One of the things the show creators wanted to do with Caprica was make it more appealing for a larger audience, particularly women. It was the belief that by making more Earth-like, people who are turned off by science fiction would at least check it out.
Dave Howe, head of SciFi when Caprica was in development, and Ron Moore (RDM), the creator, told Variety at the time,
In short, the show's stories and settings will be more congruent with Earth in the very near future than "BSG" has been.
Moore and the Sci Fi Channel are hoping that will help "Caprica's" appeal.
"We want people to come to this who've never heard of 'Battlestar Galactica,' " explains Sci Fi prexy Dave Howe, whose network has ordered 20 hours of the new series. "I think there was a barrier to entry for some viewers (for 'Galactica'), since it had the backdrop of space and spaceships."
Moore concurs, saying "We had viewers say that if they were able to trick their wives or girlfriends into watching 'Galactica,' they loved it."
But with the name "Battlestar Galactica" "screaming science fiction," he adds, "there was just such a high hurdle to get female viewers to even try it."
While they don't explicitly acknowledge the retro style, in a press briefing, someone asked about the cues from Mad Men where they did:
During the panel, "Battlestar" overlord Ronald D. Moore said that the terrestrial "Caprica" will have a "completely different tone, a completely different mood” from its progenitor. And indeed, one critic pointed out that the "Caprica" art direction resembles "Mad Men." Executive producer Remi Aubuchon agreed with that description, saying "“there is a bit of a retro feel" to the show's look.
And in a later, video blog, "Caprican Stylz", they talked a little more about what they were trying to accomplish. Doug McLean, the art director for Caprica:
There were loose guidelines, we didn't want it be like "oh, we're going to off to be in a different sci-fi world" and everyone's driving hover cars. We also very strongly wanted to keep some of the retro elements that Battlestar had: that feeling there was a little bit of the past technologies and in the styles.
Brian Markinson, who played Jordan Duram, added,
It's plausible, it feels like something just around the corner: we're not talking space ships and ray guns: I carry a revolver.
Finally, David Eick, executive producer, explained,
It's the idea that we're colliding worlds, palates: if you were to put the movies Gattaca and Dark City next to each other, you'd have a sense of the kind of bilateral tone or design of what Caprica is.