The Soldiers of the One base their sense of moral superiority over the polytheists on the grounds that their ‘one true god’ gives them a unified, unchanging standard of right and wrong; but this is a purely subjective morality. If this single source decides that killing tens of thousands of innocent people is justified to further its cause, then such an act would become ‘moral’ by that standard. A democratized standard of morality, by contrast, would tend to favor the common good. While individuals would still drift, have emotions, or change their opinions; such changes would not cause radical changes to the moral contract, as they would be offset by the principals of the population as a whole.
The philosophical principal espoused by Zoe Graystone at the opening, and again at the end, of Caprica is that without consequences, people will give in to debased, animalistic tendencies. Zoe finds these ‘consequences’ in her ‘one true god’ and his promise of divine, eternal suffering after death for those who fail to live what it deems to be a moral life. Ironically, Zoe, along with her fellow followers, resort to murder and terrorism to promote their belief in the value of living a moral life.
The average citizen of Caprica, who does not share a belief in an eternal judge, lives a perfectly moral life on his or her own. That’s not to say that Zoe is entirely wrong. We see in the series that immoral actions do have consequences; though they tend to be material and within one’s lifetime. Daniel Graystone’s pursuit of Zoe’s Avatar program leads him down an immoral path that costs him dearly in terms of his family and company.
Joseph Adama (the father of Battlestar Galactica‘s Bill Adama) joins the Ha’La’Tha crime syndicate of his Tauran home world. Ha’La’Tha offers an absolute, insular standard of morality directed by a single ‘law giver,’ the Gautrau. As with Zoe’s god (or those that speak for it, as it obviously has no voice of its own) the morals dictated by the Gautrau would be considered grossly immoral by the standards of Caprican society; however, like Daniel, failing to meet these moral standards has real and devastating consequences.
The second half of Caprica‘s first and only season is just as brilliant as the first. Any aspect of the show; Graystone’s corporate intrigue, the STO’s pursuit of immortality, or Adama’s mafia story, would have made for a wonderfully entertaining series on its own. To have them all together, and for them to integrate and play off each other in such complex and rewarding ways, makes the series as a whole far more than the sum of its parts.
The hard science fiction questions of the series; the role of technology in society and what constitutes ‘life,’ are handled thoughtfully an with a slightly lighter hand than they were in Battlestar Galactica. What’s great about Caprica, though, is that is is able to do science fiction so well without sacrificing one bit on the human drama.
It’s just sad that the series couldn’t be continued (or perhaps a bit of a blessing since BSG‘s ending wasn’t quite as fulfilling as it could have been). Caprica ends with a montage of scenes set five years in the future which at least partially bridge the gap between this series and its previously produced sequel, though it leaves a lot of questions left unanswered. For instance, is ‘projection,’ the cylon ability to create hallucinations of other environments around themselves some form of ‘V-world’ that sill exists in the Cylon’s network? and is the Zoe Avatar their ‘god,’ similarly existing in some form on the system? While the door was left open, the one and only season of Caprica does tell a complete story in and of itself, so its lack of continuation shouldn’t hold anyone back from watching.
Caprica is one of the great science fiction series of our time. It’s just a shame that, being a spin-off, it will forever be in the shadow of one of the other great science fiction series, despite that fact that it’s a little better than it progenitor.