Air Date: 26/02/2010
Director: Michael Nankin
Writer: Kath Lingenfelter
Synopsis: Joseph’s efforts at reaching out to his son end in disaster, and lead him to a more Tauron solution. Tamara-A tries to find a way out of V-World, becoming caught up in a violent gaming scene. Daniel faces an attempted coup from within his own company.
“There Is Another Sky” is a welcome return to form for a show that, while not terrible since “Pilot”, has exhibited an obvious struggle in terms of everything that it wants to present and in what it wants to be. This episode strips away half of the sub-plots in order to present something much more focused: in leaving anything related to the STO to one side, perhaps to catch-up with next time, everything that is left gets much more time to breath, and the end result is of a clearly higher quality.
There’s no main plot per say, but we’ll start with the Adama’s, the ones in the real world anyway. Poor Joseph has now given into a malaise that is not unexceptional when it comes to grief, but is very self-damaging, for himself and for what is left of his family unit. Absent Tamara-A, and absent the false satisfaction that a quest for revenge gave him in “Gravedancing”, all that is apparently left for him is to stew in his own grief, and only belatedly realise what his son has been getting up to. That Sam – the mafia assassin whose interactions with Willy include advice on how to skip school – is shown as the responsible brother much more concerned about Willy’s state of mind than his actual father is very telling. Joseph’s initial efforts to rectify this situation are a total disaster, mired as they are in a sepia-toned haze of nostalgia, and completely at odds with the mindset that his son is actually in. Willy doesn’t need a half-hearted offer of a shoulder to cry on and a fishing trip where his sense of self as a Tauron is made the subject of ridicule by passers-by. It’s Sam of all people who has fully guessed at what it is that Willy needs, and by extension what Joseph needs as well.
That is, simply put, closure. It’s somewhat endearing that Joseph seems willing to actually search this concept out in the way that Sam recommends. This is clearly a very wounded man, who has not found any salvation through any of the methods that he has tried, and who ties his relationship with his son to his search for closure over his wife and daughter. In desperation as much as anything, Joseph agrees to a traditional Tauron ceremony, and this act does seem to bring him closer with his son, as well as lifting a burden from the elder Adama at the same time. For the first time since the end of “Pilot”, Joseph’s Tauron identity appears to be a net benefit to him, and to his son.
Until of course, Heracles shows up at the door and takes it all away. The possibility of a healthier path where the remains of the Adama family can move on with their lives goes up in smoke at the possibility that Tamara-A is still out there somewhere: “There Is Another Sky” really does put Joseph through the wringer, with another chance at salvation dangled in front of him before the very opposite of closure sucks him in again. He just can’t help himself, too prone to making the worst choices and not even fully realise that he is making them. Joseph makes a show at letting Tamara go in “There Is Another Sky” but by the end of the show that is all it seems to have been, a show. The real son he should be focusing on may yet find his life negatively affected by a father with his head in the virtual clouds.
Speaking of Tamara-A, it’s really her third of proceedings that makes “There Is Another Sky” as interesting as it is. Seems she’s rapidly become something of a legend in V-World as “the girl who can’t get out”: the best that some of the more familiar denizens can envision is that she’s in a coma somewhere in the real world but still logged in. Tamara’s quest for escape, one that we have to consider somewhat hopeless, is already interesting enough before we are introduced to the idea of her being a power in her own right within the virtual space: an avatar like Zoe-A that doesn’t fully realise what she is, or what she can do. In many ways Tamara-A is a Neo-analogy from The Matrix, a glitch that is upsetting the system by bending it a little and then flat-out breaking it as it suits her. In fact, if we are really looking at analogies from that franchise to apply, we might look more to the likes of Smith, an entity whose very existence is anathema to the system and who is actively looking for ways to tear it all down. Our picture of Tamara thus far was of a very innocent, almost naïve, young girl who really wasn’t up to the concept of being digital code in a very different world, but here we see a young woman who seems more than capable of being a harder, crueller and more decisive being than we were expecting. I like the change, since it bodes well for more drama down the line.
