First and foremost, CAPRICA IS NOT BSG.
I realize that's a bit of a "duh" statement. But seriously. They are not the same show. At all. Stylistically, narratively, thematically, they are not even all that similar.
Caprica is being advertised as a prequel to Battlestar Galactica, but that's only a marginal function. While there are obvious links to the original series (including a heavy emphasis on the Adama family roots which may or may not have been strictly necessary and which may or may not work well), this new show will follow a distinct and separate narrative path. It's not a "how we got here" story, it's a "here's another story that happened before that one" story. Which is nice, and will hopefully give the series enough room to grow.
The series takes place fifty-eight years before The Fall and tracks the actions of two families, the Graystones and the Adamas. Dr. Graystone is a mild-looking scientist with somewhat terrifying manic tendencies and Mr. Adama (this is Bill's father, the oft-mentioned Joseph Adama) is a lawyer with sinister mob ties and, as I mentioned, some serious child-of-two-worlds ethnic guilt. These two men meet due to tragedy and the series will track their relationship to each other and the world(s) around them.
Caprica's pilot does start the show off with explaining the origins of AI/Cylon technology, so the development of that will be an element of the show. But Caprica will NOT be about is the conflict of man vs. machine. The technology is an intrinsic part of this series' narrative but, unlike BSG, that isn't really what it's about.
What Caprica IS about is fleshing out the world of the BSG universe before it was torn apart and showing how crushing The Fall eventually was. Creator Ronald D. Moore describes it as a family drama that just happens to take place in a science fiction setting. And it will also just happen to better explain the things that BSG never got around to fleshing out, i.e. the whole Twelve Colonies arrangement/government/whatever and the religion. So the major issues we can expect Caprica to address will be along the theological ponderance, social prejudice, we're-all-just-folk-or-are-we lines.
What I gleaned from the pilot about the nature and style of the show is that Caprica will very likely be of the same incredible quality that Battlestar Galactica was. It clearly incorporates many of the aspects of BSG that made it such a strong show. In brief,
* A score by Bear McCreary. I liked the BSG music better because it was bolder and that appeals more to my sound-aesthetic, but there is a soft elegance to the music in Caprica, and an easily recognizeable brilliance.
* Painstaking aesthetic sensibility. Caprica is much more vibrant than post-apocalyptic BSG, but there is the same careful and extensive detail to the look of the environment, costumes, and cinematography.
* The like-us-but-not-us balancing act of world-creation. One of my absolute favorite parts of BSG was the way that it was not exactly our universe, but it was close. Caprica actually takes this notion a bit further, because the world of the Twelve Colonies at this point in time is a peculiar blend of what would be considered modern and retro in our world. Their technology is more advanced, because it is a futuristic-type society. But there are also allusions to dial telephones and 1940s and '50s culture and fashion. Plus the mob-ties Adama subplot that reads more 1930s Chicago than anything else.
* A cast chosen for talent rather than name/fame/notoriety. Maybe you'll vaguely recognize some of the stars, maybe not. Whether or not you've ever seen Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales, Alessandra Torresani, or anyone else is irrelevant in light of their ability, which is considerable. Also part of the cast: John Pyper-Ferguson.
* Freaky rules. Admit it, there are times when BSG was just plain scary and out there. That carries over to Caprica, as evidenced by the human sacrifice scene at the beginning of the show. No, I'm not kidding.
I am not entirely sold on the show after seeing the pilot. But since that was my reaction to the BSG pilot and since BSG is now one of my favorite television series of all time, I am more than willing to give it at least a few episodes before coming to a real verdict.
There are some definite potential weaknesses. I'm finding the timeline a little ridiculous (it's 18 years before the Cylon war, and yet Dr. Graystone develops an apparently fully functional soldier Cylon in the pilot episode). The religious aspect of this 'verse is even more front-and-center than it was on BSG which worries me. And then there's just the little things that will probably never stop bugging me, like the fact that there's a locale called The V Club, or that the paper is octagonal even though that makes absolutely no sense in terms of mass production, or how the fighting Cylons still bear excessive and unfortunate resemblance to the Lego Bionicle toys of ten-ish years ago.
But these are just pet peeves. If you are a Battlestar Galactica fan, I definitely recommend you keep up with Caprica. It holds promise.
There is once again something to really look forward to in terms of sci-fi television. So say we all!
(This review is also posted - uncut - on my blog at http://meltedbrain.wordress.com.)