Esai Morales and Eric Stoltz courtesy Sci Fi Channel Esai Morales and Eric Stoltz courtesy Sci Fi Channel

Set 50 years before the first Cylon War in Battlestar Galactica, the two-hour TV-movie/series pilot Caprica (airing this fall) is more soap opera than space opera.

" Caprica is a sweeping, highly emotional relationship drama - a Rich Man, Poor Man set in a science-fiction environment," says exec producer and writer Remi Aubuchon ( 24), who created the prequel with BSG's Ronald D. Moore. "The look is nostalgic, almost 1950s, with the men in hats, ties and stylish suits. It's not about hardware and space battles."

Caprica stars Eric Stoltz as Daniel Graystone, a Bill Gates like entrepreneur and inventor, and Esai Morales as immigrant lawyer Joseph Adama (the father of BSG's William), who hails from the other-side-of-the-tracks planet Tauron. "They're brought together by mutual grief when their daughters are killed in a terrorist bombing," Aubuchon says. But the bond turns sour when Graystone brings back their offspring as robots, creating the ancestors of the Cylons.

Also on board: Paula Malcolmson ( Deadwood) as Graystone's high-strung surgeon wife and Polly Walker ( Rome) as a religious academy headmistress who secretly teaches monotheism - a crazy twist for BSG fans who've been led to believe the idea of one god originated with the Cylons. - Michael Logan

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