This part of “There Is Another Sky” gives us the unexpected set piece that is “New Cap City”, the V-World version of open-world games like Grand Theft Auto, mixed with a whole lot of 1920s gangster ambiance and style (and lots of hacking and cheating too, but of course). While a lot of effort is expended on the early glimpses of air ships and fighter planes before we settle into something a bit more scenic – a different colour palette, period costumes, harsher contrasts, it’s all done quite well – it’s still a fascinating glimpse at the kind of thing that the V-World would of course create: a place where you can settle into another role, and enact fantasies of survival and power grabbing knowing that the next bullet will give you a sort of permadeath. Heracles proves an unexpectedly interesting companion for Tamara-A, giving the sudden heist plot some impetus in his diatribes on how the V–World, and New Cap City specifically, gives him and others a chance to really be something, free from the drudgery of daily life in the real world. It’s an insightful moment where, for the very first time really, it feels like Caprica is making a pretty salient point on modern life and its coexistence with the kind of games and virtual environments that New Cap City is emulating. It’s a world of death, betrayal, mindless destruction and value being placed on tawdry things like virtual money, and for so many people existence in such a place is preferable to what is waiting when they take the holobands off. It’s part and parcel of the already discussed decadence and moral decay of the Colonies, that is seeing a different manifestation of this play out in the Graystone boardroom.
The last plot could be the worst part of the episode, just because it could so easily become a re-run of what we saw in “Gravedancing”: Daniel Graystone faces adversity, and then unexpectedly triumphs. But Caprica manages to imbue this inevitable outcome with a very eye-catching bit of verve all the same. Starting late in the episode the sub-plot begins as something of an intrusion on the more fascinating narratives being expounded upon elsewhere, but it does build itself up rapidly. A crucial scene sees Amanda remind her husband of where they all were over 16 years ago, when Daniel was a nobody trying to make his first big sale: in a few words we get a picture of Daniel as a man who is highly motivated in all things, but who retains at least something of a moral centre (or, at least, he used to). We also get a feeling for the kind of support offered by a long-standing marriage. It would be easy for someone in Daniel’s position to back down and give up the company, and he might even consider that course here. But he just isn’t that guy. Moreover, the circle has to be squared in terms of Daniel’s willingness to gut his company by abandoning holoband profits, and here is how he is going to do it.
It’s his outline of where the company goes next that gives “There Is Another Sky”, and Caprica in general, one of its strongest moments. In confident mood Daniel brings the Centurion into the boardroom, and demonstrates its capabilities in astounding fashion, ordering it to tear off its right arm. He outlines the vision: a robotic being capable of just enough thought to be effective at whatever tasks it is given, whose physical traits outstrip anything humanity can offer in return, but still fundamentally a tool, without pesky things like rights to be concerned about. Of course the experienced viewer knows where all of this will lead, and therein lies the attraction of the prequel: it’s not just a car crash you can’t turn away from, it’s a car crash you knew was going to happen before it happened. The world of Caprica is one of loose morals, dangerous slides into self-gratification on a scale comparable with Gibbons’ vision of Rome and a disregarding of ethics that feeds into a society that wants technology to do more: to offer entertainment, to offer purpose and now to offer a means to pawn off the physical deficiencies of life on what is essentially a slave race we don’t have to feel bad about. The idea that such creatures will form their own opinions, their own sentience, and fight back, is not even voiced as a hypothetical. There is just Daniel the showman, triumphant once more, and “There Is Another Sky” showcases the drama of that moment, in all of its hidden hubris, very well.
-The title is from an Emily Dickenson poem: “There is another sky, Ever serene and fair, And there is another sunshine, Though it be darkness there”. The other “sky” in this context seems likely to be V-World.
-Lingenfelter is credited as a writer for the first and only time here, but I understand was a producer for the show as well.
-Joseph really is in a state at the beginning, his home a mess and buried under a blanket late in the morning. The events of “Gravedancing” have done a number on him.
-“Vesta” is the name for the Roman Goddess of hearth and home. Not sure what the connection is. Probably just a name.
-An interesting form of Russian Roulette is portrayed in Vesta’s gambling den. I can certainly see it being an attraction in this kind of environment.
-Love that background line after Tamara-A is shot: “It’s freaking me out man!”
-I’m not sure what it is that Willy is seemingly learning in the Tauron club when his father arrives, some kind of magic trick?
-Joseph levels an insult at Sam in the Tauron language, that I can best transcribe as “bee known blox”. Sam doesn’t react too much, but it sounds pretty bad.
-Sam comes out with a very indicative Tauron saying: “You lose something in the desert. Someone else finds it – it belongs to them. Permanent.” Physical ownership seems very important in this culture.
