploration of current societal issues, which is a hallmark of really good Science Fiction (Think Heinlein, Asimov, parts of the Star Trek franchise, and Babylon 5.) Caprica moves almost completely away from BSG's Space Opera background, using technology as a storytelling tool rather than just for the "WOW" factor.
The most pressing issue addressed in the pilot is the ongoing question of what is the essence of being human, especially in a time of increasing artificial intelligence. This was the point of the famous Turing Test developed by Alan Turing in the 1950s. If a machine becomes indistinguishable from a human being to another human, is it human? Do we have souls and if so, what do they consist of? Star Trek TNG used this as a recurring theme around the character of Lt. Data and this was a constant meme in Cyberpunk literature in the 1980s. The BSG remake addressed this question and Caprica appears to be on track to deliver much more philosophical exploration of the subject. Other issues raised in the pilot include concerns about virtual reality, the link between religion and violence, terrorism, racism, and organized crime.
I was very impressed. For those who don't generally like Science Fiction, I would encourage giving this series a try, as it breaks many of the conventions of SciFi and delivers really gritty, thoughtful reflections on many of the facets of our society.