Rebirth – the second episode of the Syfy Battlestar Galactica (BSG) spin-off series Caprica – should captivate transhumanists and singularitarians (as well as plain ‘ol SF fans) while not disappointing hardcore BSG fans. It’s simply good TV drama. Zoe (Alessandra Torresani), now trapped in the body of a Cylon, is both sexy and hypnotic as the "soul" of the only one of her father’s robotic prototypes that works. No one except her friend Lacy (Magda Apanowicz) knows she’s in there, so she’s poked, prodded, and violated like a broken down Ford Escort. When she’s being treated like a junkyard car on a mechanic’s hydraulic jack, we see a Cylon body – when she reacts to her treatment, we see Zoe’s human image, the core of "her" robotic being.
At the end of the first episode (Pilot), we’re introduced to Zoe-as-robot (Zoe-R) after the human Zoe dies in a terrorist attack and her avatar (Zoe-A) disappears. In Rebirth, we discover that Zoe-A is no more (somehow deleted). We also learn that "Zoe" is in fact a "trinity" of human, avatar, and robot. In her first encounter with Lacy since the terrorist explosion that claimed her human form, Zoe confronts the existential dilemma of being "trapped" in a Cylon body, "Lacy, it’s me. It’s okay, you can take a good look. Do I look male to you? I’m trapped!"
Zoe reflects on her human self and the confusing nature of being 3-in-1, "Zoe’s original program was destroyed when he [her father] put me in here. So, at least he won’t be putting any more of me into more robots. God, it’s confusing. I mean, I’m Zoe and the avatar and the robot. I’m like some kind of wachacallit… three parts…" Lacy responds, "Trinity, that’s what you are, three faces of one thing."
Photo: Albert Ortega, Courtesy of Syfy
Her computer scientist father Daniel Greystone (Eric Stoltz) scratches his head suspecting – but not knowing – that his daughter is inside the prototype. "Why can’t we copy you?" he comments to the robot at one point. Can you clone a soul? Can there be multiple versions of the self? Heady stuff for a TV series.
Meanwhile, in a parallel plot development, Joseph Adama (Esai Morales) continues his efforts to reconnect with his son Willy (Sina Najafi) while Willy’s Sopranos-like Uncle Sam (Sasha Roiz) teaches him gangster’s tricks in the Tauren section of town. We also learn more about Athena Headmistress Clarice Willow (Polly Walker) – a secret member of the shadowy Soldiers of the One terrorist group – who invites Lacy to her home to meet the husbands and wives of her "group marriage." One of her husbands, Nestor, seems to have an eye for Lacy. He mysteriously comments on how computer software can often outlast its maker, "You write a great program and it can outlive you. It’s like a work of art. And maybe Zoe was an artist." Do Nestor and Clarice know more about Zoe than they let on?
The plot zinger comes at the end of the episode when Amanda Greystone (Paula Malcomson) receives pictures, a book ("The Physics of Religion and Spirituality"), and the infinity symbol of the Soldiers of the One from the mother of Zoe’s terrorist-now-dead boyfriend, Ben. She makes the connection between Zoe and the terrorists and publically confesses on TV, setting up a cliffhanger. Religion – the origins of the strange Cylon monotheism in BSG and the "trinity" that is Zoe – is clearly going to play a major role in future Caprica episodes.