Caprica: Does a Robot Have a Soul? (Episode 2)

caprica222Back in February I posted about the new SciFi hit Caprica. Since I don’t have cable TV, I’m catching the show as I can when the episodes are uploaded to the Syfy channel Web site.

Episode 2 – Rebirth spent a lot of time establishing the connection between the Cylon robot and Zoe’s avatar. The change in camera so that the viewer sometimes sees out of Zoe’s eyes and sometimes sees the Cylon robot was oddly off-putting. Rather than increasing empathy for Zoe and emphasizing her sense of separation locked inside the Cylon body, the effect served more to just dislocate the viewer. But I’m intrigued that Zoe’s religious “sense of mission” in getting to the planet Gemanon where her monotheistic community will welcome her is still intact even as her avatar is downloaded into the Cylon body.

The other fascinating scene in this episode is the mass memorial gathering after the terrorist attack. Amanda Greystone takes the stage and announces that her daughter, Zoe, was one of the terrorists. This sparks a riot in the crowd and Amanda barely escapes. I found this scene both emotionally moving and somehow false. Amanda Greystone is a smart woman of achievement; a doctor, researcher, and scientist. Yes, she’s under emotional stress from her daughter’s death – but it doesn’t seem believable that she would take the stage for a public confession or that her husband (a futuristic Bill Gates) and his handlers would “let” it happen.

As I mentioned before, there’s a great conversation on the ethics, religion, and spirituality in Caprica going on over at Religion Dispatches. Here are a few quotes responding to Episode 2:

Diane Winston writes: Caprica’s landscape is littered with families that aren’t families. The gifted Graystones don’t communicate. Alone in their aerie, Daniel and Amanda jealously guard memories of their daughter. How could Daniel not mention the avatar? Why would Amanda hide her concerns about Zoe’s loyalties? Life is no easier in the Adams’ apartment where the adults pull in different directions. Grandma yearns for the old country; Joe for new beginnings. No wonder young Bill grows up to find community, purpose and identity in the military’s ranks. High Priestess Clarice Willow’s polygamous household looks like it might offer something better: big love and shared purpose. But the profusion of furtive glances and angry accusations give lie to what is heralded as an extended family. Even “found” families are treacherous. Zoe kept secrets from Lacy, Lacy deserts Zoe and Ben when they run away, Ben kills Zoe in his holy holocaust. I can only wonder what kind of family Zoe hoped to find on Gemenon.

Henry Jenkins writes: I continue to be intrigued by Caprica’s ongoing exploration of media and the effects of mediation. I don’t just mean the central representations of artificial consciousness and virtual worlds, but also more mundane forms of media practices which show how information gets recorded and transmitted. This week, for example, we have some throwaway lines about Uncle Sam Adama’s tattoos, which we are told signal to others in his community who he is and what he has done. His “tats” are a kind of information appliance which has been inked directly onto his body—and indeed, this is often the way tattoos function in contemporary criminal societies—as markers of affiliation, as statements of fidelity, and as records of accomplishments. Is there any parallels to be drawn here between how memories are imprinted through Sam’s tatoos and the ways that Zoe’s memories are imprinted onto computer chips for example?

Read more from Capricology here.

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