-“New Cap City” is a very cool new environment for us to get into from the start, part GTA, part Sin City.
-A brief, almost ridiculous, aside occurs as we get to see air ships and fighter planes zooming around the skies of New Cap City, and I expect a lot of the budget was used up in these shots.
-“There Is Another Sky” really leans into the setting here. You can practically imagine Rex Banner shouting “You’re out there Beer Baron!” in the distance, or Jean-Luc Picard arguing with the computer about the difference between ambiance and substance across the street.
-“Chiron” is played by AC Peterson, who I remember best from the under-rated Stargate SG-1 episode “Demons”.
-Heracles appears to get Chiron’s avatar code by poking him with some kind of stick, which is not the very best visual really.
-Joseph’s effort to recapture some old family memories by taking his son fishing is so sad and desperate it actually makes my heart ache just watching it. It’s a remarkably braindead call from an otherwise smart man.
-As Daniel argues with his right hand man, he suddenly walks away, seemingly indicating that he wasn’t firmly on Daniel’s side in the coming corporate battle. But then he was. It was confusing.
-Gotta say, Willy is a good shot with the rock. He nails the racist kid in the face from a fair distance.
-I think it maybe tells us a bit about Daniel that Amanda namedrops “upper level Bucs tickets” as something he wasn’t able to afford earlier in his life. It’s not exactly a necessity is it?
-The Graystone corporation meeting room is…something else. “Cavernous” doesn’t quite do it justice.
-What Daniel essentially describes in terms of how the holoband industry has gone is the evolution of the internet, from a relatively small space controlled by a set number of companies, to a sprawling thing where users created the vast majority of space.
-This whole set-up seems tailor made to make one think of a very similar scene in RoboCop, when the new law enforcement robot opens fire at a corporate meeting.
-Daniel describes his vision as a “big leap forward”, and if that doesn’t make you uneasy with the Mao comparison I’m not sure what will.
-In amidst Daniel’s spiel, a very important comment as he outlines how the Cylon machine “won’t have rights”. It’s very much a thing, and the attitude that will lead all the way to the holocaust is there in spades.
-The 1920’s feel goes right down to the idioms in use, as we get the ancient seeming “take a powder” here. It’s so old I mostly associate it with wrestling slang.
-Like the Colonial lock that Tamara-A and Heracles have to navigate, outlining the symbols of each planet in turn.
-I like the digital effect of the money in the air, the great prize literally floating away from the people trying to attain it.
-The moment where Tamara-A appears to “de-rez” the guards by just thinking about it is real “She is the One” type stuff. In a world where Zoe-A is being treated as a messiah, it’s Tamara-A exhibiting God-like abilities.
-“You’re losing him Yusef”: Sam’s attitude towards his brother and nephew seems surprisingly charitable, given what he has had Willy doing.
-A few more glimpses of Tauron culture in these moments, where gatherings are marked by traditional song singing and clapping.
-I think the song used in this penultimate V-World scene is “Live Forever” by Brendan McKian, written by Bear McCreary.
-Not sure I really liked the flippant delivery of “You’re dead baby”, but I guess Vesta figures she’s talking to just lines of code and not an actual person?
-Vesta asks “What are you?” of Tamara-A, in a manner that has to make us think of previous refrains of “Are you alive?” Tamara-A’s answer is suitable and more than a little chilling: “I’m awake”. Bang.
-The Tauron use of coins in funeral services seems a reference to the Ancient Greek practise of putting coins in the eyes of the dead to pay the ferryman.
-The ceremony actually includes Joseph saying “Goodbye” to his dead relatives in a surprisingly literal moment.
-And, of course, the familiar strains of “Wander My Friends” comes through here.
-Love this last shot of a much more assured and confident Tamara-A wondering a now empty New Cap City. The bitch is back.
Overall Verdict: “There Is Another Sky” is a very welcome return to form for a show that was slipping a bit after the heights of “Pilot”. It’s the first time since then that I was fully engaged with everything that a Caprica episode was presenting: in Joseph’s horrible interactions with his son, in Tamara-A’s really fascinating trip into the heart of V-World, and in Daniel’s terrifying vision of the future. This is the kind of show I want Caprica to be more often going forward, a show that is more focused week-to-week and more able to impress me with its marriage of soap-opera plot-lines with an interesting sci-fi universe.
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