Apparently, I have more power than I suspected. Last week, I wished that Syfy would stop with the Battlestar Galactica spin-offs, and then this week they pull Caprica off the air mid-season. But doing so raised some questions, and concerns, as well as gloating...
Syfy Doesn't Hate You, Caprica Fans
Something I kept seeing online as news of Caprica's cancellation spread was one of two reactions from the show's fanbase. Either it was "Screw you, Syfy," or "Syfy didn't give the show a chance to succeed" (Oh, alright, there was also "I guess they're now going to show more wrestling, huh? I should've known that Syfy doesn't care about sci-fi as soon as they changed their name!" but I think we can all agree that those aren't really worth addressing, right?), and both of those come down to "Those Syfy executives are mean and took our show away." But here's the thing: Syfy wanted the show to succeed more than you did. Firstly, no network wants to cancel a show because of ratings, because it means that (a) they're admitting that no-one's watching their show, (b) they've wasted money in making that show and (c) they've miscalculated what their audience wants - none of which are good things for a channel to admit. It's even worse for Syfy and Caprica, though, because this was a follow-up to their critical darling Battlestar Galactica, and one that they'd put a lot of time and money into not only making, but promoting as well. The failure of Caprica - and that it didn't just get cancelled, but pulled with five finished episodes left, ready to air - is embarrassing to Syfy; this decision really wouldn't have been taken lightly, and definitely wasn't done because the network doesn't care about science fiction and/or the fans.
How Bad Were Those Ratings?
Ironically, the last aired episode's ratings were up on the previous week's. But they were still under a million viewers (0.83 million), which is... not good for that timeslot. By comparison, Warehouse 13 averaged 2.5 million in the same timeslot this summer, and cheaper reality shows like Ghost Hunters get around 2 million for much less money. In fact, since the show returned this month, the series has pretty much been seen by less people than other cancelled Syfy shows like The Dresden Files (which only went below 1 million viewers once). Which is to say, the ratings really forced Syfy to act here.
But Were The Ratings Bad Enough To Pull The Show Midseason?
Probably...? I don't know, it's a matter of perception. If Syfy had just sucked it up for the next five weeks and let the show slowly come to an end despite appalling ratings, it definitely would have been less of a black eye for the network. I can only assume that they're convinced that the increased audience(?) from Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns will be worth the bad publicity, or else there was a ratings level under which they couldn't drop without ad revenue being affected in some way or another. Really, it always comes down to money. Still, those episodes were already finished and paid for, so...
Will Those Final Five Episodes Make It To Air?
It sounds cynical, but I wouldn't be surprised if they don't. Firstly, pushing them out until some unspecified date in the first quarter of next year is a pretty weird, vague move, and secondly, is there really any way in which the audience for these Final Five (And, yes, the irony of that doesn't escape me) will actually be bigger three months from now, say, than they would be next week? I wouldn't be too surprised if the final episodes either are broadcast online only, or else appear as an incentive for DVD sales, a la Dollhouse's "Epitaph One" episode.
What Caprica Did Wrong (1)
I've not really held back from my feeling that Caprica was an uneven mess, but one of the things that I think killed it for the mass audience is actually something that I liked about it. Namely, that it wasn't enough like Battlestar Galactica. Fans of that show who liked the more traditional sci-fi elements - Space battles! Easily-drawn sides! Action! - weren't given much to enjoy here, and I wouldn't be surprised if they're the million of so viewers who jumped ship between the start of the series and now. I've said it many of times before, and I'll say it again: I think the BSG connection hurt Caprica as much as it helped it; if the show had been about the same themes but without the BSG mythology and plot endpoint, I think it would have been more positively received, and not had to labor under such expectations and misconceptions that scuttled its opening.
Will Blood And Chrome Fare Any Better?
It's a prequel that is much closer to Battlestar Galactica in setting and potential for kick-ass fight scenes. It's also unlikely to get as bogged down in moral and existential questions - although I'm sure there'll be some of both, because it is a BSG series, after all - so, really? Unless it's a complete disaster, I think Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome will be more successful than Caprica. Doesn't mean it'll be a hit, or even that it'll be any good, but if the pilot gets picked up to become a series, I'd put money on it making it to the end of its first season.
What Caprica Did Wrong (2)
Of course, Caprica had lots of real problems, including uneven pacing, completely inconsistent characters (Joseph Adama went from man tortured by grief to man who's okay with threatening to kill a friend's mother how, exactly?) and confused plotting as the show tried to reinvent itself (The first three episodes of this "season 1.5" run are notable for the speed at which it tries to close off dangling plots and kill off characters in order to build a new status quo as soon as possible, only to continually sacrifice credibility in the process). But here's a basic thing that killed Caprica for me, very early on: Daniel Graystone, the show's resident genius, was so stupid that he couldn't figure out something that was blindingly obvious. It took him the better part of the first run of the show to figure out that maybe that experimental program he didn't know anything about that he'd downloaded into his experimental robot had something to do with said robot acting differently from all his other robots. Note to writers: If your genius is an idiot who can't put 2 + 2 together, I feel like you're insulting my intelligence.
Will Caprica Continue Elsewhere?
Now, that's the question: The story is entirely unfinished, after all - I doubt that even the end of the season would complete half of the questions contained therein - and Dynamite Entertainment does have the comic license to Battlestar Galactica. Does that include spin-offs, and if so, would there be enough interest from fans to read a Caprica comic? I'm betting yes... especially if writers from the show were the ones responsible. I'll take my 10% in the form of large bags of gold, thank you very much, Dynamite.
What Lessons Can We Learn From Caprica?
Off the top of my head: Think about what made your parent show successful. Know what your show is about, and settle as much as possible on a voice for your characters and your story as quickly as possible. Don't insult your viewers' intelligence. And, at the same time, don't insult their thirst for basic things, like fights and a lack of moral ambiguity (Yes, it's a fine line). Don't forget about the audience. And, please? Give us a character that we can actually like, somewhere.
Is There Anything I'll Miss About Caprica?
Contrary to my whole hater-dom, I'll admit: I'll miss Sam Adama and his boyfriend, if only for the entirely un-sensational way their relationship was portrayed (As opposed to Sister Clarice's polyamorous family, which was ridiculously sensational). I'll miss finding out if the virtual heaven idea was going to be accepted as offered or whether the other characters would've seen the obvious flaws in its design. I'll miss finding out whether New Cap City had a point beyond retro-fetishism and Zoe in shiny pants. But, honestly? I won't miss that much. Caprica had a lot of potential - even right up until its end - but, depressingly, it had just as much experience at squandering that potential. I'll miss what Caprica could have been, and feel sad that there wasn't an audience for what it was purely because it's nice to think that SF shows can live on Syfy without fear, but the show itself...? Rest in peace, Caprica.